Just after the end of World War II, Dary’s single mother ‘just couldn’t cope any longer’, so she placed her young son into a Perth boys’ home run by the Salvation Army. Dary lived there for the next few years with other boys who were mainly in their early teens.
In the home, ‘you were like a manservant’, Dary said. ‘You mowed the lawn, you chopped the wood, you did all of the things you would do around the house. In other words, in those days we were very regimented. And that was the way things were … You accepted that way of life.’
While most of the staff in the home were ‘good people’, one officer, Captain Beatty, ‘was the main protagonist, or the main problem with everybody’. Dary, who had a physical condition which compromised his posture, was caned many times by this man who was obsessed with trying to straighten him up.
Beatty used his ‘utmost power’ to cane any boy who had transgressed a rule. This was especially so during daily punishment sessions in the drill hall which Dary described as ‘incredible’ and ‘very, very severe’.
‘You would get six hits with the cane all the time. And these kids would have bloodied and bruised hands. We all would. Bloodied and bruised hands. And you’d go in for your evening meal, and because they were swollen, you would have difficulty holding the fork or the knife. And you tried to hold back your tears because the boys that cried or screamed they weren’t tough enough for the other boys. So the boys that managed to contain the pain, they were looked on as the leaders, you see …
‘On lots and lots of occasions the kids couldn’t handle the beating, and he’d say, “Hold your hand out”, and they couldn’t take any more. So when they couldn’t hold their hand out he’d get into them with the cane. He’d beat them about the body … And kids would fall down and they would scream.’
Dary received two beatings from Beatty which landed him in hospital.
One day, when he was late to assembly, Beatty went ‘near berserk’. He caned Dary, then locked him up in a room with a straw mattress where he developed a ‘bad, bad, bad cough’. A week later, when a ‘brave’ boy alerted the ‘kind’ and ‘mild-mannered’ Captain Harrington, the Captain took one look at Dary’s welts and bruises and ‘actually cried’. Dary spent the next month in hospital recovering from pneumonia.
On another occasion, while Dary was eating a meal, Beatty whacked him without warning across his back. ‘And he was beating me so hard that I sort of fell down under the table and he started to kick me … He kicked me so bad that he split my penis and I had to be taken to hospital because I was bleeding profusely.’ On the way to hospital, a staff member said, ‘If they ask you at the hospital how this happened, tell them you were in a fight with other boys’.
Halfway through Dary’s stay at the Home, Beatty twice took Dary to his room to molest him. One evening, Dary cut short Beatty’s fondling by running to the toilet. The next day, as he sat shirtless waiting for Beatty to ‘fix’ his shoulders, a staff member must have known Dary was at risk because he interrupted them to make sure that Dary was alright.
After each severe beating, Dary was treated with care by staff at the home and hospital. However, ‘people thought differently in those days’, and no one ever took on the responsibility of making a report against Beatty.
‘The staff knew what was going on, but I suppose there was a rank hierarchy, you didn’t tell what went on. Yes, some discipline in those days was normal, but no, not discipline that’s taken to that extreme, no.’
Likewise, the boys just ‘accepted that this is what went on’. ‘We would never say, “Oh this is wrong, we shouldn’t be being treated like, we’ll go and tell the policeman”. You would never have the organisation in your mind to be able to come to that point of view.’
The physical and sexual abuse affected Dary’s education. He left the home before his mid-teens, and worked as a labourer before commencing a life-long military career. Even though some of the training was ‘bloody awful’, Dary adapted easily to the regimentation of military life. He feels that, socially and personally, he was not greatly affected by what had happened to him in the home. ‘Life went on, and I went on with life,’ he said.
About five years ago, Dary received a modest compensation payment through Redress WA, and is currently pursuing a claim against the Salvation Army. However, he does not want anyone charged or brought to account because he is frightened that his case might become public.
‘I have this innate fear that my details would come out and I wouldn’t like that … It’s just that thing that I have. I haven’t even told my own children about these beatings and the way I was treated, and I never will … It’s just something I don’t want to do.’