An April Fools prank goes horribly wrong and the price must be paid.

By Joanna Jones

Friday April 1st 1960.

A day I remember all too clearly. It was the final day of term before the school holidays, which meant the pupils were a bit more relaxed than usual. It was also of course “All Fools’ Day”: A day when classrooms were rearranged, things mysteriously disappeared in the morning, and teachers tried to ignore foolish pranks that might normally lead to a sore rear end for the pupil(s) concerned. I personally much preferred the day to be on a weekend, or better still during the Easter holidays. However, Easter was late that year and the break started on that day with the summer term starting on Tuesday 19th, directly after the Easter Monday.

On that particular ‘Fools’ Day’ a prank got out of hand, leading a number of girls to have a somewhat uncomfortable start to their Easter break. It was just after assembly when there was a brief knock and my door opened. There was only one person who would knock and open without waiting and that was Alice Wright, my long standing secretary.

“Mrs Jenkins, it appears there has been an incident in the physics class. Mr Thomas has been injured.” She said.

“What!” I exclaimed as I stopped reading the reports for some new applicants and stood up to leave.

“He’s in the staff room.” Called Mrs Wright as I made my way rapidly out of the door.

Jim Thomas was a young teacher, and one of the minority of men on the staff at the school (which was a private girls’ day grammar school in a moderately sized city in Central England). He was very popular with all the pupils, as he had a natural flair and enthusiasm that was infectious. A subject many girls found abstract and boring was now increasing in popularity, in both pupils choosing it at O- and A-level, and in the exam results obtained.

It might have helped that he was in his twenties and rather handsome, but that would do a disservice to his clear vocation. A further ‘quirk ‘ was his reluctance to use his slipper, let alone the short cane that all classrooms were equipped with. Not something I really agreed with, but with excellent results and no discipline problems, I saw no reason to question his approach.

Going to the staffroom first I was shocked to find him soaking wet and holding his head. There was a red streak running down his hand, presumably from a scalp wound. Mary Saunders was with him, holding his suit jacket, also soaking.

Unsurprisingly he looked in shock, and I realised that he must be when he said: “Sorry, I am the April Fool! I just need a few minutes to get my wits back before I go back to the class.”

“You’ll do no such thing!” I exclaimed. “You need to go and get that scalp cut sorted at the hospital. It won’t stop bleeding by itself.”

I turned to Miss Saunders. “Mary can you find Jim a large sports shirt and track suit – which at least will be dry and hopefully should fit him, girls size or not. Then can you drive him to the hospital. I will arrange for both your classes to be covered. I left them heading towards to PE area where there seemed to be an infinite supply of odd items left in the lost property box. Hopefully something would be large enough.

I still had no real idea what had happened, other than I guessed some April Fool’s prank had gone seriously wrong.

It was time for an inquest and I made my way to the Physics laboratory.

As I entered, sixteen girls in the upper sixth rapidly stood up to attention. As I scanned their faces I saw much fear and trepidation.

After staring at them coldly for well over a minute, watching their discomfort rise, I said sharply: “Sit.”

One of the girls immediately put her hand up. I did not want to hear yet though.

“For the moment I wish silence. Hand down!” I ordered.

I watched the girl, whose name eluded me, put her hand down reluctantly.

Mrs Dawson, who had obviously been watching the class, quietly explained what had happened, while I kept half an eye on the nervous pupils in front of me. She had been preparing a lesson in the neighbouring biology room when she’d heard an almighty crash and a shout, followed by some laughter which was cut short quickly when the girls realised their prank had worked rather too well.

Part of Mr Thomas’s style was a fairly dramatic entrance into a class with a bright good morning (or afternoon) and a brief introduction to the lesson. The girls had propped a metal bucket of water on the slightly ajar door. As he opened it the bucket had of course fallen, but in his entrance it had landed on him, mostly on his shoulder. However, a metal edge on the handle had caught the side of his head, giving the cut.

Mrs Dawson had had the girls mop up the water, and looking now there was only a darkness in the wood indicating some residual dampness. I shuddered as I looked at the offending bucket. If it had struck fully I suspect it would have knocked him unconscious and then my hands would have been tied. Two months to the exams or not, at least some of these normally bright, well behaved girls would be facing certain, rather than at present possible, expulsion.

I thanked and dismissed Mrs Dawson to allow her to get on with her lesson prep. Sitting in Mr Thomas’s chair I stared at the girls coldly. Most were looking fixedly at the lab bench in front of them as they sat on high stools that the room was equipped with.

I spoke quietly when I eventually started. However, I doubt any girl could miss the anger, or even malevolence, in my voice.

First I asked each girl in turn for their name, most of whom I knew in any case, and wrote each on the board.

Above I wrote: “Summary”.

You could here a pin drop as I explained what I felt and what was going to happen now.

“This incident is extremely serious. A teacher was injured and was lucky not to have been more seriously hurt. It was extremely lucky he was not knocked out as then I would have no alternative to expulsion for the culprits. As it is I hope to avoid this at your stage of your schooling, but I cannot guarantee this, until I know the outcome of Mr Thomas’s visit to the hospital.

They all looked rather shocked at that. One or two were clearly on the edge of tears. I expected there would be many, many salty tracks on those sixteen pairs of cheeks before the end of this day though.

I continued. “From now you are under exam conditions. Space out from your experiment partners.”

A bit of nervous shuffling later, I was satisfied and I passed out some paper from a pile in the cupboard. I also took the opportunity to pull out the short cane and put it on the desk.

“Anyone who so much as looks at another person, or makes the slightest effort to communicate, can expect to feel this.” I warned.

My instructions followed. “I am going to ask each of you to write out exactly what happened. Put your own name at the top of the paper. Then write first a summary, then precisely what every individual did or did not do to assist or prevent this foolishness in the order listed on the board. I intend to read them all carefully and decide on each of your punishments then. By the way, don’t bother with regrets and apologies. It will make no difference to how much you will regret this later.

I saw a couple of them shudder at that as I raised my voice slightly for the first time and said: “Be warned, anyone who does not tell the absolute truth here runs the very serious risk of expulsion!

“You may start now. Once you have finished, put your nose to the desk and your hands on your head.” I concluded in my threateningly quiet voice.”

It was silent as they all wrote their version of events. After about ten minutes Mrs Wright appeared at the door to ask if I needed anything, and to let me know about a phone message on an unrelated matter. I gave her an answer for the phone call and asked her to look at both Mr Thomas’s and Miss Saunders’ teaching timetables, and make some suggestions for cover. Finally I asked for a coffee – normally I had had one by now, but this incident more or less directly after morning assembly meant I had missed my caffeine shot. As I spoke to her I noticed one of the girls near the back glance around.

As the secretary left I cast a glance at the board to confirm I had the name right.

“Yvonne Sanderson! When I said you were not to look at anyone, that included you! Come to the front now. The rest if you keep working, unless you wish to join her!”

Evidently none did as the few distracted faces rapidly returned to the page in front of them.

“Please,…” Started Yvonne as I picked up the cane and she crept reluctantly to the front.

“Silence!” I interrupted. As soon as she was in reach I grabbed her arm and dragged her to the largest gap in the front row work bench and turned her to face the class.

“Bend over!” I ordered rather unnecessarily as I forced her down over the bench. Its height forced her onto her toes and she had the presence of mind to grab the other side. The two girls she was now between struggled to concentrate on their reports as they glanced fearfully to their side.

Meanwhile, keeping half an eye on the remainder of the class, I flipped up the tail of the blazer, then yanked up her skirt and under-skirt revealing her white knicker clad rear along with the suspenders holding up her stockings that were the most obvious privilege of the sixth form uniform. (another was relaxation on the maroon regulation underwear that the lower forms had to wear).

I whacked the cane sharply down thrice on the tops of her thighs in the gap of bare flesh that was visible between knicker and stocking. I did not use any real force – the aim was to sting – but it was enough to elicit quite a reaction as she yelped her way through the punishment.

Brusquely she was ordered back to her writing (no rubbing the afflicted area) and then ordered not to fidget as she struggled to sit comfortably on the stool. I noticed, with a certain satisfaction, she was very red eyed as she started to write again.

A little later the bell went, but as their physics lesson was a double period we ignored it.

Finally, after a further ten minutes or so, heads started to go down on the desk as ordered, and ten minutes later Yvonne was the last to join them. Going round I picked up the papers and, as I sipped the coffee from Mrs Wright, began to read them.

After about a further twenty minutes the bell rang for morning interval. To their credit none of them were foolish enough to move.

Once the ringing had stopped I spoke quietly again. “You will all wait for me outside my office at the afternoon interval, when I hope to know more about Mr Thomas’s condition and I have completed reading your dissertations. Those of you who are, for the time being at least, prefects remember your duties this morning and make arrangements with Grace (the Head Girl) for the afternoon break. Dismissed!”

Silently they all left the classroom. I noticed Yvonne gently rubbing the back of her legs as soon as she was out the door. Clearly her thighs were still stinging.

By lunch I had read the reports. Perhaps because I’d put the fear of death into them they were all remarkably consistent and none had flinched from admitting their own role. In fact most had erred on the side of indicating they were more culpable than they actually were.

It was easy to split the girls into four groups; two ringleaders, four who had enthusiastically egged them on and helped, nine who passively supported the activity, and only one who’d begged them not to do it, then tried to stop it and finally made an attempt to warn Mr Thomas. She had been forced to keep quiet on the floor by two of the enthusiasts. (The other two had helped set up the trap). Restraining a classmate in that manner was in my view shocking behaviour for a sixth former.

Miss Saunders and Mr Thomas appeared back near the end of lunchtime. In addition to a partly shaved head with a bandage over the cut area, his shoulder had been strapped up. An X-ray had shown no break on his collar bone, but there was clearly plenty of bruising. Fortunately it was his left shoulder so he could still write. However, Jim was quite annoyed now, as his Easter plans for rock climbing in Scotland with a couple of friends were up in smoke.

The doctors had released him subject to him not being alone overnight. Miss Saunders had ‘kindly’ volunteered to let him stay in her flat near the school. Looking at the chemistry between them, and the look on Mary in particular, I got the distinct impression that Jim’s cloud may have a quite a silver lining. I suspected that he would not be on the sofa in that one bedroom flat in any case. However, that was not for me to inquire into.

Mary was happy to return to her duties in the afternoon, but I refused to let Jim do so. Instead I asked him directly what he felt would be the best way of dealing with the girls.

He did not answer immediately, but took the reports to the staff room and read them through.

He returned midway though first afternoon period.

“Wilma has a lot of guts.” He said. “You can’t punish her.”

I was not surprised he started with the positives. “No,” I replied. “Though I had thought of giving her Harriet’s Prefect badge.”

“Harsh, but probably fair. You are not going to expel her are you?”

“That is the question I wanted to ask you. Abigail and Harriet are clearly the two most culpable. Should I expel them, or suspend them?”

He gave the answer I expected. “No!” He exclaimed vehemently. “It was foolish, but there was no deliberate plan to injure me. I would ask you not to expel or even suspend them so near the exams.”

“So what would you recommend?” Perhaps it was a little cruel of me to ask him given his view on CP but I wanted to make the point it had a place.

It took him a very long time before he eventually said: “I suppose you’ll have to cane them, and I suppose it will need to be fairly severe.”

I looked at him quietly and he realised I expected more.

“Six strokes?” He asked.

“I was thinking maximum eight for those two, six for the two who helped and also the two who gagged and held Wilma down.”

He nodded very reluctantly. I suspected he would have liked it lower but I was determined to make an example of these girls. For sixth formers they had shown appalling judgment.

I continued. “Three for the rest and two extra for any prefect who wants to keep her badge, except Harriet of course.”

He baulked a bit at that, but eventually he accepted that it was a reasonable punishment. He did, however, make it clear he had no desire to witness the girls’ thrashings, especially given that I had absolutely no intention letting any of them keep their skirts on. He did agree to be present though to hear me pronounce sentence and receive some apologies.

I spent the early part of the afternoon phoning parents, checking that none had any objection to what I was proposing. As I expected most were shocked at their daughter’s foolishness and thankful that I was not going to employ the more serious sanctions. I was relieved they were all supportive, and indeed quite a number made it clear that their daughter’s Easter was likely to involve some unpleasant domestic discipline to support that given by the school!

Jim returned to my office as the bell for the afternoon interval rang, and a few minutes later sixteen nervous girls were filling my secretary’s office.

After inviting them all in I proceeded to give them a long lecture on how dangerous their prank had been, and how lucky they were I was not planning to expel them. I emphasised Mr Thomas’s loss of his holiday plans, despite which he still was wishing to be lenient with them.

A pause while they all muttered apologies, many already tearful. In a detached way I felt mildly sorry for them. Not that that was going to affect how I dealt with them! As I said before girls in the upper sixth could not expect much sympathy in this position in my view.

Finally it was time to let them know their fates. “Harriet and Abigail, there is no doubt you were the two ringleaders in this prank. You will both get the full eight of the cane. Further, Harriet your behaviour is utterly unacceptable for a prefect at this school. Give me you badge!”

She was choking back tears as she unclipped it from her lapel and passed it to me.

“Wilma, you are the only girl to come out of this sorry affair with any credit. Your character in standing up to your friends, even alone, is exemplary. Harriet’s badge is yours.”

I think she was rather embarrassed to receive it in front of Harriet, for whom this was probably like salt in the wound, not that that bothered me much. I was still quietly seething at what could so easily have happened.

The four girls due for six each looked rather resigned to their fate, but the nine due three each clearly felt I was being harsh. I suspect they might have been hoping to be let off, or get a slippering at worst. However, none were silly enough to question my judgment. Of the nine, the three who were prefects all reluctantly opted for the two extra strokes to keep their badge.

I had checked that the gym was clear that afternoon, and also that Mrs Jackson, the Gym mistress, was able to assist. Hence I dismissed the girls, except Wilma, to the changing rooms, telling them to strip to their blouses and knickers. The nine getting three each (five each for the prefects) were to go to the gymnasium where Mrs Jackson would deal with them.

There was a number of panicked looks at that. I knew I was feared when it came to CP, but our PE teacher was the most dreaded caner in the school. She was tall, fit and well built, and she coupled that with a natural technique; a true “Amazon” in my view. I suspected that the three prefects now due five from her would prefer six from me!

Most of them looked sick as they left to get ready, with dire warnings for those who did not get ready quickly. The six due back in my office were given a maximum ten minutes to return clad as instructed. The humiliation of walking through the school half dressed would only add to a future deterrent effect.

After a brief chat with Jim, who I encouraged to return to the staffroom and relax, it was time to select a couple of canes. I had a variety of the implements in a cupboard, of varying lengths and thicknesses. Since they had clearly ruined Jim’s break it seemed appropriate to choose something to remind them of this for as long as possible into the holiday, and as a result I selected two long, thick canes which, despite their weight, were wickedly flexible.

Leaving one in my office I took the other to Mrs Jackson. I also assisted her in setting the gym for her miscreants, placing a thin mat on the floor to prevent scratches and then a chair from her office on top of it.

I was back in my office comfortably before my six victims. Before they arrived I pulled a chair into the centre of the room for them to position themselves over when the time came.

They all were bare legged and bare foot with their white blouses acting as a very short dress. I knew Mrs Jackson would insist on bare feet to prevent any girl slipping on the well polished gym floor, or in the corridors for that matter, but could only assume she also must have insisted they remove their ties as they stood in a line with open necked collars.

I noticed the differing reactions as they looked around, taking in the solitary chair that each would be bending over shortly. One stared at it disbelievingly as if this was not happening to her, three looked blankly at the floor. The other couple seemed unable to take their eyes off the cane in my hand. Faces ranged from red eyed, through nervous panic to resolute.

Another brief lecture on their behaviour, emphasising again how lucky they were to be able to remain at the school at all, and another couple of bombshells that Mrs Jackson would be dropping on her nine girls too. After their thrashing they would be lined up in the corridor near the exit as an example to others, as they left to go home. Oh, and no, they would not be getting dressed into their uniform until after that. Second, as disgraced (caned) sixth formers they would lose all uniform privileges till after the May Day bank holiday. There were a few grimaces at that, but mostly they were acutely aware that the painful part of the punishment was imminent.

Indeed it was time to start. I ordered them all to face the chair with their hands on their heads.

When dealing with more than a few girls there is always a question of what order to use; the least culpable first, or alphabetical, or… My preference was for something random – there is something memorable about standing watching your classmate being thrashed knowing you’ll be soon, dreading being the next name, praying you won’t, yet having the certainty that that merely is delaying the inevitable. For the six in my office I ostentatiously shuffled their dissertations and placed them face down on my desk.

They all watched me nervously as I made a play of picking the first sheet off the table, and took my time to look at it before announcing the first name: “Chloe!”

She looked stricken as she stumbled slowly forward towards the chair. Eventually she was next to the chair back.

She looked at me nervously. “Tie your blouse tails to your waist and bend over.” I ordered quietly.

All too soon for her, her knickers were stretched tight over her rather petite rear which was up in the air. Once in position I yanked the pale pink underwear upwards, baring the lower half of the target. I was determined that these six most at fault should understand what I felt. It was disgraceful that pupils in the upper sixth had engaged in such a childish and dangerous prank.

Taking my time I tapped the cane on her rear a few times and whipped it down hard eliciting a gasp.

The second crack whipped down above the first to a pained grunt.

She broke on the fourth with a scream and then wailed her way through the remaining two strokes. Her face was a mess as she stood with her hands immediately going to her rear. Brusquely I ordered her to the other side of my office, hands back on head, and to stand quietly. She eventually was standing where I asked and was clearly making an effort to control her sobs with the threat of more pain being an excellent incentive!

Danielle burst into tears immediately her name was called and it took an age for her to force her legs into motion. However, she tied her blouse tails up as she came across and drooped her body over the chair for the six strokes she was due.

She screamed from the beginning but did manage to hold on despite the raw violence of each of my strokes. Having again tugged her brief white knickers up the majority of the strokes landed on bare flesh and I had the satisfaction of seeing them rapidly turn a line on her skin an angry red. Once next to Chloe she had much more difficulty remaining quiet.

Eventually I had to spin her round and whipped the cane lightly twice, once to the back of each of her thighs, to a couple of screams as it stung. The intimidation worked and the noise subsided to an acceptable level.

The reactions of the waiting girls to Danielle’s caning and my lack of sympathy in whipping her thighs showed pure shock and horror at the prospect that was coming their way. Perhaps they should have thought more of that before dropping a bucket of water on a teacher, I thought, as I slowly lifted the next sheet of paper.

Four girls stood opposite me clearly all praying to delay their visit over that chair. I let them sweat for some moments before announcing Yvonne was next. She took a deep breath before making her way across. She clearly did not want me touching her underwear as she gently pulled it up herself, effectively baring both buttocks from top to bottom.

The marks from her caning on her thighs were still faintly visible, and I guessed would have faded completely by the next day. However, the six marks I was about to give her, for joining Danielle in holding Wilma down, were going to last much longer.

I landed the six strokes hard across her proffered rear, gradually increasing the intensity with each blow as usual. She managed to hold herself together pretty well, with grunts and moans rather than screams and wails. She still took her time to stumble, red eyed, into position next to Danielle, who was clearly still oblivious to anything other than the pain she was in.

Harriet was the next sheet that I picked up. There was a hint of defiance as she marched up to the chair, tied her blouse out of the way, and pulled up her pale green cotton knickers before thrusting her bottom out over the chair.

Briefly I reflected on the fact that group leaders in such canings often seemed to feel it was their duty to take their punishment stoically having got themselves and friends into trouble. Of course it was my job to ensure that their leadership in such foolish behaviour was not repeated.

Entirely gratuitously I sharply tugged the top of her knickers up before tapping the cane on her flanks, to line up the first stroke.

She gasped and grunted as the first three strokes whipped down on her backside. On the fourth a little more effort led to a scream as cane bit right in the middle of her rear.

I whipped the fifth low on her buttocks. I was a vicious stroke, as hard as any I’d given. Harriet gave an almighty scream as a result and I watched the line briefly turn white before rapidly reddening. The sixth landed just below it and to a wail Harriet lost control and stood up.

I was not having that nonsense! Grabbing her, I roughly forced her crying back over the chair telling her she would get that stroke again. Holding her shoulders I waited until the sobbing girl had once again got a grip of the front legs, which she did after my threats of extra if she did not comply promptly finally percolated into her consciousness.

Rather cruelly perhaps I placed ‘second sixth’ only fractionally below the previous one. There was a banshee wail among the sobs as the crease between thigh and buttock took the impact, but she at least stayed in position. More wails followed as the last two whipped into the gap between the first four and second three, decorating her behind with six neat stripes and an angry thick mess below where the other three strokes were merging rapidly. I doubted Harriet would be enjoying sitting any time soon during the holiday.

I gave her a little longer to compose herself into the line and she joined Danielle in snuffling quietly, oblivious to her surroundings.

Two left. Abigail looked at me stonily as I picked up the second last sheet. Reading the name it was her I beckoned across, leaving Margery to be last.

I noted she unusually for a sixth former was wearing regulation underwear, for which yanking up would have limited effect.

There was no rule forbidding it, so once over the chair I inverted her knickers round her thighs to a “Oh-h-h no!” from Abigail. I suspect to that point she had been congratulating herself on her choice but now it was a very different story. Briefly I smiled inward at the irony of what I was doing – usually it was the other way round; the quickest way for a girl in one of the junior forms to have her knickers down for a caning was not to be wearing regulation knickers when she bent over.

Abigail was a tough cookie. She took the first six strokes with little more than the odd gasp. It was only on the last two that the cumulated pain led to a couple of moans as the cane whipped down full force in the middle of her bottom. She was the only girl of the six who was not crying once I’d finished with her, despite getting the most severe caning it was in my power to administer. Another brave ringleader I reflected.

Unlike the others who had jumped up immediately the last stroke was over she defiantly remained in position until I told her to stand. She was taking no risks and asked if she could pull her underwear up, to which I grudgingly gave permission. At the same time I intimated that the four other already chastised girls could adjust their knickers if they wished. For Abigail I am sure slowly easing them over her no doubt exquisitely painful rear was highly unpleasant. Finally she joined the other punished girls, who had all taken the opportunity to adjust their underwear to its normal position, still leaving clear read marks visible below their knickers in all cases.

I didn’t bother lifting the last sheet but beckoned Margery to the chair. She was already red eyed as she tied her blouse up and pulled up her lace trimmed knickers. Briefly I considered making an issue of her choice of undergarments, but eventually decided that they were just sufficiently conservatively cut to comply with the school rules for sixth formers.

She was a little on the plump side, and with a well endowed rear. Plenty of target for the cane to lash into. Like Danielle she bawled her way through six of my very best, but held on gamely at least.

However, once in the line of shame she also could not keep quiet and when I eventually lightly whipped her thighs instead of taking the hint, she screamed and, without thinking, sobbed out a couple of choice insults to me of a most unladylike kind.

Foolish girl.

Dragged back across the chair I had her friend Chloe hold her down while I yanked her knickers down to her ankles and gave her a further three blistering strokes, filling the larger gaps between the marks I’d just left only a minute or two before. She screamed and begged for mercy, but any girl calling her Headmistress those sorts of names cannot expect any!

Back in line she wept profusely, but after a minute or so she finally had enough sense to be quiet enough for me to ignore.

I told them to turn and face the wall and returned to some work. After about half an hour the sobs had subsided and, after letting Marjory also adjust her knickers back to normal, they were escorted to join their friends near the school entrance. Mrs Jackson had clearly done her job well. The lowest strokes visible below their knicker lines in each case were already darkening to a deep red that would mark the girls for most if not all their holiday. Most girls looked very distraught as a result of their experience in the gymnasium.

Each was to be forced to stand on a seat, blouse tails still tied out of the way and hands on head again, allowing their departing schoolmates a good view of those marks not covered by their underwear.

Wilma found her first prefect duty to help monitor that none of the girls moved during the humiliation, and that none of the girls filing past did anything foolish.

Finally, before they climbed on to their allotted chairs, I also pinned a single sheet of paper, with one letter written on each with a thick black pen, to the back of each of their blouses.

As the rest of the school filed out for the holidays there could be no doubt as to why these sixth formers were in a line of shame and sporting very sore, wealed bottoms.

The letters on 15 sheets read:

THE*APRIL*FOOLS

The End