The Early Days
The early history is largely taken from the programme for the 1957 Hastings Scout and Guide Week and was probably written by Mr K.H.Peckham. Later, as other records are examined, we may add to it. At the time of writing we have found no similar records for what was then the Rye District which was joined with Hastings in 1973.
Baden-Powell's paper covered book, 'Scouting for Boys', began it and in 1908 Percy Bateman sold both the book and the idea to the boys of Hastings. The origin of Scouting in the town, however, goes back to 1907 when John Leach drilled messenger boys of the G.P.O., who later formed the first "Curlew" patrol of the YMCA troop. Another patrol was formed in St Leonards and Geof Salmon, later an ADC in 1957, started a third, "Fox" patrol, exchanging the carbine of the school cadets for the broomstick of free enterprise. The YMCA patrol grew into the 1st Hastings with Mr Breeds as Scoutmaster (he later organised the building of the current 1st HQ in Oxford Road) and in 1909 there stemmed from it six more troops.
The 2nd (Bohemia) was formed by R.J.Smith and F.T. Hussey (later Alderman and in 1957 Mayor of Hastings) belonged to it.
"I remember", he said, "with much pleasure being a member of the troop for a few years towards the end of my school days: we met in Cornelius Yard at the back of Bohemia police station. I have a distinct recollection of becoming Leader of the "Tiger" patrol, and the enjoyment I and my friends derived from our regular weekly meetings and the various camps we held during the year. In commending the Scout Movement to Parents I can more fully appreciate now how much I owe to the training I received then as a scout"
R.J.Smith was ordained and went to Canada in 1913, returning to serve throughout the 1st War, after which he reformed the 3rd Troop before returning to the Dominion and later the mission field in New Amsterdam, British Guiana, where he died in 1935.
To this Troop belongs the honour of having the first Kings Scout, Leader S. Kemp becoming one in 1910.
"I was awarded this badge," Mr Kemp said, "by the Mayor of Hastings (Alderman Mitchell) in the Drill Hall in Middle Street, and I was therefore able to attend the Windsor Rally as a Kings Scout, a great honour as the comparatively few of us paraded separately for inspection by H.M. King George V and the Chief Scout (B.P.), both of whom shook hands with each one of us. During the 1st War I was a scout with the 5th Royal Sussex where I found my early training invaluable."
Other sprouts from the YMCA sapling were the 3rd Troop, started by Mr Cobby and C. Eiffe; the 4th with Fred Pelling and Miss Joyce Baily: the 5th and 6th with F. Hart and F. Platt as Scoutmasters, and the Hollington troop started by H.M. Jeffrey who later became Secretary, D.S.M and then D.C. until 1938. He died in 1954.
An old Scout of the 6th (Calvert Memorial) Troop, Mr J.A.Ward, introduced his brother Leslie to Scouting. These were the Ward Bros, the Men's Outfitters of Queen's Road, and they continued to be active supporters and the main suppliers of uniforms, badges and handbooks up to the time that our Scout shop opened at Scoutcroft in 1966.
It was the 6th who were responsible for the unusual 'good turn' of providing a guard of honour for two Portuguese sailors drowned in the wreck of the 'Oceana' and brought to Hastings for burial. They also tended their graves for many years. Later the Portuguese Government invited Scouts from the town to visit Lisbon as their guests and two patrols went . Percy Bateman was in charge with ASMs White, Gallop and Barr. The Lady S.M of the troop, Mrs Polley, a cousin of BP, also attended. They received a great ovation and a plaque was unveiled in the Cathedral of Lisbon to commemorate their practical interpretation of 'brotherhood'. 27 photographs of this expedition, taken by Percy Bateman, appeared in a double spread of the 'Hastings and St Leonard's Pictorial Advertiser & Visitors List' of June 12th 1913. Among the pictures are those of them hauling a trek cart loaded with kitbags, followed by their band, carrying their kitbags up the gangway, ox carts in Lisbon, a very early motor omnibus, boxing aboard ship, and of course the uniform of the day - long dark (probably blue) serge shorts and shirt, scarves and lanyards, long socks, long patrol ribbons, haversacks and big hats.
Troop Leader Colin Macdougall who was on that expedition later recalled:
"I think I was remembered as the scout who wore the kilt and played the bagpipes at most of the early joint parades. When the 1st War broke out and the B.E.F. were landed in France we were called upon to patrol the overhead cables from Chislehurst to Birling Gap, and later coast watching patrols were formed"
In 1912 the 5th Troop, with Scoutmaster the Rev. Bobb, hiked from Dieppe up the Seine Valley to Rouen where they presented greetings to the Mayor from the Mayor of Hastings, Alderman Hutchings.
"One of my intimate friends at school," the Rev. Bubb says, "was Archie Belaney who later became famous as 'Grey Owl', and together we used to practice Indian woodcraft. It is not therefore surprising that when I first read Scouting for Boys the idea filled me with enthusiasm, and I founded the 8th (later the 5th) Hastings Troop. Just before the First World War hastings was visited by some Belgian Scouts and anxious to show that we knew our 4th Scout Law be hospitably entertained them: subsequently I was told by the chief Scout (BP) that their Scoutmaster had been sentenced to death as a German spy"
Many of the 5th boys were from the Hastings Grammar School (as was the Rev. Bubb) and in 1933 the 24th (Grammar School) Troop, now the William Parker Group, was founded. Before the War Pett Level was a favourite weekend camping place and there were pleasant memories of Cecil cottage and Mrs Cox.
In 1909 the Hastings Local Scout Association was formed, the first Chairman being Alderman Thorpe, who was later succeeded by Mr Ebenezer Elliot, and in 1910 Baden Powell inspected scouts in Alexandra Park, afterwards talking to the scoutmasters in the YMCA. He again visited the town two years later when he attended a display and sale of work.
Have you ever wondered about the early history of your own Scout Group? When it started, did it continue to function, what Sections did it have, when did they close or when were they able to restart again?
Well you can now easily discover these facts by looking at the spreadsheet created below and follow the recorded information researched from the District's early Census Forms, District Executive Minutes and other supporting documents.
This District has the Minutes of it's early meetings dating back to 1914 through to 1955, after which for some unfortunate, obscure and annoying reason, they are lost until around 1980. These Minutes are all hand written and unlike minutes we tend to record today, read like a good book! You really feel you are sitting round the table listening, taking part and knowing the individual personalities! It must be said that this surely forms a fine memorial to those diligent past District Secretaries that so accurately and clearly recorded Scouting activities.
The Census Forms, owned by this District, date back to 1921, when we guess the practice of the annual Census recordings probably began.
These Minutes and Census forms are all meticulously recorded and give a very accurate and fascinating picture of Scouting in Hastings during this period. They encompasses both World Wars and the Depression years of the nineteen twenties and thirties. They show how Scouting reacted and faired during these traumatic times.
To place the analysis in context it should be explained that three Boy Scout Patrols were first formed in Hastings in 1908. The first being the 'Curlew' Patrol the second Patrol name is unknown and the third was the 'Fox' Patrol. The 1st Hastings Troop was later formed out of the 'Curlew' Patrol. The meeting place of this early 1st Hastings Troop is at this time unknown.
From this first Boy Scout Troop a further six Troops were established in 1909. Followed later by Wolf Cubs in 1916 and then still later by Senior Scouts in 1917. The name of this Senior Scout Section was in the next year, 1918, changed to Rover Scouts. The name Senior Scouts later appeared as a separate Section between Boy Scout Troops and Rover Crews in about 1946.
Before 1928, it should be explained that no Group structure existed and that each Section of the Wolf Cub Pack, Boy Scout Troop and Rover Crew existed separately. Each Section, frequently, was known primarily by the name of their individual meeting places. For instance 'Hollington', 'Old Hastings', 'Central', 'Kim's Own', 'YMCA', etc. However many of the earlier Sections proudly used the early numbers allocated to them as well as their names. When meeting places and therefore names changed it has occasionally been difficult to trace the continuing line of a particular Section. Only by the well kept early District Minutes and the early Census forms can we research and keep track of Scouting's history in this formative period.
After 1928 the history becomes easier, as each Group, now formed of closely associated Sections, was recorded by its allocated number and also, where applicable by its traditional meeting place. Each Group then also became lead by a Group Scout Master.
Including and after the earliest Census held by this District of 1921, we see the 'Imperial Headquarters' Registration Number appearing against each recorded Section in these Census Forms. However, as earlier indicated, because no Group Structure existed, Boy Scout Troops meeting in the same place as the Wolf Cub Pack and perhaps the Rover Crew, would not have the same 'Imperial Headquarters Registration Number as the Wolf Cub Pack and the Rover Crew. Also when a Section closed for a short or longer period, it would not necessarily be re-allocated the registration number that it was originally known by.
All these factors caused considerable confusion for the District Secretaries.
One final factor of interest is the period covering the Second World War when Scouting, in most cases, temporarily ceased in this area, with only a few Groups able to carry on and with many being evacuated. (One noteworthy Troop from The Grammar School, now 24th Hastings, William Parker School, actually ran two Troops, one in Hastings still at the school and one evacuated to St Albans.) Leaders were called to serve their Country in the Armed Forces or directed to essential services, sometimes in different parts of the country. We think we have Leader problems now!
The census for 1939, the year the war started, was not recorded, neither was the year 1940. The census for 1941 was hastily recorded on a scrap of paper but in 1943 the District Secretary was once again given the official Census Form for that year and recording recommenced.
It is hoped that this information and the historic analysis spreadsheet will be of great interest to many Groups and their Leaders who may wish to trace their Group's past. Perhaps it may also be of interest to many past Scouts who enjoyed these early years of Scouting. It is also hoped hat at some future date the location of the lost District Minutes and the Census Forms for the period 1956 - 1980 may be identified. If and when this hopefully occurs, we may be able to research this period to extend the analysis spreadsheet.
Until then it is planned to continue the analysis from 1980 to the present day. Watch this space!
All information researched is as factual and accurate as the records allow. Some information is difficult establish where documents are not precise or fully explained. In these instances, the best assumption has always been used. Where some blanks appear in the spreadsheet it is because proof of the existence of a Section at that time cannot be established. In most instances this is the case. These may later be corrected if further information is forthcoming.
It would be most appreciated if there are any known inaccuracies or errors that we could be informed when we will seek to correct them. Also if anyone has any constructive and interesting additions that we can add to this information we will naturally additionally appreciate it.