A merry Whacking Christmas


Halls Naval Academy AKA WNTS.

I don’t remember how I got to HNA, but I was very pleased to be back

with my brother after a year of separation. Christopher seemed changed.
He was in Class 2B when I arrived on 16 December 1936. I was exactly
ten years and five months of age. Christopher was in Seven Company
and I was in Six Company, each company having about forty-five boys
between the ages of eleven and fifteen-and-a-half. I had two days of
schooling before the Christmas break, when I was told I would be in 1A
not the 1B class.The Headmaster had obviously read the letter from Mr
Pointer, my previous headmaster.

Halls Naval Academy was a charity school with a nautical theme run
on militaristic principles. The estate was located in the Suffolk rural
countryside far from the outside world. It was situated on the edge of a
plateau that sloped east to a valley near the river Eastham where the
school farmed the land.
HNA had a population of a large staff and about three hundred
students between eleven and sixteen years of age. The students were
allowed to take two three-week vacations each year during the summer
and at Christmas. All other holiday periods were spent at the school.
Students without guardians never left the school. Students had no access
to the outside world, arbitrary access, or personal rights. Discipline was
strict. Hunger and fear of punishment were constant. Love and affection
were non-existent. All communication to and from the school was
censored. Those boys who never left the school on vacation became
conditioned to their surroundings (like caged birds) and were probably
happier at the school than those of us who had occasional release from
our incarceration.
On the 20 December 1936, having been told by my brother that he was
going home again to Auntie Parker, I raised the roof and said, “I should
go, too!” I was told, “No money, no ticket, no permission. Sorry, you’ll
have to stay”. Like bloody hell, I thought. Then the bugler sounded the
action stations call and the lucky ones – about half the population of the
school – marched to the East Oakville Station.
Two or three hours later, I was on a train that had stopped at a large station
My friend, Ernie Booker and I had no idea where we were going

and must have looked conspicuous.
The ticket bloke and staff at the station locked us up. Soon after,
we were back at HNA. Living in a dark cloud of rejection,
I was totally at odds with that place. I wondered how much more
I would have to suffer.

22 December 1936

My brother had arrived in Chalgrove. Meanwhile, I was confused and in
a state of apathy. Ernie and I were in serious trouble. Having only been at
this place for six days, I was to get six cuts of the cane. Having no one to
turn to for help, I was wretchedly homesick. It was suggested by a few
teachers that because it was so close to Christmas we should be forgiven,
but our Capt. Superintendent replied, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men applies only on Christmas day.”
The remaining population of the school gathered to witness our
punishment. A box horse for us to bend over was produced, plus the
biggest rattan cane – even bigger than the one at Charlham School. Ernie
went first. It seemed like a bloody execution – minus the knitting hags,
the French National Anthem, and a basket for our heads. Ernie was brave
but white as a sheet after his six, and had to go to the sickbay. I later
learned he had received a testicular injury.
Ernie going first made little difference, as another instructor, ‘Gunner
Martin’ was to be my tormentor. I felt bloody awful. My thin trousers
barely hid the bleeding welts across my buttocks. After the six strokes, I
shouted in agonising pain, “I hope you die, you rotten cruel sod!” and
got number seven. Gunner Martin died during the war about four years
later. I was unmoved.
Christmas in HNA was over. Our total excitement had consisted of
two church parades, an apple, an orange, and cake. Where was Charlie
Dickens? What a pity he missed out on this place.
This school was was strictly Cof E.. The Capt Superintendent
considered to be the cruelest the school had experienced. Years later
I received an Email from his grandson. which reads.

Thank you so much for replying so quickly. It really is amazing how the internet helps with these things. My mother (Captain Campbells daughter) was sent off with her mum and twin sister to Boars hill during the war. Captain Campbell divorced my grandmother and I know a lot less about him than my grandmother and her family. I'm beginning to think my mother was so quiet about him because he was such a nasty character.
I am getting the family tree together and I will send you more information as I get it. Its funny that you are from Oxfordshire as that is the part of England that meant most to my mother. She is buried in Berwick Salome (which I think is quite close to Chalgrove) along with her mother. End.
(I Vest visited both graves in 2009 (While visiting the U/K). twenty Min's walk from my former home in Chalgrove.)

I am in an Internet cafe now so I can't write for long but I will get back to you again soon.
This email address is the best to use for me. I use my hot mail account only when I have to leave an email address somewhere where it might get picked up by spam robots.
Thanks very much for all the information you have already sent.

Best regards,
Sparing the Rod and spoiling the child was unheard of during my growing years.
VEST ...Back soon.


Vest said…
Trying to extract this post from a pdf file, it absolutely refuses to do what you want it to do.
A crazy situation, I have given up.
Amy, Swansea. said…
But that was a long time ago and people are not nasty like that anymore, I bet you had a sore bottom for a while.
Edward Tewiah said…

From: Edward [mailto:edward.tewiah@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 4 December 2013 9:37 AM
To: Daily Gaggle - Vest
Subject: Re: Fw: dailygaggle.com

Hello there,

Thanks for the email - nice to hear from you again.

I have been meaning to do some digging once again into my family history but keep putting it off. While its all very interesting, it can be a bit painful. Its pretty sad that my grandfather was such a nasty character. I wish I could make up for it in some way. I think my grandmother was pretty awesome though. I never met either of them but I gather she was pretty unconventional.

There are actually some connections with her story and Australia. Someone along her father's line got shipwrecked on the way to Australia and survived to tell a dramatic tale about it. Also, there is a portrait of him (my grandmother's father Judge Dowdall) in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. I hope I manage to see it for myself one day.

If you do visit Europe again anytime soon, please get in touch. Would be very interesting to meet you.

All the best,


Edward Tewiah said…
Yes, that's him. Its strange that his portrait ended up in Australia.

When I find some time I'll try to put up some sort of genealogy website for my family. Someone gave me a printed copy of the Dowdall family tree - I want to get that in a format that will allow me to render it in a decent way on a website. It will take some time but should be worth it.

All the best,


Edward Tewiah said…
Indeed, your family tree is amazingly extensive. Great work on David's part.

I don't think I'll ever have the patience to do as much research as he must have done but my hope is that if I manage to create a website that allows collaboration, I'll be able to involve other members of the family and make the job easier.

With some luck I'll be able to start work on that in January - I'll let you know how I get on with that.

Hope you all have a great Christmas ( with all memories of Commander Campbell banished ;)

All the best,


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