A fascination with naval discipline leads an admiral’s daughter into problems of her own.

By Frances Stephenson

My elder brother is an avid Hornblower fan and, when I was younger, these books came my way and I, in turn, became a fan, much to my mother’s chagrin as she wanted me to absorb a more feminine path. Although it is many years since I last read one, the ‘creaking ships’ remain as evocative as ever. FS

His Majesty’s good ship Themistocles was making its sedate way en route for the West Indies. The period was the Napoleonic War and England’s considerable Navy was either deployed in fighting the enemy or in protecting its trade routes. There was expected to be a mix of both of these activities in the West Indies and the officers and men of the Themo, as it was known by the crew, were kept on their toes by frequent practice and by keeping their ship in tip top condition. The officers and a dozen or so Midshipmen saw to it that the Captains orders were followed with brisk precision.

The ship had called in at the lovely island of Madeira and had re-provisioned. It had also picked up The Hon Miss Charlotte Devenish-Benson, the daughter of Admiral Sir John Devenish-Benson. She was travelling to Jamaica to join her father, the Admiral of the West Indies Squadron.

Charlotte was a very attractive girl with an animated and fun-loving personality. She was, however, very used to getting her own way. She was nineteen years old with a small but well formed imperious figure. She was travelling with her maid, a saucy black-eyed minx who looked as though she was well able to take care of herself.

The two ladies were allowed to take exercise on the forecastle, or fo’c’s’le as it is known, and on the spacious waist deck. Ship’s punishments were carried out on the main waist deck and all hands were mustered to view this operation. The Captain, Rob Styles was a stickler for duty but not a harsh skipper.

Floggings were common in naval ships, some of them extremely harsh, but Captain Styles preferred to maintain a happy ship believing that encouragement worked better than floggings; as a result Themistocles was a very efficient ship.

The Midshipmen were all boys and performed the job of helping the officers as well as learning the craft of seamanship. They were under the watchful eye of the First Lieutenant, Ian Ryde, who supervised many of their activities including punishments.

Schoolboys were regularly severely thrashed for a variety of reasons and it was accepted as part of growing up. Indeed a well-thrashed backside was as part of life as was inky fingers.

HM Navy saw no reason why this disciplinary framework should be altered in any way and as a consequence Midshipmen could well expect a hiding at the hands of the experienced Coxswain at the twice weekly parades that were especially convened for Midshipman punishment. The First Lieutenant presided over these sessions and entered the names and the designated severity and number of strokes awarded in a leather bound book which was presented to the Captain on a regular basis.

The main floggings and the Midshipman’s thrashings were not considered proper for a lady to view and, in consequence, Miss Devenish-Benson and her maid were escorted below decks to their cabins when a flogging was due. Midshipmen were thrashed on the gun deck, bent over a canon; it was known as ‘kissing the gunner’s daughter’ and it was a phrase that all midshipmen dreaded.

Charlotte regularly dined with the Captain and usually three or four officers. These were enjoyable occasions with Miss Devenish making play with her fine dark blue eyes and generally flirting with whomever caught her fancy that particular evening. The dinners went on for some hours with all the young officers anxious to enter in to whatever activity the lively Miss Devenish desired.

Some five days out from Madeira, the Captain had excused himself from the usual jolly activities laid on for Miss Devenish’s entertainment. He had been feeling ‘under the weather’ for a few days and needed a good night’s sleep to set him to rights. His place, as the senior officer, was taken by the First Lieutenant, Ian Ryde. The evening progressed and the consumption of the delicious madeira wine resulted in flushed cheeks and much broadly based flirting. The subject got around to a flogging that had been delivered that very afternoon.

“This is not a harsh ship, Miss Devenish-Benson, but Order and Discipline must be rigidly maintained,” said Ryde. “It may seem harsh to you but the men know what they are in for if they disobey orders and they respect orders as much as they respect the penalties if they are not carried out.”

Miss Devenish-Benson digested this information but it was clear that it had had an effect on her as she was breathing rather deeper than usual and her face was delicately flushed, not wholly due to the effects of the madeira she had consumed.

“But what of the Midshipmen, Mr Ryde?” She asked. “Surely youngsters cannot be flogged like grown men?”

“Indeed not, Miss Devenish-Benson. I am in charge of disciplining the midshipmen and they are thrashed every bit as often as their contemporaries at school, I assure you. They are required to bend over a gun on the gun deck. It is known as ‘kissing the gunners daughter’. Their cotton trousers stretch tightly over their nether regions and they then receive the ordered number of strokes delivered by a painful rattan cane. A middy will walk stiffly for some days after a good session, I can tell you.”

“That does not sound so bad,” commented Charlotte. “My own brothers were often beaten by their tutor and, I believe, well thrashed at school.”

“You will forgive my saying so, miss, but a well delivered naval thrashing will be much more severe that those you have described.”

“I take leave to doubt that, Mr Ryde. I have, myself, severely thrashed a stableboy and believe I am able to rightly assess the two.”

Mr Ryde looked at the young lady. “Very well, miss, we can put it to the test here and now if you are up for it?”

“Yes indeed I am, Mr Ryde, but whatever can you have in mind?”

Ryde calls for a cabin boy. “Go and find Mr Miller, my midshipman, and tell him he is to present himself to me in the Captain’s cabin. He is to bring my rattan with him as well as his leather mouth guard.”

The cabin boy left without delay to carry out his errand. Within a short space of time an anxious Midshipman Miller presented himself in the cabin, saluted Mr Ryde and waited for events to unfold themselves. He was holding Mr Ryde’s rattan, an evil looking dark yellow cane somewhat over three feet in length. It looked perfectly capable of delivering a very severe thrashing.

“Mr Miller you are due for a thrashing tomorrow and I have decided that you will receive it tonight.”

“Very good, sir,” said the dry-lipped Midshipman.

“You will have seen Miss Devenish-Benson around the ship. She has not only expressed a desire to see a midshipman being thrashed but she wants to take an active part in it. You will, therefore, avoid a well-delivered caning by me or the Coxswain and be subjected to a thrashing by this delicate young lady. She is not without experience and will, I am sure, deliver a suitably well-delivered good hiding.

“You have your leather mouth guard? Very good, there is always the possibility that Miss Devenish-Benson will be more adept at this than any of us realise. Don’t forget to call the count, young Miller, ten strokes and evenly delivered.”

Mr Simon Miller was an attractive enough lad with good pale skin and an impudently jutting backside. He moved forward and presented the rattan to Charlotte.

“Here is the First Lieutenant’s rattan, Miss,” he said nervously. “I understand you wish to use it on me.”

“Yes, indeed I do,” said Charlotte, her eyes alight with anticipation. “Here is a hip chair, so please prepare yourself.”

Miller went towards the chair and bent over the back, holding on to the conveniently placed legs. His bottom was perfectly presented and his white cotton trousers were stretched drum-tight over his appealing posterior region.

Charlotte stood to one side and moved her legs apart to gain greater stability. With a swing of her shoulders and a twist of her hips, she brought the rattan down dead centre on Miller’s bottom. Miller was surprised at the severity of the stroke. He had not expected that so slight a girl could swing a cane like that.

“One, thank you, Miss,” he intoned, remembering Mr Ryde’s instructions.

The next two strokes landed close to this last one but above it; there was, however, no diminution in their severity. The next three landed on the lower part of Miller’s bottom.

‘God, she really knows how to wield a cane,’ thought Miller. ‘Not nearly so hard as the Coxswain or Mr Ryde, but hard enough!’

Although she had been remarkably accurate it would only be a matter of time before one of the strokes was laid over an existing stripe. Sure enough, number seven fulfilled this prediction and an involuntary cry of pain was forced from the hapless Midshipman.

“S… seven, thank you Miss,” he managed to utter.

Number eight managed to squeeze between two closely delivered stripes and combined to make a single painful impression. Miller squealed and panted in his distress, but still the strokes were being well laid on. Number nine was again laid over an existing stripe and young Miller gasped and squealed, not loud but loud enough to advertise his anguish.

A much flushed Charlotte, perspiration forming on her brow, lined up the last stroke, traditionally the hardest. She was determined to make the elegant young midshipman cry out again and her beautiful lips fold into a cruel smile. Number ten was indeed a humdinger but, other than a subdued squeal and gasping breaths, no other movement is seen from the midshipman.

“Ten, thank you Miss,” he managed to utter.

“You may get up, Miller,” instructed Mr Ryde, and Simon managed to prise himself from the position he had forced himself to adopt. He was red-faced and perspiration was seen on his upper lip and on his brow.

“Thank you, miss, for an excellent thrashing,” he remembered to add and bowed slightly.

“Well taken, Mr Miller,” said Charlotte, amazed that the young man could take such a hiding with so little effect. “Here is the rattan. You will no doubt wish to return it to its proper place.”

“Thank you, Miss,” said Miller before making good his exit.

The gathering broke up soon afterwards.

The next day, Charlotte and her maid were taking the air on the Quarter deck when she saw young Miller.

“Mr Miller,” she called. “If you would oblige me and, indeed, if you feel up to it, I would be pleased to have your company for a while.”

Miller obtained permission and joined Charlotte. He was moving somewhat stiffly but his conversational ability was, happily, unaffected by the pain.

This gentle walk around the deck became a regular feature and the Officer of the Day was only too pleased to release the midshipman and to please the Admiral’s daughter. It seemed that Charlotte and young Miller were getting along very well, their first meeting seemingly forgotten!

A ship was sighted and it quickly resolved itself into a senior Naval vessel.

“Admiral’s pennant aloft,” called the eagle-eyed lookout.

Charlotte realised that it was indeed her father, come in all his pomp to see his daughter. In due course, when the impressive ship drew close, an Admiral’s barge began its journey towards Themistocles and, when it pulled up alongside, a veritable shrieking of whistles indicated an Admiral was about to step on board. After much saluting, Charlotte managed to attract his attention.

“Father,” she said. “What a famous thing! I had not thought to see you for another six days, at least.”

“We were on fleet manoeuvres, my dear, and when we spied Themistocles I thought I would beg a lift back to Jamaica with you.”

The Captain hastily made his cabin available for the Admiral’s use and his pennant was transferred, much to the pride of the Officers and men of Themistocles. The senior naval vessel continued in her role, rejoined her position and continued with the Fleet Exercise.

“So, Charlotte, tell me all; have you been a good and well-behaved girl whilst on your own?”

Charlotte thinks she had better confess her major part in the thrashing of Mr Miller. “I am truly sorry father,” she said, dimpling prettily having told him the story but observing her father’s darkening countenance.

“This is unbelievable behaviour,” he shouted and was really angry. “The disciplining of members of the crew are not, under any circumstance, provided for your enjoyment. Boy,” he called. “Send me the First Officer to me, quickly now.”

In a short space of time, Mr Ryde was standing before the Admiral who gave him a severe dressing-down and told him he would lose seniority over his total lack of judgement.

Charlotte tried to intercede on his behalf but her father would have none of it.

“The Navy expects good judgement at all times, especially in those who will one day command one of its ships. You may go, Mr Ryde, and ponder long on this unhappy affair. Remember, I will not have any midshipmen thrashed for anyone’s enjoyment.”

“Oh father please, it was all at my instigation,” pleaded Charlotte once again.

“Keep out of this, Charlotte,” said her clearly furious father. “You have interfered enough and I will deal with you presently.”

Mr Ryde finally left the cabin.

“Now you, Charlotte, I think it is some two years since I last thrashed you and it seems that another session is well overdue. I will provide a pair of Midshipman’s cotton trousers to cover your modesty and you will then be bent over that hip chair for a beating.”

Charlotte paled. “How many strokes are you going to give me, father?” She asked.

“I am not going to thrash you and that is something I have yet to arrange. Now go to your cabin and await further instructions.”

Aware that the situation could not be resolved by further pleading, Charlotte did as she was bid and waited nervously in her cabin.

The Admiral requested the pleasure of Mr Miller’s company. A clearly mystified Miller presented himself in a short time. The Admiral apologised to him for his recent thrashing and told him that Mr Ryde had been admonished.

“Tell me, Mr Miller, do you have a spare pair of cotton trousers?”

“Yes, Sir, I do,” responded Simon.

“Please may I borrow them for a short while?” Asked the Admiral.

“Yes Sir, I will go and get them.”

“The thinnest pair you have, please,” said the Admiral, a glint in his eye. “While you are away, please bring me the First Officer’s rattan and your mouth guard.”

Simon looked anxious at this last instruction.

“Not for you, Miller, don’t look so concerned.”

The Midshipman soon returned with the three items.

“Boy,” called out the Admiral. “Send Miss Charlotte’s maid to me, at once.”

The saucy maid soon appeared.

“Take these to Miss Charlotte,” instructed the Admiral handing her the trousers. “See that she puts them on and then reports herself to me, forthwith.”

The maid departed on her errand and in a few minutes a clearly apprehensive Charlotte presented herself.

“I am dressed as you instructed, father,” she said.

“You are going to be thrashed for making sport by punishing this midshipman,” barked her father. “I think it only right and proper that this duty is undertaken by Mr Miller. Mr Miller, you are no doubt familiar with the expression ‘well laid on’?”

“Yes indeed, sir,” said Simon. He had been well thrashed by the very rattan now held in his hand and any number of these hidings had been ordered as ‘well laid on” He felt his bottom twitch at the memory.

“You are now going to deliver six well laid on strokes to my daughter’s backside. Do not try and be gentle; I will be watching and any stroke falling below the severity of ‘well laid on’ I will demand that it will be immediately repeated. So you will be doing my daughter no favours if you show leniency. Now Charlotte, raise your dress and bend over that hip chair.”

His daughter quickly followed these instructions.

“Here is Mr Miller’s mouth guard but only to be used if the pain is really too much. You will, of course, count the strokes and thank Mr Miller for each one. Now Mr Miller, please proceed.”

Simon was truly astonished at the marvellous sight before him. Charlotte’s well-presented beautiful bottom was staining against the thin cotton of his own replacement trousers and made a target that most men could only dream of seeing. Added to which, the cruel rattan would mark it with six strokes that would take some time to disappear.

Miller raised the cane and brought it down with some force right in the middle of Charlotte’s bottom. An anguished squeal was heard and the lovely bottom was seen to move in an urgent fashion.

“One, thank you, Sir,” Charlotte remembered to add.

The next stroke landed higher up and the next two below the first ‘marker’. Charlotte uttered a howl of pain quickly stifled by Simon’s own mouth guard. The fifth strike landed on her sensitive overhang. She was now panting loudly in her distress and moaning softly.

Simon had warmed to his task and knew there was no way out of it. He therefore resolved to make a good job of this thrashing, telling himself the wilful  Charlotte would be all the better for a well laid on hiding.

The final stroke, traditionally the hardest, whipped in and Charlotte’s hips once again were seen to be in urgent motion and her hands briefly left the chair legs where they had been resolutely clamped, but the plucky Charlotte ensured they returned to their designated station without delay.

“Six strokes completed Sir,” Miller informed the Admiral. “Miss Charlotte has taken a hard thrashing very well, sir.”

“I agree,” said the Admiral, looking at his daughter’s bottom, the dark stripes of the cane showing though the thin and taut material. “You may get up, Charlotte.”

His daughter rose to her feet and allowed her skirts to fall back into place. Her red and tear-stained face was still grimacing as the painful stripes continued to make their presence felt.

She curtseyed to Miller. “Thank you for an excellent thrashing, Mr Miller,” she said in a reasonably firm voice.

“You may go to your cabin, Charlotte, and I recommend sleeping on your front for a day or so.”

“Yes, father. I bid you good night and my thanks for dealing with this situation in such a good and efficient way.” She looked at Miller through her eye lashes and said: “Thank you, Mr Miller, for carrying out my punishment with such accuracy and application. I will indeed remember it for some time to come!”

She sketched a curtsey and left both gentlemen for the peace of her cabin. She was anxious to remove the trousers and to cherish her sore and aching bottom.

The next day saw a resumption of her daily exercise routine and, although she was walking somewhat stiffly, the discomfort was getting better by the hour.

“Charlotte, I am sorry I thrashed you so hard,” Simon ventured.

“Simon, you were ordered to do so and I am very sure that retribution was needed for my thoughtless action. It is I who should be begging your pardon. Whilst I remember, here are your trousers.” She handed him a neatly folded bundle. “They fitted me very closely but did not offer any protection against your painful strokes, but they should have highlighted your target nicely!” She glanced roguishly at the blushing Simon.

Simon had to use much of his free time in absorbing facts that would be needed when he took his Officers Examination scheduled for soon after they arrived in Jamaica. In the small amount of free time available, he continued his pursuit of Charlotte, fully aware that he was becoming emotionally attached and displaying all the signs of a lovelorn young man.

Themistocles anchored in Kingston Bay and the Officers were invited to a seemingly non-stop round of parties, banquets, dinner parties and, above all, dances. Simon could spare little time away from his studies and spent agonising hours imagining Charlotte being wined and dined and squired by a succession of handsome and eager young officers.

He finally sat his exams, both written and practical, and started to relax. He went to one of the balls and was elated to find the object of his devotion already there and looking radiant. He begged her for a dance but she reacted in the same manner as the previous occasions by saying with some pride that she was fully booked and had promised some besotted lieutenant three dances for the next ball which had yet to be announced!

Simon was aware the object of his desires had slipped away from him and was thrown into dejection and was unable to sleep for two nights.

His examination results had come in and he had passed with flying colours. He was now a junior lieutenant!

He resolved to put the beautiful Charlotte out of his mind and applied to join one of HM ships. Two days later, he received a note from Admiral Sir John Devenish-Benson requesting his presence at a meeting at the Admiral’s residence. He accepted and found himself being ushered into the Admiral’s presence.

“Well, Mr Miller, let me join in the congratulations; I am more than pleased to welcome you as an officer. I understand that you have applied to join one of our ships. I think you should postpone that for now and spend some time enjoying yourself. You have had a gruelling few months, what with one thing and another. You have my permission to squire my daughter around as you both seemed to enjoy each others company.”

“I fear, Sir, Miss Charlotte and I no longer see each other and she has very many admirers in Kingston.”

“Come here, Mr Miller. You see yonder bungalow set in my grounds and about quarter of a mile distant? I beg you walk over there where you might find an agreeable surprise.”

Simon left and and walked over to the bungalow. On entering he was surprised to find Charlotte standing to attention and dressed in a midshipman’s uniform, the thin white trousers fitting closely around her excellent legs. The short navy blue jacket highlighted her colouring. Simon could not help drinking in the sight of her superb bottom tightly encased in the white trousers. She was standing smartly at attention and impeccably saluted young Simon.

“I have been detailed to act as your midshipman, sir,” she declared. “The first thing I have to report is that I have been cruel and unfeeling towards you and I am here to enable you to thrash me.”

“No, dear Charlotte, there is no need for that,” exclaimed Simon.

“No Sir, Regulations demand that you carry out a punishment if specifically requested by the miscreant. I have a rattan with me.” She turned and picked up a yellow painful-looking instrument which she handed to Simon, an odd little smile on her pretty face. Now I have arranged for a hip chair to be here so that I can bend over it and present my bottom to you in a proper manner.

“Please Mr Miller, may I have six strokes, well laid on?”

With that, she turned and bent over the chair, and presenting her stunning bottom for Simon’s attention.

Perceiving that he must go though with the punishment, he called out: “Prepare yourself, Midshipman Charlotte,” and landed the first stroke low down near the crease where the bottom and the legs join forces.

Charlotte squealed in shock and distress and she gripped the chair legs even tighter.

Simon worked his way up the appealing bottom, much to Charlotte’s increasing distress. She was finding it somewhat difficult to call out each stroke when delivered. Number six was finally delivered and Charlotte howled in pain.

“You may get up, Midshipman,” said Simon and Charlotte raised herself and rather shakily got to her feet.

She stood before Simon and saluted “Thank you for a very excellent thrashing, Sir,” she said. “This will be the first thrashing you have delivered as an officer and I wanted to make very sure that you will always remember it.”

“There can be no doubt about that,” said Simon as he took her in his arms and soundly kissed her willing mouth.

The End

© Frances Stephenson 2014