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 Wednesday 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. the head from my previous school).
It was a BLACK* day for me when I had all of my belongings taken from me and clothing replaced by that of which the boys in that school all wore.
Halls Naval Academy was a charity CONTROLLED* school with a nautical theme run on militaristic ROUTINE* 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, arbitral access, or personal rights. Discipline was strict. Hunger and fear of punishment were constant. Love and affection were non-existent, I was constantly REMINDED * that my existence seemed to be modelled on a latter-day Oliver Twist.
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 an 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”.. This SHOOK* me to the core.
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, we had done a bunk from the school, I had had enough of that school.
Halls Naval Academy
At the dead end station, we 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 Charlham. 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 Marten’ 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 Marten 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.
Excerpt from memoirs... 99% true. Vest Daily Gaggle.
A Merry Christmas Everyone...
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