Public/ Private School Beatings in U.K

I am very interested to know if anyone was ‘beaten’ during the 1950s-60s at a UK public or private school? I generally know they were a lot worse at these schools and the further back you go the beatings were worse at these institutions.

My real life story is that I had 12 strokes of the cane from an ex public school pupil who was at one during the 1950s. This was quite a few years ago now I received it.

He was Head of House. It was quite a punishment I can tell you! Like it was said, you couldn’t sit down properly for a while afterwards. Bear in mind I’m not bluffing the severity of the strokes, these were proper hard. Nor the amount. I was in shock after I received it….. Although that is only one emotion I must add. It made me think if I was around at the time of the 1950s I would definitely have to behave…

Is there anyone on here from that period in time who went to a public school who endured similar?

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I was at an English Public School where the Prefects did most of the caning from 1954 to 1960.  It was a day school but a member of The Headmasters’ Conference and tended to punch above its weight.  Not as well known as the big names, but beating some of them academically and specialising in politicians, captains of industry, financiers and military men.

The Headmaster did cane occasionally, but the majority of the caning was done by the Prefects, mainly third year sixth form academic and sports stars.  Not of the severity your man delivered though.  The Headmaster might give the odd six of the best but the prefects were limited to 3 strokes.

Scared me to death when early in my time there I found myself up before the Prefects’ Court for running in a quad where running wasn’t allowed.  My knees knocked in my short trousers as I surveyed the large and vicious looking rattan school cane the Prefects had prominently displayed  on the court table  as a symbol of their power and authority.  It was the first full size school cane I’d seen as there was no caning at my Junior School and being rather SCP averse anyway I didn’t like the look of it at all!

Luckily I got off with lines, but if I’d been sentenced to the cane I’d have had to return later that week to bend over and be whacked by whichever Prefect was doing the caning, in front of an audience of any Prefects who happened to be in their common room at the time.  Usually at least half a dozen, as third year sixth formers had a lot of unscheduled time.  The delay before the caning was because in theory there was a right of appeal to the Headmaster, but it wasn’t normally exercised for fear of getting something worse.

My impression would be that by 1954 relatively few schools allowed pupils to cane pupils, and that at those that did 12 strokes would be unusual.  But I could be wrong.  The Prefects at my school decided to abandon the cane in the mid 1960s and, impressed by this concession to the spirit of the age, the Headmaster followed suit.

Canings by other pupils in the shape of Prefects, Heads of House etc. have featured in various films of which perhaps the most famous are ‘If’ and ‘Another Country’.  Of the two the ‘Another Country’ caning most resembles the procedure at my school, although our Prefects didn’t affect fancy waistcoats and bow ties.  The clip is below – hopefully!

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The ‘If’ caning scene.  Somewhat melodramatic!  Possibly that sort of thing did happen though.  a number of claims are made about the scene, in particular that it was shot in one take and that the caning was real.  The first of these claims was comprehensively debunked here by two of our experts in both media production and caning.  I suspect the latter wasn’t true either.  The clip is below – hopefully!

Canings by staff as opposed to by other pupils in Public and Private schools in the period you quote.  You’d certainly find plenty of them, some of them possibly severe.  No particular instances here come to mind but I’m sure there are several.  Hopefully someone will quote some instances for you.  A feature of some Preparatory Schools, at least in the 1950s and at those which took boarders, was caning on the bare.

One of my friends in my early days at the Public School was a veteran of this at his Preparatory School.  The Form Master’s size 12 leather soled sandal, which could usually be relied upon to elicit a tear from even the most hard bitten 12 year old boy held no terrors for him.  He said when you’ve had six of the best with the cane on the bare that thing doesn’t hurt much!


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I have seen quite a few scenes in tv programmes and films over the years. Most of them aren’t particularly convincing, plus most tend to wimp away from what a proper caning should be about.

I have seen clips from ‘Hornblower’ which also weren’t 100% real I suspect. Certainly I would have thought he would have had to have endured a proper cat o’ nine tails flogging for a start.

The scene in ‘KES’ was apparently real, however. Although I really don’t like hand caning.

Do you know of any other rarities? I seem to remember the film ‘A Yank at Eton’ discussed caning, but we never saw it.

When I had my ‘beating’ many years ago it was quite a memorable experience. I think what struck me the most was how personal it was, you couldn’t simply ‘remove’ it from yourself, you had to suffer with the pain. I’m sure Roald Dahl said similar in his book ‘Boy’. With each stroke I was gritting my teeth to cope with the intense sting but to no avail, as by the 12th stroke i was nearly in tears. I remember being told it would wipe the smile off my face, certainly i had one before the beating. I was so stiff when I got up, everyone who’s endured this would know what I mean.

By the way, does this forum allow people to request beatings?

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Boys grammar schools of that period strove to emulate and in some cases outdo the public schools on the caning front. I know the headmaster of the school I attended regularly caned boys whose backsides sported the marks for days afterwards. The slipper ( a size 11 plimsoll) could hurt even more when applied across thin PE shorts.

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Movie and TV  producers often try very hard to achieve realism using special effects or otherwise but too often at the expense of a good story, good acting and good art. The more explicit a scene the less room there is for personal imagination and for accommodating alternative life experiences.  Worse, suspending the laws of nature and geometry for arts sake corrupts understanding.

An  apocryphal boy is alleged to have said he preferred the Lord of the Rings book to the movies because the pictures were better.

Perhaps movie canings are best implied rather than real?

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As regards films I am not the expert here.  There is a clip which shows one of our well known luvies playing a schoolboy at an advanced age and being beaten by a senior boy for burning his toast but alas I can’t recall the name of the film to try to find it.  My memory seems to tell me that you don’t see much of the caning anyway, but I could be wrong.  Hopefully someone else may remember it, or indeed suggest other films.

Requests to be beaten?  I think probably not.  We have certainly had at least one male contributor I recall who intimated that they were into the provision of that sort of thing, but it was some time ago and no transactions were negotiated on-Forum.  You would anyway have problems unless you were prepared to publish your email address or some other contact as messages are disabled on this Forum.

I have often been known to request canings from lady contributors but curiously they generally  seem to take it that I’m joking!  

Had you been here at the right time you could readily have got yourself cyber-paddled by the ladies of ‘Teachers Who Paddle’, who were wont to dispense virtual versions of their signature punishment for perceived infractions in their threads.  However that’s the nearest I recall to any on-Forum action.   Oh, and we used to have a slipper equipped Forum Prefect, but again the penalty was virtual and it was seldom dispensed.

While not wishing to press you on the matter, I wonder, were your own schooldays post the SCP era?

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Actually yes I way out, I’m in my thirties. I did however have it in my public school in the early 1990s. That was on my hand. She was a strict teacher! We all had to go up and queue in line to have our mathematics marked in front of her. Punishment inflicted at the same time when your answer was wrong.
The other ‘punishments’ from other staff consisted of being grabbed and twisted by the ear (partially lifting you off the ground), being shouted at until you were in tears, and pushed around physically at the same time.

I remember a few pupils being shouted at for misdemeanours and told that they were lucky to live in the modern age, as they would have definitely have been beaten in the past.

By the way, is British Discipline still around?

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If I understand correctly you are interested in the severity of school canings as administered in certain schools in the 1950’s and 60’s. Yes, teenage boys were routinely beaten with maximum force on the buttocks with rattan canes of limited but usually unspecified size and weight beyond perhaps needing to be approved by some person or authority, for offences which seem trivial by today’s standards.  It hurt.

A proper cane stroke left a livid red or purple raised tram track across the cheeks. There was a very distinct delay before it really started to hurt.  The pain seemed to come in waves before eventually fading to a pleasant warmness. Soreness persisted for a few days.

The ridges softened and became more diffuse within a few minutes with interesting colour changes over following hours and days with big differences between boys. The most lasting evidence of a caning were pairs of thin redlines marking the position of the impact and raised tram tracks. These could last 2 or even 3 weeks. A few inept naughty boys probably always had cane marks.

Reports and experiences seem to differ on the effect of multiple strokes. A friend claimed his “bum went sort of numb” after the first couple of strokes so he hardly noticed the subsequent strokes. Another, much more experienced boy claimed six strokes were a great deal more painful than four. Two stroke canings seemed far more than one stroke canings. For reasons unknown some strokes were ineffectual.

The maximum number of strokes that might be administered was limited by local regulation, custom or legal precedent.  Six became a common normal maximum but 12 stroke canings were not unknown. For most boys “six-of-the-best” was no laughing matter but one they were expected and were usually able to take in their stride.

The perceived fairness of the punishment seemed to matter far more than the severity.  We had no problem with the fact that some teachers were far more effective with the cane than others provided only they were consistent and predictable and accurate.

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