I attended an all-boys grammar school in the late fifties/early sixties. Corporal punishment was used fairly extensively throughout the school. Most teachers, even the three female teachers, had a slipper to hand for classroom disruption, poor work, poor homework etc. We had a nominal House system, pretending to be a public school, I think, and Housemasters could cane us, as could the Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster of course. All punishments were normally delivered over two layers of clothing, trousers and underpants, but there had to be an exception, and that would be Gym classes or PE (Physical Education).

I have come across many people who have all said the same thing. For some reason, PE masters or teachers took liberties when dishing out punishment. Ours was no exception. We wore just shorts, no underpants for PE, and normally if we misbehaved or failed to follow instructions, we would be made to bend over a vaulting horse or some other piece of equipment for anything between two and four solid whacks across the seat of our shorts.

If you argued about the punishment, or tried to deny the offence, your shorts were yanked down and you received three to five on your bare bottom.

We were fortunate enough to have a benefactor who provided showers, not all schools had them back then. We had no choice but to use them, and anyone caught misbehaving in the shower in whatever manner would be ordered out, told to bend over the chair in the corner and given up to four strokes on their wet bottoms, which was even more painful than just bare.

On occasions, if you misbehaved for a second lesson in a row, you would be told to report after your shower to the PE Master’s office where the towel would be removed and you had to bend over the desk while Mr H applied a full six to your bare wet bottom.

In the spring and summer terms we were allowed to use the local public swimming baths during the day, so every couple of weeks we would go swimming. As you might expect, the plimsoll accompanied the teacher in his grip bag, so there was no escaping the disciplinary regime.

The learners were issued with arm-bands and occupied the shallow end, attempting widths under instruction from Mr H. The rest of us could swim freely from the middle to the deep end, but no diving. Two boys, of course, had to disobey, and chose to dive off the sides rather too close to the learners, causing one of them to tip over, but fortunately he was close enough to the side and Mr H was able to pull him in. The poor lad had swallowed water and was coughing and spluttering.

The two boys were ordered out and told to stand by the wall with their hands on their heads for the rest of the lesson. At the end, they were marched into the changing room. We all rushed in to see what would happen, and found it quite crowded as there was a senior citizen session next and there must have been a dozen in there getting ready as well as our class.

The boys received an angry lecture and were then ordered to bend over the table. The PE Master took the plimsoll out of the bag, pulled down both boys trunks in turn and gave them a mighty slippering on their bare wet bottoms, eight strokes each, possibly the hardest I can remember seeing at school. They both got up clutching their red bottoms with tears in their eyes.

One day, for some reason, the subject of PE teachers came up when I was talking with my wife. She attended a posh private girls’ school, where corporal punishment with the plimsoll was not unknown. It turned out that her PE Mistress also applied the slipper to their bare bottoms on occasions. Though rather embarrassed to tell me, I finally wheedled it out of her that she and a friend were invited into the Mistress’s office immediately after their showers, told to remove their towels and ordered to bend over a chair for five hard swats on their bare wet bottoms. She reckoned it stung more than most of the other slipperings she got at school, because her bottom was wet, and of course administered by a fit and active PE teacher.