"I believe," said the magistrate over the tops of his half-moon spectacles, "that you still do not realise the seriousness of what you did. Burglary is never a joke and the penalties are not a joke either. The punishment I impose will therefore be intended to bring home to you the extreme disapproval that all right-thinking people must feel. Hill and Parsons, I believe that you were led astray and did not fully understand the weight of your actions. You will be sent to the reformatory for one month. In addition, you will receive six strokes of the birch rod immediately, and a further six strokes before you are released.
"England, you have received a better education than your accomplices and therefore I believe that you did know what you were doing. These other boys were led astray by you and would not have become involved had you not persuaded them. You will be committed to His Majesty's Training Ship Implacable until your sixteenth birthday. I trust and believe that this will be an opportunity for you to return to the ways of virtue. The discipline of a naval establishment is, I believe, the very thing that you need to make you the fine young man you have the potential of being. I further order that you witness the first instalment of your accomplices' flogging so that the actuality of what you have led them into may be brought home to you.
"Take them down."
Mike was birched first. He was brought into the room between two coppers – the two who had caught us in the beginning. He was stripped off naked and looked very scared. He looked straight at me and tried to grin.
"Don't worry, Si. This wasn't your fault."
"Silence there," snarled one of the coppers.
A sergeant came in carrying the birch. It was a bundle of long twigs bound together at one end, making a handle about eighteen inches long. This left another two feet of thin twigs forming the spray. The leaves had been trimmed off but not the side twigs so the spread at the end was over six inches. I was able to see all this because the sergeant held it in front of my face and told me to have a good _f_u_c_k_ing look because in a second it was going to be thrashing the arse off my no-good, _f_u_c_k_ing mate.
Mike was made to stand astride a chair whose back was against a table. Then two coppers held his wrists and pulled him down over the table. His backside was strong and lean and it made me shiver to see him stretched out like that ready to be flogged.
The sergeant took his time, leisurely removing his jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeves. "Has he been to the _s_h_i_t_house? We don't want the little bastard pissing on the floor."
"Yes, serge. He's all ready for it."
The sergeant picked up the birch and waggled it up and down for a moment. Then he lay the business end against the taut white flesh of Mike's backside. He raised it slowly, then thrashed it down with the full weight of his arm and shoulder behind it. Mike screamed and the whole of his bottom was covered in a mass of scarlet cuts. He brought the birch straight down so that it struck with a glancing blow that broke the skin as much as possible. The second he thrashed in almost horizontally so that it landed with maximum force across the same bleeding area as the first. Mike's screams were worse and he reared up off the table and the coppers had to struggle to hold him down. The remaining strokes were given slowly and just as hard. There were dribbles of blood down his thighs before the coppers released him. He could barely stand and was half dragged away between the two coppers who had held him.
"There," said the sergeant. "Isn't that splendid? Just the stuff to teach lads like you their manners. There's plenty of this where you're going. Every Sunday night you'll be stripped off kissing the gunner's daughter."
Simon was brought in and prepared for flogging just as Mike had been. He was a skinny lad a bit younger than Mike and me. His naked arse seemed no bigger than a pair of billiard balls. The birch made a noise completely unlike a cane: it swished though the air like trees in a wind, but then struck home with a sickening thud. Simon screamed for every stroke and he too was streaming blood after the full six strokes.
I didn't see either of them again for nearly three years.
I was handcuffed for the journey to Devonport and, though the copper who escorted me was provided with food and drink, I got nothing. I was starving and my throat was dry when we arrived and I discovered that HMS Implacable was not an actual ship, but a large grim building that backed on to the river with a drill square between. Squads of boys of mixed ages were being marched about in white naval uniforms and there was a great deal of shouting and threatening going on.
I was handed over to a man in uniform and signed for. My new captor informed me that I had to call him 'bo'sun' and took me straight to somewhere in the basement. I was ordered to strip naked. The bo'sun had a cane and I was afraid that I was going to be beaten but instead I was subjected to a thorough examination, at one point the tip of the cane being used to lift my prick, to ensure that I was free of lice. My hair was shaved off close to the skull with clippers and then I was pushed into a cold shower with a dollop of evil-smelling liquid soap plonked on top of my head. I washed myself all over and when the bo'sun was satisfied that I was clean and shivering enough I was allowed out and given a towel to dry myself with. Next I was given new clothes – a vest, a tunic and pair of trousers, all white, all not quite clean. I pulled them on and felt my personality drain away from me. I was already a small cog in this new, brutal machine.
I was marched at the double into the office of the ship's commander, a terrifyingly huge man who glowered at me over the tops of his glasses. "From now on you are 2360 England. I don't care if you forget your name. Forget the number and I'll have the backside thrashed off you. Get out."
Back, at the double, to the stores where I was issued with the equipment I would need. "The charge for losing any item is six strokes of the cane. I advise you to guard your kit with your life. Get out."
I was shown my berth, a hard, comfortless bed in a dormitory of eleven beds. Eleven were like mine; the twelfth was taller and the mattress looked thicker. Then doubled again to the office of the chaplain. "You're here because you've been a bad lad," said the chaplain who looked almost as terrifying as the commander. "No doubt you'll need your backside thrashing. It's for your own good." As he spoke he stood close behind me and then his hand slid down into the tight front of my trousers. I was paralysed with fright and already knew that if I moved from my position of attention I would suffer for it. His fingers took hold of my penis and then cradled my balls. "Don't let another boy touch you like this, and sleep with your arse to the wall. Get out."
Finally I was doubled away to where my watch was being trained to row under the petty officer who was rule my life. Petty Officer Pratchett. I noticed immediately that he carried a short leather strap and this was used continually to drive home the lesson. Twice a boy called Mortimer was ordered to touch his toes and Pratchett strapped him across the backside, but more often it was lashed down across whatever bit of the offending boy was nearest.
"Listen," Pratchett said to me when we were back in our berth and resting before tea. "I only start you for the look of it when we're anywhere where officers can see. When we're in here I'll look out for you, unless you do something really stupid." I felt a bit reassured for the moment, but that didn't last when I discovered later that night what he meant by looking out for me.
Tea was a cooked meal. It wasn't well cooked but there was plenty and I was starving. I was amazed at how many boys there were in the mess hall. We ate in silence. When we'd finished, grace was said and then an officer announced, "All hands to witness punishment."
I had to follow my watch as they trooped off to the gymnasium and find a place somehow in amongst them. I was surprised to see that in the middle of one of the long sides of the large hall was a raised platform and on the platform was a huge cannon. I was agog to see what would happen. The bo'sun arrived carrying a different, much longer cane than the one he had had earlier and took his place beside the gun. The officer of the day announced, "1655 Havering, followed by 1297 Martin." Somewhere down at the other end of the gym two big boys left their places and were escorted out into the changing room. The silence of the boys was tense and heavy. After three minutes I felt that I could not bear it any longer.
Then Havering was led back into the gym. He was naked to the waist and dressed in a pair of white cotton trousers. He was a tall, strongly built boy with black hair. His handsome face looked very grim as he climbed on to the platform and stood in front of the gun with the front of his trousers touching the breech.
"1655 Havering," announced the officer of the day. "Poor attitude and being a general nuisance. Awarded twelve strokes. Do you have anything to say?"
"No, sir," said Havering, and his voice was shaking a little.
"Very well. Get ready."
The boy lowered himself along the gun and the bo'sun fastened his wrists with cords that were attached to the underside of the barrel and then his ankles with similar cords at the base of the great gun's mountings. Havering's backside was lean and strongly muscled. I could see that he was wearing nothing under the thin cotton trousers which were now stretched tight over his taut flesh.
"1655 Havering ready for punishment, sir," announced the bo'sun.
"Carry on," said the officer.
I had seen and received many different kinds of caning, but this one was truly astonishing to me. Although the cane wasn't much thicker than the brigadier's, which was the worst I had seen up to then, it was over a foot longer and sang viciously when it was thrashed through the air. The bo'sun delivered each stroke with the full weight of his upper body behind it. The cane whistled through the air and cracked across Havering's bottom like a gun going off. Every stroke made him yell and his torso reared up off the gun. He writhed under the lashing cane in a vain attempt to escape his punishment, but there was nothing he could do and the full twelve strokes were slowly delivered. After each one the bo'sun made a mark on a sheet and continued the thrashing with a complete lack of compassion or emotion.
Havering managed to walk away from the platform where he had been beaten, but it was obvious that walking was a tremendous effort and he couldn't even summon the energy to rub at his wounded backside.
Martin was caned in the same way, but he was only awarded nine strokes. He was a broader, thicker individual and the cotton of his trousers was pulled tight across the meat of his backside. After only a couple of strokes he was screaming and crying as Havering had done but still there was no let up in the punishment or sign of emotion from the man inflicting it.
"1297 Martin, punishment complete, sir," announced the bo'sun.
"Very well, bo'sun. Turn him loose." The strong, thick-set boy staggered and limped away to get dressed and the watching ship's company was dismissed.
That night I discovered what Pratchett had meant by 'looking out for me'. When we were sent to our dormitories that evening I found that all cadets, including Pratchett, slept naked. That in itself didn't bother me too much, but when he announced that one or two of the watch needed teaching their manners I became a bit more wary. With a good deal of obvious enjoyment, Pratchett called three boys out of bed and made them bend over the end of his bed. Then he applied his strap to their naked bottoms till they squealed.
Then he announced that 'the new _s_h_i_t_' needed breaking in. I wasn't very bothered about this, and had half expected it, so I just climbed out of bed and lay down over the end of his bed. I braced myself for the strap to come smashing down on my backside, but instead he started groping me, squeezing my buttocks, running his fingers down the crack and in between my thighs. He squeezed my bollocks briefly and then tweaked my _c_o_c_k_. All this was pretty unpleasant but I wasn't too bothered. It wasn't really much worse than Mike and I tossing each other off down by the river.
But then, suddenly, he kicked my feet farther apart and I could feel him standing between them. I felt something nudge between my buttocks, right on my arsehole. I realised what it was. A second later I realised what he was going to do. I shot upright. I twisted out from under him and lashed out with all my strength. I took him by surprise, I think. The only thing in my mind was, He is not going to ram his dick up my arse. I went at him with all the strength and fury I could muster. I aimed several blows at his groin where the erection was fast disappearing. I abandoned all notions of fighting fair. I ignored all the blows he landed on me. I gouged and pummelled. I think at one point I had a grip on his _c_o_c_k_ and wrenched it as hard as I could.
But in the end it was no good. He was a good three or four stone heavier than me and when he called on the older boys in the watch to help him, they didn't hesitate to throw themselves into subduing me. Still struggling, but now without any hope, I was pinned to the bed by four big lads while Pratchett stood over me, his chest heaving and a look of murder in his eyes.
"Right, you little cunt. I can see you need teaching a lesson. Get his legs up." The lads holding my legs forced them up and over my head so that I was folded in two with the most prominent part of me being my backside - and now my arsehole was wide open to whatever he wanted to do.
His strap came lashing down across the most tender part of my rear end again and again. Once or twice the end of it caught me smack on the arsehole and then it took all my willpower and determination not to scream. When his arm was tired he lined up all the boys of the watch who weren't holding me down and they took turns in plying the strap. Then he welted me again himself. But still, somehow – and I've no idea what gave me the strength to do it – I took the leathering in silence.
"Now, cunt. Are you going to lie still and take what's coming to you?"
Under the pain of the strap my anger had subsided a little, but now it returned in a surge of white-hot rage. "_f_u_c_k_ off, you bastard!" I shouted at him.
"Right. Stretch his legs apart." A blanket was forced down on my face and my legs were pulled even wider. I felt him climb on to the bed and the next second the most appalling pain invaded my bowels as his prick rammed into me. In later years friends who like this kind of thing told me that it can be a source of exquisite pleasure. For me, then, thirteen years old and alone in the world, with no lubrication but his terrifying lust, I thought I was going to die. I was impaled, split open, horribly violated. But not just impaled. The instrument, his ramrod-solid prick, drove into me again and again. And I screamed.
Very soon, though it seemed like an eternity. His hot sperm rushed into me and I screamed again. "Take the blanket off," I heard him say and my blindfold was removed. Above me his face – at that moment, the most loathsome object in the world – hung over me, leering and sweating, as he still thrust into me with his prick.
"Enjoy that, did you, cunt?" he hissed. I said nothing now. Nothing was going to make any difference.
He withdrew and the air was freezing on my violated anus. The boys holding me released me and painfully I stood up. I could feel a trickle of blood creeping down the inside of my thigh. I faced the boy who had raped me.
"If you do that again," I said in a whisper, which was all I could manage, "I'll kill you." I limped down to the heads and there cleaned myself up as best I could with some water and scratchy toilet paper. When I returned to the dormitory, everyone was in bed. I was still limping as I walked down the dorm and climbed into bed.
"Goodnight, cunt," said Pratchett. I turned to the wall and thought about Mike and Simon in their reformatory, no doubt their backsides still smarting from the birch, but at least with the promise of release in just a short month's time.