Bullying at WHS - Chris Snuggs (Berners/Halls - '58 to '64)

On the other FB site there is apparently a heated discussion about bullying. I cannot comment THERE, but I have so far escaped being banned HERE!

  • This is an important an interesting topic from many points of view.
  • I am interested as a WHS OB, a former teacher and a human being.
  • Bullying like most crime means being deliberately nasty to an innocent person.
  • Alternatively: "the deliberate inflicting of mental or physical pain on someone weaker than oneself".
  • The word “innocent” is important for me as I have no problem being nasty to nasty people.
  • People nasty to innocent people lack empathy and have abandoned a huge part of their humanity.
  • Some go so far as to lose the latter entirely, thus becoming “sub-humans”.
  • In the latter group I include all members and supporters of ISIS, rapists and killers - including those who kill because they were either drunk or using their mobile phone while driving. (Innocent people’s lives are actually sacrosanct.)
  • I am minded to include in the sub-human group those who steal from and defraud innocent people - which would include internet fraudsters of course. NOBODY FORCES YOU TO BE NASTY TO AN INNOCENT PERSON.


  • None of us to my knowledge was there more than 7 years - many much less.
  • That is less than 20% of the time the school existed.
  • ERGO, we all know a mere snapshot of “Life at WHS”, even though there were elements of continuity (most notably in the staff and premises) that can give us a clue as to what life was like in other eras.
  • In my era (58 to 64) I do not remember bullying being a significant issue.
  • I never knew any bullies in my year or any other.
  • There were a lot of older boys with true class in my era.
  • I do not remember anyone I knew at school to be systematically bullied.
  • That might have been because I was living in my own bubble unaware of what was going on around me, but I don’t think so.
  • I myself was never bullied, except on one single occasion when a famous 6th former punched me very hard on my left arm for a reason I never knew then or now.
  • I also never bullied anyone. I think I can say I have never actually hit anyone in my entire life.
  • Nor have I ever stolen from or defrauded anyone. I think I am normal.
  • I might have been ignorant of bullying taking place because bullies are cunning and good at concealing it from others.
  • That is also a big problem for teachers.
  • And another problem is the weird code which causes victims to want to avoid being seen as a snitch ....
  • ... though of course a victim might be afraid that staff would not be able to prevent even worse punishment.
  • The sub-humans in this world are vastly out-numbered by the rest of us, yet do we always do enough collectively to control the sub-humans?
  • If the normal humans banded together they could prevent bullying, or most of it.
  • Bullying is hideous, and I believe in my WHS era would have got a caning.
  • I cannot remember Smitherman or Bailey caning many people for bullying or anything else, but I think it must have happened a few times.
  • My attitude at the time was that if it took place then it must be deserved.
  • Most teacher slipperings were also deserved, except the one Stretch meted out to Ron Scarpello in our first French lesson.
  • I don't remember either any incidence of unfair slippering by prefects, or more likely dorm monitors. I mean, if you were blatantly talking after lights out then you deserved a light slippering, no?
  • My impression from reading a wide variety of material was that bullying was a particularly serious problem in the last decade, but it is impossible to quantify objectively.

n.b. I am guessing, but I would imagine that most of whatever bullying took place in whichever era was house-based insofar as boys spent most time out of lessons in their house. And of course all the houses were very different, AND it takes only one rotten apple to cause a rot. My personal experience and memories relate to Halls House, which as far as I recall had no real bullying problems while I was there.

I am very sorry if some OBs were bullied - as they obviously were on occasion, and it seems more so in later eras than mine. That should not have happened, and one cannot blame the staff only; it is up to all of us to stand up to sub-human activity. “The only way for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” and so on.

I don’t like to criticize the school as it was awesome in most ways, but one thing has occurred to me over the years. No teacher (and Housemasters would have been the most concerned here) EVER invited me into his study for a general chat which would have involved two parts: A) how the Housemaster saw my progress and general well-being and B) my problems: “How are you doing?” Is there anything worrying you?” “Do you have any problems?” etc

Of course, they didn’t have time, but was there also an element of deciding that we should learn to “stand up for ourselves” and so on?

The thing is, if one is being bullied, it is almost impossible to go and tell a teacher about it. Many kids might not even want to tell their PARents. BUT, it might have been easier for a Housemaster to tell if there was something wrong if there had been regular formal - but friendly - interviews.

John Tuddenham: I was caned only once - can't remember what for - by Johnson ..... didn't hurt!! I was with 2 others ... must have been class or dorm related I guess ... not sure.

John Coles: I was caned by Butch Richardson for being out after lights out. I was photographing lightning of a thunderstorm. It was more humiliating than anything else. It did not happen again.

Nick Brackenbury: I am applying for a School Record ?? Only boy to be caned three times, all during 5th Form 1962/3. Should have got an entry into Janus, ha ha????

Chris Snuggs: I always thought you were a good boy ......

Nick Brackenbury: I was, just misunderstood by a school of teachers, none of whom had been engineers. They did not respect my practical side ....

Graham Forster: I was only caned once but slippered several times.

Nick Brackenbury: Shakey slippered me once; it was worse than the cane. But the worst part was having to wait outside his study door for 20 minutes beforehand. It was for issuing a long string of swear words which I heard from older boys. The joke is, at 11 years old, I had no idea what these words meant.

Louis Parperis: I was caned and slippered so frequently that some masters probably recognised my arse more readily than my face. Doc caned me in my first week, possibly on the first night, and the unfairness of it still irks me as the broken lampshade I was picking up from the floor when he came into the dorm was the work of Bob Peeling who had tried to hit me with a pillow over the top of the partition separating our beds after a mass pillow-fight had ended, and like an idiot I had got out of bed to help him pick up the pieces.

Patrick Hutton caned me for being late for lesson six every Friday afternoon of my first term except for the first occasion when I was given a warning, but I was such a hopeless timekeeper that the two strokes I received with such regularity seemed part of the curriculum. Bailey caned me for hitting Chris Redpath with a cricket bat, which sounds a lot worse than it was, but I had to beg him to do it as I was so sure Doc would cane me as soon as he found out since Chris was his blue-eyed boy and I was most definitely not. Taffy slippered me in the summer term of my second year because of his lack of a sense of humour and an inability to accept logic. I had been warned at a previous PE lesson of the consequences of wearing a mixed pair of plimsolls, a black one on my right foot and a white one on my left, so I turned up wearing the other contrasting pair and he lost the plot when I insisted that I was not at fault because I was not wearing the pair he had told me not to wear again in his gym. Most of the beatings I took failed to cause me any pain, save for those from Doc, and more importantly failed to make the designed impact on my behaviour which I carried with me into parenthood and, with one exception which shames me still, never smacked any of my children. If you want to make a truculent teenager more truculent, it seems to me that beating them with a cane or slipper will do it unfailingly.

Chris Snuggs: I was never caned or slippered by anyone during my six years at WHS. I used to think this was something positive, but I am now starting to feel like a weirdo .....

Bill Kitchen: WOW! Sooooooo unfair. I received a regular range of slippering and canings (mostly warranted as I could be really cheeky). However, it was Cox’s lashings with the Bunsen burner tube that I really feared. He lost his rag so often with our physics class, although we were in an adjacent lab, that Roberts, Kypri, and I wore 3 pairs of pants to every lesson!

Louis Parperis: I bumped into the venerated Hashi Lulu at various demonstrations and NUS conferences in the early ‘70s (there were four of us at at least one conference, along with Chris Morris and Julius Marstrand, Robinson as was). I think he was reading for a science degree at Surrey. Dave left suddenly at the end of the 5th form, as did his great mate, Andrew Hesketh and his squeeze box, and Andrew Kypri. I had played in junior house rugby and cricket teams with Dave in my first year and always liked him a lot. He was a colossally brave fullback and a great tackler, but I think he suffered from Islington’s Disease, an irrational affection for Woolwich and the colour red.

Bill Kitchen: I presume you refer to Dave Roberts?

Louis Parperis: Yes, the Orwell version, not the older version in Hanson’s who was Alan MacKay’s mate.

Peter Alexander: I believe I hold the record for being slippered. Neil Clayton managed it 5 times in one week. I can't remember what it was for but I'm sure I deserved it. But it was Stretch Poole's who upset me the most. He was standing in as Head for some reason and before he gave me a rather tame slippering, he told me that he had been looking forward to it for three years! That upset me.

Graham Forster: The worst slippering I had was from Fred Mudd. I was sent to the hobbies room for talking after lights out where Fred was making picture-frames. He chatted to me amicably for about 15 minutes then said: "Right! Off you go to bed." Thinking I had escaped I was just about to open the door when he said: "Oh I forgot." He gave me 3 with his enormous plimsoll with me in pyjamas.

Robin Boot: I, too was caned very regularly, at least 8 times in the first two years, each time by Doc with his split cane - which was vicious - and often after he had been at the port. Only ever slippered by Cromarty, but then I suppose everyone who had him was slippered at least once, mostly in a mass-slippering. At the time, and even looking back now, I think that most of them were well deserved.

The one time which I thought was unfair was when I had received a £1 note from my father for my birthday and failed to hand it in. When it got stolen, I reported it to a prefect and got the worst 6 of the best from Doc I had ever had. Our whole dorm was sent on a forced march to the lodge at the bottom of Freston Hill whilst our tall boys were searched. I never did get the money back nor found out who took it.

Graham Forster: Cromarty's slipperings were great. I remember one mass slippering when Adrian Brown laughed after having received his. "So it's funny, is it? Do you want another dose?" to which Brown replied: "Ooh, yes please Sir!"

Chris Snuggs: I try to be logical:

  1. If you were physically punished, it was either fair or unfair.
  2. If it was unfair, then it was because some sadistic teacher or boy with no sense of decency was abusing the system in a way that should not have been possible. This reminds me of my saying:
    "Whatever can be abused will definitely be abused somewhere, sometime by someone."
  3. If it was fair, then you were a selfish twat whose idea of his own self-importance was so inflated that you thought you could for your own gratification break the rules (established for the common good) and irritate, annoy or otherwise disturb the peace, tranquilllity and/or good order that the rules were designed to ensure.

Two points about this comment:

  • I don't expect it to make me any friends.
  • It is the viewpoint of a teacher for 50 years who really did not enjoy the harmonious and ordered perfection of my lessons being disturbed by one of the aforementioned self-opinionated and selfish twats.

Ray Brady: I have to say, I was only slippered once and I deserved it; broke the rules after hours - we all knew the score. Woollett tried to cane me in 3rd year before I went home just before my dad died. I said to him: "I dare you. Touch me with that and I'll give it back to you," and I would have. It was then that I started to go off the rails; went home the following day and was gone for 3 or 4 weeks. I was only back for a night; walked out the following morning after maths with Warsi, I never saw Woollett or Skailes again.

Matthew Fuller - 87-89: For those interested what it was like in the "The Last Years of Woolverstone Hall" the press article titled "Bullies and misrule at live-in comprehensive" from May 1985 states that "of the annual intake of 60 boys, 16 places are reserved for those in need of boarding as a result of severe domestic problems. A high and increasing number of boys come from single-parent and ethnic minority families or from disadvantaged areas."

I was certainly one of those from "severe domestic problems", and it was my junior school headteacher who suggested Woolverstone Hall to my parents as way of getting me out of the disruptive home environment and back on the straight and narrow.

I can tell you that by 1987 there was nothing about the other 59 boys that suggested to me that their home circumstances were any rosier than my own.

The incidents mentioned in that article are nothing compared to some of the stuff that went on in my two years there: solvent abuse leading to severe violence against staff; "junior boys out of control" was the norm (I was one of them and I never considered myself as one of the real problem kids); "unacceptable forms of punishment by older boys" was common place, but the way cowardly teachers went to lengths to ignore it (and avoid dealing with it) was even more unacceptable. There was also a climate of massive racism from the 90% "ethnic minorities" against white kids which the staff had no idea how to tackle. One boy from the year above us had been subjected to such extensive bullying for being "too white" (pale and blue eyes) that he hid for three days under the stairs in the first year boarding house until the staff found him and the next day he hung himself with his school tie.

Our first year housemaster was one of those battling the odds to help the kids, but I got the impression that apathy from many of his colleagues and the disrespectful attitude of too many pupils ultimately ground him down and during the final few weeks his mind was elsewhere. (Mind you, what would I know? I was only 13 years old!)

It is a shame, but that place HAD to close!