Kissing the gunners daughter

Some stylish navy girls kissing the gunners

Some stylish navy girls kissing the gunners

Here is a taster for a couple of anecdotes about the corporal punishment of women in the Royal Navy due to be published on this blog in the near future.

In February 2006 Alex Birch posted a series of letters on his blog that had been published in January and February of that year in the UK’s Daily Telegraph. These letters concerned the real life canings of WRNS (Women’s Royal Navy Service) between the 1940s and the 1950s.

There were other accounts in this vein that were not included one of which has been added at the end here.

Interest in this subject is nothing new. During the 1960s an article entitled Sea Tails was published in a salacious magazine of the time (name omitted on the web copy we found) about the whipping of women in Nelson’s navy. As we now know there were many women serving unofficially in the fleet at this time, many were serving as powder monkeys and surgeon’s mates. A few others even posed as men and were officers or seamen.

It seems that when it came to discipline the officers could not decide whether to flog the women like the men or not. It was decided in the interest of morale to make the women ‘kiss the gunners daughter’ as the boys did. This involved bending the women over the barrel of a canon for a caning. This brings us to the letters on caning the navy’s women in the 20th century.

The correspondence had originally been prompted by a letter from a cadet who had served during in the 1920s. It began: May I recommend that the Army instructors who cannot enforce discipline because they fear being accused of bullying (News, January 15) adopt the system used at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, when I served there in the 1920s?

Cadet captains administered a “tick” for any breach of discipline, such as being late on parade or a fault in our uniform. Acquire three ticks in a term, and you received six of the best on a bare behind. It worked.

I wonder what they do at Dartmouth today – now that there are female recruits too.

Douglas D, London, Daily Telegraph Jan 29th

If Douglas D is interested, I attended a Wrens’ Naval Cadets training school in London, in the early 1950s. We were subjected to similar discipline, which did sometimes include being caned on the behind, though it wasn’t bare but over our knickers. I don’t think it did me any harm, but I don’t think it did me any good either. What I do know is, bullying still went on, but we did tend to show more respect to authority and we were certainly not as rude as our modern-day counterparts, male and female.

(Mrs) Gwen L, Kent, Sunday Telegraph Feb 5th

Your correspondent who as a Wren was caned over her knickers had it easy. In the 1940s, it was a daily routine for cadets at the Royal Naval School in Portsmouth to be beaten on their bare buttocks.

Once, for carelessly discharging a clip of live ammunition, the commanding officer gave me 30 of the very best and I could not sit down for five days.

Mavis P, Leicestershire

Like Mavis P, I did my Wren training at the Royal Naval School in Portsmouth and made numerous visits to the staff sergeant’s office to have my bare backside welted with the “knotty” – a big bamboo cane.

I was a wilful cheeky girl and usually deserved my regulation 12 strokes, often with six extras for “lip”. I did manage to avoid the dreaded CO’s 30 strokes given to Mavis P, but in one week received 12 strokes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for smoking in the lavatories.

Doris B, Bristol

During the war I served in the WRNS, which is where I met my husband, and in all the years since various people have joked to me about ‘rum the other thing and the lash’ an old Nelson quote I think. I have always blushed, but for years only my husband knew why.

When I was at Dartmouth in 1940s I had an experience with both rum and the lash, so to speak. I noted after all these years with some amusement the recent debate in the national press about the subject of caning women in the navy, because that is what happened to me.

A friend and I drew the short straw one night and had to stay behind when the others had leave. My friend thought it would be a good wheeze for us to share a bottle of rum while we were on duty, but of course we were caught. We were lucky and avoided 30 from the CO but both took 24 on the bare from our own officer. I could not help think that she enjoyed it, even though we did not, but it was better than seeing the CO and we both deserved it.

(Mrs) Jean S, Gloucester.

3 Responses to “Kissing the gunners daughter”

  1. my sister was and still is in the Australia navy she has been caned several times but its a choice of the cane or being charged

    • 2 DJ

      Interesting. I imagine this is strictly on the QT. One wonders if this is a widespread practice.

      What does she do in the navy?

      Thanks for the feedback, DJ

  2. 3 Pete Ubu

    Anyone who says ‘on the bare’ has been schooled in the art of writing CP letters. It’s a phrase for enthusiasts. Mind you, ‘on the bare bottom’ is probably the same. Never mind! Thanks all round!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: