A King’s Scout's memories of Scouting in a bygone age
82 year old King’s Scout, Ron Frost, shares his memories of Scouting in a bygone age.
'I joined the 1st Bagshot Scout Troop in June 1947. I was 13. The Troop was going to camp in Hayling Island in two weeks’ time and I asked if I could camp with them. The Troop was run by Derek Papworth, a King’s Scout who was about 18 years old at the time.
‘We travelled to camp in furniture vans packed full of tents, digging tools, cooking billies and buckets. The Scouts all sat on top of the kit and off we went. We dug holes in the ground for our toilet, a wet pit and a dry pit. We put four sticks in the ground and wrapped a piece of sack around it for a bit of privacy and that was our toilet. Things were so primitive. We slept on the ground, with a ground sheet and two blankets and that was your bed for the night. Can you imagine Scouts doing that these days?
‘We would dig shallow trenches to light fires and we’d put the turf to one side, keeping it watered, so it could be replaced at the end of the camp. Back then, when you left a campsite you’d leave nothing but your thanks behind.
‘On one camp, the weather wasn’t very good so the local baker asked if we’d like him to dry our bedding and clothing. We took along all our wet clothing and he put them in the oven.
‘We often made aerial runways. The boys would hold onto the homemade handle and leap into the air. I don’t think that would be allowed these days, but we never had any accidents. Well, actually, we did have some accidents.
‘Once you’d passed a first-class Axemanship Badge, you were allowed to wear a sheath knife. One day a boy had been at the top of a tree, tying a rope to it, and he dropped his knife. It landed in the shoulder of a boy at the bottom of the tree. We took him to hospital and they removed the knife quite easily. He wasn’t badly hurt, but it was a little stressful at the time!
‘I started out as number 8 in the Kestrel patrol. We’d know from details that were published in Scouting books which badges were available and would choose the badges we wanted to achieve ourselves. You had to get a second-class badge to start and once you had that, you worked for first-class, a much bigger oval badge. I worked hard and passed the second-class badge and became the patrol second. A year later I had the first-class badge and became patrol leader. At 15 I became a Senior Scout, but I had been working hard on some of the senior badges before that.
‘For the Fireman’s Badge, I went to the fire station and took part in all the drills. I climbed the tall ladders with wheels at the bottom, climbed a three-storey building and carried a body down to the bottom (it wasn’t a real body, of course!). We would have to deal with various fires – oil and electrical – and know how to organise people to keep them away from dangerous areas.
‘I joined St John Ambulance to work towards the Ambulance Badge, and used to attend once a week. We would have an hour’s lecture from a doctor and an hour’s practice with a senior St John Ambulance officer. You had to know about pressure points and the circulation of blood as well as how to splint and bandage broken bones. The doctor and the officer would test you and determine whether you had passed the badge or not. These were useful skills we were learning.
‘Most of the repair work we did for our Handyman Badge was done to our leader’s house. He wanted a new door fitted, there were windows that needed re-puttying, and the house needed painting.
‘The Dispatch Rider Badge was a real challenge. Someone gave you a message that you needed to remember word for word. The message contained times of the day and numbers of roads, it was a complicated story that you needed to remember perfectly. The only problem was, your destination was 10 miles away and you had to travel by bicycle. Along the way there was always a major incident, and you had to deal with it. You needed to make sure the injured person made it to hospital. Then you would continue on your journey until you got back to Scout HQ where you would have to repeat the message that you were given right at the start.
‘Once I’d passed all the badges for the King’s Scout Award, I received a visit from District Commissioner Mr Genneas (I’m not sure how you spell it), who we affectionately called “Hold ya Knees” because his name sounded like that. He came to our Troop meeting and asked me to go to Windsor Castle for the award.
‘I went to Windsor and was met by Chief Scout, Lord Rowallen, a friend of King George VI who would be presenting our certificates. I was very excited, if a little nervous. Twenty-two of us were presented with awards that afternoon.
‘I’ve been a Scout my whole life. I have been connected with many different Troops and generally helped out for many years. I’ve run camps for Cubs and Scouts. I always found running Cub camps more difficult – you’d tell them all to go to sleep and the next thing you know they’d be up and running around the site.
‘The things I’ve learned through Scouting have served me well in life. Not only am I very good at knots, I’m proficient at brick-laying, plumbing and electrical. Being a Scout gave me the confidence to tackle anything.
‘I would recommend the Scouting life to everyone. Take it seriously, always tell the truth, work hard, study hard and you’ll have a good life.’
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