Military CP – October 1948

Corpun file 10635 at www.corpun.com

Evening News, London (early editions), 15 October 1948

‘Let Us Cane Boys’

Parents Get ‘Do You Object’ Letter

95 p.c. Say Yes: 2 p.c. Say No

Four Strokes Most Usual

“Evening News” Reporter

PARENTS of boys up to 17½ at Army training schools are being asked to agree to the boys being caned for misdemeanours.

Forms are being sent out from the Army Apprentices School, Harrogate, inviting the parent or guardian to sign a statement: “I do/do not object to No. …………….. Rank …………….. Name ……………… being caned.”

A covering letter sent with the form, and signed by the officer commanding the company, states: “You will appreciate that there are occasions when we have to punish boys.

“We find from experience that a sharp reminder with the cane is in most cases, where parents or guardians have consented, the best and most effective. Will you therefore please fill in the attached form and return it to me as soon as possible.”

‘Seldom Administered’

mugshot of Colonel KendrewThe Commandant of the Army Apprentices’ School at Harrogate is Colonel D.A. Kendrew, the old English rugby captain.

Asked to explain the letter, Colonel Kendrew said to-day: “Caning is a perfectly normal form of punishment at Army schools, though it is seldom administered. The boys go through a three-year course from about 14½ to 17½ years of age.

“They work long hours, and it is extremely irksome for them to undergo punishment like confinement to barracks or loss of privileges.

“On the average about 95 per cent. of parents agree to caning, 3 per cent. are either non-committal or fail to reply, and 2 per cent. say ‘No’.

“The caning is only given for persistent misdemeanours and must be supervised by an officer or the R.S.M. The usual ‘dose’ is about three or four strokes, and it does not often have to be repeated.

‘They Ask’

“Out of the hundreds of boys we have here, there are less than half-a-dozen canings a week. Some of the boys even ask to be caned rather than take C.B., but their request is never granted without the parents’ consent.”

Asked if he did not think boys of 16 or 17 were too old for caning, Colonel Kendrew said: “Not at all. As a matter of fact, I have recently exchanged views with other commandants on this particular subject and they were practically unanimous that it was the best and most humane form of punishment for the high-spirited lads, who hate being ‘caged in.’

“After all, we are trying to bring them up on the same lines as public schools, where it has been going on for hundreds of years. I had my share of punishment in my time and I know which I prefer!”

Press cutting

blob RELATED VIDEO CLIP (with comments by C. Farrell)

The Pathé newsreel, shown in cinemas, also ran a version of the above story that same week.

Boy soldiersThe item (1 minute 12 seconds) is called “The Army Asks — C.B. or the Cane?”. The off-screen commentator is instantly recognisable as the legendary Bob Danvers-Walker, British Pathé’s inimitable voice from 1940 to 1970.

Pathé’s camera crew had visited the Army Apprentice School in Harrogate. There are scenes of the boys at their various activities, but little solid content: no information as to what “caning” or “confined to barracks” really consisted of, and hardly any sign of Colonel Kendrew — which is a bit surprising, since it looks from the Evening News item above as if he was the sole source of the story.

All we really get is Danvers-Walker telling us that the question of punishment is at issue, implying that the idea of caning is new, that there is controversy about it, and that the outcome is unresolved. In fact, as is clear from the newspaper coverage reproduced above, CP was already well established in these institutions (“the usual dose is about three or four strokes … there are less than half a dozen canings a week”), and the parents canvassed had already given their verdict: 95% in favour of CP.

It might be that this whole thing was really just a public relations exercise for the army apprentice schools, which certainly earlier in 1948 were on a recruitment drive aimed at parents. Perhaps (I am only guessing here) Colonel Kendrew asked his pals in the media to give them a bit of publicity, and the “nationwide controversy” about punishment was fabricated simply as a “news peg” on which to hang some adulatory coverage.

Added on at the end of the clip is a collection of material filmed for the Pathé news item above, but in the end not used. Two of the boy soldiers implausibly come to a sudden stop right in the middle of a moving column and begin a hilariously wooden conversation about punishment. One says “Have you read the papers this morning? I prefer caning to CB any day”, to which his colleague replies “So would I, it’s certainly a lot quicker and you soon get it over with”.

Why did this scene not make the final cut? Maybe it came across as too obviously “staged” even by the standards of 1940s newsreels. Or perhaps it was omitted because, in the event, there hardly was any coverage in the papers, so the boy’s question makes little sense. The Evening News item above was, surprisingly, the front page lead — it must have been a very slow news day — but it appeared only in the early lunchtime edition, being dropped altogether as soon as some real news came along. And I haven’t so far discovered the story in any other paper that week.