Scouts celebrate their centenary year

For Scouts everywhere this year's St George's Day is going to be something special.

It's traditionally the day when Scouts renew their threefold promise - for God, King (or Queen) and others, following St George's altruistic example.


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The day when, in years gone by, those who had achieved the coveted and hard-earned King's or Queen's Scout badge went to be presented at Windsor Castle.

In this centenary year, the day will be celebrated not on April 23, but on Sunday April 22, when Scouts in the two local Scouting districts will hold their parades.

In Hemel Hempstead, in the morning, Beavers, Cub Scouts, Explorers, network and adults will be issued with a St George's Flag to carry down Marlowes behind a float that will parade from the top of the High Street through the old town to the Civic Centre.

In West Herts district (which covers Berkhamsted, Tring and surrounding villages), the parade will be in the afternoon to the parish church of St Peter and St Paul in Tring.

Their annual parades are held alternately at Berkhamsted and Tring.

Scouting was founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell 100 years ago and continues to go from strength to strength with boys - and girls - keen to take part in the adventure-packed modern programme.

Young women make up almost 10 per cent of the members in the UK and half of all leaders are women.

No longer can we refer to Scouts as 'the lads' and the title of Boy Scouts was discontinued several years ago- along with the short-trouser image.

Some of our local units go right back to the opening months of the organisation with 1st Kings Langley Scout group being one of the oldest.

County archivist Frank Brittain tells us: "1st Kings Langley was almost certainly the first troop in Hemel Hempstead, but not in Hertfordshire.

"There is evidence that it was formed on October 20, 1909 and was started by Lt Bramwell Henry Withers, who also founded troops in India, Africa and Ireland. He also ran the 1st Langleybury Troop that was formed the same year. Lack of leadership forced this troop to close and the boys amalgamated with 1st Kings Langley."

The first troops founded in Hertfordshire were in Watford and began in 1908.

Mr Brittain explains: "No troops started in 1907 simply because the first of the six fortnightly parts of Scouting for Boys was not in the shops until January 15, 1908.

"Patrols may have been operating all over Hertfordshire early in 1908, but documentary evidence is necessary to prove troops were in existence or registered."

John Allen of the current 1st Kings Langley said the troop's headquarters had been in the same field, to the rear of the Rose and Crown, since the end of the First World War.

The army is believed to have left behind the old timber shed that the Scouts took over and which was destroyed by fire in the 1970s.

Now they have a concrete building in the same field, with thriving Beaver and Cub units, with fewer Scouts, probably a knock-on effect due to lack of leaders.

Mike Stanyon researched and edited 90 Years Young for the Hemel Hempstead District Scout Council in 1998. Other early units he says were 1st Boxmoor and 1st Bourne End. From photographs available it is also believed there were Scouts in Leverstock Green from 1908.

The Salvation Army had a troop from 1926, but was never affiliated to the Boy Scouts Association.

One of the first names associated with Scouting in Hemel Hempstead is Allen Foxall, whose parents ran a thriving grocery business at 16 Alexandra Road - then a busy shopping area.

At that time the area of land between Marlowes and the Lower Adeyfield Road was known as The New Town. A warrant for Foxall's appointment in 1910 is said to have been held at BP House. It is likely that, as in other places, the boys spontaneously formed groups and then looked for adults to help to lead them.

We may never know exactly when Scouting actually started in this area since no records were kept, says Mr Stanyon. "Today it may not be obvious that until recently Hemel Hempstead, Apsley and Boxmoor were separate communities. To a large extent this was brought about by poor communications. Today the telephone and easy road travel makes it hard to realise that things were very different for the earlier Scouts with poorly-lit and unmade roads,"

When the Second World War came, Scouts had an important part to play as runners carrying messages for the borough council and assisting with the influx of evacuees.

Brian Flanders, from Mortimer Hill in Tring, allowed Heritage to see the archives from 1st New Mill Cubs where he was group Scout leader at the time of his retirement from active scouting in 1989.

Brian, now 70, spent 32 years of his life in the Scouts. As with many others, it's a family affair. His son became a Scouter and his grandsons are in Beavers and Cubs. The attraction, he believes is the 'brotherhood' of Scouting - the long-lasting friendships that are made.

This year for the first time since 1957, the World International Jamboree is being held in the UK, in Essex.

Afterwards visitors from abroad will be taken into Scouting homes across the country - some will be spending time in Dacorum.

As a result of former jamboree friendships, thousands of Scouts have taken their families abroad to meet their Scouting friends and often received their children back on exchange visits.

Brian attended that 1957 UK Jamboree in Sutton Coldfield and still has his photographs and souvenir programme.

1st New Mill began in December, 1938. From their painstakingly-kept diary we learn of their weekly activities. How they played football with The Foundling Hospital Pack (The Thomas Coram Foundation in Berkhamsted, now Ashlyns School) and invited them to Christmas Parties.

There were parades for Warships Week, War Weapons Week and Wings for Victory. On May 2, 1943 they record: "New Mill Cubs with the rest of our Scout group helped to swell the parade that assembled outside the Mansion in Tring Park for an outside service.

"This service began the Wings for Victory Week in the Town. Afterwards we marched past and saluted Air Chief commandant K.J. Trefusis-Forbes CBE and Chief Officer Commanding WAAF. The Cubs felt very important and even if they did not all remember the 'eyes-left', they all looked very smart and Akela was very proud of them. With their grey jerseys and red scarves and flag flying in the breeze, they made a colourful picture."

And later they record sad goodbyes as some of their new-found evacuee friends return to London.

A familiar sight around Berkhamsted is Jim Milburn, known to hundreds of Scouts as Bosun and still at 85 riding his bicycle and helping out every weekend doing jobs at Phasels Wood Camp Site near Kings Langley.

He has spent 78 years in Scouting joining as a cub in 1929 and subsequently serving as a leader in many countries.

He joined 1st Gossoms End in 1963 with Fred Phillips, the former Northchurch headmaster. He holds the Silver Acorn and recently heard he had been awarded the Silver Wolf.

Early Scouts were noted for learning knots and building bivvies from leafy branches.

Today Ray Mears, the bushcraft and survival expert who presents a string of TV shows, has revived a wide interest in survival techniques, but all manner of activities are covered in modern Scouting, including learning to fly.

lst Berkhamsted Scouts - one of the oldest in the country - celebrates its own anniversary in 2009. They will be joining in the district and county events before marking their 100-year history - mostly spent in their listed building headquarters - the Old Maltings in Berkhamsted's Chapel Street.

Group Scout leader Tony Bandle says the group is fully subscribed in all sections from Beavers to Explorers, about 70 young people in all, with around 10 leaders. As well as running an active programme they are now deeply into fundraising to get together the 100,000 needed to ensure that the Scouts move smoothly into their exciting next century.

Mr Brittain is currently writing Milestones of Hertfordshire Scouting, to be published in July next year, to coincide with the centenary and there will be a six-week exhibition about the county centenary at the County Scout Museum next year.

Mr Brittain can be contacted on 07850 818600.