In the 1960s I attended a small boarding school in the West Country from the age of 8. This was run by a husband and wife who were headmaster and matron respectively. The headmaster, a kindly man, was responsible for educational matters and serious disciplinary issues. Matron, who was a very strict disciplinarian, was responsible for the boarders outside of the school day including discipline. Matron punished the boarders with the slipper for the slightest misdemeanour but if she felt the offence was more serious she would send boys to the headmaster. Having been slippered by her on several occasions she eventually sent me to the headmaster at age 11.

Me and another boy were caught pillow fighting after lights out with the other boys providing light with their torches. We were immediately told to strip our beds and remake them in a spare dormitory used for the occasional day boy who boarded temporarily or as an overflow sick bay. It was used sometimes as a punishment.

While we were stripping our beds the rest of the dormitory were slippered for their part.

When she came into the spare dormitory we were told that we would spend one week in that dormitory and would being going to bed immediately after prep with no playtime. She added that we were to see the Headmaster the next morning. We both lay in our beds not speaking to each other for fear of further trouble, thinking about our visit to the Headmaster.

I had seen striped bottoms in the changing rooms and heard boys recounting stories of their visits to the Head’s study and wondered whether we would be caned and how painful it would be.

In the morning my colleague and I decided that, as the rest of the dormitory had been punished, we were not going to get away without being caned. The Headmaster and his wife breakfasted with the boys. At the end of breakfast the Headmaster announced the names of the two boys he wanted to see in his study. This was the normal routine and alerted all of the boarders to the likelihood of possible canings that morning. As we left the dinning room, I remember one boy asking if I had an extra pair of pants on.

A wait outside of the study door followed. I suspect the Headmaster opened his post and drew out the wait before we were both summoned in. The wait seemed eternal and we both waited nervously. A long stern lecture followed about anti-social behaviour stopping others in the dormitory going to sleep and the potential damage that we could have done. Just as I was thinking that we were getting off with a lecture, he told us that we were both going to be ‘beaten’. This was the expression he always used when announcing a caning and one I heard on further occasions.

I was ordered to wait outside while he dealt with my fellow miscreant. I stood outside of the thick wooden door for seemingly ages before I heard the first of the three strokes my friend received.

I was petrified when the door opened and my friend appeared holding his bottom with tears running down his cheeks.

As I entered the study, the headmaster stood with a straight cane in his hand; the first time I had ever seen a cane. I was terror struck as he told me to bend over the arm of the green chair. I was shocked by how much the first stroke hurt but remained in position fearful of what might happen if I had moved. The next two were equally painful.

I returned to my dormitory before assembly in tears, vowing that I would never be caned again. However I heard the immortal words ‘bend over the arm of the green chair’ on two further occasions for 4 and 6 strokes of the cane respectively.

That evening Matron examined both of our bottoms when she was doing her rounds and told us how leniently we had been dealt with by only receiving 3 strokes. By the time we were allowed to return to our dormitory, the three stripes had virtually faded.

At the age of 13 I moved to a senior school where more canings followed.

Simon T