Windsor - An Inside Story
There has been an annual parade of King and Queen Scout Award holders at Windsor Castle every year since 1934 (except 1939-45). In that year they were reviewed by King George V and was the first instance of this unique annual privilege for Scouting. 76 years later, 350 Queen Scouts, Meritorious and Gallantry award recipients paraded at the Castle before HRH The Prince of Wales and Chief Scout, Bear Grylls.
I woke on Sunday to glorious sunshine (just to show I’m an early riser) and although the rain came in by 7 am and was persistent, it cleared before the days events got underway.
We caught up with Bear at 09.45 for a quick briefing on the days events before setting off for the army barracks for an early meeting with the Queen Scouts. We were to be accompanied for the day by Chris, a member of the Queen Scouts Working Party (QSWP) who looked more like a Special Branch minder with his earpiece than he did a Scout. His challenge however was to ensure that things ran smoothly and we were in the right place at the right time – no mean feat for us two!
The Army Barracks
As we arrive at the barracks, Queen Scouts are starting to arrive from across the UK and are checked in and inspected. Those whose uniform is in need of a little ‘care and attention’ are directed to a corner of the hall where they are helped by volunteers from Windsor & Eton District along with some very enthusiastic Cubs who were offering to clean their shoes.
One of them had the tables turned on him however, when Bear thought it much better that not only did he do his own, but also that he clean the shoes of the Cub who was suitably impressed – I doubt they’ll get cleaned again! A few words of encouragement from Bear for the day ahead of them and the chance to help some of them with their marching practice (!) before we are being encouraged by Chris to move on (the first of many such prompts).
Mattins in St George's Chapel
A very brisk walk back to the Castle Hotel (which operates as ‘HQ’ for the weekend) to join other members of our team, the Chairman and Chairs of the various sub-committees. We are particularly grateful to the Dean of Windsor for allowing us to join his regular congregation for the traditional Mattins service in St George’s Chapel on the Sunday morning.
We use this privilege by inviting as many adults who have received the Silver Acorn and higher levels of recognition as the Chapel will accommodate to join us. Opportunities to stop and chat to the many supporters of Scouting who are joining the large number of tourists in the town already is limited as the service is not going to wait for us!
Following the service it is another quick walk back to the hotel, we manage to shake off Chris briefly and chat to a few people and pose for pictures, where we are hosting a rather rushed lunch for a number of special guests who in a variety of ways support Scouting.
On this occasion, we were delighted that Peter Cruddas had joined us. As well as attributing much of his success to his time as a Scout in the East End of London, Peter is presently involved with a number of national youth projects, notably Youth United and the Challenge both of which Scouting are heavily involved with.
A chance for plenty of networking as well as an opportunity for Bear to thank our guests for their contributions Bear is able to slip out a little early to spend some time greeting the crowds of Leaders and parents, family and friends of the Queen’s Scouts who are already gathering in the quadrangle as well as the streets of Windsor. He was particularly struck by how proud they all were and the general energy and enthusiasm he found.
In the meantime I lead our guests on a more leisurely walk into the quadrangle and take the opportunity to network amongst them and catch up with those I wasn’t able to collar at lunch.
I also stopped to chat to members of the 3rd Daveyhulme Scout Band who have been selected to lead the parade this year along with the band of the Coldstream Guards. They are also regular visitors to Guernsey and the Gilwell Reunion so there are a few familiar faces too.
The Parade of Queen Scouts
The quadrangle within Windsor Castle is not generally open to the public and can only be viewed from some of the state apartments which are open. With us in the guests ‘pen’ are some Beavers from the band and other young people who are children of the guests and there is ripple of excitement as one of them spots Her Majesty peering out from behind the curtain of the private apartments overlooking the quadrangle and it is at this time you realise that you have the extreme privilege of being in her ‘private back garden’.
The only disappointment is that space in both the Chapel and Quadrangle is limited, so adult award recipients wishing to attend have to enter a ballot for tickets but this seems to be the fairest system for all.
After the parade and inspection we follow the Queen Scouts into St George’s Chapel where four of them will be leading the service. This year’s service was highly interactive and demonstrated in a creative way the activities they had undertaken in achieving their awards.
Following the service Bear escorts HRH to his car and the Queen Scouts leave to congregate outside for the traditional address by the Chief Scout.Loitering back in the Chapel, it is interesting to witness the service crews of the QSWP, our staff and Scout Active Support members from Windsor & Eton get into action as the Chapel is cleared within minutes and available for the choir to begin rehearsals for Evensong.
We then gather on the steps of the chapel with Bear and the Dean, for Bear to give the speech in much the same way as BP had done 76 years earlier, but on this occasion relayed across the Castle grounds.
Following Bear’s very rousing and inspirational talk, we are off again to return to the Castle Hotel for afternoon tea (yes, more drinks and food!). Following the parade however, there is another of those moments that defines the difference between our roles.
As we lag behind the Queen Scouts a little, Derek suggests that we need to catch up. Bear breaks into a trot, and promptly does a 360° body flip in the middle of the courtyard. Despite the encouragement from so called friends and fellow Scouts in the crowd, I quickly decide that this not a time to be even attempting to copy him, much to the relief of my health insurers I’m sure.
Afternoon tea is a chance to thank the many people who have made the day so successful. From the clergy to our guest speaker, the young people of the colour party and readers along with our staff and the Scout Active Support leaders from Windsor and Eton and QSWP. A final thank you to our guests and we bid farewell to the last one at 5.30pm.
I certainly remember my very first visit to the National Scout Parade and service in 1981, just after I received my Queen Scout Award, and in many respects very little has changed. The memories are everlasting and it was one of those special occasions for me and my parents; an amazing sense of pride and achievement for all.
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