I loved school from the moment I got there. I had been told about it by my uncle but nothing could have prepared me for the joy of moving in with a dozen other boys of my own age. I had loved the time I spent out in the fields with Daniel and his friends, but this was different. These boys were my friends almost immediately.
And almost as quickly the truth about what I had been told about corporal punishment became clear. All the masters had canes and we new boys saw them in action on our first day of lessons.
Mr Evans was teaching us Maths and the boy behind me kept whispering to the boy next to him.
"Stop talking, that boy," said Mr Evans, but the boy – I thought he was called Davidson, but wasn't quite sure yet – went on whispering to the boy sitting next to him. He even tapped me on the shoulder and whispered something to me, but I couldn't make out what it was.
"That boy, if you can't stop talking while I'm teaching you, then we're going to fall out pretty seriously, aren't we?" and his hand waved at the cane that was hanging from a hook beside the blackboard.
For five minutes the boy was silent but then he started again. The boy next to him was trying not to respond, or appear to respond, but he kept up a stream of funny comments about the master, who was tall and blond and wrinkled his nose to keep his glasses up, and other boys in the class.
"Stand up, that boy who can't be silent." The boy stood up. "What's your name?"
"Come out here to me, Davidson."
Davidson stepped out to the front of the classroom and faced the master. "Davidson – in this school, when boys are disobedient or inattentive or idle in their lessons they are punished. And do you know how they are punished, Davidson?"
"They have their backsides caned. Have you ever felt a cane across your backside, Davidson?"
"Then you have a new experience in store." Here he reached for the cane and held it in front of Davidson's eyes for him to see. I felt a flutter of excitement at what was about to happen. "I wonder how many of the class have had their backsides beaten before coming to school. Put your hand up if you have been punished with any kind of a whacking."
There was a pause while the fifteen of us pondered this. I put my hand up, dreading that I would be the only one forced to confess my spanking from Miss Nolan, but then another half dozen hands went up.
"I am happy to tell you, boys, that by Christmas you will all have had the opportunity to enjoy the warming sensation of a cane across your backsides. Touch your toes, Davidson."
Davidson bent over tightly and Mr Evans turned him so that we could all see. He hoisted his jacket up over his back and then we all had a good view of the smooth cloth of his trousers stretched over his tight little bottom.
"There, boys," he said. "That is the way to bend over for a caning. When it's your turn I want to see you bending as well as that. I'm going to apply my cane to his backside four times, and I hope it will hurt enough for him to realise the folly of his chattering ways."
Slowly and very hard he lashed the cane down across Davidson's slim little buttocks. It seemed to me that they all landed across the very same part of the boy's bottom and I thought the sting must be intolerable, but Davidson made no sound as he was caned. But when he stood up we could all see the pain on his face and his hands went to his bottom and rubbed at the stinging flesh. How well I recognised what it must be like.
"Ah, Davidson," said Mr Evans with a sinister grin. "I'm afraid you've broken one of the first rules of being caned. I said I was going to give you four, but I might have changed my mind, so you never, ever stand up till you're told. Touch your toes again." Davidson sighed and obviously thought about protesting but then he bent over again and was given another stroke of the cane. This time he yelped slightly but he held his position and every one of us had his eyes fixed on his bottom, trying to imagine what the pain was like.
"There, boys," said Mr Evans, not letting Davidson stand upright yet to prove his point, "that's what getting the cane is like. Of course a swishing can be much worse than that. All I have to do is increase the number of times I hit you. Or, for an added sting, you could be made to take down your trousers. I believe the Brigadier makes a point of taking a boy's trousers off – and his drawers – when he has to cane him. Would you like the cane across your bare backside, Davidson?"
"No, sir," said Davidson from his bending position.
"The way you have started, Davidson, I would not put money on your escaping the Brigadier's cane for very long. Stand up."
Davidson straightened up and rubbed even harder at his bottom. "Back to your place, Davidson, and don't rub at it too much. You can show all your friends at playtime." The lesson continued and Davidson didn't make a sound until the bell rang.
Within a month all fifteen of us new boys had been caned and it was one of our main topics of conversation. My own initiation with the cane arrived when I accidentally spilt some ink on my Latin book during prep. I handed it in hoping against hope that Mr Duckering wouldn't mind too much. To my horror the master held up my book and informed the class that any boy who could make such an appalling dog's breakfast of his book deserved a thorough whipping.
Mr Duckering didn't cane very often so he didn't keep one of his own and I had to go next door and ask Captain Scully for the use of his. Captain Scully was teaching the fourth form and they hooted with laughter at my embarrassment at having to ask for the cane. My heart was pounding by the time he handed over the long, thin, whippy cane. It was one of the biggest canes, everyone said, and everyone knew that a swishing from Captain Scully was one of the worst you could get.
Mr Duckering made me take off my jacket and lie across the top of his big desk at the front of the room. In this position my toes hardly touched the floor and I was intensely aware of the class staring at my bottom. This was made much worse when the master tugged my shirt clear and smoothed the cloth of my trousers down over my rear end so that it was taut and smooth. I closed my eyes and prayed, Please God, I know I deserve a beating, but let me take it without yelling.
The first stroke of the cane was like a squirt of fire into my bottom and I gasped in the back of my throat. The second landed on almost the exact same line and doubled the pain. The remaining four strokes were a crescendo of agony and the last made me squeal aloud. I simply couldn't keep it in any longer. Mr Duckering's voice telling me to stand up seemed to come from a hundred miles away and the pain in my bottom was simply unbelievable. But then I turned round and there were the faces of my friends grinning at me and I knew that I had survived the ordeal and everything was all right.
Then I had to tuck my shirt in and put my jacket back on and take the cane back to Captain Scully's room. I felt as though my legs were stiff and unhelpful and every step added to the pain. There were a few comments from the older boys, such as, "Did you enjoy that?" and "Bet your bum's hot," and I tried to grin back at them to show that I was all right.
At playtime my bottom was still very sore, but all my friends wanted to see the marks so I had to let down my trousers to show them. I couldn't really see without a mirror but they seemed to be beauties – a good solid stripe of bruise across both cheeks. And that night I lay in bed feeling the bruises with my fingertips. They were a bit swollen still and quite tender and I hoped that they would last a good long time.
I don't think any of us really minded when masters caned us. Although hardly a day passed when one of us was not made to touch our toes at the front of the class or bend over a desk, these whackings were fair and part of the natural scheme of things. The cane hurt quite a bit, but the pain didn't last long and it was quite fun showing off our stripes in the bath afterwards. Rumours about the beatings handed out by the brigadier and by Mr Sherriff, the brigadier's deputy, were legion. All of us knew, or thought we did, how both men flogged their victims, but none of us, so far, had been beaten by either man – and that was still true even a year after we arrived at the school.
But then a new menace appeared. I was in the queue for the tuck shop with my mates, Davidson and Laing, when we had a bit of an argument that led to a minor scuffle. Near us, on duty, was a boy from the top form, called Fowles. Naturally enough, he yelled at us to cut it out and gave us a black.
Top form boys were responsible for keeping order amongst the younger boys and punished us with 'blacks'. If anyone got three blacks in a week they were caned by the master on duty. Everyone – masters, 'prefects' and boys – took it very seriously.
Laing and I now both had two blacks and it was only Tuesday. We would have to be careful.
But later that evening, in the hour between prep and supper, Fowles appeared and called all three of us out of our common room. Another boy, Claridge, was with him.
"That fight you had this afternoon," Fowles began. "I've changed my mind. I'm going to report all three of you to the brigadier. What you were doing was too serious for a black. You need a flogging."
My guts turned to water and the blood was roaring in my ears.
"What! We were just messing about. You can't report us just for that."
"Yes I can. All three of you are going to have your bare arses whipped and I hope you enjoy it."
I spent a very uncomfortable night thinking about what was going to happen. Boys said that when the brigadier caned you the marks lasted for a month and it was generally believed that when he caned Beamson last term the cane had made his bottom bleed.
But next evening Fowles and Claridge called us out again. "I haven't sent your names up yet, because I've decided to give you a chance. Give me your next week's pocket money and I'll forget all about it." We protested, but there was no way out of it and all three of us handed over our precious threepences when Mr Sherriff distributed the pocket money next Saturday.
Next week Claridge caught me flicking a pea across the dining hall. Once again I was threatened with being sent up to the brigadier unless I handed over my pocket money. "But I can't," I protested. "I owe Studland money from last week." I was well and truly caught. If I handed over my money, I couldn't repay Studland. If I refused I'd be whipped by the brigadier.
"All right," said Claridge. "I'll let you off with a whacking from me."
"Either I give your bare arse four whacks with a gymshoe or I send you up to the brig."
There wasn't really a choice. Out in the cricket pavilion after prep I allowed Claridge to whack me. He made me take my trousers right off and then touch my toes. He pulled my pants down and stuck his hand in between my thighs and took hold of my prick. I leapt upright and spun round.
"_f_u_c_k_ off, Claridge," I shouted and clutched my privates with both hands.
"Oh dear," he said. "Swearing. That'll be double the whacks or up to the brig you go." I touched my toes again and he applied the gymshoe with a good run up. It hurt terribly. Several times worse than Miss Nolan's slipper which was all I had to compare it to. I managed not to yell though it was hurting like hell and for a couple of days afterwards my bottom had patches of bruise on both cheeks.
The following week Studland and Davidson got the slipper from Fowles in the same way. The week after that Laing, Studland and I lost our pocket money again. In fact for most of the term the two thirteen-year-olds terrorised us, either taking our pocket money or beating our bare bottoms with a gymshoe. Fowles made it hurt much more than Claridge. He had a huge gymshoe and he'd add extra whacks for the slightest thing. Once Laing ended up getting fifteen whacks, delivered with every ounce of Fowles's strength, and there was a smudge of blood on his bottom and he couldn't walk very well. In all, eight or nine of us suffered from this treatment, but none of us dared to expose what was going on for fear of a much worse beating from the brigadier.
It came to an end when Mr Sherriff spotted Fowles and Claridge collecting the money from several of us one Saturday. The truth was quickly elicited from them and they were sentenced to a whipping which would be administered up in our dormitory, so we could all watch them get it.
That night Fowles and Claridge were stationed outside our dorm straight after supper to wait for the coming of the brigadier. They were stark naked and made to face the wall with their hands on their heads. We all ragged them like mad and got thoroughly excited by the prospect of their punishment. It was a good long wait till the brigadier came and I even felt slightly sorry for them, especially when we all took it in turns to grope their pricks. I knew that the anticipation of a beating was sometimes worse than the actual event. But I had a feeling that this wasn't going to be the case now.
The brigadier appeared eventually, when all of us were in bed and practically wetting ourselves with excitement. He pushed the two naked boys into the dorm ahead of him, exposing them completely to our gawping. Fowles was a solidly-built boy with wide shoulders and a deep chest. His legs were strong and in his groin was a good bush of sandy hair. Claridge was smaller and wirier, with every muscle of his arms and torso defined. His prick was topped with just a shadow of hair.
Fowles went first. He was ordered to lie down across the gap between two beds. I thought I detected a trace of a tear in his eyes as he climbed on to one of the beds, kneeling on it and then reaching himself across the gap so that his chest and upper torso were on the other. Four of us who he'd been bullying were pressed into service and given either an arm or a leg to pull on so that he was held still and well stretched for his whipping. His bottom was solid and meaty and I noticed immediately the band of striped bruise across, strangely, just the left buttock. Studland had hold of his other ankle and the brigadier made the two of us pull his legs well apart. I could see that his genitals were now dangling horribly and I almost felt sorry for him.
The brigadier lay the cane across Fowles's naked bottom. It was longer and heavier than any cane we had seen so far: over three feet long and thicker than a pencil. I watched in fascinated horror as the cane was lifted slowly into the air till it was poised behind the brigadier's shoulder. It was still for what seemed like several seconds, then thrashed down, impossibly fast, singing through the air. The crack of its impact was like a gun going off; Fowles yelled and a dark scarlet stripe appeared instantly across the white of his skin. Every stroke made him cry out and he twisted and struggled but it wasn't difficult to hold him securely. Every one of us silently counted the strokes as they sliced into Fowles's backside. Incredibly, there were twelve heavy cracks before it stopped. In the silence we could hear Fowles sobbing into the bed cover. I couldn't take my eyes from the terrible stripes the cane had made. Fowles's buttocks were covered in the dark, swollen weals and on or two looked as they would start bleeding if they were touched again.
"Has he had enough?" the brigadier demanded of us.
"Yes, sir," said Studland; the rest of us couldn't speak for the terror we were feeling.
"Get up, Fowles." We let him go and he climbed painfully off the beds. Both hands went to his lacerated backside and his face was contorted with the agony. But my sympathy for him was gone. He had shown himself up as a pathetic bully by crying and snivelling. I had nothing but contempt for him now.
Claridge, held down by four different boys, was caned in the same way. He also had the marks of a caning across his bottom before the brigadier started, but his buttocks were skinny and tightly muscled and the bottom of his spine was a hard bony triangle. Unlike Fowles, Claridge remained silent for the first six strokes, though they were delivered with the same vicious action, but he did yell when the brigadier started landing the strokes at an angle so that they crossed the previous weals and the four holders had to pull hard on his arms and legs to keep him still.
The brigadier made them stand side by side and then touch their toes so we could see the damage to their backsides. There was a lecture to the whole dorm about bullying during which he sliced at their bottoms another couple of times, but then, at last, they were allowed back to their own dorm and my friends and I were left to contemplate what we had seen.
I found it hard to credit, though it was a well known fact, that a caning in the dorm was only at the top end of the more lenient of the brigadier's two modes of beating. Like everyone else, I knew that it was much worse to be invited to his study to be whipped in private. In the dormitory he didn't always use a cane apparently, but in private it was always the special cane that he kept for such occasions and never, it was said, ever, less than six strokes. I wondered what he did use when he beat boys in their dorm, if not a cane. It was very worrying and completely fascinating.