The anniversary of the ending of WW1 and how Hertfordshire Scouting took the lead in organising the Home Front for Scouting nationally during the two World Wars.
Early in 1913, Sir Robert Baden-Powell (B-P) the Chief Scout, who was an experienced military planner, could foresee the impending war. He did everything he could by communicating through The Scout, the weekly boys magazine, to help the youth of the country understand why there might be conflict and how they could prepare so that should an invasion occur, they would be ready to do whatever was required of them.
Hertfordshire Scouting was at the forefront, and the St Albans Scout District were first to organise themselves into a Home Front system in England. (This was possible as both Percy Everett and Charles Dymoke Green the St Albans District Commissioner worked at Scout HQ, and were in daily contact with B-P). Scouts, who had not yet been called up, provided a service to the civil authorities on a 24hr shift basis. Many Hertfordshire Sea Scouts went to the coast to replace coastguards, and nationally over 8000 Sea Scouts carried out this duty throughout the war. (A fact recognised by a long running display at the Imperial War Museum and a whole chapter in The Times History of the First World War).
George Foxlee (photo) from the Fourth St Albans Troop is seen here blowing his bugle to sound the “all clear” at the end of an air raid. This image was shown inside the Scout diary of 1916, on the front page of The Times and many other national newspapers of the time.
Percy Everett (County Commissioner of Hertfordshire, Chief Scout’s Commissioner and right hand man to B-P) writing a 1918 document about the activities of Hertfordshire Scouting, stressed the lead this County had taken in establishing the Home Front Scout organisation. He stated that of his 1300 Scouts, 1000 had worked on the Home Front. The 996 war service badges gained included 107 of 100 days’ service, 17 coast watching badges of 84 days, 2 of one year and 1 of a two-year status.
Up to the time of his paper he reported that 35 Silver Crosses for gallantry were awarded in the British Empire and of these, 3 had been awarded to Hertfordshire Scouts.
In WW1, badges for National Service carried the year date and were of a different quality for each grade. There were even 28, 50 and 100-day badges for 8-11 year old Wolf Cubs. For the Scouts, badges were of a circular design for 100, 300, 600 and 1200 days with 4 rings to denote the 4 years of war. As there were only 1567 days of conflict, presentation of the 1200-day award was very rare.
When called up in WW1 soldiers were put into Regiments relative to their county and many young men from the same village died together.
We know that nationally 7000 Scouts were killed in WW1 and that Hertfordshire lost at least 47 Scouts with 29 from St Albans and South West Herts Districts alone.
B-P was always active. At the age of 58 with his wife Olave (25) at his side he regularly visited Northern France and with the help of the YMCA organised the setting up about 40 huts in Flanders, Picardy and Artois to be used for treatment of the injured and to provide a “Rest and Recuperation” sanctuary behind the front line. These huts and some ambulances were funded by the collection of newspapers, scrap metal; jam jars and bottles by Scouts and Guides. Male and female Scouts too old to fight staffed many of these huts and all wore Scout or Guide uniform when on duty.
Twenty-one years later in WW2, recognising the value of Scouts as an asset, the Government relied more on the Movement and 470,000 Scouts are known to have worked on the Home Front. Over 60,000 National Service (NS) badges were issued nationally.
Lessons were learnt from WW1 and when called up, men were distributed more widely throughout regiments. Even so, Hertfordshire lost at least 51 Scouts.
It is significant that during both wars, of all the Victoria Crosses awarded, 35 were to Scouts. None were to Hertfordshire Scouts but Colonel Arthur Martin-Leake who lived in Ware, was the first man to receive the VC twice. The most famous Scout VC was Jack Cornwell who received it posthumously at the age of 16 for his bravery at the Battle of Jutland. He was also awarded the Scout Bronze Cross for gallantry, the only Scout ever to receive both these awards.
My God, keep us ever mindful of those who have laid down their lives and all who have patiently borne the wounds and sufferings of war and conflict. Help us to be like them in bravery, devotion and endurance in the battle against sin and wrong. Raise us to a life of fairness and teach all nations that war and bloodshed should be abolished from the World, as we know it. Amen.
Hertfordshire Scouts have maintained a Museum of Scouting artefacts at their County HQ since 1957 for the enjoyment and education of young people. We are always pleased to receive Scouting memorabilia, including books, trophies, photos, press cuttings etc., of any age.
If you have items to lend or donate, please contact the Archivist.