Clouds Hill – the woodland retreat of TE Lawrence

A recent visit as a tourist suggested the following:

Fantasy Use of the Cottage at Clouds Hill for Pack Drill and Corporal Punishment Scenarios

©2002-5 squaddie John:

Location and History

Clouds Hill cottage is situated in a woodland location on a minor road adjacent to Bovington Camp, a tank training ground where TE Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) was serving in the Tank Corps as “Private Shaw”.

John Bruce, who joined the the army at the same time as TE Lawrence, is reported as stating years after Lawrence's death in a motorcycle accident that Bruce was tricked by Lawrence into birching him regularly: Lawrence apparently showed Bruce letters purporting to come from Lawrence's uncle who said Lawrence had stolen money, the uncle needed proof that Lawrence would be regularly birched until it had all been paid back. It's impossible to confirm this story or Bruce's assertion that Lawrence had a "flagellation disorder".

The brick cottage at Clouds Hill was bought by TE Lawrence in 1925 and renovated with the assistance of Pioneer Sergeant Knowles, whose family lived in a similiar cottage opposite; it has four rooms and a free-standing garage suitable for motorbikes.

The entrance door leads directly to a steep flight of stairs at the top of which is The Bunk Room and (right) The Music Room.

The Bunk Room

There is a single bunk bed made from mahogany with large utility drawers underneath for kit and bedding. The room is decorated with aluminium foil to look like the interior of a metal-hulled ship. Circular window as if a porthole. Hob-nailed ammo (ammunition) boots would make a striking noise in this room without soft furnishings. This room always feels cold.

Absolutely ideal as a fantasy living space for a matelot or squaddie as if on board a ship or submarine, ready for strict bed-space kit inspections and defaulter’s pack drill.

The Music Room

The room contains a homely fire grate, two tan leather-covered easy chairs, an acoustic gramophone with large horn and a collection of shellac discs.

TE Lawrence’s typewriter is displayed at a folding-leaf table.

“I'll make music on your behind!” and I'll make you sing!”
“Music” is slang for a beating: meaning corporal punishment, such as was abolished in the British Army in the nineteenth century; there is vernacular evidence that it persisted unofficially until well after World War II.

This isolated cottage is absolutely ideal for a military corporal punishment scenario: a fantasy recruit lives in his bedspace whilst “Sir” resides in comfort elsewhere in the cottage.

Pack drill is an archaic military punishment which requires regular inspection of the defaulter’s bedspace and/or for him to report for personal inspection at regular intervals to the Guard Room wearing full kit, including weighted packs.

If the inspection shows faults, “Sir” might award the recruit further or intensified pack-drill, a cold bath, corporal punishment or “fatigues” such as latrine digging or “pig-sticking”: preparation of wood for the fires - a messy job this, very likely to soil the recruit’s kit.

If a recruit must report to “Sir” for corporal punishment, in my fantasy, he would wait in his bunk until the appointed time, then ensure that he was properly and completely ready for inspection.

Leaves his bunk room and knocks on the door of the “Music” room opposite and ask permission to report for punishment.

“Sir” would seated be at the surviving writing table in the “Music” room. The recruit enters and reports that he is ready to receive punishment. Punishment is then administered in a formal manner.

Punishment received is then recorded in the Punishment Book.

The recruit is dismissed: he returns to his bed space.

It just so happens that a small wooden stool (presented to TE Lawrence as a gift by a lady-friend, the widow of writer Thomas Hardy) has survived in the “Music” room; this is ideal – even archetypical - for presenting the buttocks for punishment by a cane.

The oak writing table is also ideally proportioned for the punishment position where the recruit bends over the table and grabs the table sides.

Bath Room

Downstairs to the right of the cottage entrance is a room with a bath; there is no WC at the property.

Lawrence’s original use for his cottage at Clouds Hill was as a retreat from duty and barracks at Bovington. I assume that the surrounding rhododendrons provided sufficient cover for latrine calls; an entrenching tool has not survived or is not displayed.

Running hot water facilities were only added shortly before Lawrence’s death (in a motorbike accident).

The Book Room (to the left of the entrance)

There is a large fireplace for burning logs and bookcases with space for many books. However the dominating feature of the room is a large leather-covered double bed.

I suggest that several fantasy uses can arise for this room.

1.      After corporal punishment there is often a wonderful loving tenderness between the receiver and the giver.

What could be more warming or romantic for a chastened, half-frozen recruit than the consummation of such love in front of a raging log-fire?

Leather-covered bedding avoids the laundry of sheets, is fetish-erotic and is ideal for sexual activity when clothed or booted or tied up.

2.      “Sir” sleeps in comfort whilst the recruit sleeps in his bedspace upstairs, heated only by the waste heat from “Sir’s” blaze, which is provided by the recruit’s prior cleaning, hard sweat chopping logs and continuous attention.

3.      Note that the ceiling is too low for corporal punishment with a cane or birch, except possibly over the knee spanking or slapping but is ideal for a birching with the punishee laid out or stretched flat on the bed.

Note that in my fantasy, any specific evidence (eg punishment book and canes) of this sadomasochistic activity could be rapidly dispersed temporarily in the woodland if an unexpected visitor arrived or disposed of permanently in the open fires, leaving only ephemera such as now conserved and presented to tourists as a quiet cottage for picnic meals, contemplation, writing of letters and listening to gramophone records…

Clouds Hill cottage is now in the care of the National Trust and may be visited but not hired for individual use. Map

More about TE Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia

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