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...
Note! You may have to press the play button twice to start the video
This is a truly awful tale, and the worse for being true.
I am not at all surprised that Gunner Marten's death didn't have you in mourning.
EC. From all accounts Dear Mr Martin was a harassed person too, his harridan of a spouse was somewhat larger than he and she was a vicious person and in turn, Mr Martin would take it out on us. There was so much violence at the School.
Mr Martins departure was explained After Evening prayers as was the demise of many old School boys on various naval ships during WW2, The rev Harling asked " Who said Good" I turned around stuck my hand up and quickly put it down. no one had the guts to dob me in. 300 boys all laughed.
EC. My youngest son and his mother and I visited the school in 1986, then partly demolished. one of his questions was, " Why are most of the children in the graveyard under twelve years of age," I replied, Only the strong ever survived this school.
Hello Les. received your card today. I am in the process of writing my cards and can't find your new address. I have still got a week to post so can you send it to me again, please. Edward.
Edward, Was also a student at the Nautical school from 3 years after I left in Jan 1942.
The way youngsters were treated in schools like that is absolutely appalling. The book I'm writing now takes place in the late fifties in a reform school for girls, and some of the women who spent time there back then told me some harrowing tales. I hope schools of this ilk treat the children entrusted to their care a lot better nowadays.
That video is so cheerful! Merry Christmas to you, too. :)
Susan Flett Swiderski. Oddly most of the boys at that Nautical School were above average intellect. no criminal types - all well behaved "OR ELSE"
Reminds me of some of Roald Dahl’s stories about his schooling. There is discipline, and then there is cruelty, and the first does not need the second to work.
Oh! Vest! A sad, sad, disturbing tale, but brilliantly related.
That this was basically true nauseates me. The British culture at that time was utterly rigid. Oliver had it easy by comparison.
Your writing was awesome.
christine marsh at 8:49 AM
Thank you Uncle Les xoxo wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and healthy New Year with all our love xoxo Speak to you soon 🥂😘
Thank you so much.
No beach scenes in the video I note.
I hope that your Christmas and the years to come are filled with love and laughter.
What such a beautiful and colourful video Les with a special message.
Wishing you and Chris lots of Christmas cheer and may the New Year be kind and generous.
It's a great way to include the words, but what a horrible existence.
Merry Christmas, I hope 2019 is good to you.
Messyymimi.There was a handful of staff who commanded my respect but most I would not give tuppence for.
LEE. Thank you. did you see the Video?.
Susan Kane.Thank you for your generous appreciation of my story. What a nice lady, :)
Christine We will be at Davids Home in Richmond 23 until 26 please call on skype prior. love you xxx.
Sue Bowyer. Only very nice people received my message. XXX.
Elsie Hanlin. Although recorded for some time now, most of my memoirs are indelibly etched in stone. The storeroom on my shoulders is a living hive of Information. However, time is fast becoming my worst enemy.
EC. Sorry about the lack of Beach Scenes-Not a beach person lately. My Budgie smugglers lie forlornly somewhere in a BOTTOM drawer. Sigh.
Jane Honor at 4:04 AM
Happy Christmas to you and Chris. Lots of love xxxxxx
Merry Christmas! Thanks for the electronic card!
Merry Christmas, Vest....I hope you have a lovely relaxed time...best wishes to you. :)
Thank you, Jane. Chris and I spent Christmas with David and Andrews families, had to travel. Very enjoyable.
Dylan. We spent most of Christmas day at your fathers' place in Richmond, Slow going Quicker returning Those road tolls cost more than half the fuel expense. My present was a single Malt 40% Glen Moray Scotch. Chris had a lesser brand but has consumed half of my bottle so it seems. So much for his diet.
LEE. Hello nice lady, I have every expectation that your Christmas activities would be of the best and most joyful. thank you for being a Great Friend.
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