I was first caned when I was 11 at a prep school in Hertfordshire in the 1950s. It was only the headmaster who could cane, and he did it frequently. It was unlikely that you could pass through the school without a caning at some point. So far, I had managed to avoid it, only receiving a slippering from Matron on one occasion. I was never caned at home.
There had been a rumpus in the dormitory, and Matron had caught three of us fighting.
“Report to the headmaster’s study at break tomorrow, in your gym shorts.”
That meant only one thing, and though I had never experienced it before there were those who had, and reported ‘gym shorts’ was an indication that we should prepare for a caning. Gym shorts were made of thin cotton and, whilst preserving some modesty, gave no protection against a caning.
The three of us lined up the following morning full of trepidation. One of us had been caned before and was particularly quiet. His only advice was, “Brace yourself.”
Matron appeared and pulled the elastic of our thin cotton shorts to check that we had no underpants on and had not put blotting paper inside.
“Prepare yourself, boys, for your punishment. I will not tolerate fighting.”
With those few words she then proceeded to knock on the headmaster’s door.
Matron pushed the first boy forward. We held our breath and soon heard the swish and crack of the cane. I silently counted. I hoped it would be only 4, but as I counted 4 and then 5 and then 6, my worst fears were realised. The boy soon appeared looking shocked and rushed past us. Matron barred his flight and ordered him to take down his shorts so that she could inspect the weals. I looked at the bluish weals in fascinated horror as my own fate approached
Once satisfied there was no serious damage, matron pulled up his shorts, patted him on the bottom and told him to go.
The next boy knocked, and we heard, “Come.”
With a fearful glance at me, the second boy went in. Again, the sound of six swishes and six cracks sounded through the door and he appeared with tears in his eyes and, after his inspection, left me alone.
I stood there transfixed until Matron’s voice ordered me to knock on the door, which I did.
I opened the door. There was the headmaster with a cane in his hand and a chair in the middle of the room. He was a powerful man, having been a top rugby player.
“Now boy, fighting is a serious offence, and I am going to punish you with six hard strokes of the cane. You may keep your shorts on, but if it happens again, you will be beaten on the bare bottom. Do you understand?”
I nodded dumbly.
“Now bend over and grip the chair.”
I did as I was told and braced myself as best I could. I soon felt the cane being laid on my bottom as he lined it up and then he withdrew it. I heard a swish and then a sharp pain exploded in my bottom. I was so surprised I let out a cry and stood up.
“Get back to your position, boy!” said the headmaster sternly. “If you do that again you will get an extra stroke.”
Silently, I bent over again and resumed my position, clutching the sides of the chair. Swish went the cane and another explosion of pain, but I managed to keep still. Again, the cane rose and swished through the air with a crack as it tore into my battered bottom. The fifth stroke landed on the same position as an earlier stroke and the pain became intense so that I again reared up and grabbed my bottom.
“You will resume your position and receive an extra stroke.”
Reluctantly, I bent over again, and the sixth stroke landed higher on a part that had not been previously addressed.
“Now, here is the extra stoke and final one.”
The swish and crack released a sharp pain.
With no further encouragement needed, I raced from his study. Matron was waiting outside and inspected my rear.
“Seven strokes, I see.”
I rushed to the toilets to inspect the damage myself after I removed my shorts.
At my public school I was beaten regularly and once by my housemaster on the bare bottom. I had been riding a bicycle dangerously in the street.
“I am going to beat you hard, boy, to remind you never to do something so stupid again. Trousers and pants down and over my desk and prepare for six of the best.”
I reluctantly did so and again experienced the sharp pain after each swish.