The history of 1st West Byfleet Scout Group
Below is part one of the history of 1st West Byfleet Scout Group from when the first Cub Scout section started on the 17th Oct 1924 upto the year 2000. More will follow.
Produced to Celebrate
75 Years of Scouting
in West Byfleet
A Brief History of 1st West Byfleet Scout Group
Records at 25 Buckingham Palace Road, London (Scout Headquarters at the time), show that before 1919, Packs and Troops in Britain were registered separately and then with their Districts only. In 1919 at the very first Census, they were required to register again separately at Imperial Headquarters, a system which continued until 1928 when the ‘Group’ system as we have today was introduced.
Miss A. Leslie, the first Cub Mistress, registered the Pack at Imperial Headquarters in London on 17th October 1924. Its total membership of one officer and ten cub scouts. There is no trace of a Scout Troop being registered until the Pack had to re-register as a Group on 26th November 1928. At that time the membership of the Group was 62.
On December 10th 1924, the first twelve boys were enrolled by Miss Leslie. Miss Leslie on April 22nd 1925, having served six month with the Pack, was then eligible for a warrant. The Packs first outing was to Ranmore Common on Whit Monday 1925, to visit the Scout County Camp and Rally.
In November 1927, at an informal meeting held in West Byfleet Council School,
a Mr. G.R. Trigg took an initiative, and by virtue of his magnetic personality and characteristic zeal, he was able to lay the foundations of the 1st West Byfleet Troop of B.P. Scouts and Rover Crew on a sure and sound basis. (Mr. G.R. Trigg, from boyhood had been thoroughly trained in Scout law when he was a member of the Kent Ross Scout Troop and Rover Crew, and as a Rover with the Rover Patrol during the latter part of the Great War, therefore he was the ideal man to get the Group off to the start that it did.) An open invitation was given to all boys over the age of 11 and to young men to join the Group. With the assistance of Mr. V.C. Allsopp as A.S.M., he set to work to form a strong corporate body with a keen sense of loyalty. Using the school as headquarters, and receiving encouragement from the managers, he very rapidly gathered around him a young troop of astonishingly enthusiastic and earnest youngsters.
The school was used as headquarters from November 1927, until the summer of 1929.
Early in 1928, a committee of Adults, interested in juvenile activities was formed to act as a ‘Finance and Entertainment Committee’, their specific objective being to establish the Troop on a firm financial basis, and to raise funds in order to erect exclusive Headquarters, without which a full development could not be attained. During 1928, when the school was being used as the headquarters, the managers gave the Scout Standard and Union Jack as a measurement of goodwill. With Mr. G.C. Wenn as Secretary and 'Pilot', the committee explored many channels throughout the winter months to obtain their goal. The traditional method of raising funds for a headquarters was replaced with a novel and ingenious method. The approach of donating a wall or roof truss was adopted with many of the local shopkeepers within the town taking up the call. The new headquarters, worthy of any Group stood ready for occupation in 1929. The official opening and dedication, performed respectively by the County Commissioner, Sir Edmond Elles, G.C.I.E., and the Rev. C.A. Hamilton R.D., took place on October 26th 1929, in the presence of Scout Officials from neighbouring Districts and of local public and religious bodies and well-wishers.
Until 1929, 1st West Byfleet fell under Chertsey District. On Sunday September 20th, the Pack attended the farewell rally of the Chertsey District at Addlestone. The Pack then came under the jurisdiction of Woking District, where we have remained until today.
The Pack received its flag in 1928 by their old A.C.M. H Connell.
In these early years, great emphasis was placed on Proficiency Badges (as now!) with a Mr. Whitbread running a course on First Aid Instruction in 1928 and Mr. Nichols running a course on Signalling in 1929.
At the formation of the Group, the Scout Troop had 2 Scouters and 26 Scouts. There were also 14 Rover Scouts. West Byfleet was the largest Group in the District.
In June 1930, the 2nd Byfleet Guides were welcomed at the headquarters for their weekly parades, similar facilities having being granted to the Cub Pack in 1929. Thus, within a very short time of its erection, the headquarters was being utilised to its full and complete advantage.
By 1932, the last of the debt on the headquarters had been cleared, as a result of the magnificent work carried out by the Committee in organising function after function. In recognition of their services, the then District Commissioner Mr. H.F. Pooley, awarded Mr. Wenn, who had shouldered most of the burden, and Major Welby, who had been the guiding star throughout, became, at the invitation of the Troop, the proud recipients of the official Baden Powell high award of "Thanks" badges.
In the early thirties the Group achieved a number of notable successes in the district. In 1932 the Cub Pack became the holders and in 1934 the joint holders of the Woking District Challenge Flag, whilst in 1937 they won the Sports Shield. The Scouts initial success was in 1931 when in the District swimming competition they became the holders of the shield for the Scouts under 18 years events. In the following year they tied with the 1st Brookwood and the 1st Horsell Troops. Then in 1934 they repeated their former success by again becoming the holders.
In the years proceeding the Second World War an outstanding feature of the Groups activities was its band. The band attended the Armistice Day Services at Byfleet from 1935 as well as the Districts St. George’s Day parades and the Woking Civic Service in 1936. In 1939 the inventory of the groups equipment shows that the band possessed some six side drums, one big drum, ten flutes, nine bugles, two pairs of cymbals and a triangle. After the Second World War the band was not reformed and the remaining instruments sold.
The Gipsy Orchestra is less fully documented within the vast files of West Byfleet history. It was formed in September 1936 with a membership of eight, 2 pianos, 4 piano accordions, a guitar and a clarinet. The orchestra must have developed steadily for a number of years, as it is later recorded that the orchestra comprised 29 members using 42 instruments, which in addition to those with which the orchestra was formed included mandolins, saxophones, tuberphone, xylophone, timpani and various other small percussion instruments. At this time the instruments, excluding the pianos, were valued at £327 and were the property of the players, rover scouts, scouts and cubs, or of the leader.
By May 1936 there were 49 scouts, 20 cubs and an undisclosed number of Rover Scouts in the Group.
In August 1936, with the threat of war becoming real, the Group Council agreed to the request from the Authorities that in the event of an Air Raid the groups headquarters could be used as a first aid post and casualty clearing station.
Traditionally, Whitsun seems to have been the time for County and District Camps for Rovers and Scouts, which in 1937 and 1938 were held at Ranmore near Dorking. In 1938 the Scouts spent Whitsun at a District camp at Ottershaw Park while the Rovers went to Gatton Park.
There is no record of Cubs going to camp before the war, but they did have an outing once a year, which in both 1937 and 1938 was to Chessington Zoo. In 1939 the President of the Group, who was a member of the Royal Zoological Society, arranged for the cubs to visit London Zoo, but this had to be abandoned due to the outbreak of the war.
The Rover Scouts in 1938 went to Esbjerg, Southern Denmark for their Summer Camp. The campsite in Norré Nobel was the playing field of the local school. Doug Howells the Group Scout Master at the time was himself a teacher and it was through his school connections that the camp to Denmark was arranged. The host for this camp was Franz Clausen.
The summer camp in 1938 was so successful that it was repeated the following year. This time eight Scouts accompanied the Rovers. But due to booking problems they followed four days later. During this camp the host Mr. Clausen came to the Rovers and informed them that there was going to be a war. In return the Rovers asked if they could stay on in Denmark. On the way back to England they were escorted by two destroyers leading two submerged submarines. Upon arriving home at West Byfleet station, they were greeted by some very agitated parents.
In September 1939 the Rovers were extending the hut by 10ft or so. During work on the wooden structure, the first Air Raid siren of the war sounded. Not knowing what to expect they just went on with their work. The Rovers building the extension were: Norman Boorer, Nobby Dood, Norman Chuter, Doug Berry, Cyril Godfrey, Geoffrey Neal, Ken Taylor and Richard Harding.
In 1940, the Rover Scout Crew became practically non-existent due to its members being called up for military service, or engaged in work of national importance. However, the Cubs and Scouts retained their keenness and it was decided that the group should carry on.
In the middle of 1940 it was reported that about 24 Scouts were attending meetings regularly but meeting of the Cub Pack had been temporarily suspended.
From the outbreak of war the Group had begun collecting waste paper and the headquarters were taken over during the day time as an emergency school for which the Group Council received 12s/6d. per week in respect of fuel and light from the Education Authority. The Group Scout Master was in charge of a Hostel at Horsell for 30 boys evacuated from areas at particular risk from enemy action, and two Scouts were assisting at the hotel each week. Other early war-time involvement included the Scouts helping to dig trenches at St. Martin’s Hospital for the safety of crippled children and had participated in a field exercise with the local Home Guard.
During 1942 it was possible to resume a more normal program and a camp at Crockford Park had to be moved at the request of the police as it was too near a military establishment.
The Cubs were involved during 1944 in raising funds for the Relief Fund for Scouts and Guides in occupied countries.
By the end of the Second World War, planning was in hand for the future of the Group.
Norman Boorer, during the war was an engineering draughtsman and worked closely with Barnes Wallis on such projects as the Wellington Bomber and more notably the Bouncing Bomb of the Dam Buster Squadron. Norman Boorer gained an O.B.E. in 1982 for service to aviation. He was one of the original 1924 Cubs under Miss A Leslie.
This account of the Group in wartime would not be complete without a tribute being paid to the twenty-two members of the Group who had served in H.M. Armed Forces and especially to the 8 members of the Group who were killed in action.
Norman Boorer and Harry Wright were responsible after the war for reforming the Group until it became the flourishing success it is today.
Records of the groups activities immediately after the war are rather few but in 1951 it was proposed to form a Cub Scout Pack in Pyrford. The District suggested that this new Pack should be administered by the 1st West Byfleet Pack and the idea was given a six month trial period. A third Pack meeting was also started at the Rowley Bristow Hospital, but by 1954 the two Pyrford Cub Scout Packs had merged and were both meeting in one of the wards at the hospital. In the same year it was necessary to start a 'waiting list' for the Cub Pack, (which is still in existence today), and the Pack took the first three places in the District Handicraft Exhibition. The Cub Pack raised £336.6s.10d. during bob-a-job week in 1954 and gained first place in the District with this sum! In 1954, the Troops Summer Camp was held at Freshwater in the Isle of Wight and the camp fee, including transport, cost £2.0s.0d. per head!
In 1955 there was a serious fire at the Groups headquarters and for a time the Pack met in the British Legion Hall. The total cost of re-building was put at £458. Throughout the early fifties, the District camp site at Sheets Heath was used for Whitsun and patrol camps and in 1955 a joint camp was held in conjunction with a Chertsey Troop. The Scouts also in this year hiked to Hampton Court.
By 1957 the Group Council were considering the purchase of new tents, the possibility of having town gas connected to the headquarters and the renovation of the Trek Cart! Such was the importance of the Groups Trek Cart that it was necessary in 1959 to have it repaired and overhauled.
The pattern of camps in the sixties began to be set in the late fifties when in 1957 the Troop visited Jersey which cost the Group Council Funds £1.0s.0d. The following year the Troop camped in Cork and visited the Ford and Dunlop Factories. In 1959 the Troop camped at Doorn in Holland when 38 Scouts made the trip for a two week camp.
The Group obtained its first Queen Scout Award in 1960 and in this year the troop visited Guernsey for its Summer camp only to return home to find that over £90 worth of equipment had been lost by British Railways on the return journey. The equipment eventually turned up in January 1961, but was in a terrible condition some of it having gone rotten.
The Group did however return to Guernsey in 1961, 1964, 1967, 1968 and 1974. Other camps in the sixties were held in Devon, Isle of Wight and the New Forest.
Five more Queen Scout Awards were obtained by the Group in 1963, of which one was obtained by Bob Moore, we also achieved another one in the following year.
Jumble Sale receipts in 1961/2 were £64 rising to over £578 by 1971/2.
A stray spark from the railway led to a new roof in the old building and a rebuild of the Scouters den during this decade.
Unlike most newsletters and group magazines who take shape under the guidance of leaders meetings in some dusty corner of the groups HQ, 1st West Byfleet's newsletter entitled WESBY, was conceived under a tree next to a stream in the New Forest in the autumn of 1971. The idea for the newsletter was born from a conversation between the then Group Scout leader, Bob Moore and DR Thompson (DRT) the Public Relations Officer. DRT inquired as to the reason why we, West Byfleet, did not have a newsletter, and so the poor chap listening in became lumbered with the job of editor. Approximately one month later during a brainstorming session the name of Wesby was conceived by Marjorie Moore. Wesby coming from WESt BYfleet. That poor first editor was our one and only Rikki Wilson. The first edition of Wesby rolled of the press in October 1971.
April 1974, the Numbers in the Venture Unit grew by two. Two Ranger Guides joined West Byfleet thus starting a mixed Unit.
For the 50th anniversary a 16mm cine-film made in colour and with sound was made. It started with a brief history of the founding of 1st West Byfleet in 1924, including Miss Leslie reminiscing with her photograph album of "Cub Holidays". It went on to show shots of the Scouts enjoying themselves on the Summer Camp to Guersney in 1974.
Other events laid on for the boys for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary included a barbecue. This was held in Oyster Lane, Byfleet, and included candle lights set along the entrance of which the Cubs managed to blow out within five minutes of their arrival. There was also a bonfire at the same function and within half an hour of the fire being lit, two fire engines turned up. As it was a false alarm the firemen were invited in for a hot dog. During the course of the evening there was the obligatory campfire songs.
For the older members of the Group, a dinner dance was held at the Ship Hotel, Weybridge on Saturday 26th 1974. Many past and present members including Mrs. Hoskyns Abrahall, better known to the Group as Miss A. Leslie attended this.
On Saturday the 12th October 1974 the Cubs had an outing to Salisbury. They visited Stonehenge and Old Sarum on route, then ending up in Salisbury before returning home. The cost of this outing, a mere 40p.
The Membership of 1st West Byfleet at 31st March 1975 stood at 33 Cub Scouts, 40 Scouts, 9 Venture Scouts and 9 Scouters. A total Membership of 91.
On the 8th August 1975 vandals set fire to the Venture Scout’s shed at the rear of the building and this soon engulfed the main building quickly gutting over half of it. The Group was lucky that most of the equipment was away at camp in Charmouth at the time.
The Fire Brigade being efficient turned up quickly to prevent the building from being totally destroyed. Afterwards it was determined that there was dry and wet rot within the building and would have probably needed major renovation soon anyway.
A rebuilding committee was set up to organise the demolition of the remainder of the old building, (which was demolished in a puff of smoke on 16th May 1976), clearance of the site, (carried out by Ventures, Older Scouts and many parents), and the co-ordination of the building of the new headquarters. By April/May 1976, plans of the new building had been met with approval and the new headquarters was finally opened on the 21st May 1977 by David Cracknell O.B.E., the then District Commissioner. The cost of the new headquarters was just over £8,500. Several years after the new building had been occupied, the Groups Stores was built by the Venture Scouts and some Parents.
In 1977 in the interests of road safety, Surrey County Council removed access to the site directly from Camphill Road. Leisure Lane was constructed through the then allotments for our use and the Red Cross next door.
In 1985 Peter Wheeler became the first Gold Beaver in West Byfleet. Beaver Scouts had arrived. Boys aged between 6 and 8 were now brought into to the world of Scouting.
Also in 1985 the wasteland adjacent to the headquarters was developed into Stoop Court with a dozen or so self-contained retirement homes.
In December 1987 the Scouts performed 'Jack and the Beanstalk' for the West Byfleet Evergreen Club. The sets and stage was put together by the Scouts and then the Scouts themselves performed the pantomime. The Cubs had their own part to play as they worked hard in their Pack meetings to make gifts for the Evergreens during the intermission. During the intermission the Cubs also served refreshments.
Since the first of the revitalised pantomimes in 1987, the annual panto has been performed in 1988, 89, 90 and then every two years. Since 1994, the panto has been performed in conjunction with 1st Byfleet Scouts and has been performed for the local residents of Stoop Court as well as the Evergreens.
Other regular events that the Troop has helped the Evergreens with include Parish Day, fetes, indoor events, house clearances and gardening.
In December of 1989, we learnt of the sad death of David Parslow our Group Scout Leader. David had joined the Group in September 1982 following a distinguished Scouting career as a Leader since 1954. He moved to Woking District in 1965 from Ealing subsequently holding appointments with 1st Byfleet and Assistant District Commissioner. In April 1987 he was awarded the Silver Acorn from the Chief Scout. His funeral was in Woking Crematorium where several of the Leaders saluted him on his way.
1st West Byfleet has always been extremely lucky to own their own mode of transport. Many will remember the minibuses we have owned in the seventies through the eighties and into to the nineties, from The Purple Peril, The White Walley to the present Combi. The latter having a trailer. We have also in the past been owners of a blue Ford Transit.
One Saturday evening in 1990, the Venture Scouts complete with stocking over their faces kidnapped the Scout Leader, Richard Wilson. Richard was led to believe he was assisting the Ventures in some adventurous activity. He was bound and blindfolded and bundled into the minibus. Driven round in circles for approximately ten minutes, Richard was led to the Scout headquarters. Carefully removing his blindfold Richard appeared at his 40th birthday surprise party. For once, Richard was speechless.
During the summer of 1990, the Scouts of Surrey met up at Ardingly, at the South of England Show ground. This was Scoutabout. 2000 plus boys and a good helping of Leaders and Adults enjoyed a wide and varying range of activities from water rockets to creating the a largest tower from milk bottle crates. From learning to drive a car to abseiling. Scoutabout is a popular event in Scouting, so much so that it is repeated every three years.
In line with Scoutabout, the weekend after the end of the holiday season in 1990, the Venture Scouts along with 1,000 other Ventures from Woking and two other Districts congregated at a Warner’s Caravan Park in Weymouth. The event was called Joe 90. Along with all the regular Caravan Park activities were many others including clay pigeon shooting and paragliding. During the evening whilst the alcohol flowed freely, the Yellow Coats performed their cabaret. So good was the turn out of Ventures and Leaders and the excellent organisation, this event was repeated two years later.
Other Venture activities in the early 1990's included SkiVenture, where the Venture Scouts meet up for a weeks skiing. The venues included, Myerhoffen, Kirchdorf both in Austria and La Plagne, France.
Philip Watts in 1992 was extremely lucky to be asked to represent the Group at the World Jamboree in South Korea, albeit as a member of the Kent contingent.
January 1993 was a very momentous occasion for the Group Scout Leader, Richard Wilson. The Scouts led by Matthew Folliot provided the Guard of Honour at his wedding to Camilla.
At the AGM in 1993, the Beaver Flag was blessed and for the first time the flag was carried at Remembrance Service by Mark Lord.
The St George’s Day Awards in 1995 saw Richard Wilson receive from the Chief Scout his Silver Acorn for 'specially distinguished services'.
Summer camp 1995 was once again in Guernsey. This time members from 1st Byfleet who were unable to hold a summer camp of their own joined the Troop. This has now become a regular activity between the two Troops.
We celebrated Royston Sewell's retirement in December of 1996 with a party after the Troop meeting. Over 100 guests and members of the current Troop gave Royston an evening to remember. Steve Hall the County Commissioner attended and presented him with a well-deserved Medal of Merit.
Beaver Scouts celebrated their 10th birthday in 1996. Each Colony having a birthday cake and West Byfleet had a party to celebrate as well.
For the first time since the new headquarters were built, 1999 saw some major enhancements to the building. Through fund raising and through sponsorship, we were able to replace all of the external doors to the building with modern uPVC doors. This was the third set of fire doors to the hall since 1975.
Throughout the Nineties other such pantomimes were performed, ranging from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Aladdin, from A Christmas Carol to Cinderella.
With the end of the century upon us, we celebrate our 75th Birthday. The dinner celebration in the Chequered Flag suite at Brooklands was attended by 112 guests both past and present. Every decade that West Byfleet is celebrating was represented. This evening is only the first of the events in store for the Group. We also plan to take the boys back to Chessington, this time to the World of Adventure not the Zoo like back in the late 30's.
One of the Cubs, Ben Haith, designed the logo, which can be found at the beginning of this short history of the Group. As well as being used on all the official paperwork, this logo is to feature on an anniversary mug.
The last Census of this decade and century is 8 warranted leaders, 25 Beaver Scouts, 25 Cub Scouts and 22 Scouts and a healthy waiting list. Sadly the end of the Nineties will be seen with a temporary gap in Venture Scouts of which hopefully will be resolved early next year.
The Next Century
As the dawn of a new millennium approaches we all look forward to the new adventures and new memories that we shall be making. The Beaver and Cub sections are under new management and we all hope that the good work and high standards laid down by the previous leaders is maintained by the current teams.
The Scouts will still hold their annual Summer Camps and pantomimes whilst the Cubs will still attend Challenge camps and other annual weekend activities. Beavers will continue to have fun down at the Headquarters every week.
The year began well for one former member of the Group. Paul Truscott who was our Assistant Cub Scout Leader from 1982 to 1983 became the new District Commissioner for Woking.
The Cubs also had partial success when they handsomely won their league in the indoor five-a-side football tournament at Woking Leisure Centre. Sadly they departed the competition at the quarter finals.
May 26th to 28th, the Group took park in the national Millennium Camp. 11 Cubs, and 8 Scouts spent Friday night and Saturday night under canvas. 8 Beavers turned up on the Saturday and spent a thoroughly exhausting day with the rest of the Group. Torrential rain on the Friday evening and several down pours on the Saturday did not put any of the boys off the fun that they had. At 8.00pm on the Saturday a bonfire was lit. This was just one bonfire that was lit at exactly the same time all over England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Europe. Several of the Leaders provided bases for all who attended the weekend, these were water rockets and kite making (well over 150 kites being made on the Saturday). Other bases available at the weekend included, bouncy castles, archery, assault course, abseiling and many craft activities.
In November, three Cubs, Daniel Cohen, Darren Howell and Giles Herring, entered the annual Handicraft Competition. Some of the activities included origami, painting plaster casts and colouring in. With great pride, these three boys actually won the competition outright.
Authors include, Neville Ledsome, Richard Wilson and Mike Stevens.
Information obtained from Personal accounts, original 1936 program of 'Robin Hood', and the many Wesby's and Group Newsletters produced since 1971.
This is only a brief history of the group and as you can see I am extremely low on events and activities from the Fifties and Sixties.
If you feel that I have left out any activity/event when you were a member of the Group that you believe should go into this document as a permanent record please feel free to either write or call myself, (Terry Newman or Lyn Blackman .