A leading private school with links to the royal family has contacted more than 3,000 former pupils asking them to report evidence of abuse they may have suffered during their time there.
Allegations of historical abuse at Gordonstoun junior school emerged two years ago.
Prince Charles is a former pupil at the boarding school, near Lossiemouth in Moray, and disliked his time there so much he described it as being like “Colditz in kilts”.
It is one of a number of independent schools in Scotland named by Lady Smith, the judge who is conducting a national inquiry into historical abuse in the country.
The Times (subscription)
Alex Renton examines the disturbing brutality of boarding school life.
Short of prison, what can estrange a child so completely from parental love as boarding school?
Parents are replaced with new and often unsafe attachments; predatory abuse is not uncommon. My own boarding school in south London, called Brightlands (a misnomer for such a dark Victorian-era barracks), traded in beatings. Any of us caught masturbating or talking after lights out was made to strip in the bathroom down the corridor, where a sports master (it was always a sports master) beat us with a slipper. It was a shaming business that fills me even today with impotent perplexity. In some unformulated way, I understood that the punishments were a sexual outrage: the sight of livid marks on our posh white backsides must have excited that master.
At eight, in 1969, Alex Renton was sent to one of the country’s most expensive boarding houses, Ashdown House, a feeder for our most exclusive public schools (he later went to Eton). Young Alex knew nothing about the paedophilia and sexualisation of life at Ashdown, though his father (Tim Renton, later Margaret Thatcher’s last chief whip) must have had an idea: “Remember, if any of the older boys try to take you into a bush, just say ‘No’.” Naturally Alex had an abject terror of parental abandonment. Yet crying after lights out was punished with a beating. The headmaster turned out to be a sadist whose pleasure was to spank bared bottoms until they bled.
Renton, a “self-declared survivor” of sexual abuse, was frequently caned at Ashdown but, as he writes in this grimly absorbing account of British boarding-school life, it was not done to “sneak” on one’s tormentors. Boys had to take their punishment like men – like the men who meted it out. Life at Ashdown is so tear-jerking and brutal that Dickens might have invented the place. One maths teacher, Mr Keane, liked to offer sweets in return for a “rummage inside our shorts”. Renton told his mother about the fumblings but the headmaster’s wife managed to convince her that a formal complaint “would cause unpleasantness” and, anyway, “children made these things up”. Thus Renton was taught early on to expect disappointment.
The New Statesman
Violence, cruelty and sexual confusion are as much a part of boarding school literature as japes and cricket. Alex Renton surveys a troubled genre from Kipling to Rowling
Britain’s most prestigious military boarding school is facing damaging new claims that it covered up allegations of abuse against students.
On Saturday The Telegraph exposed how the Ministry of Defence appeared to collude The Duke of York’s Royal Military School to stifle claims of bullying and abuse.
Kent Police launched a review into their alleged failure to investigate dozens of criminal allegations at the school, and at least one detective inspector has been disciplined.
The Ministry of Defence is accused of colluding with Britain’s most prestigious military boarding school to cover up claims of abuse, The Telegraph can disclose.
Kent Police has now launched a review into their alleged failure to investigate dozens of criminal allegations at The Duke of York’s Royal Military School, and at least one detective inspector has been disciplined.
The force has set up a dedicated team to review claims about the school, which is seen as a breeding ground for future army leaders and boasts His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, as a patron.
The boarding school near Dover, which has enjoyed visits from Prince Harry and the British Army’s Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, is listed on police records as the location for 38 crime reports over the last two decades.
[In a telling development, the Daily Mail has removed comments from its coverage of this story…]
Mark Stibbe, a former vicar who lives in North Yorkshire, is among those to claim to have been abused by youth worker John Smyth, who ran Christian holiday camps. As other victims waive their right to anonymity, here he tells his story in full.
A serving Church of England bishop has alleged that he was subjected to a “violent, excruciating and shocking” beating by John Smyth, the man at the centre of abuse allegations connected to summer camps for Christian youth.
Andrew Watson, the bishop of Guildford, claims he was beaten on a single occasion. He said he had contacted Hampshire police, the force investigating allegations made against Smyth, at the weekend.
Watson said in a statement: “I am one of the survivors of John Smyth’s appalling activities in the late 1970s and early 80s. I am also one of the bishops in the Church of England. This has placed me in a unique and challenging position when it comes to the events of the past few days.
“My own story is certainly less traumatic than that of some others. I was drawn into the Smyth circle, as they were, and the beating I endured in the infamous garden shed was violent, excruciating and shocking; but it was thankfully a one-off experience never to be repeated.”
A number of the beatings alleged to have been administered by Smyth are said to have taken place in the garden shed at his home in Winchester, Hampshire. Watson attended Winchester College, where Smyth is said to have met a number of his alleged victims.
Watson, 55, said a friend of his had attempted suicide on the eve of an alleged beating. “At that point I and a friend shared our story,” the bishop said, although he is not thought to have contacted police at the time.
The beatings described by victims of John Smyth, endured on Christian summer camps in the late 1970s, are entirely familiar to me. I’m sure the archbishop of Canterbury, as he has said, knew nothing of them when he helped out at those camps as a teenager. But those of us who were victims of similar beatings know this wasn’t simply the activity of a few rotten apples – though rotten apples there were. The problem was deep in the educational philosophy of the public school system, and the poisonous ideas it developed about the sort of men required to run the British empire.
Ted Robertson, the headmaster of my prep school, Hollingbury Court in Sussex, had a collection of canes in his study. Thick ones; thin, whippy ones; long and short. Different materials. For hours I would stand in a gloomy wood-panelled corridor, next to a creepy chapel, waiting for the beatings. This could be several times a week. Talking after lights out, talking at meal times, running in the corridor, wearing the wrong bit of uniform – these and other outrages were all punishable with a good thrashing. “Bend over, boy.” I would focus on a spot on the floor. The most important thing was not to wince. And I wasn’t going to give those bastards the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
Often we would go to bed with underpants drenched in blood. And in the dormitories, named after the headmaster’s military heroes – Drake, Trenchard, Marlborough, Churchill – we would whisper to each other about the sadism and compare the lines on our bums as wounds of pride and solidarity. I was beaten like this throughout the 1970s, with canes and bats and shoes and clothes brushes, from the age of seven all the way through to when I was 12. The pain doesn’t last so long. But a burning anger settles in your soul.
A prestigious public school was last night accused of covering up child abuse allegations against a senior Christian barrister later linked to the death of a teenager.
Morality campaigner John Smyth QC was accused by young victims of beating them so violently that they had to wear adult nappies to staunch the bleeding, after he recruited them at a Christian youth camp where the Archbishop of Canterbury once worked.
The alleged four-year campaign of ritualised violence in the late 1970s was reported to the trust which ran the camps for pupils from some of Britain’s leading public schools – but appears not to have been reported to police for more than three decades.
Winchester College said it banned Smyth, 75, from contact with its pupils in 1982 but did not go to police in order to spare his alleged victims from ‘further trauma’.
Meanwhile, Smyth moved to Zimbabwe, where he was alleged to have continued his violent abuse of children at more summer camps. He was also reportedly accused of culpable homicide over the death of a 16-year-old boy, Guide Nyachuru, who was found naked in a school pool, but the prosecution was dropped.
The married father of four – who once worked with campaigner Mary Whitehouse – has refused to respond to accusations he abused 22 boys and young men in Britain in attacks of escalating violence which drove one to attempt suicide.
I looked up to John Smyth as a distantly alluring adult when I was a tiny child: handsome, brilliant, charismatic. He was a Beach Mission leader during our seaside holidays, and Christian role model for many – including my brother (who would probably still say he owes him much: there was good there too).
Thanks to John Smyth my brother became an officer on Iwerne Christian camps, and the summer before I went up to Oxford I was invited too.
In my teens I met many of my brother’s friends: Christian, good-looking, sporty, decent, public-school-and-Oxbridge-educated, many of them blues. Destined for ordained ministry; or as teachers; lawyers; businessmen. My parents couldn’t have wanted nicer friends for me. (Nor I, for my daughters.) These were extremely pleasant young men.
Within twenty four hours I felt a complete freak. Unknown to me, it was a world of extreme sexual apartheid. We were confined to the kitchen bashing spuds. The men, glorious in the sunshine and their cream cricket sweaters, played sports; gave talks in the meetings; swam and batted and even I believe flew aeroplanes.
I was discreetly steered away from volunteering for a helicopter trip advertised over breakfast; told off for stopping to chat to a young man I was introduced to destined for the same Oxford college; then for agreeing to play tennis with my brother (he was not); and finally for talking to some boys who lay down near us at the swimming pool. It was the last straw: it was politely suggested I should leave, as I didn’t fit in.
It was not until the following weekend, reintroduced to normality at my parents’, that I realised I was not an aberration. Iwerne was out of step with the world, not I. My husband – not eligible because not public-school-educated, but with his clergy world heavily influenced by it – has boasted ever since that I am the only person to have been sent down from one of its camps.