Daily Echo Reports: Help Hampshire Scouts trace First World War history

Posted on Monday, January 27th, 2014

THEY laid down their lives fighting for king and country.ww1_201311061040_1.JPG

Now the major contribution that Baden Powell’s young troopers made to the war effort is being highlighted as Hampshire Scouts mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The project will also focus on how Scouts kept the home fires burning while many of their comrades were sacrificing their lives in the bloody battlefields.

But it could have been a very different story. In the build up to the First World War, the Government’s call to arms was not wholeheartedly welcomed by Scouting’s founder Baden Powell.

There had been a Whitehall plan to militarise all youth organisations. Baden refused to sign up to this plan, but on August 4, 1914 he offered the services of the movement to the Government.

The Scouts’ duties were to be non-military and carried out through Scout Commissioners under the general guidance of the local chief constable. (Image:First World War Scout Lennie Tully)

Home Front tasks were varied and included handing out information to local people, organising relief measures within their community and acting as messengers, guides and orderlies.

Scouts were also involved in establishing first aid stations, refuges and soup kitchens.

They also assisted the coastguard in coast watching duties and there were inspections by Baden Powell.

This vital work continued through the war and eventually involved some 23,000 Scouts, including many from Hampshire.

But many Scout leaders and Scouts, as they became of age, were also drawn into fighting for their country.

Fifteen members of the movement were awarded the Victoria Cross for outstanding acts of courage and bravery, including Jack Cornwell, after whom the Cornwell Scout Badge is named.

Hampshire Scout Heritage which is unique in its archiving of Scouting history, has uncovered some fascinating facts about the role that Scouts played in the war.

Six Southampton Scouts – four from the Second Freemantle Troop, one from the 11th St Mary’s and the other from the 20th St Laurence Troop – were on the hospital ship Britannic which was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat off the coast of Greece.

They were among 16 Scouts, who were acting as orderlies and messengers, who were all saved.

The Southampton Scouts were later each presented with an engraved pocket compass from the White Star Line.

Records also reveal how the county camp at Beaulieu had to be cancelled because of the war.

Hampshire Scouts’ First World War project for 2014 will culminate in a service at Winchester Cathedral on Friday, May 9 with the theme of “reconciliation and duty”.

This will focus on those who did their duty abroad and those who remained behind and carried out sterling service in supporting their local communities.

Scout groups across Hampshire are being asked to dig deep in their archives and come up with the answers to various questions which include specific contributions made by Hampshire Scouts through examples of what they did in towns and villages across the county.

Bosses also want to know how the war impacted upon the groups and districts. With leaders going away to war Scouting was often continued at the local level through the efforts of patrol leaders.

Information about what Scouts did to support the local community and any local heroes who were Scouts is also sought.

The findings will be unveiled at the Winchester Cathedral Service to salute the Scouts’ war efforts.

Scouting chiefs are also asking younger members to design a county badge which can be worn by those completing a series of tasks linked to the theme of reconciliation and duty during the First World War.

For more general information on the role of Scouts during the First World War, log on to the Scout Association archive site at scoutsrcords.org.