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Navy CP - April 1967

Corpun file 21927

News of the World, London, 23 April 1967

Storm over canings for navy boys

By David Roxan

Click to enlarge

FIERCE controversy has been aroused by the revelation that 69 boys in the Royal Navy were caned during the past 12 months. The boys were given up to 12 strokes on the buttocks with a cane for offences ranging from stealing to being absent from duty.

The Royal Navy calls this corporal punishment part of "our tradition, like the issue of a daily rum ration". Said a navy spokesman: "Don't forget at one time we flogged them round the Fleet, used the cat-o'-nine-tails and made the men walk the plank."

Yet in contrast the R.A.F. has never sanctioned corporal punishment for its cadets and apprentices and the Army abolished it in 1956, even though it has four times more boys in uniform than the Senior Service.

And 300 Royal Navy boys stationed at H.M.S. St Vincent at Gosport, Hants, are not subject to caning because they serve with adult ratings and the Navy has decided it would be wiser not to introduce the punishment in such establishments.

Those who are caned are at the all-boy shore bases of Ganges (1,700 boys) at Shotley (Suffolk) and Fisgard (440) at Plymouth, Devon. They are aged 15 to 18.

Last week in Parliament Mr Anthony Crosland, the Education Minister, expressed his opposition to corporal punishment and said it was rapidly dying out in our schools.

A Navy department spokesman commented: "We cane boys just like any decent public school. At the moment we have no intention of stopping this practice.

"Generally, boys are caned only for anti-social behaviour and only with the Captain's approval. The actual caning is usually done by someone like a chief petty officer. There are no regulations controlling the size of the cane.

"No clothing is removed and the punishment is administered under medical supervision."

Of the 69 boys who were caned, 22 were punished for stealing, 18 for improperly leaving the establishment, 10 for assault, six for disobedience, four for offering violence, three for striking a superior, two for bullying, and one for contempt, wilful damage, indecency and absence from place of duty.


A spokesman for the Army, which has 10,065 boys compared with the Navy's 2,600, said: "We abolished corporal punishment in 1956 by order of the Army Council because we considered it to be a progressive step. We have no reason to regret this decision."

Mr Harry Howarth, Labour MP for Wellingborough, Northants, is to ask Mr Denis Healey, the Minister of Defence, to abolish all corporal punishment in the Services.

He said: "These canings are disgraceful. No wonder 15-year-old boys who sign on in the Navy for long periods are unhappy and want to get out.

"The situation is even worse because the other two Services maintain discipline without caning.

"I found out boys were being caned when a parent came to see me to discuss his son's education. I thought that sort of punishment went out with Nelson."

If Mr Healey turns him down, Mr Howarth intends to force an adjournment debate or to introduce a Bill under the 10-minute rule.

"It would mean changing the Queen's Regulations," he said. "Most of the Cabinet are against corporal punishment. Boys in the three Services should be treated exactly the same."

Corpun file 23824

News of the World, London, 30 April 1967, p.17


I was caned by the Navy

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I read your front page investigation last Sunday about the uproar over boys being caned in the Navy and it reminded me of when I was serving in the Navy in 1943.

I got six of the best for the very serious "crime" of swearing at a leading seaman while I was still half-asleep. Even while doing a man's job in wartime, I had to take a boy's punishment.

M. Lawther,

I was surprised to read that the Navy still caned boys. In my time the boys were well behaved, but this didn't always save them from being beaten. This was the treatment received by boys about the same age as Jack Cornwell, the 16-year-old Navy hero who won the V.C. at Jutland in 1916.

F.A. Mills,
Romford, Essex.

My son was discharged as unsuitable, but while he was in the Navy he was "awarded" six cuts on two occasions.

When I protested, I was told that offenders are always punished in this way. He wasn't a thief, but just a homesick boy.

He was given his second six cuts of the cane the day before his release.

Angus, Scotland.

Smoking a cigarette stub brought me a caning when I was a boy in the Navy. I received nine cuts of the cane while strapped to a table.

Later I became an amateur boxing champion. Guess who I had the pleasure of knocking out during a training bout? The chap who had once used the cane on me!

Maidstone, Kent.

blob Follow-up: 10 May 1967 - Cane is banned for Navy boys

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