From Uniform Girls 11
Aubrey Blunt, CBE (he had been hoping for a CB and had sometimes even dreamed of a K) pursed his lips. Then he underlined several items in the column produced by the Education Correspondent of The Daily View. Even though he knew Kenneth Wharton quite well, he was glad of the man’s support. He must make a note to take him to lunch quite soon. Though the Press could be a nuisance, if you handled them right, they could be a great help. He underlines ‘positive progress has been made’; ‘the moral renaissance has begun’; ‘no more than they deserve.’
He studied the report of Mrs Appleby’s case with interest. Though she had lost, it seemed to him that certain weaknesses in the ‘System’ had been exposed. It would be best to act before the House started to make a nuisance of itself. He spoke into the dictating machine.
From: Permanent Deputy Under-Secretary, YSS Div. Home Office.
TO: R HERBERT; Chief Executive Officer, YSS Div., Home Office.
Although the Youth Services Act lays down a rule concerning the frequency of 18-stroke canings, it omits any reference to frequency of lesser punishments. Confidentially, in order to avoid trouble in the House, I propose to issue the following Directive to all Commanding Officers at Youth Service Centres:
From the 31st March 1997, the procedures outlined below will be followed:
18-stroke canings: No more than one a fortnight for boys. One a month for girls.
12-stroke canings: No more than one a week for boys. One a fortnight for girls.
6-stroke canings: Interval of 3 days required. Interval of one week required.
I am issuing this Directive as a result of the Appleby case — when a girl received 24 strokes within 24 hours. This matter will be raised by MP’s, I fear. It is best for us to be prepared. Also, to keep discipline within reasonable bounds. Do not accept this as a criticism. All of you, I know, have been acting within the law. Simply, the law is not always completely explicit.
Please note that the above restrictions do not apply to Remedial Training Centres. These, for the time being, are kept closely under the surveillance of this Department and all papers relating to them are marked ‘Most Secret’. At the moment we are acting on an ‘ad hoc’ basis but legislation is being planned which will clarify the position. Since we are steadily gathering nationwide support, I feel sure we will have the backing for the law for all our procedures at these Centres within the next year.
May I draw your attention to the article by the Education Correspondent in The Daily View. Quite encouraging, I think.
Aubrey Blunt, CBE, switched off his recording and picked up a slip from his in-tray. It was a signal from the Naval Cadet Training Centre, Portsmouth (Girls’ Division). He frowned. It was late in the day for such a signal to arrive. He had recorded and approved four similar signals from different Centres that very morning. Surely the Navy couldn’t be getting slack! The signal read:
From Commanding Officer, YSC Portsmouth
It is my intention to assign Naval Cadet Lorna Bridges to RTC 3 for a period of seven days. She was charged with Repeated Insubordination and found guilty by me. Naval Cadet Bridges is 18 years of age and has served six months at Portsmouth. In my view, she is still most unwilling to adapt to our disciplinary procedures. She received an 18-stroke caning some three weeks ago but this does not seem to have had the desired results.
Accordingly, I request permission for my sentence to be approved.
Aubrey Blunt signed the Approval Form immediately. He knew that Daltry was a just man and would be reluctant to send any Cadet to a Remedial Training Centre. Unlike some other CO’s he could name!
He put the Approval Form in his out-tray and picked up a folder off his desk, sighing as he did so. It contained requests from 12 of the CO’s of the 18 YSC’s under the Ministry’s control. He would have to deal with this matter soon. But was it politically wise at that moment? Would it not be better to wait another year or more... when the statistical results on the YSS would be even more striking?
For, in that folder, were requests from 12 CO’s to increase the maximum number of strokes from 18 to 24.
It was a vexing problem. Very likely the increase was justified. On the other hand, one did not want to stir up a hornet’s nest. Nor did one want public opinion swinging against the System on the grounds of over-severity. Whatever results were being achieved.
It might be best to get his secretary to arrange a meeting with the Minister himself so that he could get his views. Best to please one’s masters. Aubrey Blunt, CBE, left the Ministry by a side entrance and headed for his club. He looked a troubled man but, inside, he was deeply contented. He felt he was doing a job of national importance. He considered himself a genuine reformer.
Beyond that, a few days previously, he had received a personal note from the Minister himself... in which it was suggested that he, as Permanent Deputy Under-Secretary for the Home Office (YSS Division) should make a series of visits to Youth Service Centres throughout the country, to report on how this experiment in Youth Rehabilitation was proceeding.
It was, reflected Aubrey, with some satisfaction, a request he would have difficulty in refusing.
FROM THE DAILY VIEW
Dateline: Westminster 12th March 1997
YOUTH SERVICE SCHEME
By our Education Correspondent
It is now a little over a year since the controversial Youth Service Programme became law. It will be remembered there was a stiff fight from the Opposition to many provisions in the Bill and a considerable number of Amendments before the Bill passed its Third Reading. By and large, efforts to ‘water down’ the Bill were foiled. Fortunately so, in my view, and the Act, as it now stands, seems to be working satisfactorily. This seems an appropriate time to review what results have been achieved so far. Early days, some might say, but my researches have led me to several pointers that the YSS (as it is now generally known) has made a satisfactory beginning. Not, however, in all the facets originally envisaged.
The Education Minister of the day stated that work-training and computer skills were to be one of the main aims of the programme. However, according to the CBI little has been achieved in this direction. British industry is still lagging behind the rest of the world for lack of well-trained operatives in ‘craft’ areas.
However, in another of the programme’s main aims, there is evidence that positive progress has been made. This aim was to promote an awareness of moral standards by disciplined education methods. It was generally agreed that the appalling decline in juvenile behaviour which began in the Sixties and continued well into the Eighties, had somehow to be checked. Youth, both male and female, had to be set on a new path. The trend to reject the Establishment, school teaching and parental guidance, had to be reversed. Otherwise, crime among youth — particularly violent crime — would increase to the point when the Nation would be in a state of violent anarchy. For the youth of today are tomorrow’s parents. Fortunately, the Legislature recognised this a year ago and acted accordingly.
Figures from the Home Office (provisional) suggest a 55% reduction in all crime amongst young men and a 65% reduction among young women. It is believed that figures relating to violent crime will prove even more startling.
Faced with these remarkable figures, even those who opposed the Bill at the time must admit it is proving a success and that the ‘moral renaissance’ so urgently required has begun. That it will continue seems self-evident on all the known facts. Of course, at the time of writing, the Opposition is committed to repealing the Act if elected to Government. Surely, however, from what is already known, there will be some wise heads in the Shadow Cabinet who will now remove this pledge from their next Election Manifesto. Much as some of the provisions of the Act may go against the grain for them, surely they cannot simply ignore these Home Office figures.
As is well-known, it was the wholesale re-introduction of corporal punishment for both boys and girls which exercised them mightily and caused them to fight the Bill through all its stages. ‘Barbaric’, ‘A Return to the Dark Ages’, ‘Certain to Breed More Violence’, were the kind of accusations being hurled around. Yet, on the facts, the exact opposite is the case.
The ‘non-corporal punishment’ lobby had its heyday in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. Look where it led us. It would be less than honest of the Opposition if it did not now alter its stance.
The setting up of Remedial Training Centres in recent months seems to be a successful move. This was mooted by the Department responsible for the YSS and it was decided no further legislation was required to organise such Centres. As yet, the general public knows little of them. Their purpose is simple. Only the more incorrigible of the conscripts are sent to them, there to receive ‘a short, sharp shock’. It is rare for a boy or a girl to spend longer than seven days in these establishments and it does not appear necessary that they should do so.
Commanding Officers at the various Service Centres — Army, Navy, Land Girls, Domestic Trainees and so on — are, of course, permitted to discipline those in their charge. Up to eighteen strokes of the cane may be administered on the bare buttocks. One of the Opposition amendments which succeeded was that such a punishment should not be awarded more than once a fortnight, in the case of boys, and not more than once a month in the case of girls.
It is understood, however, that this condition does not apply to the Remedial Training Centres but we believe that punishment can be awarded on any day that a Detainee remains there. The Department concerned has, to date, released few details as to the exact procedures in such Centres and, doubtless, certain members of the Opposition will soon be on their feet asking their usual ‘Probing Questions’. But should they? Is not the fact that the Scheme is succeeding be sufficient unto itself? That some youngsters of either sex, are getting ‘a short, sharp shock’ is probably no more than they deserve. If they had been getting such treatment between the Sixties and the Eighties, our country would surely not have declined to the depths it did. Even now, we are only just beginning to climb out of the morass and those in the Home Office who are responsible need all the encouragement and support they can get. Certainly they have no need to heed the yappings of those out-dated ‘do-gooders’ whose principles and methods brought us to the edge of disaster.
MOTHER’S CASE FAILS
Mrs Janet Appleby (48), a widow living in Yeovil, brought a Civil Action against the Commanding Officer of the Taunton Youth Service Centre. Her daughter, Marion (19), who has recently completed her Conscription, informed her that she received twelve strokes on the bare buttocks on successive days. In the mother’s opinion, this amounted to twenty-four strokes and was more than the law permitted. It was upon this that her case was based.
Mr Justice Barnby ruled that the Commanding Officer was within his rights in awarding such punishment. As he understood the Act, eighteen strokes was the maximum and this could not be awarded more than once a month in the case of a girl. However, there was no stipulation in the Act regarding the frequency of lesser punishments. Perhaps there should be but that was how the law stood at the moment and how he had to interpret it. Accordingly, Mrs Appleby’s case was dismissed, with costs against her.
‘I deserved it’
It is understood that Marion Appleby, who then served in a Transport Corps Centre, has obtained a van-driving job, delivering bread for a baker in the Yeovil area. Asked if she resented her treatment, she replied that she had done so, at the time, but ‘I deserved it, I suppose’. She refused to give the reason for her double caning and added ‘I just wish Mum had left well alone. I didn’t like all the publicity. Standing up in Court and hearing all that wasn’t nice.’ Further asked what she thought of the YSS, Marion would not comment directly, saying ‘I just want to settle down to a decent, honest job; and maybe get married soon.’
YSS ARRIVAL AT RTC 3
The green van made its way sedately up a long drive towards RTC 3 or, to spell it out more fully, Remedial Training Centre No. 3. There were already six such Centres established in various parts of the country. This one, which received conscripts from the South-East, was in a remote part of Essex. In the back of the van, with a guard alongside, sat Naval Cadet Lorna Bridges. Though there was defiant jut to her jaw, she was very pale and, inside, trembling weakly. She had heard something about these RTC’s, which were a quite recent innovation. And what she had heard, she didn’t like. Lorna tried to summon up the remnants of her courage. She was aware that she had been bucking the system for some time (and rightly so, in her opinion!) but she had not quite anticipated this development. Going into the unknown was frightening.
‘What you obviously need, Cadet Bridges,’ Captain Daltry had stated, ‘is a short, sharp shock. That is what you’re going to get.’
But what did it mean exactly? It was all very frightening. The Youth Service Centre was bad enough. Oh how she hated the rules and regulations! The senseless regime. The constant discipline. Above all, how she hated to be in permanent fear of punishment. For every conscript was liable to receive it. Only those who kept a nose most scrupulously clean escaped.
Sitting on the hard bench-seat, Lorna Bridges shivered. The memory of the last 18-stroke caning was still hideously upon her. Previously, she had received several sixers and a couple of dozens. Nasty, but just about endurable if you had some guts. Which she reckoned she had. The fact that she hated them so much helped. But that 18 had really creased her. Broken her for the time being. Amazing what a difference an extra six made. You could hype yourself up to take six — even twelve, possibly — but no-one could take 18 without bellowing the place down.
Why had she gone on rebelling after that?
Sometimes Lorna couldn’t properly understand herself. But how she envied those who had lived some twenty years previously! They had lived a life beyond all imagining now. Liberated, easy-going, careless of authority. What had happened? Why had it all ended?
Like so many of the young, Lorna had not bothered to think that carefree existence through. As with every other irresponsible way of life, it was doomed to ultimate failure. Man may not live by bread alone but he certainly cannot live by perpetual circuses either!
The van came to a halt outside a long, squat building. The very shape of it had an air of menace. The guard unlocked and opened the door of the rear of the van. ‘Step out, Cadet Bridges,’ he snapped. Feeling a little weak-kneed, Lorna obeyed the order. ‘Come with me. Left... right... left... right...’ She stepped out in her best naval fashion. She felt the bounce of her breasts under her sailor-tunic top. Only the very biggest girls were permitted to wear a bra. ‘Left... right... left...’ They arrived at the door. ‘I’m handing you into the charge of the Assistant Commandant,’ said the guard. ‘He deals with all new arrivals. I shall come to fetch you in seven days time.’
Lorna shivered again. Seven days. What did they hold for her? It really was most frightening. Even if you did believe you had guts.
YSS DETAINEE’S ‘INTRODUCTION’
The guard opened the door; Lorna marched smartly in. At least she was going to try and show she was not scared to death! ‘Halt!’ She halted and stood rigidly, hearing and feeling her heart thumping. A male figure emerged from a kind of cubicle.
‘What’s this?’ he demanded. Lorna glimpsed a white shirt and dark uniformed trousers.
‘Naval Cadet Lorna Bridges... assigned for seven days, sir,’ rapped out the guard. A clipboard was consulted.
Why wasn’t she on morning detail?’ Voice sharp and hard.
‘Don’t know, sir. Administrative cock-up, I suppose...’
‘Don’t use offensive language here!’ The voice even sharper and harder. Lorna was still standing rigid. Her legs felt cold. How ridiculously abbreviated were these shorts they had to wear! ‘Ah well... I suppose I shall have to deal with this matter myself. The rest of the staff are on other duties. Dismiss!’ Lorna almost turned and dismissed in military fashion, but quickly realised this peremptory order was addressed to her guard. He turned, thumped a boot, and marched briskly away. The uniformed figure was once again consulting the clipboard. ‘Cadet Bridges. Seven days for repeated insubordination?’
‘Yes, sir!’ She really snapped it out. Best to keep on the right side of authority, no matter how much you hated it.
‘Follow me.’ He paused. ‘By the way, I am First Officer Yardley. You will always address me as ‘sir’.’
‘Yes, sir!’ They marched off, Lorna in the rear and soon entered a bare-looking kind of hall. It had an eerie, echoing quality about it. Utterly unfriendly. Lorna, so isolated from familiarity — no matter how unpleasant — was beginning to feel very sorry for herself. She was scared, too. First Officer Yardley had an unyielding quality about him.
‘Halt!’ They came to a halt; he faced her. ‘Medical inspection first, Cadet Bridges,’ he said, suddenly surprisingly close. She saw something unpleasant in his eyes. If ever there was a time for rebellion, this was it. For a medical inspection from this man must be a charade. Yet she dare not rebel. It is, of course, she told herself, designed to humiliate me. Then she gritted her teeth. It was all part of seven days of painful degradation. To teach her to behave. Oh how bitter! She burned deep within. But she realised she must somehow try and control her emotions and go through with it.
‘Remove your tunic-top, Cadet.’ Lorna adjusted the toggle and pulled off the white, blue-edged top. Her naked, apple-round breasts thrust out. He studied them for some time. Then he fondled and prodded them; he even pressed an ear to them. Lorna gritted her teeth more fiercely. Did the authorities know that such indecencies went on? Did they, indeed, deliberately encourage them? Who could ever tell? One simply had to endure.
‘Lower your shorts, Cadet.’
Striving to keep control of her surging fury, Lorna pushed down her shorts, white and blue-trimmed in Navy style. She wore nothing beneath, her customary briefs having been denied her before departure.
He surveyed her with pseudo-professionalism. ‘You look quite healthy, Cadet,’ he said. Then he fondled her. Lorna recoiled with a gasp, then managed to gather herself. If the man wanted to act like a beast, there was nothing she could do about it. He moved around behind her. ‘Mmmm...’ she heard him murmur. ‘According to records, you recently had an 18-stroke caning. Thoroughly deserved, I imagine. But you seem to have recovered well. Tough-skinned, are we?’
‘I... I don’t think so, sir...’ The bastard was smiling faintly. It took every ounce of Lorna’s self-control not to let her feelings get the better of her. Was this kind of thing going on for seven days?
‘Ever been to an RTC before, Cadet?’
‘I thought not. Haven’t got your full record yet. Still, not many girls come back a second time.’ Lorna felt herself shivering inside again. It was quite terrible to be standing there so nakedly vulnerable. No one to help her. No one! ‘You may put your uniform back on, Cadet Bridges. I am passing you as A1 physically.’
What a mockery of medicine, reflected Lorna, as she put her uniform back on as fast as possible. This man had not the faintest idea whether she was fit or not. But there was not a soul to complain to. Even if there had been, did she want to make matters worse for herself? Then suddenly, madly, Lorna took her courage into her hands. ‘Are you medically qualified, sir?’ she asked.
Something like a smirk passed over those features. ‘A First Officer does not have to be medically qualified before examining a detainee, Cadet,’ he said. His features hardened. ‘And, if I have any more lip like that, Cadet Bridges, I shall see to it that you get a thrashing which will make you wish you’d never been born.’ Vicious; eyes glaring. Lorna quailed. Oh, what a fool she had been! Already she had got on the wrong side of him. She cursed her own naturally rebellious nature.
‘You will remain here, at attention, until I return.’ The features relaxed; he was smirking again. ‘When you will learn something not exactly to your advantage.’
He clumped off across the wide, deserted hall. Lorna stood at attention. Utterly wretched. Still feeling the degradation of that nude examination. Still fearful of what the future held. So far, she had only heard frightening whispers about RTC’s. Now she was in one. Her eyes roved around the bleak hall. What was it normally used for? Drill? Exercising? Then her eyes alighted on something horribly familiar. A punishment trestle, just like the one they had in her own Service Centre. Just like the one she had been over to receive her 18-stroke caning. Her stomach seemed to turn to water. Of course, subconsciously, she had been aware that discipline in such a place would be more strict than normal, but, to be confronted with the means of it was quite terrifying.
Lorna Bridges, a girl full of guts, began to cry softly.
When First Officer Yardley returned something like half an hour later, evening had drawn in and Lorna was becoming extremely weary in the ‘at attention’ position. The muscles of her calves, thighs and back ached abominably. It was almost a relief to hear his feet clumping. Until, out of the corner of an eye, she saw he had a cane in his hand.
‘Right, Cadet Bridges,’ came that confidently commanding voice, ‘you are now going to receive what is customary for all new arrivals at an RTC.’
He was right before her, grinning almost, flexing the cane he held. There could be no doubt, she thought — despite her inner terror — that this man enjoys his job. She despised him for that. If, she thought again, I despise him enough, he will not break my spirit. My body, yes, from time to time, but not my spirit.
‘Right turn. March!’
Lorna obeyed the order. It was certainly no surprise to find herself heading straight for the wooden punishment trestle.
There it stood, right before. Hard, rigid.
‘Cadet Bridges,’ he was barking out, ‘all detainees, on arrival, receive six strokes of the cane. We call it an ‘Introduction’. Personally, I would like to make it twelve, but that decision is not in my hands. You will remove your shorts and bend over the trestle. I should warn you that any refusal... or any interference, of a serious nature, with this Introduction, authorises me to administer additional strokes. Is that clear, Cadet Bridges?’
‘Y-yes... sir...’ She tried to snap it out but her voice cracked on a high note. Shaking, she pushed down her shorts. Once again she was shamingly naked below the waist. How hard was he going to cane her? Very hard, she guessed. He’d obviously ‘got it in’ for her right from the start. Well, she had cheeked him, hadn’t she? Would she never learn? Guts... guts... now is the time to truly show your guts, she told herself. Hate him... hate him... it will surely help. She knelt and bent over the hard wooden trestle. It cut into her belly. It always did. She felt cold all through.
‘Spread your legs, Cadet Bridges. Wide.’
Feeling the shaming humiliation of it, Lorna did so. Her hindquarters, thus presented, seemed oddly detached from her. A separate object. The momentary illusion was quickly dispelled as First Officer Yardley’s cane came whistling down.
The deep-searing, blazing pain of it across both buttock cheeks made Lorna realise her hindquarters were very much part of herself. The torment streaked through every nerve in her body, it seemed, and exploded in her brain. She shrieked breathlessly, head tossing back. Oh the agony of that! Thank God there were only six. Not eighteen, like the last time. For First Officer Yardley seemed to have laid it on twice as hard as any officer in her Centre. Was that customary in an RTC or was it because of her? Pure speculation... abruptly cut off by the arrival of the second whip-lashing stroke. Gasping out again, her cry going up, Lorna writhed frantically over the trestle. Only experience of such cruel discipline prevented her from throwing back her arms and hands in an attempt to alleviate the pain. Futile, as she knew that would have been. It was simply something instinctive.
Number three had her yelping like an injured puppy, kicking out uncontrollably. Oh the pain... oh the pain! Had she sufficient guts to withstand it? In a way, to defeat him. For she knew in her heart he would have loved to have an excuse to give her extra.
‘Halfway, Cadet Bridges,’ She heard him saying, ‘and I may tell you, here and now, that there is no reason why you should not be caned in this fashion every day, if we deem it necessary.’
She heard his feet clump as he moved to the other side of the trestle. Now it would be her left flank which felt the wasp-sting bite of the tip.
An over-long pause which had her nates clenching in dread anticipation. Then that so familiar — and so terrifying — harsh-sharp whistle of the descending cane.
Blazing agony! Lorna lost her fierce grip on the wooden crossbar and twisted right over... legs kicking out.
‘A-a-aaghhh... aagghhh!’ Through a haze of tears, she saw him looking down at her. Dispassionate. Unmoved. A man doing his duty.
Lorna had twisted back again. She was sobbing. Never before had she been caned so hard. The seven days which stretched ahead seemed more like seven weeks.
‘Cadet Bridges... you will place your legs inside the back bar of the trestle,’ ordered First Officer Yardley.
Thus, she was aware, she would be unable to twist over again. Worse, her bottom would be curving more tautly. As she moved her legs, the pain in the ridged weals intensified sharply. She gasped, feeling a desperate desire to plead. It would be useless. She gritted her teeth and closed her eyes. Again that terrifying sound... again that excruciating pain, especially in her left flank. That was where the tip bit; where the supple willow was travelling at its fastest.
‘Yaagghhhh!’ Her calves thumped back against the crossbar, her bottom squirmed convulsively from side to side. One more... one more... oh thank God... only one more! She was heaving with deep sobs. For the moment, he had broken her. Physically anyway. Within her, the hard kernel of her spirit remained. That, she assured herself, would never be broken. Not even in this dreadful place.
At least, she prayed it would not be. There must be limits to what the human will could endure, she realised. Her nates were clenching again; she could not stop herself twisting from side to side in dread. Deliberately, she was aware, he was keeping her waiting. It was a familiar ploy when a punishment was being administered. She had seen and experienced it before.
Then, at long last, it came. As agonising a cut as all those which had preceded it. If not more so. With the whole of her bottom twisting and juddering uncontrollably, Lorna’s head was thrown back and her mouth gaped as she bayed her torment to the ceiling above... in a series of screeches which mounted ever higher in pitch. Then her head slumped down again and she was weeping unashamedly.
Anger, as well as pain, throbbed through her whole being at the sheer inhumanity of it. What had it all been for? Nothing... nothing! Bitterly she remembered his words. ‘We call it an ‘Introduction’.’ And an introduction was but a beginning. There would surely be more to follow. Little wonder her tears continued to flow unchecked.
‘Cadet Bridges... on your feet!’ he barked. Groaning, she struggled up, feeling as if the skin on her bottom had shrunk by a quarter. Once again, the pain of those burning weals intensified. He shimmered before her, seen through her tears. She strove to achieve an ‘at attention’ position but swayed and nearly fell. She clasped the trestle for support.
‘A lot of fuss, Cadet Bridges,’ he was saying. ‘That was only a six-stroke caning. You’ve had worse, as your record indicates.’
Yes, she thought wretchedly, maybe I have. But I’ve never been caned so hard in all my life before. How would it be possible to endure more than six from him?
‘Pick up your shorts, Cadet Bridges.’
She cried out as she bent to do so. She started to put them on.
‘Did I tell you to replace them?’
‘N-no... mmmff... no... s-sir...’
‘Then you will not do so. Left turn! March!’ Arms swinging (from sheer habit) Lorna found herself marching towards an open door on the far side of the room. ‘Left turn!’ Now she was marching down a corridor, he clumping behind her. Doubtless he was surveying those weals with dutiful satisfaction. ‘Halt!’ They had arrived at a plain wooden door which he unlocked. It opened to reveal a windowless room, bare but for a hard-looking bed and a chair.
‘You will remain here overnight, Cadet Bridges. Your training will commence tomorrow. Under my personal direction.’ The door closed and was locked again.
Lorna fell face down on the bed and burst into a flood of scalding tears.
MORE MINISTRY MINUTES
Aubrey Blunt frowned. There was something niggling away at the back of his mind and he didn’t like it. Soon someone... some busybodying MP, most likely, was going to raise the subject of punishment limitations (or not) in Remedial Training Centres. Nothing had been laid down officially yet. It would be best to be prepared. To spread the responsibility a little. He switched on his dictating machine.
From: Permanent Deputy Undersecretary, YSS Div., Home Office
To: Miss J Carver, Asst. Chief Executive, YSS Div., Home Office
I am sending you a copy of the memo I dictated to the Chief Executive Officer yesterday and would appreciate your comments.
Also, I would like your views on the following:
1. Whether or not the maximum number of strokes of the cane a girl can receive should remain at 18.
2. Whether we should officially regularise punishments administered in the RTC’s.
As you will be aware, no directives have as yet been given and officers in these special establishments have almost carte blanche as to corrective discipline. So far, there has been no trouble mainly, I believe, because any conscript would be wary of attempting to complain for fear of being sent back to an RTC. All the same, I think it might be best if we gave Commandants some guidelines. Possibly unofficially at this stage.
A prompt reply would be appreciated.
Aubrey Blunt switched off the dictating machine. For a while he continued to frown then his face brightened a little. He took up a pen and began to outline an itinerary for his tour of the country’s eighteen Remedial Training Centres. However reliable one’s subordinates, he told himself, it was surely only sensible to see things for oneself from time to time.
MEMO from: Miss J Carver, Assistant Chief Executive, YSS Div., Home Office.
To: Permanent Deputy Undersecretary, YSS Div., Home Office.
I am in general agreement with the proposals outlined in your memo to the Chief Executive. 18 strokes of the cane is indeed a severe punishment for a girl and I consider the month’s interval sensible.
As regards item 1:
You ask whether or not the maximum number of strokes a girl can receive should remain at 18. I presume you are not considering lowering the maximum so are asking me if I think any increase is desirable. In exceptional cases I think it might be even though there is always the alternative of sending the girl to an RTC. However, if 24-stroke canings are to be awarded to girls, I suggest that they be given in two lots of 12 strokes, with a 48-hour interval in between. The waiting time for the second administration would be salutary in itself.
As regards item2:
I definitely think punishments in RTC’s should be regularised and not left to the Commandant’s discretion. In the first place, each Commandant will think differently and this means that punishments throughout the RTC system are not uniform. As I think they should be.
As to the level of punishment, this is a matter for consideration and debate. I think you should chair a meeting of all Executive Officers, when the matter could be thrashed out. If I may use such an expression!
Aubrey Blunt grimaced at the levity displayed at the conclusion of this memo, then placed it in his ‘For Attention’ tray. But then, he reflected, Jane Carver was not much more than a girl herself. Only 25 years of age. One had to make allowances.
YSS FIRST TRAINING RUN
Lorna Bridges slept a sleep of exhaustion. When she was abruptly awoken, she was still lying face down on the unyielding bed.
‘Up... up... at attention!’ a voice was bellowing. It was, of course, First Officer Yardley. Lorna’s first sensation was that of the pain of her new weals as she almost fell off the bed.
‘Strip!’ There was little left for her to take off. Still bleary-eyed, head swimming, Lorna removed her sailor-uniform top. Once again she was conscious of his intense interest in her nudity.
‘Put these on.’ He tossed down a singlet and shorts. ‘We’re going for a training run.’
Lorna picking up the flimsy garments, suddenly realised how thirsty she was. ‘C-can I have a drink, sir?’ she croaked.
He pointed to a mug and a plate set on the chair. ‘There’s bread and water there,’ he said. ‘I’ll be back in five minutes.’ Then he was gone again. Lorna ate and drank greedily before pulling on the singlet and shorts. Oh how those weals still hurt! What time could it be? It felt terribly early to her. She had done training runs before, but sensed this would be something out of the ordinary. The whole place was out of the ordinary. More like a prison than anything. Then, suddenly, he was back, looking brisk and efficient. Uniformed, but wearing some kind of yellow over-all weather protector. Nothing like that for her, of course.
‘Out!’ He jogged from the room and Lorna jogged after him. Out of the barrack-like building, into the grounds. They were wooded and undulating, stretching far and wide. To her horror, she suddenly noticed that First Officer Yardley had a switch in his hand. ‘Go ahead of me, Cadet Bridges... and set a good pace, I want no slacking on this first run.’
She passed him and got a stinging little cut from the switch as she did so. With a squeal, she began to run rather than jog.
Up and down the slopes they went, feet squelching in mud. Obviously, quite recently, it had been raining heavily. That didn’t make the going any easier. Lorna could hear him running behind her. It sounded easy and long-striding; certainly he wasn’t panting. Very fit, she thought. But then, so am I. Anyone who has been a Naval Conscript for six months must be fit. It was cold, the wind sharp. She was conscious of her breasts bouncing up and down. How long was this training run going to take, she wondered? Best to try and reserve her strength.
The switch flicked lightly across her scantily clad bottom. ‘Step up the pace, Cadet Bridges.’
She stepped it up as best she could. They were ascending quite a steep slope. There was an ache beginning in her calf and thigh muscles. Fortunately, they arrived at a gradually descending stretch. Lorna let herself run loosely, trying to ease the muscle pain. Again the switch flicked stingingly. ‘Faster,’ came the command. Lorna gritted her teeth. He wasn’t giving her a fair chance. She speeded again, then stumbled and sprawled into the cold mud. The switch lashed her buttocks cruelly.
‘Very careless, Cadet Bridges’, he bellowed. ‘Get up... and get on!’
Again he lashed her. Crying out, Lorna staggered to her feet. This was becoming even worse than she had imagined it might be. She began to run again, now sluggishly, up quite a steep incline. Cold as it was, she had begun to sweat. There was a pain in her chest. Always she was conscious of that cane in his hand. On... on... on. If only she knew how far she had to go. Then she could have paced herself. An ankle turned in a rut. Once more she was slithering in the mud. Not only was it cold and painful, it was utterly degrading. It made one feel more like an animal than a human being.
‘You’re clumsy, Cadet Bridges. Don’t they teach you deportment in the Navy?’
Lash... lash! Of course they didn’t teach her deportment; hardly a naval subject. She was forcing her way up again. Hating him, yet striving to control her seething emotions in order to avoid worse torment. He’d got hold of her. This time he was pulling her up. ‘Come on... move it... move!’ The switch fell yet again, catching her over one of the weals raised the previous evening. She screamed as she staggered on up the muddy slope. How long could she go on like this? What was he trying to do to her? She was only an 18-year old girl. Had he no compassion? It seemed not. He pounded along behind her... urging and threatening. It seemed to Lorna, after another five minutes or so on this ghastly undulating track, that her heart must burst. She must rest. She must! There was only one way, even though Lorna realised it would bring a penalty. Deliberately, she sprawled herself down into the cold mud.
The penalty came. Two biting cuts. She screamed, threshing in the slime. It was quite bestial; quite unbelievable. How could they treat her like this? How could anyone be treated like this?
‘We’re by no means finished, Cadet Bridges,’ he was saying, towering over her in that yellow weather-protector. ‘Obviously the Navy have different fitness standards to RTC’s. Up you get. I want to see some real effort.’
If it had been within her physical power, Lorna thought she would have killed him at that moment. The effort involved in getting to her feet was horrendous. She somehow made it, then staggered on. They were going downhill again. Her limbs were beginning to feel like lead, her breath was rasping. The fact that she was wet and coated with mud was no longer of any concern. Her only desire was that he would stop driving her on.
She had to endure several more cuts before they arrived back at the barrack-like building which was now her ‘home’. Grim as it looked, she was glad to see it. She collapsed in a heap on the floor.
‘Up!’ came the instant command. Was there no end to it? ‘Shower,’ he snapped. ‘This way.’ Head whirling, Lorna followed the yellow-clad figure down a passageway... then into a shower room. Still fully clothed, she was thrust into a cubicle. The next moment, icy streams of water were jetting down on her. It was a shock, but she didn’t mind. She was positively steaming from her exertions. It was a blessed relief. To begin with.
‘Stick your backside out of the shower, Cadet Bridges!’
‘Oh... oh... please, sir... haven’t I had enough? Ooohhh... please!’
‘You should know better than to disobey an order. Stick it out, Cadet Bridges.’
Sobbing, Lorna stuck it out. Harsh discipline she had expected, but nothing quite like this. The switch lashed across her. Fortunately nowhere near as hard as it had done when she had been over that trestle. But it still hurt. It hurt like crazy when it fell over a previous weal. Standing under the freezing lances of water, Lorna yelped and squirmed continuously and frantically.
Then, suddenly, he stopped. Equally suddenly the water was turned off.
‘I was not impressed by your performance, Cadet Bridges,’ he was saying. ‘I can only hope you will do better during the rest of your stay here.’
There was no answer to that. How could she do better? She had given of her utmost yet still received cut after cut. She felt dizzy. Perhaps I’m going to faint, she thought hopefully. They’ll have to take me to the Sick Bay. But she didn’t faint.
Resolutely, First Officer Yardley marched her back to her bleak cell-room. ‘Strip,’ he ordered, handing her a towel. Lorna stripped naked yet again, thankful to use a towel on her now chilled, wet body. Except over her bottom, that is.
‘Bread and water later, Cadet Bridges,’ he said. Then he was quickly gone and the door locked. Lorna sank down on to the bed, filled with despair.
She was beginning to appreciate the true horror of a Remedial Training Centre. And why very few conscripts returned there for a second time.