For Lee – a Tribute

Posted on Monday, November 26th, 2012

I first met Lee about 42 years ago when as a young assistant leader of the 13th Sea Scouts he came to a Water Safety course at the Coastguard hut at Netley. Fred Heather had dragged me along as I had started helping at the 8th and had experience as a canoist. At this time fibre glass canoes were just coming into vogue and Fred organised a practical session in building these at the 8th HQ. Soon after and by then Scoutleader of the Sea Scouts, Lee decided to build some canoes for the 13th. As it was over the Christmas holiday I offered to help. It was then that the old yellow double and single canoes were built some of you will remember them. About this time Sue and Lee were married and came to live in Arliss Road a short distance from me.

I was leader of the 8th and Lee of the 13th and we had been warned that there had been bad feeling between the two Groups but with us getting together this soon ceased to exist.

The first activity we did together was a canoe trip down the river Arun finishing at Arundel. It was then we discovered that slalom canoes neeeded a special technique when going with the current. Shortly afterwards we did a BCU course at Fairthorne Manor and gained our 3 Star. That was the start of many joint activities and also a friendly rivalry between the two troops as we often competed in the Regatta.
Just after this we played quite a part in setting up the District Canoe club then at the same Coastguard hut. Lee has carried on helping with the running of the Club to this day.

Lee decided to do an autumn camp at the Scout Boating Centre at Marlow and invited the 8th along. The difference between us was very evident then as Lee did things on a grand scale having a marquee and I got by with a 14’ and a dining shelter. The second of these camps we invited the District Ventures along. Fred had told Lee of a campsite on the river Wye and after giving it a try we swapped our boating camp to Biblins on a very cold Easter holiday. This was the start of Wye Valley Camp when, the next year, as District Camp had fallen flat, we invited all the scouts in the District to take part. It has been a splendid activity over the years and Lee has worked very hard to build on it’s success.

Lee became Group Scout leader of the 13th and has developed the Group and it’s resourses. This hasn’t stopped him from having a practical involvement in all the sections and their activities. He also has increased his involvement in the District furthering boating, District Camp, the Fete, ADc activities, the Executive in fact there has been very little that has happened in recent years that hasn’t had Lee and his team behind it. Lee has lived Scouting. He had a real vision of what should happen and has had tremendous drive, enthuisiasm and commitment. I don’t think I am alone in thinking that I have never known a Scouter like him.

Lee was a bit of a traditionalist he liked things to carry on happening. The many changes we have had in Scouting didn’t always please him. I don’t think I am doing him an injustice by saying that he was a difficult man. He was never frightened of making his views known. Many times he and I have fallen out over our differing veiws but our friendship has always continued as has his love of Scouting. I am going to miss him a great deal.

I have already heard people voicing the opinion that he will be a great loss to the District. This is very true but I prefer to think now that Lee has been a great gift to Scouting and to all who have known him. I am so glad that this gift was acknowledged by him receiving the highest honour in Scouting the “Silver Wolf”.

Finally two stories:

When the 13th purchased their dear old Landrover in 1984 I drove it up to Scotland with a party of Ventures. To keep them occupied I suggested they should find a name for the new purchase. It was then cream with a pale green stripe. One Andy Taylor suggested the name “General Cucumber” and we adopted that name throughout our two week adventure. Lee met us on our return and we proudly told him our name. “I’m not having that!”, he said. We thought he was joking but whenever afterwards we mentioned the name he got angry. We never discovered why but that was Lee, he like Hamlet would go to war for a straw if he thought it was wrong.

Some years ago Lee had been sent up to Scotland on an urgent job. It was just before the Wye Valley Camp and Lee didn’t know whether he could get back in time for the camp. He had done all the preparations and he passed them onto me asking me to take over the camp if he couldn’t get there. We got up to Biblins well enough but found that an Army Cadet camp had overflowed onto our campsite. I went to protest to the Warden who apologised but asked me to make the best of things. I wasn’t happy but realised that by the time the cadets had moved their camp we wouldn’t have time to get our own camp ready. We paced out the site and by careful planning managed to get the whole camp into a smaller space. The next morning, with the camp assembled for flag break, I was about to bring them to the alert when Lee walked down the field and stood beside me. I called them to the alert, broke the flag and turned to face Lee. We shook hands and he gave a little grin which said everything. “The team have done their job and I’m happy to be here where I want to be”. I’ll always remember that little grin and the pride I felt because I hadn’t let him down.

To Sue and family we give our love and support and heartfelt thanks for being so supportive to Lee in his dedication to Scouting.

Geoff Johnson