Commander Albert Reynolds, RN (retd.) turned the volume of his wireless down low and sat back in his comfortable chair. The boys had given him a strange proposition but he was not sure he should have turned them down.
He pressed his fingers together, pursed his lips and closed his eyes, allowing the sound of Henry Hall’s dance band to drift into his consciousness.
The three boys, well they were young men really, had departed back to their rooms, leaving the old man to re-evaluate their offer.
It had started a couple of months previously. Jack, James and Arthur had come to live at the Commander’s boarding house. They were from respectable families; otherwise he would never have let them stay.
They were students, just up at the Varsity. Out in the big world on their own for the first time in their lives.
The Commander recalled Mrs Rollington; Jack’s mother. “He’s a fine God-fearing boy, Commander,” she had intoned, rather fiercely, he thought. “He has been brought up in a good Christian family. His morals are impeccable.”
The Commander laughed at that as Henry Hall’s soothing voice introduced the next dance tune. “Impeccable morals, my eye,” he thought.
That had been the problem. Three eighteen-year-old boys let loose on the big city after years cooped up in high class boarding schools. The Commander was an old naval man, he knew what young men could get up to when out on the town. There was smoking, drinking, and, yes, even possibly the occasional woman: Jack, James and Arthur had been making up for lost time.
The Commander was no hypocrite; young men had appetites, he realised that. But there were his other tenants to consider. And there had been complaints; especially from Mr Bunyan at number eight.
Mr Bunyan had called on the Commander four times now. At each visit he was a little more irritated – and, irritating. The Commander knew the type, always finding something to complain about, but maybe this time he had a point.
“It’s just too much Commander Reynolds, Sir,” Bunyan had simpered, the first time he laid down the complaint. It had been about the boys arriving back in the early hours of the morning, clearly the worse for drink.
“It’s the ladies I feel sorry for.” He meant the women tenants. Apart from the three boys and the Commander, Bunyan was the only man lodging at the house, although the Commander was not so sure the word “man” quite described the flamboyant creature that stood before him. Was that a whiff of gardenia in the air?
The Commander was a leader of men and he expected to be obeyed. He had what he described to Bunyan as “a little word” with the boys.
Things improved, but not for long. By the time Bunyan was tapping on the Commander’s door with his fourth complaint, the Commander’s patience was exhausted.
That had been last Friday and it was yesterday he gave the boys formal notice to quit the lodgings. To go, find rooms somewhere else, leave Bunyan and the Commander in peace.
“Oh my, what will my mother say?” It was Jack who spoke first. The three boys were contemplating the devastating news – chucked out of their lodgings for immoral behaviour.
James and Arthur were equally aghast. James most certainly did not want to face his father with this news. Mr Miller expected impeccable behaviour from his sons, especially in public. He was old school, with the emphasis on “school.” He would not hesitate to take his whippy dragon cane down from its hook in the study and apply it with great force across his errant son’s backside; eighteen years old or not.
Arthur had no such fear of his own father. He had never laid a finger on him in his life. There would be no thrashing, but Mr Rhodes would show a deep sense of disappointment that would cut into Arthur much more acutely than any lashes with a cane across his bared buttocks.
“The Commander is right, we have behaved pretty badly,” Arthur had been raised to have a grave sense of guilt. But, neither of the other fellows disagreed. They were guilty as charged. They were not used to freedom that was the reason. They had spent the past ten years imprisoned at one boarding school or another; their lives totally regimented. Rules governed their lives. Do this, do that! Rules that must be followed, and of course, punishments endured if they were not.
“Yes, we have been rather foolish.” It was an understatement from Arthur. Too much wine, women and song had led them to this downfall.
“What if the university finds out? Will we be sent down?” James raised the question. Expulsion for bringing the university into disrepute would be disastrous. It would be the end of James’ chances of a career in the Foreign Office.
The three boys fell silent, each contemplating their own personal disaster.
Jack eventually piped up. “If we had been caught smoking and drinking at Bridgetown, my housemaster would have thrashed us.”
He left the sentence hanging. It was true; the consequence at school for bad behaviour was a very sore backside indeed. But, every boy who ever was ordered to “bend over that chair” to offer up his buttocks to a dominant master, agreed it was worth it. Six-of-the-best meant atonement. The crime had been committed, the punishment was accepted and everybody moved on with their lives.
“It was the same at my school,” James was almost misty-eyed with nostalgia. “Mr Horridge would’ve had us across his desk. Trousers and underpants at our ankles. Even when we were seniors. My hat! We couldn’t sit down for a week after that.”
James and Jacked joined in companionable laughter. Arthur’s face drained of colour. How could they find this amusing? Bare-bottomed thrashings. Not sitting down for a week. What brutes these schoolmasters were.
“What about you Arthur?” James peered through his spectacles at his young friend. “What did they do at your school? Did you get it bare?”
Startled, Arthur found himself saying, “Oh, my yes, of course, ouch! Yarroo!”
Why had he lied? Was he ashamed that he had attended a Quaker school, founded by pacifists? Corporal punishment was unheard of. He had never even seen a school cane in his life, let alone felt one across his stretched bottom.
“Hey! I’ve got an idea!” It was James who made the suggestion. It was such an obvious solution. He was sure the Commander would agree. He must have been a public school man himself. Surely, he would understand.
“Let’s offer to take a beating. Apologise, say we’ll never do it again. And we should mean it.”
Jack’s face lit up. “Yes, that’s it. He’ll understand. We could offer to go bare, if that’s what it took.”
The two boys were so taken by their proposed solution they failed to notice Arthur’s coughing fit.
So it was that the three boys stood in Commander Reynolds sitting room, hands behind their backs, feet slightly apart, eyes downcast inspecting a rather worn green-patterned carpet.
It had been James’ idea, so he was the boys’ representative.
“So you see Commander,” it was a confident address. The boys might have spent a little too much time on the town recently, but they were intelligent articulate teenagers. In time they would all make their mark on the world, but now, on this day, they had to dig themselves out of a rather big hole.
“If we behaved like this at our schools we should have been soundly beaten by our housemasters.”
Jack found himself inadvertently nodding his agreement, but still he stared at the carpet, unable to look the Commander in the eye. Cold sweat poured down Arthur’s back, he was certain he would be sick at any moment.
The Commander looked at the three boys in astonishment. Beat them, as if they were schoolboys and he was their housemaster. Who had ever heard of such an idea?
“So, we respectfully ask that you punish us with a beating and then allow us to stay on as tenants.” James finished his little speech. He had decided not to include the offer to take it trousers and underwear down.
The Commander silently counted to ten. His mother had taught him this when he was a very small boy. If you think you are going to lose your temper count to ten before you speak.
Eight, nine, ten. “No, that is not a good idea. You will all vacate your rooms as previously ordered.”
James opened his mouth, but the Commander cut him off. He would not hear argument. “That is all. You are dismissed!”
Two crestfallen (and one very relieved) teenagers trudged up the stairs to their rooms.
Now, in a darkened room, sitting in his chair, was the Commander having second thoughts? Corporal punishment, was it such a bad idea?
Heavy rain lashed against the window, almost drowning out the dance music. Suddenly, in his mind it was at least thirty years ago, he was a sub-lieutenant, young men in thin white trousers were being bound hand and foot, and forced to bend their bodies over a triangle. Handkerchiefs were stuffed into their mouths. A chief petty officer armed with a cane lashed twelve strokes into their taut buttocks.
It happened all the time; there was nothing unusual about it. It was perfectly legal and still happened today.
There were lighter, more informal punishments. The Commander silently chuckled. There had been this boy; what was his name? He was no older than the three tenants upstairs. He was an incorrigible rogue, but not an evil sort. It soon became a ritual. Anderson was he called? Anderson would be caught smoking or absent from his post, the Commander (he was not a Commander then) would be informed. Guilt would be established. Then Anderson was given a choice: be put a charge or go across the knee.
He was a tiny fellow, this Anderson. He looked like a small child. Perhaps that was why the Commander felt he should punish him like a naughty boy. A heavy wooden clothes brush was kept in a drawer. Anderson would be ordered to fetch it while the Commander settled himself into his favourite chair. Then, without further instruction, Anderson would hand the Commander the brush before unbuckling his own belt and lowering his trousers.
Then with an air of resignation on his face he would lower himself across the Commander’s knees. He remembered it as if it had happened that morning. The underpants were a rather grubby grey-white colour. He would pull the drawers up tight so the outline of Anderson’s buttocks were clearly visible and then at a slow, rhythmic pace he would crash twenty-four hard whacks into the boy’s stringy buttocks.
It hurt the boy, probably a great deal, but he never showed his pain. It must have been a matter of pride, to be able to take a whacking stoically. The spanking over, Anderson would jump to his feet replace his trousers and stand to attention, thumbs in line with the seams of his trousers.
“Thank you Sir, I deserved that.” He always said the same thing after every spanking. Had the Commander made him say that or had he thought to do it himself?
A thunderclap woke the Commander from his dream. Heavens, he had not thought about Anderson in more than thirty years. Poor boy, he died in action before he reached his twentieth birthday.
The Commander had been on the receiving end himself. Many times; beyond the age of eighteen. He had attended a naval training ship. There had been this one time, he was with a party of about thirty boys who misbehaved themselves ashore; they had to be rounded up by the ship’s authorities. They used a birch in those days. It was not as heavy as the judicial birch that was still in use today. One by one the boys were forced to lower their trousers and go across the block. The Commander wriggled in his chair as if the scars of the birching were still troubling him.
He moved from his chair and switched on a light. Perhaps the boys had a point. They could atone for their crimes. He did not want them to get into further trouble at the university.
He had listened to the news earlier on the wireless. Mr Chamberlain had returned from Munich with a peace agreement. The Commander did not believe it for a moment. War in Europe was coming and these boys would soon be fighting for their country. The Commander himself would probably be recalled.
Damn it, let’s do it. The Commander was a man of decision. Yes, a caning. Twelve each: on the bare. It must be an exemplary thrashing, but once delivered and received that would be an end to it.
That was how the following evening the three young men stood once more before the Commander, staring down at the carpet.
The Commander had made much preparation. First, he had to purchase a cane. They are readily available in most oil shops, as any naughty boy could attest. The embarrassment of being sent by father to purchase a cane was intense. The shopkeepers never believed a boy’s tale that the cane was needed because they were “playing schools.”
The Commander wanted a special cane, a Malacca for preference. The thick dense rod was as whippy as a school’s rattan cane but it packed more of a punch and with ridges every four inches or so along its length it would leave deep bruises on the boys’ buttocks. They had asked for a caning and it would certainly be given caning to remember.
There was a specialist shop he knew in Earls Court that supplied just the thing.
The Commander was now armed with a suitable weapon, but he had another problem. He was not the boys’ parent or guardian and he had no legal jurisdiction over them. In short, he had no right to punish them.
He was not a legal expert, but he drew up a short contract. The boys were not yet twenty-one and so were not adults. Even so, he would make them sign to say they consented to a thrashing. Next, he needed a witness in case something went wrong. Nearly all of his tenants were women and it would not be right to ask them to see the boys bare their buttocks. Bunyan would have to be the witness. He agreed a little too eagerly when asked.
There were no speeches or ceremony. They all knew why they were there. The Commander went over to the far end of the room, swung round the large horsehair armchair that was to serve as the punishment chair and pushed it into the centre of the room. Having done that, he turned back towards a cabinet and opened the top drawer from which he took the cane.
“Right, Miller,” he swished the cane at James, “Trousers and underwear down.”
James knew he was blushing as he removed his jacket then unzipped his trousers and pulled them down. He stood behind the chair and peeled his underwear from his buttocks before letting them drop on top of his trousers.
“I assume that you know the procedure,” the Commander was still swishing the cane menacingly. “Over the chair, with your legs well apart.”
James did of course know exactly what was required. As he got over the chair, he pushed his arms out along the full length of its armrests, so that his buttocks were raised over the apex of the chair and his legs were stretched apart.
The Commander turned his shirt back and Bunyan moved a pace or two to his left, ensuring a clearer view.
Unceremoniously, the Commander tapped the waiting buttocks then raised his arm to shoulder height, before with a flick of the wrist he brought the cane down hard across the exposed backside. James clenched his teeth but a groan still escaped as he absorbed the first of twelve stokes. The Commander was soon into his stride, ensuring he spread the strokes across the teenager’s bottom. Starting in the middle, he worked his way down till number six landed hard across the top of James’ thighs.
No amount of teeth clenching could stop the loud howl that escaped from the boy’s throat. The Commander paused to admire the six thick red, almost parallel, lines across James’ once creamy white buttocks. He landed number seven higher up, before changing his stance and lashing number eight diagonally crossing the previous seven welts. James roared and his bottom gyrated. The Commander was breathing almost as heavily as the boy he was punishing as he whacked the rest of the strokes diagonally across the buttocks, from the left and from the right.
James gagged as howls and sobs were wrenched from his body and he clutched onto the horsehair sofa as if his very life depended on it.
Then it was Jack’s turn. He had been panting vigorously since the start of James’ beating and his short, sharp breaths now grew more urgent as he lay across the chair.
His bottom was well-rounded with firm and toughened muscles, but it had no protective layer of flesh. There would be no give and compression of the cheeks as the cane struck home, its impact would be imparted directly into the muscle of the suffering boy. Movement would remain agonising long after the beating had been completed and all strokes administered. The lack of absorbent meat on his buttocks meant that the knots of the Malacca cane were likely to tear the skin and cause bleeding, perhaps even with a single stroke.
With incredible speed, accuracy and force, the Commander lurched forward and delivered three rapid strokes which ricocheted off the boy’s backside, making him writhe and jerk and gasp loudly before slumping back over the chair, panting and twitching, in total subjection.
The Commander wielded the cane with stunning skill. The stinging lines of pain which sliced their way across Jack’s backside exceeded any previous canings he had received at school. He bounced up and down on the back of the chair and strained every muscle in his legs to hold them straight and apart.
The twelfth and final stroke was imminent. Jack’s clenched fists, wet with the saliva from his mouth into which they had been thrust to hold back his cries, and stinging with the imprint of his teeth, groped desperately to cling on to the chair.
The cane rose and fell. The collision was formidable. The cane cracked with unrestrained vengeance across the bare flesh of Jack’s buttocks. The sound reverberated around the room and a shudder rippled through the teenager’s body as the full impact of the stroke bit into him.
Arthur stood gazing at the sight of Jack’s striped, bruised, red and purple blotched buttocks clenching and unclenching, trembling like jelly. His own legs buckled and for a moment he feared he would fall onto the floor in a fainted heap.
“Over!” the Commander swished the cane impatiently. Arthur wanted to push past the Commander and his fearful cane, and dash from the room. He would not stop running until he had reached his mother’s arms at his home one hundred and fifty miles way.
That is what he wanted to do. But it was not what he did. His two great friends Jack and James had endured their thrashings. They had been brutal, but the two boys had behaved honourably. They had misbehaved and had accepted their due punishment. No matter how terrible the ordeal might be, Arthur resolved to take the caning. He deserved it. He would not let himself down in front of his friends.
In a trance he stepped forward towards the chair. He clenched his eyes tightly shut and fumbled at his trousers. He could not quite get his fingers to work and it took an age before he felt the heavy cloth of his trousers slide down his thighs before travelling past his knees to rest at his shins. His underpants followed reluctantly.
The Commander’s impatience grew. “Hurry up boy, I haven’t got all day.”
Arthur felt the colour draining from his face. His legs became weak and an immovable lump came into his throat. His eyes displayed the sheer horror and despair which was consuming him. A sudden realisation that this boy was terrified brought a sneer to Bunyan’s lips.
With eyes still tightly closed, Arthur stretched himself forward and offered up his bared buttocks to his tormentor.
The boy’s apprehension was obvious, even without studying the quivering vibration of his naked and expectant bottom, the Commander knew that he was terrified of the pain of the beating to come. He was horrified that he might fail the test.
No matter, events must take their course. The Commander, surprised that his palms had suddenly begun to sweat tucked his cane under his arms so he could wipe his hands against his trousers. Bunyan too was sweating, but anxious to get on with the show.
The Commander slipped the cane from his arm into his hand and prepared to administer the third thrashing of the evening.
The first cut bounced into Arthur’s mounds and sank deep into the flesh, before it re-emerged leaving behind a thick red mark across the centre of both cheeks. Arthur let out a piercing scream and jumped from the chair, both hands grabbing his ferociously boiling buttocks. He stamped up and down on the carpet in a fruitless attempt to ease the agony.
James’ eyes widened at the spectacle. He had seen many boys caned in his lifetime, but none had behaved like this. What was wrong with the boy?
The Commander thought he knew. This boy had never before been on the receiving end of a caning. How could such a thing happen? Was he not eighteen years old and the product of an English public school? The public schools – which were in fact expensive independent private schools – were renowned across the British Empire for their discipline. The school cane had been one of the country’s finest exports for a hundred years or more. How could this boy be a virgin to its lash at his age?
“Back over!” it was a ferocious command. “Do not dare behave in such a disgraceful way. Take your beating like a man!”
Totally humiliated and with tears streaming down his cheeks, Arthur prepared once more to receive the kiss of the cane.
The Commander was a military man through to his inner core. This shaking, wailing boy bent over the chair, bared buttocks pointing upwards at him, might be experiencing this for the first time, but he must not be lenient. He was as guilty as his two fellows and he must be punished in exactly the same way. It would not be fair on them. Besides, if he laid the cane on lightly, Jack and James would know and they would despise Arthur for it. No, the right thing to do would be to tear the boy’s buttocks to shreds.
And, that is precisely what the Commander did.
The Commander saw the tension taking over Arthur’s entire body and sensed the teenager holding his breath to bursting point, as the older man realigned the cane to deliver a diagonal stroke to cut across the previous one.
His arm swept down. The cane struck the springy globes with a swish and leapt away. Arthur’s body convulsed on the chair, his fingers scrabbled and wrenched, he gave a pitiful whine and then settled again, ready for the next stroke.
The next lashes fell a fraction below each other getting lower and lower with number six landing right on the crease, by now Arthur was bawling and tears had fallen from his eyes and the chair cushion was wet with teardrops. His hands were tightly gripping the chair as another stroke landed at a right angle crossing all the previous stripes. Arthur howled once more and his backside wobbled and shook as he came to terms with this latest onslaught.
When number twelve landed the Commander whipped it with a will right on top of stroke number seven on the crease, Arthur’s head shot up and he screamed in agony.
“That will do.” It was a calm, courteous statement. The punishment was over.
Arthur let go of the seat cushion; his knuckles now bleached white. Nothing registered clearly or coherently as quickly he got up, but his hands immediately went round to feel his scalded buttocks and he could not get dressed immediately until the pain reached its peak.
The pain was so intense that in spite of his eighteen years he could hardly see for the tears which were flooding his eyes: he had taken as severe a caning as could have been delivered.
Five minutes later, the Commander was once more alone in his room. The three boys were upstairs admiring their corrugated backsides and congratulating one another on their fortitude. Mr Bunyan was lying on his bed, his trousers at his ankles. In the distance a thunderclap heralded yet another rain storm.
Other stories you might like.
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second