Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The inquiry into abuse in the defence forces has found that back in the 50s there were things happening like

"Young men were given ‘Regimental‘ showers which comprised being scrubbed with a wire brush and often thereafter “nuggeted” which involved having boot polish rubbed on their genitals and anus."
The latter of which I remember being a reasonably common occurrence at Geelong Grammar's Timbertop in what, 1961? When I was, let me see, fifteen. That and/or being thrown into a wicker laundry basket and shoved under the cold shower. 

And while I'm not recommending it, it wasn't at the time seen as that big a deal. Boys being boys, would have been the view.  In itself, it wouldn't even have been regarded as bullying, because it wasn't all that individual - happened to me today, you tomorrow, just about everybody over the course of the year, if you'd missed out the dorm would probably give you one on that ground alone.
We were all in a single year, so there wasn't any Top Shit/New grub or bastardisation/breaking in element; you'd get nuggeted as, at that moment, last among equals.

Again, someone's quoted as saying
It wasn't considered to be abuse by those involved, it was just 'part and parcel' of the ordinary routine to toughen you up, and to sort out whether a cadet was of the 'right stuff' for arduous Army service.
The best judge of suitability of character here was not the Military Establishment through its selection process, but rather the cadets themselves. They were left to do what they thought was necessary to produce the right outcome, and the Military Establishment distanced itself from these events for obvious reasons …
which may be true, but is shown by Timbertop not be necessary.  We weren't sorting out the wheat from the chaff.  We did it because it was fun, and because it lent an air of excitement to life, and because it seemed a good idea at the time.

Failures of memory..... I'm totally unable to remember the ostensible reasons why anybody got nuggeted.  I'm even unable to remember whether I myself ever was - I think so, on the grounds of general probability, but I may have managed to weasel out of it.  Which shows, I suppose, that I really didn't regard it as all that significant.  I can remember being told that as everybody else in the dorm had been caned that year I was going to get nuggeted if I wasn't caned by the end of third term, and I certainly managed to weasel out of that one - both of those ones - by keeping out of sight on the last day.

All boys, I must stress, nothing to do with masters.

Yes, some would have taken it much harder - for all I know it may have destroyed their lives, as so often comes up in inquiries.  Can't remember any suicides at the time, but apparently these things recur in later life.  All I say is that such possibilities meant less than nothing to us at the time, not so much because we were evil as because none of us ever gave a second's thought to anybody else's feelings.  It just wasn't a consideration. We were utterly engrossed with ourselves.

I'm sometimes concerned that we seem to be drifting back into a belief in childhood innocence. Children are utter bastards, and the Lord of the Flies is something of a documentary. 


Dave Reed said...

Indeed, getting nuggeted was one of the hazards of growing up at that time.

I think, perhaps, you may have remembered it better if they had applied the boot polish with a shoe brush or livened it up with an undercoat of toothpaste!

The things that were done in the name of fun.

Chris Borthwick said...

However, my brother, who passed through Grammar some five years later, says that he saw nothing of such larks. I may have been almost the last of the Tom Brown era.

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