Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette February 13, 2004

THE news that the 24th Basingstoke (West) Scout Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, combined with the Basingstoke Gang Show 2004 currently being presented at the Haymarket Theatre until February 21, and the promise of a full-scale celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Scout Association in three years time, is surely a good opportunity to tell the story of both the local and national Scout movements.

It was back in 1907 that Robert Baden-Powell decided to try out an experimental camp on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, Dorset, where 20 young lads would spend a week among the trees as “Boy Scouts”, living under canvas and being taught outdoor skills such as woodcraft, fire-making and first aid.

He was using his experience as a colonel in the Boer War (1898 to 1902) when he was besieged in Mafeking with a small military force for seven months. The lads came from different places and backgrounds, such as Eton, London’s East End, Harrow, and the Poole area.

The camp experience gave the youngsters the chance to enjoy the open-air and how to work together in the great outdoors.

Baden-Powell, who entered the Army in 1876, brought together a team of organisers to form the Scout Association, and in August 1908, the first official Scout camp was held at Humshaugh, near Hexham, in Northumberland, and this led to the spread of the Scout movement across the country.

The success of his idea led to Baden-Powell retiring from the Army in 1910, at the age of 53, to devote himself full-time to the Scouting movement for the rest of his life.

The movement spread to other countries in later years, meanwhile, in 1910, a female counterpart, known as the Girl Guides, was organised by Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes. The training and organisation was essentially the same as the Scouts and based on similar promises and laws.

In 1929, Baden-Powell was made a baron, in recognition of his services to the nation. He retired in 1937 and died four years later.

By 1937 there were 2,855,689 Boy Scouts in the world, consisting of various branches such as Wolf Cubs, Sea Scouts, Rovers and Air Scouts.

Sea Scouts take part in a range of water-based activities, from sailing in tall ships to canal camping trips; while Air Scouts, which are recognised by the Royal Air Force in allowing them access to parachuting, are given the chance to fly gliders, among other activities. The local branch use Lasham for this latter opportunity.

The Scouting movement now includes Beavers (aged six to eight), Cubs (eight to 10-and-half), Scouts (10-and-a-half to 14) Explorer Scouts (14 to 18), and a new group called Scout Network (18 to 25).

The purpose of the organisation is to make both the boys and girls honourable, disciplined and selfreliant, while keenness is stimulated by the award of various badges for the length of service in the subject that they are working on.

The local Scout movement was started after several members of the Boys Brigade read a publication produced by Robert Baden-Powell, called Scouting for Boys, in 1908, which led them to form the 1st Basingstoke Scout troop in September that year.

Over the years, further troops were formed and Lord Basing was made president of the local Scout movement.

In 1910, Baden-Powell visited the town and met the Boy Scouts at the Corn Exchange (now the site of the Haymarket Theatre) where he inspected and addressed the crowds which assembled there.

During the Great War of 1914-18, the Basingstoke Scouts were asked to carry out various urgent duties, including patrolling either side of the Basingstoke Railway Station for five miles, in case any enemy pilots had landed nearby.

On the 21st anniversary of the Scout Association, in 1929, a contingent of local Scouts went to a special meeting at Arrowe Park; and, in 1933, another local group went to Budapest to attend the World Jamboree.

In 1960, a local district census was taken to reveal that there were 636 members of the Scouts in this area, which included Cubs, Scouts, Seniors and Rovers.

The Basingstoke Gang Show, is, of course, based on the activities of the Scout movement. It was first produced in 1932 by Ralph Reader (1903-1982) at the Scala Theatre in London in October of that year. He studied for the stage in the USA and became a theatrical producer and an actor, but it was the success of the “Gang Show” that made him famous across the world.

Scouting is administered in the United Kingdom by the Scout Association at Gilwell Park at Chingford in London, and information can be obtained by telephoning 0845 300 1818 or by visiting the website The Scout Movement has a worldwide reputation for its well-run organisation, and the boys and girls who have joined it over the years are proud to be part of this huge “family” which has helped them grow into the people they are now.