I attended an independent boys school in South London during the 1960s and early 1970s. Corporal Punishment was very much part of daily life and in the prep school a few masters used the slipper; I received my fair share of punishment.
These whackings were given in front of the class with the recipient bending over the form desk.
In the senior school, the Headmaster and two other masters (music and history) punished boys with the cane, usually between three and six strokes for sometimes quite trivial wrong doings. In the senior school I received the cane three times, once from the Headmaster and twice from the music master, and endured a memorable beating with a plimsoll from the PE master.
The history master was fond of using the cane, and usually any boy that had earned such punishment was told to remain behind at the end of the lesson before being instructed to bend over a desk in the front row for usually six strokes.
Every so often he would demonstrate to the whole class a boy being caned, often toward the start of the school year in September, and on these occasions the chosen boy would be made to bend over the teacher’s desk facing away from the rest of us with his trousers tightened across his bottom. We would all be watching in awe as he then administered six hard strokes of the cane to the hapless boy who not only had to endure a caning but also the shame of receiving it in front of the entire class. Fortunately I managed to avoid this particular master, unlike many of my classmates.
There were several offences that merited a mandatory caning from the Headmaster, including stealing, bullying, truancy and smoking. I was caned by the Headmaster for smoking, which was a quite straightforward affair in that I had to report during morning break, wait in the secretaries’ office to be summoned, after which the Head took no more than a minute telling me what he thought of smoking, before instructing me to remove my jacket and loosen my tie and to bend over and touch my toes. He then in quite quick fashion delivered six painful stokes to the seat of my trousers taking no more than a minute before asking his secretary to add my name to the punishment book.
All canings given by the Headmaster were ‘announced’ on the school notice board and by lunchtime that day the following appeared: “P.Greenham was given six strokes of the cane this morning for smoking”.
The PE master punished me a few times with a couple of whacks with a plimsoll bent over during a gym lesson in front of all my class-mates which was not at all unusual.
More memorably was the time I was sent to the changing rooms for repeatedly mucking about. He set the rest of the class a gym drill before coming into the changing room and telling me he was absolutely fed up with me before slipping his large plimsoll off and instructing me to drop my gym shorts and bend over a low backed chair. Six whacks to my bare bottom followed and I remember being taken aback by just how painful his plimsoll was, given by this very athletic man.
The plimsoll is very different to the cane, covering a larger area and really making one’s bottom ‘throb’. This master was also fond of giving boys who mucked about in the changing room a few whacks of his plimsoll, more often than not on the bare bottom.
He also took the swimming lessons and there were other memorable punishments. If a boy forgot his trunks, he would be made to take the lesson in the nude. If any boy was deemed to be mucking about they would be ordered out of the pool for a few whacks across their wet bottoms and those that had forgotten their trucks were treated the same way normally getting two or three on their bare bottoms for misbehaving and an extra one for forgetting their swimwear.
However it was the music master that was known as the ‘whacker’ and, looking back, it was clear he got his kicks from caning schoolboys. I managed to earn myself two canings from him, the first when he punished three of us together. We had upset some chairs during morning assembly as he was playing the organ and unluckily our first lesson after assembly was with him.
All three of us were ordered from the classroom to the next-door room where he told us he was going to give us each six of the best. My friend went first and was told to remove his jacket and drop his trousers and bend over the table. We watched in horror as he delivered six very hard strokes quite quickly.
It was then my turn and I was very embarrassed to drop my trousers before bending over. I soon found out just how painful the cane was, applied to my bottom with only my pants as protection.
The second time I had to see him was as a result of some disruptive behaviour during one of his lessons and I was told to report to him at the end of the school day. This time I was alone and, unlike the previous time, there was clearly no rush. The music master lectured me about my behaviour and told me that after today he was sure that I would not want a repeat of what was about to happen. Again I heard the immortal words, “I am going to give you ‘six-of-the-best’”, which was followed by an instruction to take off my blazer and completely remove everything below the waist.
I knew this was a possibility as others in my year had received bare-bottomed canings from him. As I stripped off, he even told me to remove my socks!
I was soon undressed as he had instructed and was told to bend over and touch my toes with my legs slightly apart. I was left in this embarrassing position for at least a minute before I heard him pick up the cane and approach me from my left side. Having already been caned by him, I knew what to expect when he touched my bottom with the cane and gave me my first stroke, which I remember as being incredibly painful, more so than my two previous canings. It was all I could do not to jump up, but I knew that would result in an extra stroke.
Unlike the previous time when we were holding up a lesson, he took his time and wandered around behind me between strokes clearly looking at my bottom. I was touching my toes for over five minutes as he caned me very slowly, methodically and extremely painfully. After the final stroke I was told to stay bent over for a moment as he studied my now lined bottom before being told to stand and face him as he lectured me further before finally being told to get dressed.
At the time, I did not particularly suspect his motives; we just accepted that getting whacked was a painful part of school life. But now it is obvious that this was a man who went out of his way to get his kicks by caning teenage boys on the bare bottom.
Other masters must have suspected him, but in the late 1960s everyone clearly turned a blind eye. We also discovered years later that he rarely entered details of canings he had given in the punishment book kept by the Headmasters secretary, as he should have done.
What do I think looking back? I have an interest in CP and perhaps that is ‘routed’ in being thrashed at public school. It was accepted as being normal, and we all got used to seeing other boys’ bottoms with six parallel cane weals whilst changing for gym or sports, and a caning from the music master would leave marks for over a week.
I remember having strangely pleasurable feelings later in the day after the PE master had given me six strokes with his plimsoll on my bare bottom. The cane, however, at the time, was simply too painful for any pleasurable feelings, especially in the hands of the music master.
However, despite now knowing that he was getting his kicks and was way ‘out of line’, there is something about what happened that day that brings back nostalgic memories and that I wouldn’t want to change.
The only other incident worthy of reporting involved a pupil from the nearby independent girls school. The music mistress unexpectedly and sadly died in mid-year, and it was agreed that a small number of girls would attend our school twice a week for specially organised lessons from our music master.
It transpired that he caught one of the girls stealing LP’s from the library. Over the course of the next few weeks stories started to come out mainly via one of our six formers who happened to know the girl’s brother. It was rumoured that she had been offered a caning as an alternative to being reported to her own Headmistress. It seemed she chose the caning because she thought she might get expelled if her Headmistress found out.
The music master knew only one way to cane and we learnt that she received the normal six strokes. Despite many rumours, we never found out the truth and if she was caned on the bare bottom or over her knickers. He was ‘into’ caning boys, not girls, but we all knew that for serious matters he always caned boys on the bare so why would he have changed his normal practice?
And since he didn’t use the Punishment Book, who knows?