In the school assembly hall, Victor Grabham, the Caning Commando, sat on the stage close to his hero Winston Churchill, and his chest swelled with pride. The Prime Minister was inspecting coastal defences and had graciously agreed to visit the nearby Golden Hind Academy in Lower Belting Bottom, and give a talk to his pupils.
The Commando’s assistant, Alf Mast, was, of course, too common to join the assembled boys. He was in the boiler room guarding the end of the secret tunnel which enabled the intrepid pair to leave the school on their commando missions without being observed. Grabham hoped he wasn’t snoozing on the job, dreaming of ‘bumpy men’, or he would be due a striping later.
The Prime Minister described his school days to the enthralled boys. “ ‘Study the pattern on the carpet, Churchill,” said my Greek teacher. Then he delivered six of the best in the place provided by nature for the purpose. He gave me a jolly good swishing, as good as a fellow could wish for.’
‘And he was the best. He once thrashed eleven pupils in eight minutes,’ said Winston proudly. But the boys looked unimpressed. That was nothing. Victor Grabham could easily thrash an entire class in half that time.
‘Yes,’ continued the great man. ‘Afterwards, my backside looked as though I’d sat on a freshly painted park bench.’ The boys howled with laughter.
‘And being caned taught me discipline,’ said Winston. ‘So take your medicine, boys, as bravely as you can. And then you can wallow in the glory that is a boy’s right after being caned.’
‘And now you will take your medicine, Prime Minister!’ snarled a masked, blue cloaked figure bursting out of the secret tunnel and onto the stage. Grabham recognised him immediately. It was the Oberspankerfuhrer! The Blue Man! The leader of the feared Wackem SS, whose canes were attached to the periscope of a U-boat for six months, so they were hardened in brine, and whose arse had been frozen solid on the Russian Front.
The Oberspankerfuhrer brought out a lethal cane as his Wackem SS poured onto the stage and pointed their canes menacingly at Grabham. The Caning Commando had been caught with his trousers down by his greatest enemy. But how was this possible?
Then Alf Mast emerged from the tunnel and Grabham knew the answer. ‘I was asleep in my hammock, dreaming of ‘bumpy men’, sir,’ the Cockney lad explained, ‘when this gentleman …’ He pointed to the Oberspankerfuhrer, ‘… wanted to know the way into the school.’
‘And why did you let him?’ asked Grabham.
‘Because he said he was a teacher, sir, so, naturally, I showed him our secret tunnel.’
‘Naturally,’ sighed Grabham. ‘A man wearing a mask and blue cloak, the authentic, yet unexplainable attire of German public school teachers, and with a German accent even thicker than you, yet it didn’t arouse your suspicions?’
‘No, sir. I’m just too thick to know that, sir.’
A leering, giant Nazi stepped forward. ‘Time for some horseplay,’ grinned the Oberspankerfuhrer.
‘No!’ cried Grabham, because he knew just what this meant. ‘Horsing’ was a common and equally unexplainable caning method in public schools.
The Nazi was going to ‘horse’ Churchill! The giant bent over and the struggling Prime Minister was hoisted onto his back, his feet dangling off the floor.
‘No!’ cried Grabham. ‘Not that. I’ll take the striping for him.’
‘Don’t worry, Victor, your thrashing will come,’ sneered the Oberspankerfuhrer. ‘Soon you will run the gauntlet of my men, every one of them an expert caner.’
It was a terrible thing for the Caning Commando to watch. But the valiant war-leader uttered not a sound as the Oberspankerfuhrer subjected Winston to a cruel fusillade. Again and again his rod came down on the great man’s broad nether cheeks while the ‘horse’ held him in a rigid grip, so he was powerless to even squirm.
‘I have nothing to offer you, Winston, but tears, snot and fear,’ laughed the Oberspankerfuhrer, paraphrasing the famous speech as he thrashed him again and again.
The Prime Minister’s caning was filmed by a Nazi cameraman. ‘We will show the newsreel in Chermany and the people will laugh to see your humiliation,’ he jeered.
The audience of boys were as outraged as Grabham, but – surrounded by the sinister Wackem SS – there was nothing they could do.
The Commando could see the Oberspankerfuhrer was using the infamous ‘cavalry cut’ on Churchill, a method that was banned in British classrooms. The stroke starts with the cane held over the head and then is brought downward in a circular motion, enabling the entire rear end to be flogged. The Blue Man caned with absolute precision, leaving a perfect set of parallel stripes each just one cane-diameter apart, on the great man.
But, under the force of the Oberspankerfuhrer’s ferocious blows, the ‘horse’ holding him staggered forward and Grabham saw his chance. As the ‘horse’ stepped over a trapdoor in the stage, designed for theatre productions and pantomime, Grabham punched aside his guards and threw the control lever in the wings.
The trapdoor swung open and the ‘horse’ and the PM plunged into the basement below, quickly followed by the Blue Man. Seizing a Wackem SS’s cane, the Caning Commando leapt into the void after them.
Down below, the ‘horse’ had broken Winston’s fall, and he lay unconscious on the ground. Before the Blue Man could strike another blow, the Caning Commando was upon him.
‘You blackguard!’ he snarled, laying into the Oberspankerfuhrer. ‘It’s time to Carpet Bum the Hun!’
Caning Commando art by Kevin O’Neill. Caning Commando © copyright Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill 2018
But the Nazi only laughed as the Caning Commando thrashed him. ‘All the rods in Great Britain are wasted on my behind,’ he jeered, ‘because my arse was frozen solid on the Russian Front. I am invulnerable. You lose, Victor! You lose!’
Meanwhile, up above, Alf Mast led the boys in a revolt against the Wackem SS. ‘Bring ’em down with a good hard swish!’ he exhorted them. The boys laughed as they grabbed their enemy’s canes and thrashed them. ‘Well hit, Carruthers!’
‘Well caught, Fritz!’ ‘Up the school!’ ‘Come on, you dry bobs!’ For Alf Mast it was a dream come true: he was fighting alongside the posh boys!
Down below, Grabham’s savage flogging cut through the seat of the Blue Man’s trousers and the Commando could see red cheeks rising and red weals tingle and swell.
‘No … it is not possible,’ cried the Oberspankerfuhrer.
‘Not so blue now,’ jeered Grabham, ‘you’re starting to blush!’
In a panic, the Nazi fled down the tunnel, leapt into his Underpanzer – a high-speed armoured car – and roared away. His submarine was waiting just off the coast to take him to safety.
As he approached the coastal cliffs, he turned back and laughed maniacally. ‘We will meet again, Caning Commando! Ja! Ja!’
He braked for the cliffs but nothing happened. He looked shocked and tried again. Again, nothing happened.
And he hurtled over the edge to his death.
‘How?’ asked the baffled Caning Commando watching the scene through binoculars.
‘That was down to me, sir,’ revealed Alf Mast appearing at his side. ‘After I showed them into the tunnel, I saw that German Underpanzer outside and I thought I should practice the exercises in my commando sabotage manual, what I’ve been reading.’
‘You’ve learnt how to read, Mast? I had no idea you were so advanced.’
‘Yes, sir. Although I still have trouble with the big words, sir.’
‘Like “the”, sir.’
Grabham leafed through the manual. ‘Hmm. Yes. It’s making sense now. Here on page 47 there are detailed instructions on how to expertly sabotage the brakes of an enemy vehicle without danger of detection. So that’s what you did, eh, Mast?’
‘I tried to read it, sir. But it was too difficult, so I just ripped the cables out.’
‘Now that’s what I would expect from a halfwit. Either way, you are redeemed, my boy,’ said the teacher.
‘Could you learn me to be a fullwit, sir?
‘I’m afraid that’s out of the question, Mast. You are that rare bulldog breed – a nitwit. You have the scientific skills that lead one to believe you are aspiring to be a half-wit, but in truth you are little more than a fraction wit. Or something beginning with F.’
‘I should like to learn more, sir.’
‘Lad, leave learning to the higher apes and humans,’ said Grabham. ‘You are not to be troubled by logic or advanced thinking. As long as you can remember which end to wipe, you’ll be fine.’
Now the Caning Commando had to apologise to Winston Churchill for the terrible indignity he had undergone. ‘I am so sorry, Prime Minister. The film of your ordeal has, of course, been destroyed.’
But Winston actually looked cheerful. ‘Don’t worry, my boy,’ he chuckled. ‘The thrashing brought back splendid memories for me. It was like looking through a window in time. I could see myself as a schoolboy once again,’ he recalled, lighting an enormous two-hander cigar.
‘Yes. Happy days,’ Winston reflected. ‘Bent over the flogging block at Harrow. Teacher using a five-foot-long birch soaked in brine to thrash me “on the bare”. Drew blood with the first cut. Blood sprayed up the walls,’ he laughed. ‘Oh, yes, indeed. Birch twigs embedded in your flesh. Getting your chums to squeeze the twigs out later. Best days of a boy’s life, eh?’
‘Sounds really Harrowing,’ said Grabham.
‘Spanks for the memory, Caning Commando,’ said Winston, exchanging terrible comic book puns.
Winston tapped his ample rear. ‘Only today I have a bit more padding, eh?’
‘It’s what makes this country Great Britain, sir,’ said the Caning Commando proudly. ‘That behind every one of its leaders is a red rear.
‘Thank you, Prime Minister.’