Preparatory meetings started in 1936, a Cub Pack was formed in 1937 and the first Troop began in 1938. So we really started with Cubs. Thus it was that we celebrated our Golden Jubilee in 1987 and our Diamond Jubilee in 1997.
There have been several attempts to produce a history of the Group and indeed some early compilers are still with us and willing to speak of and write up their memories. Don Peed, now our President, has been a key player. His history of the first 40 years forms the foundation of this book. Subsequently both David Thomas and Len Topple have made valiant attempts to bring it up to date. David’s help with the 1960s and ’70s is especially appreciated.
Don’s screed finishes at the point in the Group’s history when Penny Creer, Rodney Newman and I joined. At the time of writing, Penny and I have stepped down but Rodney remains a highly energetic Chairman of the Executive and a committed Scout. We three, with encouragement from many others, became determined that an updated history be published during 2012, our 75th year.
As the documentation took shape, more names emerged and it was realized that hundreds of scouts have passed through the Group, all with their own memories. We were also aware that publishing a book would be expensive and possibly faulted immediately on publication. Rather better maybe to have a living history on the Internet. This can grow both with corrections and embellishments as we move towards our centenary in 2037.
1. A Cub Pack is Started – John Parker
I was sent along to the first meeting of the pack in 1937 when I was just turned eight. As far as I can remember other founder members included Patrick Richbell, whose mother was for many years Badge Secretary, Eric Cordell, who became an H.M.I., Colin Richards, last heard of as Minister of Rock Ferry United Reformed Church, and James (Jimmy or “Bunge”) Allen, who was quickly appointed Senior Sixer. We met in the old hall of the church, which is now the nave, and also used the library grounds in fair weather. We played Kim’s Game and performed Jungle Dances, Kaa’s Dance being the only one I can remember. During wild ball games in the Hall, the ball would land high up in the lighting ledge and we would need a long ladder to get it down. We learned how to tie knots, to skip and which way round the 18th Purley scarf was worn – “White side, heart side”. Gwil Evans was Akela and Brian Hayward was Bagheera.
From time to time we had District events, some of which were held on Addington Hills. We assembled at the church and then walked over Hook Hill and The Ridgeway, skirted the edge of Croham Hurst, and took the road above Ballards Farm on to Addington Hills. At the end of the Sports Day or whatever it might be, we walked all the way home again.
When the new Church Hall was built in 1939, we moved in there for meetings. The Troop was founded around this time with Eric Lovett as Scoutmaster and a small wooden hut with two or three rooms was built at the end of the path along the south side of the hall. We kept all our equipment in it, including a very smart trek-cart. At the beginning of the war both Gwil Evans and Brian Hayward were called up and Don Peed stepped in as Akela. Around 1940, the Church Hall was requisitioned by the Army and we were without a home.
In 1940 I left the Pack and joined the Troop. We met in St. Mary’s Scout Hut, behind St. Mary’s Church. We were on terms of more or less friendly rivalry with St. Mary’s, whose Yell we envied – “Esses Toc Emma Ack R Y Esses, Saint Mary’s!” – and with whom we went camping. My first camp was at Broadstone Warren at Easter 1940, with the Lion Patrol under Ken Dimes, and it was there I discovered that boys of little more than my own age could cook eggs and bacon and other meals over a camp fire. I had always assumed cooking was mothers’ work, but now I launched enthusiastically into camp cooking, and became reasonably proficient at it. One problem with war-time camping was that of camouflage: any white tent had to be covered with a net and with bracken or heather against air attack. Also any camp fires had to be extinguished by night-fall, to comply with blackout regulations.
We met in St. Mary’s hut for some years. The test for Scout’s Pace for the Second Class badge was to travel up to the library and back, one mile, in ten minutes, with an error of half a minute each way. I used to sing one verse of “Horsey, horsey, don’t you stop” while I ran, and then another verse while I walked: alternate verses of running and walking gave the required average of 6 mph. We played wide games, usually Flag Raids, in Purley Beeches when it was fine and British Bulldogs in the hut when it wasn’t.
We still kept a base at the Congregational Church in the small hut at the rear of the Hall. In it we stored waste paper, mostly newspaper, which we collected around the district in the trek-cart, a beautiful vehicle with elliptical springs and great spoked wheels with iron tyres, which could be dismantled easily and reassembled slightly less easily for trek-cart races, and which we would load with camping gear and manhandle to Fryland’s Wood and back for Whitsun camps. Once a week four or five of us would go round from door to door collecting waste paper, which we would store in the hut until we had enough to justify asking the paper firm to come and collect it in their lorry. Later we also collected used razor-blades for recycling, (perhaps to be made into bombs?) and my nine-year-old brother Barry, who was only a Cub but who insisted on coming with us, used to charm the neighbourhood into giving him their old newspapers and “wazor-blades”. When the cart was full, we hauled it back to the hut, two on the handle, others on ropes (pulling it up or down Downsway was a feat of strength and skill), unloaded it, dismantled it and stored it away until next time. There were two rewards for all this labour: first we found out where all the more beautiful of the Guides and Brownies lived; and then after about nine months of collecting, we were awarded the red National Service Badge, to be worn above the right breast pocket. I treasured mine for many years until in the early fifties it disintegrated, the victim of a hundred launderings. Barry earned his National Service Badge with the rest of us, one of the very few Cubs ever to do so.
During evening service one Sunday in about 1944, a man walked into the back of the church and asked if we knew there was a fire at the back of the church hall. That was the end of the hut and of the smart trek-cart, as well as of a lot of waste paper and camping and pioneering gear.
2. The Early Years – Don Peed
A. Before 1945
The 18th Purley Group was first of all only a Cub Pack started in 1937 by Gwil Evans. He had two assistants, one of whom was Brian Haywood. In 1938 our Minister the Rev. Patrick Figgis recruited Donald Peed to go and help, because the pack was about thirty-six in number and more help was required. It was not many weeks after when Gwil Evans went off to train as a Probation Officer, Brian Haywood went away to join the services and the third assistant, for some very valid reason, also left, and Don Peed was left to carry on as best he could, not having had any previous experience in Cubs or Scouts. In 1939 the large Church hall was completed but it could only be enjoyed for a few months before war broke out and the army immediately requisitioned it leaving the Cubs and Scouts homeless.
In between the years when Gwil Evans started up the pack, and the time when we were ousted from the church premises by the army, Eric Lovett, a young scoutmaster from Streatham Congregational Church troop arrived in Sanderstead. He had just got married and was hoping to have a year or so sabbatical free from scouting but this was not to be. Gwil Evans had been running the pack for a couple of years and there was nowhere for those Cubs who had reached Scout age to go, so Eric lost his sabbatical and started up the troop in October 1938 with six recruits. Two patrols were soon formed, Buffalo and Eagle. The first Troop Church Parade was held on 27th November 1938. By January 1939 the troop had doubled in size.
In the early days of the war a lot of people were evacuated and Cubbing and Scouting in Sanderstead virtually came to an end. However, it soon became clear that we were in the period known as the ‘phoney war’ when little or nothing seemed to happen and all sorts of activities began to start up again, not least Cubs and Scouts. On fine Saturday afternoons the cubs met in the garden of 14 Hook Hill but if the afternoon was not fine then the meeting had to be cancelled. There could be no meetings in the evenings because of the blackout. During the war years the cubs met in all sorts of places. At one time they were meeting in a big room in one of the large houses on Sanderstead Hill, at other times meetings were held in St. Mary’s headquarters in Purley Oaks Road, and for some of the time we met in the headquarters of the 1st Sanderstead. After the war, but before de-requisition of the hall, the Cubs rented the tea rooms in the village at 2/6d per evening. The place subsequently became Elio’s Restaurant. The Scouts met in Eric Lovett’s house in Sundown Avenue in the first months and then at the H.Q. of the 1st Sanderstead and also at St. Mary’s H.Q.
Eric Lovett and Donald Peed were presented with Scoutmaster and Cubmaster Warrants in January 1940. As a contribution to the war effort, waste paper was collected and a National Savings Group was begun. A trek cart was acquired to help with the collection of waste paper and of course was the means by which camp gear was transported to camp sites. The first number of the group magazine was published in January 1941. During the latter part of the war the pack was run by Mrs. Lovett.
The Scouts like the Cubs, had been meeting in a variety of places but eventually in September 1942 there was the first parade in the new headquarters, being that of the old 1st Sanderstead at the bottom of Sanderstead Road, where the allotments were, alongside the railway. In October 1942 Eric Lovett was called up into the R.A.F. and Ken Owens ran the troop briefly until Frank O’Dell was appointed Scoutmaster.
In 1944 the records state ‘flying bombs started, and during the next six months many indoor shelters were erected’, and then, sadly, in October 1944, ‘fire at hut behind Church, trek cart destroyed’.
B. 1945 – 1980
In May 1946 Eric Lovett was de-mobbed and a social evening was held to welcome him back at which the newly designed black and white troop flag was presented to the troop by Mrs. Lovett. A camp fire (round an electric light bulb appropriately covered with crinkly paper and some sticks) was held and it was considered to be a very happy occasion. This particular function was the first to be held in the Church Hall after the end of the war, the army having left sometime in March 1946.
Eric’s return coincided with the ability to staff the troop with assistant Scoutmasters who had graduated in the Group, having originally been cubs in the pack. Two of the first were Ken and Derrick Owens, the latter having received his warrant in March 1944. The Group began to make a name for itself in the District. Regular visits were made to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton to assist with the Cub Pack and Scout Troop in the Hospital. 1945 saw the first edition of ‘Scoutfare’ – the Group show. Later on in July 1946 the Scouts once again came first in the district sports and the Cubs second. Also in 1946 the Rover Crew was formed and the Group was complete.
Whitsun camp has always been an occasion in the Scout calendar and it was in 1946 that the first camp was held at Old Lodge Farm, Dormansland, Lingfield. Whitsun camps were held there annually thereafter. Ownership of the farm has changed several times but on each acquisition the new owner quite obviously expected the Scouts to camp at Whitsun, saying that it was understood to be part of the ‘conditions of sale’ that permission should continue to be given. This would remain true until the farm became an Arab Horse Stud in 1994.
When the caretaking Ministry of the Rev. Franks came to an end after the war the Rev. Norman Garnett became our Minister. He, with others, met regularly each quarter as a Scout Parents’ Committee. Others on this committee were the Scoutmaster and Cubmaster, H.C.L. Fisher, Emrys Owens (Hon. Secretary) C.T. Cole, W.P. Dawson (Hon. Treasurer), Mrs. Lovett (until Eric Lovett was de-mobbed) and S.F. Smith (Hon. Secretary after the retirement of Emrys Owens in 1946). In an effort to relieve Scouts from the burden of the expenses connected with the H.Q. that was occupied near the railway at the bottom of Sanderstead Road, Norman Garnett instituted a ‘Friends of the Troop’ movement for all Church members and supporters.
In order to keep people better informed, details of Scouting activities were to be incorporated in the monthly Church leaflet – the forerunner of ‘Community’. In fact, in the first three months £6.13s.6d was collected.
In 1945 ‘Senior Scouts’ started meeting once a month, on Sundays, under the leadership of Dennis Cole (son of C.T. Cole) who at that time was a Troop Leader and aspiring to become an A.S.M. Frank Odell, caretaker Scoutmaster during Eric Lovett’s absence was made an Honorary Scoutmaster of the Group, thus affording him the privilege and honour of wearing Scout uniform at all Group functions in gratitude for all that he had done during those extremely difficult times.
Wartime problems and post-war problems had been overcome and the Group was in a generally strong and successful situation. Possibly as evidence of this, the last recorded minute of the Parents’ Committee, reconstituted as the Group Committee in 1946, indicates that apart from the Group Scoutmaster in the chair, Messrs. Brittain, Odell, de Ternant and Spring were the only members present and by the early 1950s it went into hibernation until building our H.Q. became a real possibility. In the interim, running the Group became the responsibility of the Group Council consisting of the senior leaders under the Chairmanship of the G.S.M.
Leadership in the post-war period was an evolving chaotic commodity. Getting warrants tended to be overlooked in the vital necessity of getting help from anywhere. Eric Lovett resumed his G.S.M. role in 1945/6, likewise Don Peed C.S.M., the Owens brothers were A.S.M.s at the time and John Parker became S.S.M in 1949; his brother also became an A.S.M., while a host of others wandered in and out of ‘leader’ positions – Den Cole, Frank O’Dell, Des Pilkington, Ted Aubury, Mike Winney (Cubs), although the certification of many remains a little vague.
In 1947 the Public Schools Exploration Society sent an expedition to Newfoundland for six weeks and twenty scouts from the U.K. accompanied them. From very many applicants Patrol Leader Ian Dawson of the 18th Purley was selected as one to go. In the following year Patrol Leader Ian Maclean was selected to attend the World Jamboree in France. Also in that year Ian Dawson, Ian Maclean and John Parker attended investitures by the Chief Scout of King’s Scouts and Colin Bates joined the Group. Colin was shortly to go off to do National Service but would return to the group in 1951.
National Service massively eroded Rover Scouting, virtually amounting to its death knell; likewise the B.P. Guild of Old Scouts, which the Group tried in 1955, but which never really took off. Nevertheless success continued to come to the Group and three new Queen’s Scouts were invested, Roger de Ternant and the twins Michael and Robin Holt. Two Scouts from the Purley District were sent to the World Jamboree in Canada in 1955 and Michael Holt was one to be selected, given the honour not only for himself but also as representative of the Group. Last but not least, Eric Lovett was awarded the Silver Acorn by the Chief Scout – a high honour for him and the Group.
The Senior Scout section became separate from the Scout Troop in 1948 and met regularly each week, John Parker taking over leadership and receiving his A.S.M’s warrant in 1949. At this time only the Cubs were meeting in the main hall, under the leadership of Donald Peed who had returned during 1945. Minutes of meetings record a full Pack of 36-40 cubs and a permanent and long waiting list. The Scouts at this time met in the projection room (now Youth Lounge) and it is not surprising therefore to read that as early as 1948 discussions were taking place on where and how the Group could build its own Headquarters. David Thomas joined the Seniors in 1950, whilst in 1951 Michael Hensman became a King’s Scout. The Group was represented at the World Jamboree in Australia by Michael Bedwell and the Troop won the district sports. Events such as these were beginning to become a habit and certainly were laying the foundations of tradition within the Group. Already such an air of confidence prevailed that invitations had been sent, and accepted, by the International H.Q. Commissioner, J.F. Colquhoun and the H.Q. Commissioner for Senior Scouts, Francis Cowie, to attend gatherings of Scouts and parents and supporters.
It is noted that the next mention in the minutes of Colin Bates is in 1952 when he undertook the task of reviving the somewhat lapsed Rover Crew. Without a flourishing crew there was no progress route for Senior Scouts. Sadly Colin’s work was cut short by a change of job but fortunately Alan Foster took over. John Parker had handed in his warrant because he was going to Kenya and a newcomer to the district, Ted Aubury, took on the Senior Scouts, now ten in number. Desmond Pilkington (one time cub in the Pack) assisted him, holding an A.S.M.’s warrant. Barry Parker, brother of John (both cubs originally) also at this time took an A.S.M.’s warrant. These two sections, the Seniors and Rovers were about to make history in that they surely must have been the first Scouts to meet regularly in a British Rail station waiting room – at Selsdon station, up-side to East Croydon (since demolished.) The rent was £13 per annum plus Schedule A tax and insurance, with one month’s notice on either side. The Group magazine henceforth became known as ‘Platform 4’.
Although it had become a tradition in the 18th Group to find our own Scouters from within our ranks the Group was not completely introspective. The work at Carshalton Hospital had continued and John Parker, having gone to Kenya during the Mau Mau troubles, had reported back that he was in charge of a Scout troop in Nyeri consisting of about ninety scouts. In later years members of the Group who wanted to take warrants sometimes had to leave as there were no vacancies and they then assisted other Groups in the District. In many instances those who moved out of Sanderstead with families or to take up jobs were eventually known to have become involved as Scouters with Groups in other areas. Similarly others joined the Group coming in from other places, and at this time the Group welcomed Don (Spider) Bruce as an A.S.M. in the troop. He took over the Troop around 1954, assisted by Jimmy Allen and Dal Henderson; WHD (Dal) Henderson – ‘Uncle Bill’ to the Foster brothers, became known to the whole Group by this name thereafter. He provided much valuable service for many years, even taking the Troop to its Annual Camp with solely Len Topple’s help more than once. His long time with us is recorded by the many badges he embroidered on his Camp Fire Blanket, now one of the Group’s treasured possessions.
In case it should be thought that furniture vans and coaches were then a necessary feature of getting to camp, it is also understood that the Troop trek-carted 50 miles to and from camps at Walton Firs and on Ranmore Common.
Further leadership changes were not long coming. In October ’57, David Thomas, having completed his National Service and graduated, was three weeks into his first London-based job when Eric Lovett was on the telephone; “David, Spider Bruce and Jimmy Allen have both gone off to Canada, leaving ‘Uncle Bill’ on his own with 36 boys in his Troop. Is there any chance that you could pop along and help him out for a few weeks?” (Little did DT realise that ‘few’ would turn out to be somewhat in excess of 2000!). Following the Group’s 21st Birthday Camp at Whitsun ’58, Len Topple also joined us.
In June 1962 a meeting is recorded as having been held when the Reverend Ernest Varley took the chair and Eric Lovett explained to the eight members present the function of the Group Committee. At this meeting it was also announced that Donald Peed who had held a Cubmaster’s warrant for twenty-two years was resigning. It seems that one of the main purposes of holding this committee meeting was to consider the proposal that the Group construct its own Headquarters on the Sanderstead Hill soakage pit site. This item was then continuously on the agenda until the Headquarters was finally completed and opened officially by Eric Lovett on 23rd November 1974.
In 1962 the Troop was thriving as that year they won the District ‘Scoutdoor’ competition and came second in the Camping Competition. There were also many new faces on the Group Committee including Dr Mason, Messrs. Russell, Topple, Winney, Young, Gillett, Mander and Reid, who was the Hon. Treasurer. Bill Boulton was co-opted and gave a lot of useful advice concerning the proposed new HQ. The Scout Association was becoming very concerned with the fall in numbers of Scouts as they approached their teens and the Advance Party, as it was known, proposed some rather sweeping changes which it was hoped would give Scouting for Boys a greater appeal at the Cub end and last throughout until the age of twenty-one.
Terry Newman had been helping Don Peed with the Cubs for a couple of years, so when Don decided to retire in 1962, Terry took over running the Pack with help from Brian Marks and later on his brother Ron, whilst at much the same time, David managed to persuade Colin Bates and Ron Wisbey (ex-8th Marylebone) to become A.S.M.s with the Troop. Just as well, as in 1965 the balloon went up! In March, Eric Lovett announced his move, for business reasons, to the South Coast, then both Alan Foster and Terry Newman married and moved and Dal Henderson announced his retirement and move to Pevensey.
When the dust settled, Colin Bates became the G.S.M., David Thomas the S.S.M., Steve Foster, just finishing with Seniors, the S.M. with help from Len Topple and Ron Wisbey, Ron Marks the C.S.M. with help from John Cook and Mike Young, whilst Don Peed became Chairman of the Group Executive Committee. Once again the Group were represented at the World Jamboree in America, this time by Venture Scout D. Ullitz who was one of three sent by the District.
To add further confusion, in 1965 the Advance Party Report was issued, confirming the acceptance by the Scouting Association of the Advance Party recommendations. Many lost features and practices were mourned by those who had been in the movement for many years, particularly in districts where Scouting was flourishing, but we had to remember that the plan was designed for the country as a whole and one could not compare groups in Sanderstead with, say, a small town in the Midlands or the coal-mining areas of South Wales. Wolf cubs became Cub Scouts, Senior Scouts became Venture Scouts and Rover Scouts were abolished in the hope that many would become warranted Scouters. Many other changes were effected in connection with dress, training and administration in an endeavour to give the movement a new look.
So we conformed to the new requirements and tried to make the best of it. All Scout Masters became Scout Leaders and Cub Masters became Cub Leaders. A Venture Scout section was started – Leader, David Thomas.
A party was held in the Church hall to wish Eric Lovett farewell and to it were invited as many previous members of the Group who could be found and were within reasonable travelling distance. Also it was possible to have present many of his old brothers in Scouting from Streatham and Wandsworth, including his own Scoutmaster. It was a memorable occasion for many of us and we hoped too for Eric Lovett.
About this time another attempt was made to revive the 18th Purley branch of the B.P. Guild of Old Scouts. Mike Holt was elected chairman and the members of the Guild virtually ‘adopted’ the children of the Croydon In-Care Home known as ‘The Hollies’ at Woodside. A firework and bonfire party was held for them each year and an outing to the seaside or some other attraction such as a visit to the London Zoo was arranged in the summer. Members of the Guild visited the Home from time to time and particularly at Christmas.
In the early 1960s, Purley UDC had advised us that they had approved our application for the new HQ and forwarded it for approval to Croydon Council. The latter had immediately replied that there were two Restrictive Covenants affecting the piece of land we wished to use, so hold on.
The first covenant was a general one, forbidding any building on the land, which we could insure against if we so wished, but had been widely ignored already. However the second one specified that the land in question could only be developed for domestic property. The Council were actually in favour of our proposed usage, but in order to permit this, we should have to seek insurance covering any challenge to a claim under the covenants, which they thought we were unlikely to obtain, or they would have to apply to the Government for the covenant to be modified. Their forecast was correct, so we requested they initiated an application, even though it would cause us a minimum of two years delay.
Croydon Council informed the Group in November 1965 that the grant of a lease of the Headquarters site should be completed within the new few weeks – which dragged on a bit because it was not finally granted by the Council until 1971.
When we first applied for planning permission for the HQ, the building quotation was of the order of £2,000. However, when permission was finally received, this had risen to £7,500.
Group affairs continued steadily until 1971 when Stephen Foster emigrated to Australia. Fortunately Anthony Mason was able to take over with assistance from the ever present Len Topple and John Reeve. In 1971, Ron Marks and his colleagues also moved on, leaving Ted Elliott to take on running the Cubs in a rescue act; on taking over, Ted found he had some seventy cubs on the books with no immediate helpers. He surprised everyone by saying he thought he might be able to manage them in two Packs on separate nights and asked Jack Kelleher, the Church Keeper, if he could possibly open a new pack on Thursdays, (Jack’s normal day off) to which Jack readily agreed. Ted at first struggled to find additional help, some who offered often proving not satisfactory (“There’s more to running Cubs than just shouting at them”), but in due course, Dick Scott would come forward and then Peter Cox and Dawn Hutchings. They would in due course successfully take over the running of the Monday and Thursday Packs respectively.
Many of the members of the Group Committee continued to serve but new blood was introduced when Mrs. Dorothy Poulton became the secretary, Mrs. Edna Topple represented the sponsoring authority and Gerald Britten and Alan Jefferd were appointed. All leaders of sections were now expected to attend Group Committee meetings. By this time the Cubs had formed a football team and a set of jerseys was bought for them. The Troop, numbering thirty-four, were still achieving various successes, amongst other things they were runners-up in a District basketball competition. The Venture Scouts were getting ever more venturesome. In February 1972 they spent a weekend on Dartmoor in a survival test and later IHQ approved two independent trips to Kandersteg and Scandinavia on summer expeditions.
About this time there is a certain lack of chronicling, possibly due to the preoccupation of those not directly concerned in the uniformed side with the building of the H.Q. The ultimate cost was over £8,000 and but for the expertise brought to bear and hours and hours of work put in by Bill Boulton and Dick Greaves, the costs could have been very much higher. Only those who worked in relays with them on the project, weekend after weekend and summer evenings as well, knew how much they gave. It seemed endless and they were untiring and unstinting in the giving of their time. The Group will always have a great debt of gratitude to them, but as a token of esteem they were presented with the official Scouting ‘Thanks Badge’, which is presented to lay helpers for outstanding service to Scouting. Many were the unsung heroes at this time. Some sawed, some nailed, some sandpapered, others painted and the work was completed, but then we were faced with a considerable debt in spite of the Government grant of £1,500 and Local Authority grant of £750. Our sponsoring authority, the Church, was most generous in donating £500 and the Youth Fellowship gave us £200. We had saved up £1,360 so the shortfall was about £4,000. The builder who helped with the site preparation was patience personified and extended his credit endlessly to help us. Slowly the money came in from the conventional fund-raising activities such as jumble sales, waste paper collecting, Scout shows, coffee mornings and so on. The newly instigated Antiques Fairs also significantly boosted income. The most bizarre money-raiser being stripping labels off tins of dog meat (don’t ask why!). Thanks were due to everyone who helped, including of course those who from time to time made generous donations.
In 1974 Colin Bates, following a heart attack, was forced to give up as Group Scout Leader and the Group were extremely lucky in being able to persuade Roger Curtis who had not had any previous scouting experience except through his sons, to take over as G.S.L. Roger Curtis reconstituted the Parents’ Committee – the old committee having virtually worked itself out in assisting with the building of the H.Q. and raising funds towards paying off the debt. The new Hon. Treasurer was Barry Peckham. There was still a lot to do before the H.Q. could really be called ‘our own’ and a sponsored walk, coffee morning, bangers and mash evening, collection of waste paper and non-ferrous metal all helped to reduce the debt – not to mention the inevitable annual jumble sale which probably contributed more than any other single effort. Anthony Mason was Scout Leader at this time and David Thomas Venture Leader, who had firmly established ‘The Ventures Broads Trip’ in the calendar, encouraged by an up and coming Venture Scout, Dick Scott.
Towards the end of 1976 Ted Elliott handed in his warrant, having run the two packs for five years. Dick Scott, Peter Cox and Dawn Hutchings led the two packs still totalling seventy cubs.
For many years the Group had put on a Group Show called Scoutfare regularly every two or three years. It is not surprising therefore that when the idea was put forward that the Show be revived in 1977, the Group took to the boards and, under Colin Bates and David Thomas, produced a show worthy of anything done previously in the ‘good old days’. In fact representatives of the District were so impressed that the Group was asked to put the show on again in the following July as part of a special Scout Week programme.
In March 1978 the Hon. Treasurer was able to report that the Group was out of debt in respect of the H.Q. and this announcement was followed immediately by presenting an estimate for the cost of fencing in the site which was to be the next project in order to comply with the local council’s requirements. Tony Watson was in charge, ably assisted regularly by Mac Mackay and Jim Cowan. A time of change was upon us. Roger Curtis handed over to David Thomas – and promptly took on the appointment of Hon. Treasurer from Barry Peckham who had asked to be relieved because of business commitments. Also at this time one of the longest serving members of the Group, Len Topple, retired as helper and quartermaster and mentor of many scouters and scouts alike over a period of many years, and to commemorate this he and Edna kindly gave and planted a tree in the grounds of the H.Q. He personally was honoured by being presented with the Scouting Medal of Merit.
Robert Croft was now assistant leader of the Venture Scouts and led them on an expedition to Snowdonia in the summer holidays. By 1979, Robert had taken over the Unit which included Chris Grandy, Ian Martin and Dave Reynolds. It was in this year that the troop said goodbye to Anthony Mason and welcomed Dick Griffin and Phil Williams as joint leaders. It was also in ’79 that Dick’s job moved and the Coxs moved to Addington, so once again Ted picked up the reins for the Monday Pack until Penny in 1979, and Robin in 1980, came to his aid. Ian Martin was persuaded by Pete and Dawn to take over the Thursday pack .
Finally, in 1980, Colin Bates, one time Group Scout Leader, a member of the executive committee, took over from Don Peed as Chairman of the Group.
And so Scouting goes on. It is a movement. It must. BP was a genius and his spirit still lives on in the movement even though much has changed since his day. In a few years’ time the 18th Purley Group will celebrate its 50th birthday as its sponsoring authority the Sanderstead United Reformed Church does this year. There is no doubt in my mind that in fifty years’ time the centenary celebrations will be being held by the Church and looked forward to by the Group. Further changes will have taken place but one thing will always be the same – the boy.
[N.B. Don’s final paragraph remains as he wrote it, to retain his sentiments as documented in 1980.]
3. Post 1980 – Robin Worthington
A. The 1980s
At the end of 1979, the Group Executive, under Don Peed, was performing well, with Treasurer Roger Curtis and Secretary Rosemary Groves. GSL David Thomas had excellent leaders in the four sections: Dick Griffin for the Scouts, Ted Elliot for the Monday Cubs, Pete and Dawn Cox for the Thursday Cubs and young Robert Croft for the Ventures. However, they all needed more assistants, particularly Ted, who’d retired and come back and Robert Croft who was frequently away. Scouters’ meetings, a regular feature of the early 1970s appear to have ceased between October 1975 and January 1980. David resurrected these, tenaciously insisting they be recorded in the Scouters’ Meetings Minutes Book (1970-1995). He also hosted informal gatherings in his kitchen after the monthly Church Parade, Avril serving up the coffee.
Noel Shepherd was the Minister at SURC. His enthusiasm for Community stimulated an “All Person Canvas”, the objective of which was to flush out people interested in doing anything, big or small, with any of the church activities – including the Uniformed Organisations.
The Canvas and associated publicity led to Penny Creer joining Ted in November 1979 and Robin Worthington joining them in January 1980. Neither Penny nor Robin had any experience of Cubs or Scouts so Ted had the job of nurturing them through their training. With the help of Olive Coombe, District Training Officer, they both got their Wood Badges. When Yvonne Kassim came forward to help, David directed her towards the Thursday Pack and Pete and Dawn Cox phased themselves out, their final act being the supervision (actually run by Ian Martin but he had no Camping Permit) of the first cub camp at Bivelham Forge Farm, Mayfield, in 1981. Previously the cubs had camped at Pickwell. It was a popular venue, being a remote and rural green field, within easy distance of a local pub – The Kicking Donkey. Cub camps continued at Bivelham Forge Farm until the farm was sold early in 1987. Meanwhile, Dave Reynolds was helping Robert run the Ventures and Rodney Newman had moved to Sanderstead. David Thomas immediately encouraged Rod, an experienced scouter, to join Dick and Phil. During 1982, increasingly unable to make cub meetings, Ian resigned from cubs and became the second AVSL to Robert. Yvonne took over as the Thursday Akela, with Bob Franklin and Ann Austin helping. 1982 is recorded as The Year of the Scout, during which a parents’ meeting was held, with all sections performing. Our first minibus was bought. Scouts went to Dormansland for Spring Camp and the Lake District for the Summer Camp. Chris Grandy (ex-Venture – newly with Thursday Pack) volunteered to resurrect Magpie. Communication was the hot button. There would be more cross invitations between sections and a booklet prepared for new parents. Rodney voiced his support for scouts to do more canoeing. Chris Grandy used his connections with Wilson’s school to borrow their canoe trailer. It would be free as long as we stored it. A Group Show was presented under Colin and David’s leadership. No one who saw it will forget the ‘Call of the Open Road’ nor the ‘Penguins’.
1983 was Purley District’s 75th Anniversary, held on 10th July at Riddlesdown High School. All sections attended a lovely day with Cubs showing off their Space Rocket, designed and built by Stuart Reeve’s father, Derek. The Ventures gained their own meeting hut, to be erected behind the HQ, thanks to Geoff Liddiard. Rod became the Group Auctioneer, worthy successor to Colin who’d done it previously. Penny lobbied for a marquee .Ted asked when we might start Beavers as our cub recruits were drying up. David Flynn, the new minister, had attended the Ventures debating evening.
A highlight of 1984 was Phil Staddon, (ex-Barclays Bank Manager and friend of Ted Elliot) agreeing to take over the job of Treasurer, allowing Roger Curtis to step down. Phil was to steer the Group’s finances for the next seventeen years. Another was the exchange of roles between Penny and Ted. Penny was to be Akela for the next 16 years. Less happily, Robert Croft relinquished his role as VSL and Dave Reynolds resigned. Dick Griffin agreed to assume the role of VSL with Ian Martin as his AVSL, though Ian too was to phase out within twelve months. The Scout leaders, with the two new Commanche Canoes purchased from proceeds of Webb-Ivory Christmas sales, plus a mixture of group-owned and loaned vessels from Wilsons, ran a canoeing experience session at Pinewood one Saturday for the Troop and the older Cubs. Highly successful, Robin learned to capsize within his first two minutes in a canoe. Scouts had an Easter Camp in Bala, to which the unit were invited, their regular Whitsun Camp in Dormansland and, in summer, camped in South Devon. Phil Williams was now in charge of distributing Magpie – photocopying costs were an issue. At this time the cleanliness and tidiness of the HQ, particularly the kitchen was a regular topic of discussion. Scouting guidelines now recommended section leaders to attend Group Executive Meetings. The Mason Trophy, in memory of Christopher Mason, was instigated, to be presented annually, to the scout making the most progress in the previous twelve months. Cubs were still doing Bob-a-Job, but one Cub, Alan Groves, had been accosted whilst ‘jobbing’. Luckily his assailants had been recognised and the police had caught them. The incident was reported up to District and must have been symptomatic of behaviour elsewhere, as Scouting subsequently abandoned Job Week. Other records report dismay at boys’ behaviour at Church Parade and an important request that spare loo rolls be stored more conveniently than in the garage.
1985 saw the Group, (yes, the Group!), run a successful Church Parade (the result of our complaint to David Flynn), the starting of a Beaver Colony by Ellen Peacock, heated discussions on how the fixed costs of the minibus would be recovered, and the completion of the HQ extension building works, Jim Cowan being in charge of internal finishing. Flooring would be green/brown carpet tiles, ex-Shell. Manpower Services had been used successfully maintaining the grounds – but less successfully decorating the small side hut and the exterior of the HQ. Parents willing to serve on the Exec were being sought. There would be a Scout Show in November with Rod in charge. Beavers, however, were not permitted to perform. The grass cutting rota had been brilliant, sparking compliments from our neighbours.
1986 saw Anne Austin’s resignation, Yvonne Kassim’s resignation, Phil Williams accept a job in Portsmouth, Chris Grandy promoted to Akela, Thursday Pack, Dick Scott return as nominal AGSL and a new Scouter arrive following a plea in “Community”. Malcolm Dalton was welcomed to his first Leaders’ Meeting on 10th December 1986. Troop numbers had reached forty-one boys, of whom thirty-four or thirty-five attended regularly, with ten cubs due to move up within the next twelve months. He was needed. Discussion ensued on splitting the troop, but without a minimum of two more leaders, it could not be contemplated. Following a collection, Phil was presented with a briefcase and a penknife engraved “Phil – don’t sever the knot completely – 18th Purley”. 1987 would be our Golden Jubilee. David was asking Mike Holt and Alan Foster to organise a Reunion Camp to be held at Old Lodge Farm, Dormansland, over the late May bank holiday. A replacement minibus was purchased. Sue Sawyer agreed to organise a group of parents to look after the cleanliness, tidiness and maintenance of the HQ, including topping up the First Aid box if Ellen told her what was needed.
1987 marked fifty years for 18th Purley and eighty years for Scouting. Many meetings were held to arrange the activities:- the auction, car washing at the SURC, an Easter Broads trip (the Unit), the Reunion camp, Cub Camp, this year at Old Lodge Farm, Scout Camp at Corfe Castle, St George’s Day Service on the Gruffy, a Jubilee Church Parade in May and Scoutfare in November. Venture Scouts Richard Moyle and Michael Puddephat were invited to some Scouters’ meetings to facilitate communications. Jubilee commemoration tee shirts and sweat shirts were ordered. It was proposed and, after some discussion with the affected parties, agreed that the two cub packs be amalgamated. Declining numbers in both packs, combined with frequently absent leaders suggested a consolidation to be in everyone’s best interests. Penny would assume leadership, with Robin, Chris and Bob as her ACSL team. Dick Scott masterminded the Purley event, which had the troop building a Sedan Chair and running an ice-cream stall, the Unit building a ballista and running the pillory, the Cubs running Hook the Boat and the Beavers depicting Germany by dressing up as beer bottles.
1988 saw the GOSH appeal when the Scouts beat their £1000 target. The new pack at over thirty-one cubs was working well, assisted by Instructors Yvonne Murdoch, Jack Deans, David Chillman and Ted Elliot. The Unit had reached twenty-six including VS chairman Peter Talbot and they were getting into decorating their new den and walking to Wales. The general mess and confusion during what seemed like months of decorating required a lot of patience from other HQ users. The thirty-eight scouts, some of whom brought friends who used to loiter around outside the HQ, caused Rodney to initiate a rota of parents to assist simply by being eyes – keeping tabs on things – whilst he and Malcolm arranged the activities. Concern with Church Parade Services reached the point that Guides and Brownies joined with the Scout Group requesting services be more targeted at the age groups of our young members and suggesting it might be appropriate to reduce their frequency to January, February, May, June, September and November. David Flynn and the Elders subsequently agreed to this. The November Parade Service was focussed on Chief Scouts Award presentations and roundly applauded. The Scouting Association announced plans to change the uniform. Scouters were not keen on modern sweatshirts and fed back accordingly. The Beavers were fully incorporated into the Group, permitted now to wear the Black and White scarf. Bob Franklin had decided to move from Sanderstead and run a Sussex pub.
In 1989 Robin’s job moved to central London. He would phase out of Cubs and support David as his AGSL, but not before he, with Chris Grandy and Dick Scott (by now moved to Edinburgh) had run Cub Camp – Penny having one summer off to go travelling. David held two parent meetings canvassing help for Beavers and Cubs, gaining several willing to be Instructors on an occasional basis. Heather and Mark Liddiard were now helping Dick with the Ventures. Cathy Spring had been a successful chair person. Matt Newman had agreed to take over from her. Mike Peed was assisting Rod and Malcolm. Purley District had taken full responsibility for Bears Wood, which subsequently led to pleas for help monitoring usage and maintaining it, but also more reasonable costs for using it and a steady improvement in its facilities. The 18th went up mob-handed to clear a play area. The Scouting Association announced the new uniforms, sticking with sweat shirts for Cubs and Beavers and no caps for Cubs. The van roof-rack had been stolen but Dick was already negotiating on a newer minibus with roof-rack. Plans for 1990 included a Scouts’ trip to Kandersteg and a Scout Show. The Cubs had invited a speaker from Bird Rescue in June who had been very well received. In October, David Chillman was warmly welcomed to his first Scouters’ meeting. He would help Penny. The flag-stand had disappeared from the church.
B. The 1990s
On the 1st February 1990, Merril Dalton was warmly welcomed to her first Scouters’ meeting. She would be ASL. Dick, with Graham Brown, had very satisfactorily concluded the exchange of the minibus, including getting the best of the tyres from the two vehicles, a task with which Simon Austin had assisted. A Safety Audit by District recommended more fire drills. Nominations were being sought for the Jamboree in South Korea, District finally selecting Andrew Poulson of the 21st Purley. The Troop’s Musical Extravaganza evening had been highly successful despite several of the cast going down with ‘flu. Jim Miller, Iain Rae and Ken Harwood had helped with melodrama, music and lighting, with Malcolm and Merril in charge of production. Ted Newman was welcomed as the new Group Quartermaster (to relieve Dick) and David Dowling was welcomed as a new leader. Geoff Liddiard would make a new flag-stand. Ellen Peacock received her Wood Badge and Ted Elliot, a well-earned Medal of Merit. All sections were active in the SURC ‘Mayfest’ weekend. Scouts would attend Docklands Canoeing and another water sports open day in July and the ‘Go for a Million’ camp at Frylands on the 28th – 30th September. The Cubs won the ‘It’s a Knockout’ competition, getting their photograph in the Croydon Post. Following a request from the Guides about having their new Union Flag blessed, David Thomas consulted his contact in the Welsh Guards as to the correct procedure. Robert Cowan designed the ‘Jack-in-a-Box’ poster for the Scoutfare ’90 promotion. Guides had agreed to serve ice-creams and would use the old-fashioned trays as per ’60s cinemas.
1991 began with thanks expressed to Merril for producing an excellent Scoutfare. The new ‘Training Programme’ was announced, with all Groups required to purchase the material (subsidised by District). More liaison between the sections was being encouraged in an effort to reduce the leakage occurring as boys transferred, particularly at the Cub to Scout boundary. The Beavers held a District Handicrafts Exhibition in the HQ in March. Scouts Go For a Million had officially finished, with the 18th declared first in Purley District, and fifth within GLSW County. A trailer was purchased. John Gregory ran canoeing training in West Wickham baths for the Scouts in preparation for summer camp to be held at Dunkeswell, South Devon, beside a lake. County ran a ‘Cuboree’ in Hook Arena, fifteen hundred cubs attending. However, the main events were disappointing with too little to keep the boys interested. All sections bar the Unit ran stalls at the Sanderstead Horticultural Show in June (special anniversary), repeating them at the SURC Fun Day in November. The Unit had lost several members going off to college. Under chairman Alex Spring, it numbered twelve, half of whom were recent scouts. A Broads Trip was planned with the hope of reviving interest.
The story of the silver trunk. It is believed Penny acquired the trunk early in her career, primarily to hold cub camp cutlery, crockery and all cooking utensils, particulary cooking knives. It was large and lockable. It was stored in the small shed – a precursor to what is now The Hod. Used once a year, it was inevitably stored under other equipment and therefore difficult to access. Records indicate that the QM was requested to make it accessible. Having done so, it was found to be locked and the keys lost. After the QM had successfully broken into it, the keys were found, but now sadly the padlock was lost; was this an everyday story of Scouting?
In 1992 Dick Griffin’s acceptance of a job in Gloucester triggered a minor panic. He was VSL, lead Quartermaster and registered keeper of the minibus. As VSL, he had overseen the achievement, in 1991, of three Queen’s Scout Awards – to Lisa Flynn, Richard Moyle and Cathy Spring – the first in the Group since Alan Walker’s in 1974. Fortunately for the Group, Dick never moved house but travelled each week and a year or so later, took a new job in Redhill. The Group never totally lost his services and are dependent on him still. Meanwhile, he’d had to resign his VSL warrant and most fortunately, Chris Grandy volunteered to replace him. Chris will be remembered for his affability, easy smile and rather casual approach to the Unit Finances. His dealings with Treasurer, Phil Staddon, definitely needed an intermediary. His charm proved very popular with the Unit however, all the members inviting their friends to join in the fun so that in no time at all, Chris had twenty-six on his books. He desperately needed assistance – Unit chairman, Peter Cowan, and two keen ventures, Matt Bourne and Fraser Patrick, all helped to run the activities. Matt also became a key helper with the Cubs, whilst Fraser, at college in Guildford, became ASL to the 5th Guildford Troop. Dick’s other duties were absorbed by Ted Newman, the leaders doing the QM bit and Steve Phillips and an investment in an AA Relay breakdown insurance covering the van. The Scouting Association launched the Promise Appeal – yet more fund raising – and handed out more rules about the ratio of leaders to boys (one to six for Beavers and Cubs as well as the overall leader, the new Permission to Camp forms and mandated ‘mushroom’ trousers for leaders at district events. Scouts camped at Bala at Easter and at Ashburnham in August. The new Minister, Phillip Jones, joined the September Scouters’ meeting to hear leaders’ ideas about Church Parades. He will be remembered for making them shorter. Time had been a hot button ever since the service with a visiting preacher, finished some time after 12:00 noon.
In 1993, the HQ got a telephone (after a cub cracked his head badly enough to need hospital). The Unit had sufficient manpower (and womanpower) to earn funds erecting and dismantling the marquee when it was rented out. Andy Cowan and Emma Tubb (daughter of Bill Tubb, GSL 21st Purley) were now helping Chris. The Scouts were raising funds for summer camp in Kandersteg. Eighteen scouts attended. Val Mitchell ceased her much appreciated help at Beavers. Phillip Jones had officiated at a well-appreciated St. George’s Parade in April. Subsequently, Robin, Lesley Ellery and Phillip agreed to making Remembrance Sunday 1993 a Parade Service. This risky experiment was successful enough to become a regular practice. Merril produced Scoutfare in December : Follow the Star. This was 50/50 traditional Gang Show and nativity rock musical. Helen Worthington designed the posters. The Cubs offer to plant an oak sapling in the Beeches to replace the old one was declined and Bill Allen put Old Lodge Farm up for sale.
In 1994 Old Lodge Farm became an Equestrian Stud Farm. The owners, fearing cubs and scouts could startle the race-horses and their foals, gave notice that they could no longer support 18th Purley camping there. They would, however, given notice, permit the use of the lake for canoeing, and, before it fell into disuse, permit the pool to be used for swimming. Penny and Robin decided to call on a number of farms in the locality, and struck lucky at Upper Stonehurst Farm, literally next door to Old Lodge. Jasper Higgins appeared willing to give them short-shrift, but at the mention of ‘Scouts’, immediately passed them on to his wife. She, an ex-Guide leader, readily agreed to Cubs camping one week a year at the farm, which continues to this day. The Unit leadership passed from Chris to Fraser Patrick with Andy Cowan supporting it during a ten month interim. Jodie Dancey was helping and an Easter Broads trip was in plan for 1995. Michelle Brimble was helping Ellen with Beavers, as was her son, James. Their Christmas outing was to ‘Aladdin’ in Purley where they were joined by another three hundred beavers and some ninety adults. Ted was being kept busy with tent repairs and HQ and garage maintenance as well as requests for new equipment – a new marquee was the biggest item. Scouts had won the Rugby Sevens and came third in the Cyclocross, with Stuart Chilvers the overall winner. Several had been canoeing on the Wye. Michael Brown was selected for the Jamboree in the Netherlands in 1995. Rod handed the SL baton to Malcolm. Highlight for the Unit had been the Easter expedition to Newquay where they had surfed and hiked.
1995 saw the 10th anniversary of Beavers and Ellen’s tenth year of service. While Ellen had a spell in hospital, Dick and Heather Griffin ran the Colony. Ellen’s husband, Chris, a Governor at Riddlesdown School, had facilitated students from the school helping with the Colony as part of their work experience programme. These, and parent helpers, were needed to help with the new Beaver activity programme through which badges could be earned. The Cub Camp theme had been ‘Explorers’ and included both mountain biking around and boating on Bewl Water. The sun-drenched picnic on Brighton Beach had been very popular. Cubs had made mince pies for St Martins and won the Mang Trophy via a block-buster quiz performance. Cub football was continuing successfully, with Ray Baker running it, having replaced Alan Tyler. Scouts had camped at Ashburnham in the Spring, at Fishponds, Devon in the summer and enjoyed a canoeing weekend and the 26-hour activity hiking the South Downs. Five scouts gained Chief Scout’s Challenge Awards, and three their Chief Scout’s Awards. Ventures enjoyed Buckmore Park, camping at Broadstone Warren in February, the District Football and Rugby tournaments and helping at Cub Camp. Their highlight had been Christmas Dinner in the Venture Den in the HQ. The highlight for the Group was the appointment of ex-18th Purley Scouter, (from the 1950s), Ron Wisby, as Chief Scout of Tasmania.
In 1996 Beavers won the ‘Its a Knockout’ on the Gruffy, enjoyed a visit to Drusilla’s, had experienced a day at Cub Camp and were commended for their behaviour at the District panto outing to see ‘Babe’. Cubs had attended the GLSW Gang Show, come third in the District Ten Pin Bowling and won the pack competition at the Sixers’ Camp. The Cubs had visited Brighton Pavilion during camp, as part of their historian badge. Perhaps most significantly though, Lynne Baker had joined as an ACSL and begun her training. Scouts were doing more canoeing now in the Group’s new plastic kayaks, bought using a gift from Purley Round Table. Our neighbour at number 1, Farm Fields had promoted our cause following our ready agreement to him replacing the privet hedge boundary with a boarded fence. Several scouts had been involved in the RLSS ‘Rookie’ scheme at West Wickham pool where Merril had been working as a swimming instructor. The inspectors at Summer Camp in the Lakes had seen fit to present Malcolm with a plaque recognising the high standard of 18th Purley camping. Six girls joined the Unit in January which encouraged the Unit’s attendance at the County Ball in Dorking. After a long, wet, muddy night, the Unit were placed seventh in Operation Red Flare. They came second in the District Rugby Sevens and groups had visited Butlins in Bognor and gone hill walking in Wales.
In 1997 we celebrated our Diamond Jubilee, which included a well-attended dinner in November marking also David Thomas’ retirement after over forty years with the Group, with the Cubs providing the entertainment in the form of camp fire songs. Ellen was now assisted by Jo Brimble, a variety of young people doing D. of E. and a parent rota, all of whom enjoyed the Fun Day (Pirate theme), raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis, cinema trip to ‘The Borrowers’ and the Legoland visit. Cubs attended the swimming gala, Baloo Trophy and the Gruffy Fair as usual and delivered a Christmas card to St Martin in the Fields. Scouts came fifth in Adkin and second in the Swimming Gala and in the County Cyclocross with John Chilvers winning the Under 16’s. Older scouts went to the Peak District and the troop achieved Gold Standard in the Outdoor Activity Award. The Ventures went bowling, paragliding, competed again in ‘Red Flare’ and walked in the Black Mountains. Matthew Bourne had started to help regularly and had run the Unit in Fraser’s absence. Merrill and Geoff were congratulated on their marriage, though unfortunately that resulted in them moving to Seaton, Devon, but from where they have nevertheless continued to support Scout Camp.
In 1998, the District Beaver outing was to see ‘Babe – Pig in the City’ at the Purley Astoria. Most achieved their new Beaver Challenge Badge and many enjoyed the Cub-Link day, particularly the cooking on wood. Highlight of cub camp was the launch of Fraser’s hot air balloons. Formed of a large plastic bag with a two foot square wooden frame suspended below it, with cross wires on which a large wad of cloth and cotton wool soaked in meths was centrally attached, they were released at dusk. With a cub at each corner and a fifth holding the plastic canopy, a match was put to the meths, the heat rose into the plastic canopy and the air warmed, filling the canopy. Sixty seconds and they were airborne, rapidly gaining height and drifting north towards Gatwick. Three, very impressive, high lights! Scouts visited Buckmore Park for Spring Camp and Nunford Farm, Colyton, Devon for Summer Camp, both new venues for the 18th. Stuart Harvey, David McCue, Andrew Watson-Steward and Steve Baker completed the Three-Day Chief Scout’s Challenge, the latter two subsequently gaining their Chief Scout’s Award. The 18th ran the Scout Swimming Gala as usual, winning the Under 16 Trophy. All the Ventures had had exams restricting activity before the summer, but thereafter sprang into life. Immediately after Cub Camp they went off to the Leicester International Venture event attended by two hundred and fifty Venture Scouts, including twelve Polish scouts (the international bit).
1999 was the year of the Seychelles project. Beavers collected pencils, pads and crayons for the District Beaver Treasure chest. They went to the ‘Millennium Dame’ at Trinity school and senior Beavers paid the annual visit to Cub Camp. ADC Beavers Jill Miller had run Beavers for us during Ellen’s absence. Cubs had done all their normal activities, plus cooking mince pies in the SURC ovens, cooking pancakes on coke cans and barbecuing sausages. They had visited a local model railway enthusiast and Fraser had enthused them with his stories about the Jamboree that he’d recently attended in Chile. Scouts’ highlights included the PL’s training camp at Bear’s Wood, the District Activity in Snowdonia – in the snow – and the hiking assessment weekend in the Peak District led by Robin and Richard Creer. Younger scouts had had a very muddy Twenty-seven Hour Activity and a canoeing session at Pinewood. Summer Camp at Tarnfoot Farm, on the edge of Loughrigg Tarn, included the popular visit to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. It also provided the control point for the four ventures doing their Queen’s Scout Expedition. The four were Olli Toogood, Michael Brown, Sarah Ellery and Sarah Grafham. They endured fifty miles through rain, wind, sunshine and Lake District flies, carrying full kit. Each night Sarah texted Fraser confirming their position and status. On the fourth day they strolled into camp, in their sun-glasses, looking like cats who’d found the cream. A proud moment for all. The Unit Easter camp was replaced at short notice with a trip fell-walking in the Lake District. Summer camp was in the New Forest where Matt Bourne and Sarah Grafham gained their BCU 1* awards and, in October, the attempt to climb Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons was successful. The leadership highlight was the welcoming of Stuart Reeve who, in October, took out his ASL Warrant.
C. Post 2000
2000/2001 – Beavers enjoyed the circus tricks at Fun Day, making mince pies for St Martin’s and the panto at All Saints’ Church. In 2001 they joined the Sanderstead mini-district trip to Legoland. Cubs had visited Croydon Fire Station, swum regularly at Caterham school, come second in the Swimming Gala, seen the Wind in the Willows at the Miller Centre and then attended the Group Millennium Camp at Upper Stonehurst Farm. Unfortunately this was virtually washed out, permitting only one day on site, and a second at Butlins in Bognor after which cubs pragmatically retreated home. The leaders felt sticking it out risked switching the boys off camping forever. The fifteen scouts did manage to survive the rain and were rewarded with sunshine for the last two days. Summer Camp was held at Couchill Farm Seaton, a venue discovered by Merril. Two scouts came second in the District Orienteering competition and nine visited the Millennium Dome. South Downs could not be used for the 27-hour activity owing to foot and mouth disease. Instead the hike took place over Croham Hurst and Addington Hills. Anthony Diamond and Iain Rigg gained Chief Scout’s Awards. Malcolm initiated the monthly ‘Younger Scouts’ Overnight’ – intended as a gentle introduction to scouting for the newer scouts. This would involve sleeping in the HQ in the colder, wetter months and camping in the dell, in hike tents in the warmer times. The Unit had entered both a boys’ team and a girls’ team in the Rugby Sevens, both coming second. They’d visited Alton Towers and also learnt to cook crêpes suzette, in honour of Fraser’s fiancée.
Several leadership changes took place. Penny Creer and David Chillman resigned, passing the baton to Lynne Baker. Michael and Mary Brown agreed to assist her. Iain Rigg had become a regular helper at Scouts, Dick finding it more difficult to get to scout meetings regularly – he subsequently moved across to Cubs. He was also awarded a Medal of Merit. Robert Croft had returned to the group, taking out an ASL warrant. Fraser had married Suzie and moved to Rochester, passing his baton to Matt Bourne who then passed it on to Hugh Alexander.
2001/2002 – Beavers made mince pies again (St Martins had survived) and Fun Day was based on a Disney Theme. Ellen was presented with her Fifteen Year Service Award. In Lynne’s first year as Akela, the pack came joint first in the swimming gala. With Michael Brown off at Camp America and Dick not always able to attend, she encouraged Mary to take an ACSL warrant. Together they ran meetings, often assisted by young helpers aiming for their D. of E.. The County Adventure 2001 event at Frylands Wood was so enjoyed that Cubs started running an annual weekend at Buckmore Park, encompassing climbing, rifle shooting, abseiling, team building and swimming. Summer Camp took place at Dormansland. Scouts went to Broadstone Warren for Spring Camp, and back to Couchill Farm, Seaton, for Summer Camp. Crealy Adventure Park proved an ideal day out and was to become a firm favourite in future years. As of September 2003, Venture Scouting was due to be replaced by a new District-based Explorer section (14-18 years) and more a County-based Scouting Network (18 – 25 years). The 8th, 16th, 18th and 19th would come together to form a local Explorer Unit. Meanwhile, lower membership numbers had brought the 18th and 16th Units to work together on joint events such as night walks, a home-made assault course, dry slope skiing and ice skating. It was a time of transition. Michael Brown had now joined Hugh to help steer the youngsters to the new arrangements. One issue was what to do with thirty Venture Scout Sweatshirts bearing the logo “18th Purley – Always Prepared”!
2002/2003 – 2002, being the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, several scouting events and challenges were scheduled, most of which the group took part in. Rodney ran a Group camp at Blacklands for boys and parents – a successful innovation. Most of Blacklands activities were used, including the lake.
Beavers worked hard on their Activity badges and Outdoor Challenge Badges, but their highlight was the “Nine Little Fellas…..” who stole the limelight in the Beavers’ first participation in a Scout Show. Cubs went to Buckmore Park again in the spring and Dormansland in the summer as well as six attending Sixers’ Camp at Downe. Cubs performed well in Scoutfare but their highlight was playing inside the police cars at Croydon Police Station. Scouts camped at Kingsdown International Scout Camp, near Dover – a good venue for the planned day-trip to France. On the Hovercraft, they were invited to the Bridge to see the navigation equipment and the other shipping in the channel. Our leading patrol came second by one point in Adkin and for summer camp they returned to Couchill Farm. Canoeing took place on the Axe and in the Axe Estuary, several scouts gaining their BCU 1* Award. They surprised themselves by winning the district annual bowling competition.
Angela Courtney attended the 2003 AGM, explaining that she was the new leader of the Sanderstead Explorers which was open to all 14-17 year olds, but particularly focussed on ex-scouts from the 8th, 16th, 18th and 19th Troops. It would meet in the small hall at the 18th Purley HQ. Michael Brown and Hugh Alexander would be helping her. Once Scouts reached 18, they could join the Croydon Scouting Network Unit.
2003/2004 – The new CRB process was bedding in and on 1st July, Purley District was amalgamated with the other districts in Croydon to become “Croydon District” under DC Theresa Jeffrey. Theresa now had forty Groups under her wing. All Purley Groups retained their Purley name (except the 4th Purley who reverted to the 1st Coulsdon).
The Beaver highlight had been the Easter Egg hunt. Ellen stood down after nineteen years. Jayne Brewer, her new assistant, agreed to act as interim leader. Cub Summer Camp at Dormansland included every enrolled cub: thirty-six. This was the second (and last!) time thirty-six had been taken. Good fun and very hard work. The visit to Reigate caves was popular as was pond dipping despite catching only three tadpoles. Marcus Ascott had steered the cubs to winning five of their six league games, thus winning the championship and the knockout competition. His short but amusing talk on this was applauded at the AGM. Scouts had done all the usual events despite Iain going off to University and Robert’s job taking him abroad frequently. Leaders helped each other across the group. Michael Brown had supported Spring Camp at Ashburnham. Lynne Baker had supported the 27 hour on the South Downs. John Gregory and Rodney had joined Malcolm, Robin, Robert, Stuart and Iain at Summer Camp, Tarnfoot Farm. Under Daniel Harris, the 18th had won Adkin – our first win since 1959. Our other patrol under Miles Hizzey had won the Roger Hicks ‘Best Patrol Spirit’ Award.
Robin announced a new cub award. This would be the Colin Bates Award in memory of Colin and be awarded annually to the cub who had made the best progress. The first award went to Matthew Spear.
Unfortunately the Sanderstead Explorer unit had run into difficulties just as Purley District was disbanded and before Croydon had become fully operational. When Angela had to step down, District directed that the Unit be merged with Croham Valley. Michael followed the Unit and Hugh retired. This made the link from Scouts to Explorers rather more tenuous.
2004 / 2005 – Beavers managed to do all their usual activities under the new team of Jayne, Matthew Carter and Carol Walden. Of special note were the Faith Badge evening, with support from Rev. Sue Henderson and Youth Worker Matthew Moreton, and the visit from Linda Cain, Homebeat officer, showing off her gadgets, especially the handcuffs. Sadly the duck raft-making was not successful – they had sinking ducks on their make-shift pond. The Cubs badgework had included Collectors, Local Knowledge, Caring, Global, Fitness, Outdoor and Creative Challenges as well as the usual camp badges. Summer Camp, at Upper Stonehurst as usual, had a circus theme, the marquee being the big Top. Ian Harvey now had work commitments and was replaced by Paul Griffin, Richard Spear and Murray Kohn. Scouts completed their usual activities and attended Spring Camp at Broadstone and Summer Camp at Couchill Farm, the latter, one night, experiencing the heaviest rain in memory. At Adkin, we gained both third and fourth place and won the cooking competition and the Roger Hicks best spirit award again. Matt Spear and Will Tomsett did well, coming third in the Under-Twelves District Orienteering Competition. Records of the time show the leaders feeling rather stretched and frequent appeals for more help. By now, section evenings were increasingly reliant on parent volunteering to help on a rota basis.
2005 / 2006 – The leadership highlight was Marcia’s arrival to help Jayne as joint Beaver leader. The liveliest outing was the visit to Purley Fire station where everyone got soaked, including the GSL. The most energetic was the evening run by LA Fitness in Purley and the tastiest, the Easter Egg hunt at Bears Wood. Perhaps the most unusual was the flying display by a tame kestrel in the HQ. Marcia and Jayne developed plans, not just programme planning, but also campaigns to encourage parents to get more involved. They stimulated many parents who were later to play a part in other sections. These included Carolyn Backway, Lisa Donovan, Becky Pope, Alison Lawton and Terry Nunn. Special events for the Cubs this year had been the visit to Croydon Airport, the games evening of cubs versus parents, and compass skills in Kingswood. Cub camp, with its theme of ‘Flight’, had been enhanced by the invitation from members of the British Model Flying Association to watch them fly their models at close range. Cub scout Jack Taperell had secured an interview on BBC Radio and spoke about it at the AGM. Murray Kohn accepted an ACSL warrant being persuaded that his usefulness when present more than outweighed the inconvenience of his absences on his oil rig. Scout numbers had increased and included more older scouts than recently. Summer Camp in Seaton used Malcolm’s Aunt’s friend’s garden as a base for several different overnight hikes. Several scouts gained their new Adventure Creative Challenge Awards, including Josh Alexander who also gained his Outdoor-Plus Challenge and his Chief Scout’s Gold. This year, Matt Spear and Hamish Brooks won the Under-Twelve Orienteering. In December we were challenged to a football match by the 16th. Despite the fact their team were a lot older and heavier than our team, our lads played up valiantly in the true spirit of scouting. Andrew Morris, Treasurer for the last three years and Suzanne Patrick, independent accounts examiner for many years, both retired, being replaced by Jack Deans and Doug Oliver respectively.
2006 / 2007 – The year will be remembered for the preparations for 2007 – 100 years of Scouting. Jean West had now joined Marcia and Jayne who greatly valued her experience and quiet wisdom. The Colony, now twenty-five members, were working on their badges, cooking, doing their own pond-dipping and even horse-riding. They went to the Christmas Show at the Seccombe Theatre and joined in the sponsored walk. Cubs, with generally thirty on the roll, had worked on their badges, including Global Conservation when they’d planted saplings in Happy Valley. They raised money for the ‘Send a Cow’ appeal, visited Croydon Dog Kennels at Kings Wood, come third in the swimming gala and ten took part in the Scout Show. The troop had thirty-seven scouts but with Stuart Reeve moving down to Eastbourne and other young helpers moving on, was dependent on parental help, that from Paul Hubbard and Terry Nunn being particularly appreciated. Spring Camp was, uniquely, spent at Ross Wood, near Herne Bay, a good base for the day trip to France. Stuart led some ambitious canoeing at that camp. As Adkin clashed with the World Cup, England’s match was recorded and viewed by the scouts in the evening. Couchill Farm was again the venue for summer camp. The terrain, proximity to the coast, convenient overnight camping spots and closeness of Merrill and Geoff confirm this as an ideal scout camp location. The Dragon Boat racing and the show ‘It’s a Great, Great Game’ ended the year with a bang. The Hubbards had initiated our participation in the Dragon Boats and Rodney, the showman, had excelled himself with ‘It’s a Great, Great Game’
2007 / 2008 – 2007 was of course the Scouting Centenary. It was also 18th Purley’s seventieth year. The Show, with its first half devoted to the story of Baden Powell and its second half a traditional gang show, Guides included, was performed in March, meaning a hectic two months rehearsing for the cast of sixty. But this was just the start. All sections ran all their usual activities as well as supporting the Scouting Centenary events – the Founder’s Service in Westminster Abbey, the District Centenary Camp in Lloyd Park and the Scouting Spectacular at the O2 arena being three. With all the publicity, the Croydon Advertiser went on a mission to find the cub in Croydon with the most badges, subsequently publishing a photo of Tim Mash with his thirty-two. A Group Camp was held at Walton Firs Site, Cobham, in June, the highlight of which was the Saturday night BBQ when most of the Group plus parents, friends and relations attended and sang their hearts out around the camp fire. Rodney was presented with his Bar to the Silver Acorn – well deserved. Cub Camp was the venue for the Sunrise Ceremony on 1st August. Some scouts attended, but not Will Tomsett who was selected as one of Croydon District’s Representatives at the County Ceremony at the Houses of Parliament. Scout Camp at Tarnfoot Farm was memorable for its wet and muddy start, followed by the most glorious sunny weather. Older scouts hiking with Rodney and Robert will cringe at the mention of cabbage. Inadvertently they found themselves with two lots of cabbage and no corned beef for dinner.
The year saw the launch of the 18th Purley website, thanks to Mark Beauchamp and Iain Rigg, and the Climbing Wall Project, thanks to Rodney and Duncan McMillan. It also saw Lynne Baker preparing to step down as Akela after nine years. She was moving to Lingfield – too far to run the Cubs, but very close to Upper Stonehurst and Cub Camp. With her ACSL warrant she would still be available.
2008 – 2009 – Lynne had left the pack hoping that a new Akela would emerge, and that’s exactly what happened. Caroline Hubbard was welcomed to some weekly meetings in the spring and summer of 2008, and agreed to take the Akela role from September. With Mary at her right hand, Murray often available, Dick on call and a number of parents coming forward with ideas and willing to help, the transition seemed very smooth. Certainly pack meetings remained as popular as ever and the list of cub activities reported on at the AGM was as long as ever.
Marcia and Jayne had encouraged Ellen Peacock and Jodie Cowan to help regularly, and with Jean West and two scouts, Will Pennells and James Brewer, the Beavers were progressing well. Twelve Beavers with their dads, had camped at the HQ and gained their Nights Away Badge.
Robin expressed a wish to step down from his role as GSL and he and Robert agreed to an exchange of roles with a transition period. The scout parent rota proved invaluable in this period. Iain, who had now completed his degrees and returned from his assignment in Germany, delighted everyone by taking out an ASL warrant. Spring Camp at Broadstone with canoeing at Ardingly , Summer Camp in Seaton with canoeing on the Axe, Bronze winner of the Dragon Boat Racing in Marlow, climbing at Craggy Island and another Jack Petchey Award plus the normal events encouraged boys to join and stay in our troop, now numberingthirty-two.
Lynne Baker’s celebration dinner was held in October – some seventy people attending a very memorable evening.
2009 / 2010 – Beavers held another sleepover, visited cub camp, visited Abbeyfield entertaining the residents with an hour of music and carried out their swimming badge at Thomas More School. Cubs had visited Croydon Fire station, attended the District Athletes Badge Day, had water fights at cub camp, toasted marshmallows at Baloo Trophy and won the County Quiz Trophy having won the District heat. Scouts had two patrols at Adkin where they were placed fourth and fifth, joined in the big sleep-out at the SURC in support of Water Aid and enjoyed the regular camps, hikes and District activities, running the Swimming Gala as usual. Oliver Kohn was one of only ten Croydon scouts to be selected to attend the next Jamboree in Sweden. He with Dan Hubbard and Jon Mash gained the Chief Scout’s Gold Award.
With several older scouts wanting to continue scouting, a liaison was formed with the 16th Purley. Following the demise of the Sanderstead Explorers in 2004, the mini-district groups directed their older scouts towards the Croham Unit. However the travelling had proved a problem, so first the 8th, then the 16th had formed their own Explorer Units even though this was against Scouting policy. Whilst the 8th had viable numbers, the 16th lacked critical mass. It was also being run by the scout leader. Meetings were held. A new leader, Alex, came forward at the 16th. Our own James O’Malley agreed to support him and James effectively took our new Explorers and formed a joint unit with the 16th – cunningly named Sanderstead Explorers. This remains the position. The 18th offers scouting from Beaver age to fourteen, after which scouts can join the Croham Explorers, the Purley Oaks Explorers, the Sanderstead Explorers or indeed any one of the half dozen units in Croydon.
2010 / 2011 – Beavers had followed the themes of : Exploration, Transport, Festive Favourites and Jamboree. Marcia, Jean and Jayne had been joined by Alex Boniface and all were delighted she had applied for her ABSL warrant. A plea for Young Leader support had led to Dan Hubbard, Olly Kohn, John Hamer and Mikey O’Malley coming in turns. However, Marcia herself would wish to relinquish the BSL role. She would continue as acting BSL pro-tem but would hope a new BSL would be found soon.
With Caroline well settled in with her team, Cubs had had an excellent year. Forty-seven boys had benefited from the section – the ten oldest all gaining their Chief Scout’s Silver Award before going on to Scouts. Murray ‘whenever he’s around the evening is guaranteed to be fun’, Kohn, gained his Wood Badge, and several parents had responded positively to an invitation to join the leadership team.
Becky Pope had been head cook at Scout Summer Camp 2010. Not only was the food excellent, but she was lively and popular with all the scouts and the leaders. To everyone’s delight she agreed to take an ASL warrant. She would replace Robin who had stated he would finally retire from scouting at the 2011 AGM. Not since Merril’ s move to Seaton had the 18th had a female scout leader. It was hoped that in the future all sections might benefit from mixed teams. All the year’s activities went well. Under Graham Willicombe our swimming team came second, our best result for some years. Jamie Lambert got his Chief Scou’s Gold. Tim Mash won a Jack Petchey Award and Jon Mash and Emily Pope were reliable Young Leader helpers.
4. The Cub Pack post 1980
A. 1980 – 2000 Penny Creer
In 1979, I had answered a survey of the URC requesting help in various areas. As I had two young boys I volunteered for the Cub Scout section. I joined Ted Elliot, the then Akela, as an Assistant Cub Scout Leader and started my training in September. I was later awarded the Wood Badge at the end of my training, becoming the first female leader of the 18th to have a Wood Badge.
In the New Year Robin Worthington joined as another assistant and the three of us ran the pack for the next couple of years. In those days we had two packs, a Monday one which we had joined and the Thursday pack which at that time was run for a short while by Dawn Cox. She was followed by Ian Martin and then Yvonne Kassim who was assisted by Bob Franklin. Bob was a member of the T.A., and for the next few years we were able to use T.A. lorries for camp. We camped for the summer together taking thirty boys from the two packs. This also gave us enough leaders. The summer camp included two weekends. We would set up on the Saturday and take down the following one. This rather impinged on everyone’s holidays so when I took over I changed it to finish on the Thursday. Having contact with the T.A. proved very useful. We used to borrow the T.A. camp oven, which one year, Bob returned late only to find it had been written off. It instantly became scout property and was used every cub camp until around 2006 when it had rusted through and had to be replaced.
As time passed the Thursday Pack suffered a loss of cubs and Yvonne decided to leave us. Therefore we joined the two packs together and just had the Monday pack.
After a few years the GSL, David Thomas, retired and we lost Robin to this position. Ted Elliot had also retired and I took over as Akela. David Chillman, who had been a parent helper, joined us as an Assistant Leader. We kept our number to thirty boys and always had a waiting list but we were able to take in everyone that wanted a place. We joined all the district events and mini-district ones and kept close contact with the 16th Purley, joining them for rounders matches and firework events. Every other year we would have a Scout Gang Show run by our then chairman, Colin Bates. I started a Summer Fair and Rod later took this over. To this day it is a great fundraising event. We also had a jumble sale every year. This was a lot of hard work with the scouts collecting jumble and all of us sorting and selling. Again this raised a lot of money for funds. We invested in a marquee of our own as we used to have to hire one. This was excellent as the Venture Scouts used to hire it out and it paid for itself many times over.
Ten years on Lynne Baker joined us as a parent helper then became a uniformed leader and for the next ten years I carried on as Akela with the help of Lynne and David. Matt Bourne also joined us in later years as an assistant.
After running the pack for twenty odd years I moved to a village just outside Guildford so the journey became impossible and I handed over to the capable hands of Lynne.
I stayed as an assistant to Robin and took on the task of subs collection for the next ten years.
B. 2000 – 2009 Lynne Baker
Following the resignations of Penny Creer and David Chillman in 2000, I took over as Akela with Michael Brown taking on the role of Assistant Cub Scout Leader. I also had helpers in the form of Val Mitchell, Dick Griffin, Alison Barnett and Mary Brown. Over the course of the ten years that I was in charge, the traditions of the 18th Purley were upheld, with many events – notably the summer camp at Dormansland – being held on an annual basis.
In the year 2000 we held a very wet camp at Dormansland to celebrate the millennium and came second in both the annual Purley District Swimming Gala and the District Football Tournament.
In 2001, Michael went off to Camp America and his mum Mary filled the gap by becoming a uniformed leader. We had another successful year in the Swimming Gala, finishing joint first, and we also took part in Adventure 2000, a County-level event featuring thousands of cubs at Frylands centre. We had an additional Spring Camp at Buckmore Park which was very successful and consisted of a number of indoor and outdoor events over a long weekend.
In 2003 there was a Scout Show, and a new scouting programme was introduced featuring a new system of badges and awards. At district camp that year our team of the six most senior cubs narrowly lost the Mang trophy to the 7th Purley.
In 2004 we introduced the Colin Bates award which is now annually given to the cub who shows the most commitment and enthusiasm during cub meetings – the first award went to Matthew Spear. In the summer a new record was established when every cub on the role, all thirty-six of them, took part in Summer Camp! We also participated in the Walton Firs Fun Day.
In 2005, Murray Kohn and Paul Griffin joined me as assistant helpers. Sam King won the Colin Bates Award.
In 2006 Murray became a uniformed leader and Dick Griffin became a regular member of the cub team. One of our cubs, Jack Taperell, organised a radio interview with the BBC on the subject of Cub-scouting.
The Colin Bates Award went to Benjamin Pursey in 2006, then, in 2007, to Daniel Hubbard.
In 2007 we hired Bears Wood for the evening to practise scouting skills and also took part in some tree planting in Happy Valley. The cubs took part in the Scout Show. A Group Camp was held at Walton Firs and it was lovely to see the mixed group of beavers, cubs and scouts all working together to form an effective team. We gained second place in Baloo’s Trophy that year and also won the Swimming Gala. This was also the last year of cub football.
Following the Summer Camp in August 2008, I stood down as Akela and passed leadership of the pack into the capable hands of Caroline Hubbard, with Mary Brown, Dick Griffin and Murray Kohn acting as uniformed assistants.
C. 2009 onwards Caroline Hubbard
In April 2009 I started to attend cub meetings to gain an understanding from Lynne as to how the pack ran and consider the role of Akela. My eldest son had greatly benefited from his time in Cubs and I was keen to see the 18th Purley continue its successful cub pack. I soon became enthused and took on the role of Akela that October, with the support of Mary Murray and Dick. I had a scouting background but decided to get on and complete my wood badge within eighteen months. I also now have a camp permit.
When a job is well done it seems silly to change a winning formula so as a team we have continued the traditions and the running of the pack as per recent years. The majority of cubs who attend regularly benefit from a fun, varied programme and move onto Scouts with their Silver Award. We generally run with thirty-six cubs all year round. It is busy but fun! We have also benefited from the help of Young Leaders often volunteering as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Popular activities have been the penny for the guy making, pancakes on tins, outdoor cooking (of course!) and the cubs’ interest in learning new things for badges never ceases to amaze me. During the early part of 2011 we focussed on the World Jamboree and learned lots about the event, Sweden and Scouting in general.
In January 2010 a new District event began: the Cub Quiz. We entered a team and were delighted when we came first and won the trophy. This meant we went forward to the county event against another fourteen teams and completely unexpectedly came home with the GSLW trophy! First place.
Cub camp continues to be a highlight of the programme and we have enjoyed a Dr Who theme and in 2011 ‘the Olympics’ in preparation for 2012. The T.A. oven was replaced by a similar model and the well-established Cub camp team do a great job in feeding the boys, teaching scouting skills, canoeing, running a grand campfire and they themselves, enjoying the week!! Numbers are usually around fifty to fifty-five!
The Group added a family camp to the year in May 2010 and in October 2011 we ran a Cub and Beaver sleepover to allow those who had not yet experienced camp to benefit from an overnight experience!
We are very lucky to have a supportive team around us, along with families of current and past cubs. We too benefit from the equipment that has been built up over the years and add to this with our annual order with Sainsbury’s active kids.
Long may 18th Purley Cubs continue!
Within the District we are well known for our loud BRAVO!!
5. Scout Troop – Post 1980
A. 1980 – 2012 Rodney Newman
I became involved in the 18th after seeing a note in the SURC Community Magazine. This would have been around 1978/9. I was then still helping with the 1st West Wickham group where I had been since enrolling as a cub.
My first impressions of the 18th were of a similar kind of group to my previous one in that they were fairly traditional with plenty of emphasis on outdoor activities, particularly camping. This interested me. Phil Williams and Dick Griffin were the Scout Leaders with an Assistant called Reg Jarvis – a retired Scouter. We became a very good team with a flourishing Troop, always up in the top five of the District in most competitions.
Canoeing was re-introduced following some fundraising with the Webb Ivory Christmas catalogue. This meant we could build some new canoes – fibreglass ones! Other highlights included Easter Camps near Bala, North Wales, spooky night games in Croham Hurst Woods and cold windy spring camps at Dormansland. Summer Camps were held all over – Devon, Brecon, Oxford, Dorset etc. They were always well attended with a minimum of twenty scouts.
The extension to the HQ to include a Venture room, Scout and Cub dens was completed about 1985. A garage was also added which meant all the equipment could be moved out of the church cellars! We had good support from the parents who helped in these projects. Phil then moved away as did Reg later on and Dick moved in to run the Venture Unit. This left me to run the Troop in 1986.
This was a really testing time for PLs and the Patrol system, but the boys responded brilliantly. It was hard work but great fun. Fortunately, after a few years, Malcolm Dalton, who soon became an ASL, joined me. Together we ran the troop until I resigned in 1994. During my eight years as Scout Leader we made three trips to Kandersteg [International Scout Centre] in Switzerland – one in the winter for skiing and two summer trips. We took sixteen boys and were assisted by Brian and Rosemary Mastin [parents]. My wife Jane also came on these summer camps. Four Venture Scouts acted as our Service team doing the catering etc. We completed a wide range of activities including a dawn hike and swimming in a glaciated lake!
So after thirty-three years as a Warranted Leader, I hung up my woggle and joined the Group Executive to help with fundraising. I then took over as Group Chairman when Colin Bates retired in 2000.
We set about formulating a five/six year plan to refurbish the HQ and improve the grounds. The first major project was a new roof for the whole building. The kitchen was then extended and refitted. Virtually all the wooden windows have been replaced with UPVC frames. New entrance doors were then fitted which improved the security and appearance of the HQ. The old Venture Den was then sectioned off to make a new Scout Den and Committee room. The Beavers then had their own Den in the old Scout Den. The Committee room has been named and dedicated to Colin Bates, our long-time friend and supporter of the Group. He had held most posts during his thirty or more years in the Group.
The HQ entrance hall now has a new floor and the main hall has been updated with new wall cladding and light fixtures. Finally the toilets have been modernised and one made accessible for wheelchairs. Outside, the grounds have been extended, trees cut down, a brick BBQ built and a slide cut into the bank for the annual Fayre. A hedge has been planted inside the fence and six trees planted on the bank.
We have been fortunate in receiving several generous grants and other assistance for these projects from the following –
Bridge House Trust Fund, Clothworker’s Foundation, Croydon Scout District, Treloar Scout Trust, Leslie Sell Trust and J H Plant Ltd. We applied for lottery funding under the ‘Awards For All’ scheme and received £4500. This was used for the new floor in the hall.
In 2004 we held the Group’s first Family Camp at Blacklands Farm, Forest Row. This acted as a catalyst for a future Cub Leader who came with her family. Another first in 2007 was a Father and Son Camp at Downe Camp Site in Jubilee Year. Ten fathers attended with their sons. Cubs and Beavers visited a District Camp in Lloyd Park as part of the celebrations.
The Executive team have worked steadfastly each year on fundraising and social events. With jumble sales, auctions, quiz nights and our Summer Fayre we have been able to raise a regular three thousand pounds a year.
With all the improvements we have attracted many more hirers and our income has risen appreciably. We now have two children’s groups and an exercise class each week along with three other regular users. Children’s parties are very popular and the hall is also used for AGMs, dinners etc. The Guides and Brownies are welcomed several times a year along with the Church Youth Group.
Another Family Camp was held in 2010 with over eighty people there for the evening BBQ and Camp Fire.
Further work continued on the HQ. A permanent roof was built at the HQ entrance. Internal decoration was completed with the help of the scouts and in 2008 a climbing wall was built in the grounds. We now have a separate cooking area with four altar fires. We replaced the minibus in 2009.
It is very satisfying to report that the 18th on its 75th birthday is in very good shape. Each section is almost full but we have only just enough leaders. Fortunately our parental help is brilliant and several mums and dads are on rota to assist the sections.
Long live the 18th PURLEY !
B. 1995 – 2012 Malcolm Dalton
I began my service as an adult in Scouts in October 1986 and then took a warrant as ASL in 1987. I took over the reins as Scout Leader when Rodney stepped down in 1995, since when there have been a lot of changes. Age ranges and uniform are the more obvious changes, and the requirement for all sections to be open to girls. Another is that it is no longer necessary to believe in God. Further changes have been introduced to cope with the culture of risk assessments and child protection and warrants have been replaced by Appointment Cards. In London, Scouting Districts have merged to align with the Boroughs in which they operate and whilst we remain the 18th Purley, we became one of the forty or so Groups in the new Croydon District when Purley District ceased to exist in 2003.
Venture Scouts, who used to come within the Group structure were replaced by Explorer Scouts, (14 – 18 years) who fall outside it, becoming a direct District responsibility. These changes have led to patrols being led by PLs who have much less experience and less physical strength so they are more reliant on the help of leaders and other adults.
As SL I have been assisted by many adults and young leaders (some warranted – some not), including my sister Merril, Stuart Reeve, Robert Croft, Charlie Croft, Robin Worthington, Daniel Harris, Matthew Sumners, Matthew Carter, Peter Bates (junior) and I’m especially grateful to my current team: Iain Rigg, Rebecca Pope, Emily Pope, Michael Rice and Jon and Tim Mash. Emily, Michael and Jon are all Explorer Young Leaders, Tim is Senior Patrol Leader.
Constants are that we believe in the Patrol System and continue to provide opportunities for camping, mainly spring half term (five days) and summer holidays (eight days). Nowadays the scouts cook on gas at breakfast, but still cook on wood, on altar fires, for the evening meal – and some excellent cooking talents are definitely acquired. We take part in many of the District Events, including the Adkin Camping week-end, the Swimming Gala, winning it in January 2012 – the first win in many years – and we often take part in the County Orienteering competition. We are fortunate to have our own climbing tower at the HQ which the Scouts enjoy and we are learning the skills involved in “geo-caching”.
The spirit of Scouting is still very much alive in the 18th Purley.
6. The Venture Unit
A. 1966 – 1981 David Thomas
We were the only Group in the District who had sufficient leadership and membership to permit us to retain our independence after the Advance Party Report was implemented. Everyone else had to amalgamate into regional collectives. We were fortunately able to maintain this position until Venture Scouts were ultimately superseded. A synopsis of the APR was made by David Thomas with the help of Chris Mason and Mike Jekyll to assist the Unit in understanding where we were going.
Starting “homeless” – we only had evening use of the projection room most weeks -, we nevertheless decided, as the Group had no waterbome craft, we would build a canoe in David’s garage. The frame work progressed rather slowly, so the covering hull needed to be undertaken in winter ’67. Problem; the garage was unheated and the reinforced PVC needed to be warm to be malleable! We solved it by carrying an inverted electric fire up and down the canoe in pairs while others worked on fixing it, by which time all were exhausted; putting on the deck, making the bottom boards and extras were a doddle in comparison. Later named ‘The Tank’, it was launched and certificated on Sanderstead Pond in time for our Broads Trip in ’68.
Another important change of emphasis was in the undertaking of collective Community Service Projects, many of which were much appreciated by the recipients thereof. Amongst the most memorable were the burning of all the rubbish at the Battered Wives Home near Coombe Road, which the Council refused to touch as they considered it ‘unhygienic’! (The smell was horrendous but nothing was left but ash), the re-painting of the Swimming Pool for the Handicapped at Coombe Farm and the complete refurbishment of a maisonette in West Croydon for an impoverished old lady.
Traditional Scouting activities were not overlooked. The general evening meeting pattern interleaved two traditional with one service and one out-and-about. With eighty per cent of the latter based south of the A25, some hanging around was inevitable. It seemed sensible that most of this should be undercover when possible, which brought up the age / alcohol problem. We tried to tackle this head-on by insisting that anyone joining the Unit had to discuss this with their parents, informing them that some of the Unit were legally entitled to the occasional alcoholic drink, while others were not. Activities were usually aimed to finish in the final half hour before closing time, but the Leaders could not be expected to act as everyone’s keeper. Parents and scouts therefore had to have an agreement as to what was permitted in such a situation.
We also indulged in some non-Scouting events, notably winning the Borough-wide Youth General Knowledge Team knockout Quiz with Ian Curtis, Johnny Bates, Alex Roberts and Russell Talbot. Another initiative which bore fruit saw the Unit take, with International HQ’s approval, a trip abroad to Kandersteg without a warranted leader. Post APR with the upper age limit raised I felt they were mature and trained enough, so, supported by the DC (John Taylor) we appealed against the initial rejection. Mike Hardham was called for an interview and post inquisition was permitted to go with Ant Mason’s support. Successful trip, no come-backs, and another trip to Scandinavia two years later was swiftly approved.
Probably the most long-term, enjoyable and beneficial of all the activities undertaken were the Broads trips. The first followed the successful testing of ‘The Tank’ on Sanderstead Pond in ’68; the next was in’71, also taking the re-furbished ‘Tub’ as well. Visits then continued every other Easter ‘odd’ year until ’91. Each trip we took as many multi-berthed cruisers as we could, each with two sailing dinghies and two canoes, the aim being that by the weekend everyone could steer and moor a cruiser, sail a dinghy and survive paddling a canoe. These proved so popular with older ex-members wanting to come again, that we agreed that anyone who had been before could come again subject to space etc. This worked out very well, with the older peer group guiding and keeping the younger ones in line when necessary, also providing a valuable learning curve. Every boat kept its own log book, often with comparison of the individual boat records proving contradictorily hilarious. Near misses abounded, not least on our first trip when only a last minute bellow from Brian Young avoided John Taylor (Venture Scout, not the DC), from trying to knock down Potter Heigham bridge with the back of his head!
We wisely had a rule that we should not pay for lost equipment from our deposit, so when Tim Finnegan kicked a rond anchor into the freezing River Ant, the Commodore (DT) insisted he got it out. Stripped to his trunks, he duly got in and began fishing around for it complaining all the while, until the crew’s straight-faces collapsed three minutes later as Mike Butler and BY had found it with a boat hook while TF was changing!
Our only major accident occurred several years later, when a maniac was blocking the river below Thume Dyke, as he’d failed to brail his mainsheet when at least two were needed and he tried to control tiller and main sheet single handed. After twenty minutes we’d had enough, crept down the starboard bank until he tacked, then sped past under his stern. This time the clown missed both items, so we were shooting down the river level with him, our reverse gear incapable of stopping us in the weather conditions. Having finally grabbed both missing items, instead of immediately going about as he should have done, he seized both firmly and shot us with his bowsprit impaling us on the bank, claiming as he was under sail the accident was our fault! Apart from instantly solving Johnny Bates’ constipation problems in the adjacent loo, this generated a mass of thick plastic splinters, one of which some nine inches high was an exact copy of our sails. As Russell Talbot was at the wheel at the time, this was promptly dubbed ‘The Talbot Trophy’, grossly unfairly as the accident was certainly not his fault. Salt was subsequently rubbed into the wound by the decision that it should be awarded each day for the most incompetent piece of seamanship, with the overall winner’s name each trip being engraved on the sail. Sadly, when handing it over to his successor, the Commodore failed to warn him that the sail was no longer firmly attached to its base and it now resides, to Russell’s relief, on the bottom of South Walsham Broad. The all-time winner was Andy Greaves, for “A reverse double flip over capsize of high entertainment value”. We had over the years built up a very good relationship with Richardsons, who, though admitting the aforementioned accident was not really our fault, declared that by their insurance rules, we had to forfeit our deposit. After extended negotiations, the Commodore agreed to this in exchange for an on-going ten per cent discount on all future constant hire renewals.
Once the sailing basics had been learnt (at least theoretically),we usually sailed circuitous courses, thereby trying to instil some knowledge of tacking, running before the wind and luffing as well as breaching across the wind, always the favourite. The final day of each trip was spent in competitions, one a standard knock-out one, but the other based on handicaps as perceived by everyone on the trip, with the winner being assessed by relative performance against their own rating, thereby giving all the chance of a prize (at the time mainly bar towels and ashtrays requested from visited hostelries). It was a convivial evening, leading to a splendid night-hike and a lovely patch of grass for the tents, snores galore. ……WAKEY WAKEY! Our league match kicks off in eight minutes!!
A successful pilot Antiques Fair in 1979 encouraged David to send a proposal to the Church for a four-Fair cycle to be held at the Church, two to be sponsored by the Scouts and two by the cash-short Tennis Club. The Church itself would receive £40 per Fair, and any profits made would be shared between the Sponsor and the Trade Organiser. The attraction of the idea was that it would bring in money from other than traditional sources. It was approved, with the Ventures undertaking responsibility for putting up and taking down the necessary direction notices. It proved a successful Group fund-raiser for fifteen years until our Trade Organiser opted out following the loss of her husband. In the absence of any good follow-up it was closed on the 23rd May ’95.
B. 1981 onwards Dick Griffin
Dick Griffin became a cub with the 16th Purley in 1960, just below the required age, his Dad being their Treasurer. He went through from Cubs to Scouts and then to Ventures which at that time was a joint unit of the 16th and the 19th known as the Riddlesdown Venture Unit. He stayed with them until he was twenty-one.
He’d been at school with Phil Williams and Andy Merryfield. Andy had been helping with the 18th Purley Troop and both Dick and Phil were invited to help at the 18th’s 1976 Summer Camp. During his time with the 16th Dick had always looked on the 18th as something different but after that camp he realised that they were special, being a traditional Scout Group with a highly supportive spirit. So when Andy went off to Teacher Training College later that year, both Phil and Dick joined the 18th as ASLs, supporting Ant Mason who was SL. After a short time Ant took a new job based in Bath so both Phil and Dick ran the Troop between them, some while later Dick becoming Scout Leader.
Dick worked with Phil for four years and remembers rain-soaked Scout Camps in Bath with about twenty-three boys and just two Scout Leaders. He recalls plenty of mud and the lorry being stuck in the field. In those days, the kit was slung onto the back of the lorry and the boys sat on top of it to get to camp. On another camp they set up on the Saturday giving themselves plenty of space in the field only to discover that a Guide Company were arriving as well the next day. This led to an interesting week with entertaining Camp Fires which the Guides joined in and additional night patrols! A later, memorable occasion at camp had been the day the Leaders and helpers had all decided to address each other as John, to be visited by a nonplussed District Inspector who couldn’t understand why, when introducing himself as John, he met with such suppressed hilarity.
The quality of the food and cooking was always a highlight at camps, credit for which must go to Phil. One of the specialities was the night time cocoa (not hot chocolate!!), which was brewed slowly over the fire until it was the perfect taste. On one occasion each Patrol baked a sponge cake in camp (biscuit tin) ovens. Unfortunately for one Patrol the oven was so efficient that the cake was burnt to carbon but the two halves did make good frisbees for a short while! Having been canoeing with the 16th, Dick and Phil took the boys to Docklands to do their one-star and two-star canoeing awards. About this time, Rodney Newman joined them, which was fortunate as Phil left the Group in November 1986 when his job moved to Portsmouth.
Dick took over from Robert Croft as Venture Scout Leader in 1984 and, with Heather’s help, continued until 1991, when he took a job in Gloucester for a year and Chris Grandy succeeded him. During Dick’s time the Ventures subsidised the Unit’s income with donations from tree-felling after the 1987 storm and the erecting and taking down of our marquee(s) for private parties. This period also saw the continuation of the biennial trips to the Norfolk Broads which had been started by David Thomas in the sixties, leaving the Ventures with many happy memories: practical jokes, Trophy Hunts, capsizes, and the ducks, who, once fed with the Ventures’ Plum Duff, never bothered them for food again.
These have by no means been Dick’s only roles. He returned as ASL when the Scouts were struggling for help immediately after Rodney stepped down and he currently helps at Cubs as an ACSL and to this day continues to act as QM and take charge of the minibus.
7. The Beaver Colony 1985 – present day
A. 1985 – 2004 Ellen Peacock
Having no previous experience in Scouting and only one day in the Girl Guides, I agreed to be the first leader to set up and run the 18th Purley Beaver Colony. I was given initial training, then like the other new Beaver Leader recruits, was sent away to get on with it. We started on 3rd October 1985 with ten six-year olds and assistants Pat Cowan, Carol Kewell and a young Venture Scout called Heather Liddiard. Whilst at university, Heather helped during her breaks. The 18th Purley Beavers were on their way. Other helpers over the years included Mary Brown, Sandie Harvey, Pam Staddon, Barbara Hill, Sunita Ricketts and several other members of the SURC. Parent help was invaluable too, with many mums agreeing to do rota duty.
For the first couple of years we were only affiliated to the Scouting Movement, due to age restrictions. These were relaxed so that in 1987 we became a proper part of the Scout Movement. New training courses were then offered including the Beaver Leader Wood Badge.
The original motto was “Fun and Friends”, changing to the general scouting “Be Prepared” sometime later. We tried to make our weekly meetings (4:30 – 5:30 pm, Thursdays) fun and interesting by having firemen, policemen, animal keepers and others come and visit us.
The District, under various ADCs, including Edna Wickham and Jill Miller, provided us with exciting days out. The first event to which the Beavers were invited was a District Church Parade held on the Rotary Field in Purley. We subsequently attended the District Sports Day with beavers participating with cubs in some of the races. In June 1987, we joined the whole of Purley District for the ‘Purley Celebration Spectacular’, again held on the Rotary Field. Beavers represented countries of the world. We were France. Sadly the rain poured down. Our Eiffel Tower collapsed and the onion sellers’ moustaches and striped T shirts ran.
Beaver specific events included a visit to Drusilla’s when five coach-loads of beavers went off to see a real beaver- a great day out in good weather, Legoland, and of course, the Fun Days. Legoland proved so successful that GLSW County repeated the outing in 1996, when some two thousand beavers descended on it. Whether it was because of the poor weather that day or for some other reason, it was never attempted again. The Fun Days generally took place at Bears Wood and always to a theme. One year we had a group of circus performers who taught the beavers to spin plates, juggle, dress and make up as a clown. Every year parents, especially dads, volunteered a day of their time to help and hopefully enjoy themselves – many came more than once. Rain or shine, the Fun Day went ahead, always ending with a camp fire.
The Colony thrived. It quickly grew to twenty-four, the recommended maximum. Most attended every week, and then went on to Cubs. This pattern continues today.
It is still good to be recognised by young men, some now in their 30s, who were once in the Colony.
I must pay tribute to my late husband, Chris, who gave me great support and came along to all the events in which the beavers participated, never saying that he wouldn’t do it or finding a way of getting out of it.
[N.B. Ellen subsequently spent some years on the District Team]
B. 2004 – 2012 Marcia Hill
After Ellen’s departure Jayne Brewer was the volunteer brave enough to agree to care-take the colony until more help arrived. Her first son, James, had moved up to Cubs and Edward was shortly to become a beaver. Jane ran things on her own with a parent rota for eighteen months. I arrived with my son, Sebastian, in June 2005, followed by my son, Ben, a couple of years later. Jayne and I are both still involved and we are pleased to have grown another warranted leader, Ally Boniface – who also has Robert and Patrick! That’s the pattern… think, Ellen has two boys, be warned!
What struck me straight away was the breadth and depth of Ellen’s archives. You walked into the entrance at headquarters and on opening the Beaver Cupboard the contents would be bursting with material – everything from wool, felt, string, glue to bats and balls. In addition there was a massive old wooden cupboard in one of the dens, packed again with programme ideas and templates, ranging from evenings on frogs to the delights of the Space Age. Ellen’s story omits the many hours of pain-staking preparation she and her helpers put into running Beavers over those twenty years. It took me over two years to review all the ideas, many of which we still use today. Having teaching as her background, Ellen would have used the skills learnt in the classroom and transferred them to the Scout headquarters, allowing her to keep control and deliver a programme which was fun and made the boys think and learn about the world around them.
Scouting is a movement and what we needed to do was adapt what we had to ensure that we offered an enjoyable and attractive programme to both the children and the parents who brought them. Scouting competes with many after-school activities and within 18th Purley we know that what we offer is valued by those that join us. Demand out-strips supply for places and we are strong advocates of turning Scouting enquiries into leads for the other Beaver colonies in the area who might have places available.
What’s changed? Essentially it is the same! It’s all about children coming together, learning to get on with each other, having fun, making friends and starting to understand the Promise and enjoy the benefits of the Scouting adventure. Tools which have helped us update the offering and make us feel part of a growing modern world movement include the use of technology to communicate with parents and access programme material, a badge programme geared to ensuring a balanced and wide variety of activities, excellent resources with cutting edge marketing programmes being delivered via head office – even Kate Middleton has signed up as a helper – and sleepovers for Beavers as a mandatory requirement which have all added a welcome dimension.
We have continued to support District activities over the past five years as we feel it is important to show Beavers that they are part of a bigger movement. With the appointment of a new ADC for Beavers in 2012 we are looking forward to bigger and better things.
Our success as a team has undoubtedly been down to our determination to keep trying new things, nurturing parents and Young Leaders to come and help run evenings and allowing leaders to make their volunteering flexible.
Robin Worthington as GSL deserves a specific mention as he imparted his wisdom and experience in Scouting to us most during this period, giving us rookies the confidence to achieve the standards expected of an 18th Purley Beaver Colony. His termly team meetings were the gathering of his flock, assisted usually by the opening of a bottle of red and a tin of biscuits!
8. The GSL Remembers – Robert Croft
I join the Cubs
I joined the 18th Purley Cubs in December 1962, following my elder brother, my two sisters already being in the 8th Sanderstead Guides. I remember the activities in the Church Hall, with many games involving running and trying to thrash each other with rolled-up newspapers. Captain’s Coming was a favourite, clambering onto piles of the canvas seats stacked around the edge of the hall. Knots were introduced early and we had to be able to tie reef knots, sheet bends, sheepshanks and clove hitches – but for me the big thing was to reach 9 ½ and be able to go to camp. We camped with at least one other group at Pickwell. I cannot go down the A23 without recalling various camping activities. The dusty miller chase across to Cuckfield, the dining under the big marquee, sung grace, and the experience of camp latrines. The weather was always English Summer. We were always sent to camp with a card to send back home. I enjoyed both my first and second camps greatly, and expressed as much in my cards home. Whilst I remember none of the content of my first Scout Show I vividly recall joining a line to parade past Edna Topple to stand up against pieces of tunic or other material which magically, next time I saw it, represented a villager’s costume, a furry animal or other appropriate character.
I became a Scout
Camps were again a feature and I have memories from the New Forest, Wye Valley and Windermere, where we camped on a wooded hillside overlooking the lake. We canoed in kayaks built within the group including in the “Tank”, a canvas two-man which was reputed to be uncapsizable. Never one to duck a challenge, Andy Merrifield chose the moment when I was in front to stand up in the rear and prove the Tank could be turned over. With maniacal screeching he proved his point. Canoes featured too on the camp down the Wye Valley- the Tank included – shooting the rapids down through Symonds Yat to Tintern Abbey.
But not only summer camps – Whit Camp was looked forward to just as much: the loading of the gear in a chain gang from the Church cellar into the back of a furniture lorry, then all clambering aboard trying to find a comfortable perch on top of tents which inevitably had the guys uppermost. Off up Sanderstead Hill waving to our dear families eagerly waving good riddance. Packed lunches came out and debris flew out past the exasperated leader trying to keep control. Not a concern about people falling out – it was always debris. Who was it who threw the apple core out which landed spectacularly in the lap of the front seat passenger of the open-topped car? Does it matter? He became, in the words of the police officer who pulled the lorry over in South Godstone, “The Apple King”.
We had great leaders – not all uniformed. Len Topple was always there, Colin Bates dropped in on many evenings, and I remember Uncle Bill dropped in occasionally. But it was the uniformed leader team who made the troop tick – Alan Foster, Steve Foster, Mike Hardham. Amongst the scouts were Steve Phillips who lived opposite the Church, Alan Walker and his older brother, Jim, also Dick Scott, Peter Cox, Andy Merrifield, and Anthony Britten.
I became a Cub Leader
We remained scouts until 16, so I was still a scout when I started helping Ted Elliott at Cubs, alongside Dick Scott and Peter Cox. I helped as often as possible and Ted was brilliant at involving his helpers, getting them to contribute programme ideas and run sections of the evenings. Ted’s encouragement led to me taking an Assistant Cub Scout Leader warrant while still a Venture Scout. Dick and Pete also took out warrants.
I joined Ventures
The next stage of my Scouting career was to leave the Otter Patrol and join the Venture Scouts, which had been running for a couple of years. The venture programme was run by an executive – led by the chairman and assisted by a secretary, a treasurer and other members. The Ventures included Dick Griffin, Phil Williams, Dave Reynolds, Andy Merrifield, Steve Phillips, William Page, Andy Brown, Phil Stanton, Peter Cox (twinned with Dawn), Dick Scott, Tim Martin, some of whom had come through Scouts, others re-joining after leaving the Group as cubs and others joining from “outside”. All this youthful leadership was guided by Dave Thomas, the Venture Leader, helped by his assistant Mike Hardham. Night hikes were a feature of the programme – many summer and winter evenings setting off from the car park of the Fox in Brasted Chart and heading off on a bearing given to us in a sealed envelope. Best to say they were fun and I learned a lot. I was entrusted with leading eight ventures from East Croydon Station by train and ferry to Copenhagen, where we were due to rendezvous with Alan and Steve. Apart from leaving my passport at home, the trip to Copenhagen was uneventful, though the price of food in Sweden was not recognised in our budget. I never want to see a liver páté again.
The other great event requiring much planning and financing was the Norfolk Broads trip. Every Venture and several old friends would jockey for a bunk on the boats, which were selected on the advice of that old sea dog, Dave Thomas. New Ventures were regaled with stories from expeditions past – how much wood was glued back onto the stern after an encounter with Potter Heigham bridge. The trip up too was adventuresome – can we get two canoes on the mini roof? What’s the name of the lunch stop on Six Mile Bottom; did you really reverse the canoes into all those crates? Then taking on the instructions at the boatyard, stowing the food, selecting the bunk and lashing the canoes on board and tying on the dinghies. The “cruisers” were never in their first flush of youth but with a four mph speed limit, that was not the point.
And off into the watery yonder. We learned to steer, cook, and sail. Some discovered what a dagger board should do, others found the tiller and sail too much to handle. Once, moored on the edge of a broad, the six dinghies took off, tacking across to the far side. “Don’t go too close to the woods on the far side, you will be in the lee”. What? So at least two people learned about wind shadows that day. But once out of the doldrums, it was a fair scoot downwind back to our cruisers. Well, in the meantime, a brand new gin palace had moored alongside us. We could all see it happening – the incompetent sailor, the approaching pristine port side, the pull on the sheet, the gritted teeth and the twelve inch score through the paintwork from the end of the boom. Oh what fun! It was on my second Broads trip that Dave Thomas fell in. He chose the moment when our two cruisers were side by side in a boatyard with the wind gently teasing them together. Dave waited till the last moment before sliding elegantly into the water -allowing the boats to close over his head. We heaved the boats apart – and I must say that was not the first time we had heard Dave coughing and spluttering.
The time came for me to go to university but holidays saw me heading back to join the Venture activities and help at Cub Camps, alongside Dick Scott and Peter Cox – as Rikki Tikki Tavi. There seems a tradition of 18th Purley renegades returning to the group for Cub Camps – I recall Brian Young acting as Chef and QM – always ready with a cheery bellow at some cub seemingly up to mischief. Terry Newman was seen on site, and Mike Young, Brian’s older brother might drop by. And Anthony Mason.
Once I reached twenty, that was it – no more Venturing. But I had been nurtured by the Group and it was felt the Unit needed a new assistant leader. In 1974 I traded in my ACSL warrant for a brand new Assistant Venture Scout leader warrant. Dave Thomas and I were lucky, we had a great set of Ventures – including members of families Peed, Martin, Talbot, Giddings, Britten, and Grandy. This group were always challenging and could create an evening’s activity from little or nothing. Scouting fitted well around my work and training contract as we met on Friday nights. And we had two great assets to add to the expedition pot – the generous offer of use of two VW camper vans – courtesy of the Families Peed and Martin. They gave the unit access to wheels and hot drinks to go to Snowdonia and the Lake District while I was involved. Now I do not recall back then it required more than the nod from District for me as a twenty-one year old to take an expedition of eight or ten off to the rugged terrain. Up Tryffan, up Snowdon, over Scafell, let’s do Helvellyn. It was great having such an active group who would hike all day, pitch tent and cook a meal and be up and out again to repeat the experience the next day
The fallow years
Gradually with marriage and increasing work demands I had to relinquish my warrant in about 1984 and so I lost contact with the group.
When Charlie got to five we had an idea he might enjoy joining the Scout Movement. And so in 1995 I became a parent of a Beaver. I had little contact with the Group, except on “fun”draising events. Sometime in the ensuing years my accounting skills were called upon to provide an accountant’s opinion on the 18th Purley Group Annual Accounts and I found time to join the Millennium Camp at Dormansland – memorable for the quantity of rain and the quality of the mud. We were camped on the water table. With some expectation of fulfilment I did acknowledge to Robin Worthington that if I was made redundant, I would have time to get involved with the Group as a leader.
A Scout Leader
Sure enough, the time came when I found myself with time on my hands and took up an assistant Scout Leader’s warrant, as assistant to Malcolm Dalton alongside Stu Reeve. And, somehow, Robin was at most meetings too. Scouting had changed in the years I had been away – the programme had become more progressive and challenging at all levels. The core scouting skills of knots, map-reading, cooking and survival remained but were now wrapped round with formal risk assessment, sixteen-page incident forms, CRBs and safeguarding training. Matters that had never featured highly in my first stint. Yes, you were trained to plan properly whether it was a twenty minute programme or a forty-mile expedition. But not that everyone had detailed route cards. A two penny bit for the public phone was your lot. And sheath knives had disappeared. No longer were scouts free to slice staves and sticks, fingers and feet with gay abandon. No more games of splits in those quiet moments at camp. No more felling axes for logging. Pen knives are kept locked up with the leaders, bush saws are so much more efficient. And instead of trusting the scout, the presumption is that the worst will happen.
But the programme has not changed in its fundamentals. Whilst the age ranges of the sections have slid up and down, the enthusiasm and energy of ten to fourteen year old boys let loose of an evening or for a week’s camp has not diminished. Camping and camping skills remain a feature of the 18th, with Malcolm running overnight camps throughout the year to introduce the younger scouts to skills they will need at camp – working together, fire lighting, pitching various tents, sleeping out, cooking and keeping up one’s spirits. The spring and summer camps now featured gas stoves for breakfast but wood fires for the main meal. I had great fun taking over from Stu as Quartermaster at camps, setting ever more challenging meals for the evenings – but never as challenging as
The steamed pudding Stu insisted on (one hour boiling)
The PLs’ menus for the Cooking Competition.
Malcolm and Baggy chose the greenfield campsites with care – near water. Baggy and Iain Rigg put in tremendous efforts to get scouts and leaders alike up to a certain level of competency in a kayak. And more often than not Rod Newman would appear and take a leading role around the Scouters’ site – leaving the uniformed leaders space to get ahead with the activities and activity planning. I well recall the last full day of one camp up in the Lake District. We had had a fabulous time and the leaders were girding their loins for the final day – encouraging the scouts to strike camp, clean all the gear and all that. And what should we espy but a familiar MPV contain Paul Hubbard, Murray Kohn and Tony Bobovitz – who had driven up that afternoon to add muscle, humour and thirsty throats to the final hours of camp. What a great idea – welcomed by the leaders and lads alike.
I become GSL
By some mistake I returned to full time employment and gradually the travel and other demands of working for an organisation headquartered in the US meant I was not a reliable leader for a Thursday evening. Robin carefully weaned me into a corner to be collared by Rod Newman, and that was it – I was to become the 6th Group Scout Leader in 75 years!
9. Scoutfare – David Thomas
The Aim of Scoutfare was to produce an enjoyable show for both cast and audience. We considered that part of the boys’ training while growing up was to progressively learn how not to be afraid of appearing in front of people. We therefore tried with every show to see that ALL the Group from Cubs upwards were on stage in it at one stage or another. (Ultimate feedback on this proved very positive).
Talking to anyone associated with the Group in the 1960s to 1980s, any mention of Scoutfare and you will inevitably find immediately references to Colin Bates abound, as he was king pin of the show for many years. Colin joined us as a scout from East Ham with a fund of Scouting knowledge about Gilwell and most of the East End, often reflecting its humour, and a fund of songs, jokes, ditties, mimes, punch lines and routines, which blossomed from one show to another. He had an inspired capability of developing shows that were loved by the Cubs, almost always ending up with a twist that delighted them, for example, having released the Count of Monte Cristo from prison, they all agreed he should be stuffed back inside when he vowed to destroy Crystal Palace just as they had reached the 1st Division for the very first time. He also had a rare ability in re-writing words to existing music, like ‘We all like to go to Health and Beauty’ for …beside the sea-side beside the sea! His ‘Audience Warm-Ups’ for the post-opening Chorus pre-first stage item invariably achieved their aim – ‘with ‘is ‘ead tucked undemeath ‘is ‘arm’. David Thomas, a long term Scoutfare colleague of Colin’s, still remembers the scars of a song battle with him as to who commanded the affections of ‘Genevieve’, only to find, of course, that they had both been up-staged. Overall though he’ll probably be best re-called for his production skills in integrating the various parts of the shows into a polished production, encouraging the meek, calming the boisterous and bringing out the best in all the performers. Numerous sketches, songs, mishaps, and hilarious unplanned bits and pieces occurred over the years which we thought it would be interesting and enjoyable to collect and record, so if you would like to share your own memories with us for inclusion please let us know. To whet your appetite, how about this lot for starters:
Colin, David, Ant Mason and Mike Hardham all duly be-gowned singing ‘The Four Choristers’ as a dig at the Ladies Choir, much enjoyed by the audience though some gritted smiles were to be seen.
‘Romans and Countrymen’ with Ted Elliot’s straight-faced first appearance dressed identically to the Pack and the delight of all, marching to and fro across the stage with a reversing ‘To the North’ sign until challenged by a solitary Scot. Two pairs of Romans sent to deal with him disappeared, followed by a foursome – then – ‘It’s a trap, it’s a TRAP – there’s two of them’!!
‘The Call of the Open Road’; ‘The Penguins’; ‘The Weather’; ‘The Ugly Duckling’; ‘The Immaculate Civil Servants’; ‘ The Signets’ (Swan Lake); ‘Up Girls and’at’em’.
Another early skit saw Richard Foster and Ian Flanagan dressed up as Guiders, appearing between stage items, briefly consulting each other, then walking across from different entrances to various exits. All the while the bit of paper they were looking at was getting larger. On their sixth entry they were asked by a small scout “Can I help you?” They looked at each other and then handed over the paper they had with them. “Well, for a start, perhaps we should turn this map the right way up”! ‘The Free Sandersteads’; ‘Start Up’; Spitting cherry stones; ‘Everyone Knows that kids today buy records by the score’; ‘They’ve taken away our shorts’;
. . …. over to you! !
Usually there are difficulties in getting the show to an adequate performance level. Getting eighty or more people on and off the stage using only two stage side entrances fed by a solitary narrow corridor (plus the occasional use of a staircase off the main hall) needs a lot of thought and planning. We try to make slightly more use of the better actors, but spreading the jam is often necessary.
There are several difficulties, including:-
1. Access to the stage is limited, often starting only five days before first performance,
2. Most of the cast will only have been on stage two or at most three times before first night,
3. The first run-through in show order is usually the first performance,
4. The attention span of most young actors is at maximum eight weeks,
5. Best timing for avoiding problems with schools and parents is September/November,
6. The cast are very often averse to learning words, music and movements,
7. Rehearsal time, space and location are frequently variable,
8. You will need to spread production skills,
9. Actors will need to speak UP and OUT, but must NOT SHOUT,
10. Try to avoid ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ syndrome, or it won’t.
The above leads to the following Show structure :-
1. Opening Chorus, “Already and all steady…” gets things going with a swing,
2. Audience ‘Warm-up’, – usually by Leaders to permit stage set-up,
4. Assorted mixed items,
5. First half Finale. – Younger Cubs can go home,
6. Second half Opening,
7. Build up items to –
8. Finale – often with audience participation
9. “Crest of a Wave”
Recycling a few known ‘winners’ often helps things along, but must be used carefully and infrequently. New material is always needed, as is STRICT SUPERVISION BACK-STAGE !
10. 2020 – The year of change
With old Scouts like Ali Ball coming back to join us and taking his warrant, we all thought we were in a strong position to power forward through 2020. How wrong we were. When COVID-19 started to spread throughout the World, we had to shut down face to face Scouting inline with Government and The Scout Association recommendations.
Luckily, we had already started our push with technology, having launched a new web site and social media drive. However, we had never used Zoom, but as a Team, the Scouts decided to embrace the change and go full steam ahead with virtual Scouting.
In the end, we managed 10 very successful meetings over Zoom most of them with a 90% attendance. We also managed to complete badge work and one of the highlights was Andy Green, the driver of the supersonic car, Thrust SSC talking to us about breaking the sound barrier.
We also managed to invest 3 new Young People virtually and our Leader, Dick Griffin managed to present the Chris Mason Trophy for the Scout of the year whilst being connected to the Zoom meeting via his mobile phone!
These were all firsts in our history.
We all learnt a huge amount and it made us stronger as a Troop, but we cannot wait to get back to face to face Scouting and some more outdoor activities.
However, one real benefit of using Zoom was the ability to mute all the Scouts at once. Silence can be golden 😉
#SkillsForLife #Croydon #Scouts #Zoom