Sampson Society

THE SIDMOUTH BOY SCOUTS

OPENING OF NEW HEADQUARTERS

The Sidmouth Herald and Directory dated Wednesday, January 20, 1915

The Sidmouth Troop of Baden-Powell Scouts came into a home of their own on Thursday last, and we heartily congratulate them on now possessing so admirably adapted and convenient headquarters, and on the distinguished company present at the opening ceremony.  These visitors included Lord and Lady Halsbury, Sir Henry and Lady Seymour King, General Sir Richard Harrison (Chief Commissioner of the Scouts in Devon), Major General Gwynne, the Rev. C.K. Woollcombe, Mrs. Balfour, Mrs. Johnston, Mr. H. A. Woodruff (Mayor of Lyme Regis), Colonel and Mrs. Perreau, Mr. and Mrs. Hastings, Captain Wilson (commanding 11th Devons quartered at Sidmouth) Mr. and Mrs. S.R.Wood, Mr. H. Langridge, Dr. and Mrs. Stokes, Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Morritt, Mrs. Richmond White, Mrs. and Miss Darnell, Mr. and Mrs. F.J.Norton, Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Sampson, Mr. and Mrs. W. Blake Burdekin, Mr. J.T. Clark, Mr. and Mrs. F.C. Purcell, Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Pickson, Mr. J. Macguire, Mr. T.E. Fitzgerald, Mr. J. Skinner, Mr. F. M. Gliddon, Mr. and Mrs. Rammell, etc. The Sidmouth Troop of Scouts (under Assist. Scoutmaster L. Cook) and the Sidford Troop (under Scoutmaster F. J. Sykes) also attended.

The hall, which is of spacious and commodious proportions and one eminently adapted of the needs of the troop, was gaily decorated with flags and bunting and looked very bright and cheery.  It is situate at the rear of the Manor Hall and the site was generously given by Col. J. E. H. Balfour, D.S.O. (Lord of the Manor of Sidmouth who is now serving at Aldershot), and about £150 towards the £250, the estimated cost of building and equipping the hall has been raised by subscriptions and the proceeds of a very successful Jumble Sale.  The opening ceremony was performed by Mrs. Balfour.

Scoutmaster W. H. Hastings, who presided said for a long time the local troop of Boy Scouts had sighed for “The Day”, but with much more amiable intentions than was the case in Germany.  That day had now arrived.  They had had very good quarters in the Manor Hall but unfortunately there was no room to keep their equipment there, and they never knew when they might have to give up for a night.  It was, therefore, thought desirable to look out for permanent quarters of their own, and, encouraged by the wishes and generous promises of support of many kind friends, this had been done, and they were now in possession of that comfortable and excellent hall.  It was true the building was not yet paid for, but they hoped to be able to meet their indebtedness to the builder (Mr. John Skinner) some day.  (Laughter).  He was unwilling to individualise, but felt constrained to acknowledge the extreme kindness and liberality of Mrs. Balfour and Mrs. Johnston, and he would also like to refer to the sterling work done by Mr. J. T. Clark, and to add their sense of appreciation of the help rendered them by their architect, Mr. R. W. Sampson. 

The history of the Sidmouth Troop was an interesting one.  When the Scout movement first gained publicity through the interest of General Baden-Powell, a Sidmouth lad (named Ellis) fired with the idea, collected a few of his pals and formed a troop, though on rather unorthodox lines.  They bought a money box, with which they collected funds from friends and into which they put their own contributions.  That was ten years ago.  With the advent of a Mr. Wyman Bury (from Somaliland) to Sidmouth, a constitutional change came over the movement.  This gentleman who was a great traveller and a man of extraordinary pluck, got in touch with the boys, and inspired them with tales of adventure and the principles of the scout movement, and as a consequence the troop was formed on a sound basis.  When he left to carry out a tour in Arabia, he was succeeded by Mr. Horton, an ex-Lifeguardsman, who taught the boys not less soundly, indeed it might be said of him more than anyone else, he worked up the troop on sound and scientific lines.  On being compelled to relinquish the post of scoutmaster, Mr. Horton asked him (the speaker) to take it, and he had done so.  Since he became Scoutmaster, he had always said he expected boys to go from the Scouts into the King’s service, and he was glad to say that practically every eligible boy who had belonged to the troop had joined the colours.  (Hear, hear.)

They were represented in the Devons, Marines, the Army Service Corps, the Hussars, the Yeomanry, the Canadian continent, the R.A.M.C., and many other units (Applause).  Since war broke out the boys had undertaken waterworks and coast watching, they had assisted the Red Cross work, and rendered public service in many other directions.  If they had never done anything before and never did anything again they had justified their existence by their most useful work during the last few months.  (Applause).  Mr. Hastings concluded by expressing regret at the unavoidable absence of General Carew Hunt and Colonel Hine-Haycock, and asking Mrs. Balfour to perform the opening ceremony.

Mrs. Balfour, who was heartily received, in a few well chosen and admirably expressed words, then declared the Hall open and dedicated to the use of the Boy Scout movement.  She said she was glad to be able to give whole-hearted admiration and support to the movement, and hoped it would not long continue to be a very live part of their little community.  She regretted that Col. Balfour, who was greatly interested in the Boy Scouts, was prevented from attending by his military duties at Aldershot. 

Lord Halsbury, in the course of a brief speech, congratulated the lads on their bearing.  In joining the movement, they were undertaking a serious responsibility, and he was very glad to hear they had all taken to it with a will and done the work incumbent on them in joining exceedingly well.  He had been reminded that when he last made a speech in Sidmouth he spoke for an hour.  That was not a friendly reminder.  (Laughter.)  He would not do anything of the sort that afternoon; at the same time he had very pleasant recollections of the former occasion. 

In congratulating the Scouts on the condition to which they had arrived, he said he did not know what the Germans thought, but if they imagined that by a policy of intimidation they would prevent English boys doing their duty they knew very little about them.  Those who had responsibility for the education of boys – and he had had some responsibility in framing regulations for schools and places of education – knew that the very last thing that would occur to them would be to make a boy timid.  He did not suggest they should make the mistake of thinking the Germans were not brave because they were very brave; but that was no reason why English men and boys should imitate the continuous insults of the Germans against England.  One thing he wished to emphasize was that everybody who was called upon to take part in the defence of England should do it bravely and in the knowledge that his cause was just.  (Applause.)  If he did that he would have that source of bravery which would fail no man, i.e., that whatever the issue might be he had done his duty to God and his Country.  (Applause). 

Rev. C.K. Woollcombe added a few words and laid stress on the value to lads of good reading. – Not to look and admire the real men of the time simply for what they were, but to read and study for themselves how these men had won to their great positions.  And in regard to their future he urged the lads in the words of a great American writer, first to make up their minds what they wanted to do, and having done so make it not the business of their lives but the happiness thereof.  (Applause.) 

General Sir Richard Harrison, in proposing a vote of thanks to Mrs. Balfour, said though he had not paid a visit to Sidmouth before he had had the pleasure of meeting many of the Sidmouth Scouts at their pleasant little camp at Belstone.  He congratulated the Troop on the acquisition of such an excellent Hall, which could not fail to be of the greatest benefit to them and tend to still further popularise the Scout movement in Sidmouth. He said on the outbreak of the war sudden demands had ben made upon the Scoutmasters and other leaders of the movement in some parts of Devon.  In this neighbourhood, however, where they had an exceedingly energetic commissioner in Mr. Woodruff, and their excellent chairman (Mr. Hastings) a very keen supporter of the Scouts, the movement had been kept going splendidly.  When the war was over he was convinced there would be a boom in scouting.  Every day it became more palpable that the principles of chivalry and Christianity which were at the foundation of scout law were more dependable as guides to conduct than the law of militarism and force which was the vogue in Germany.  The fact that most of the nations of the world were rallying to the side of Great Britain at this crisis in the world’s affairs was due to her policy of justice and honesty in dealing with other nations, for which she was famed.

Major-General Gwynne, in seconding the resolution, referred to the great interest Col. and Mrs. Balfour evinced in the Scouts in Sidmouth, and alluding to the two respective companies of Scouts and the Church Lads’ Brigade, spoke of the value of the discipline inculcated in these lads by joining such movements.  He added, justice was the keynote of the British Empire and to which they would hold whatever Germany or anybody else said.

The proceedings then terminated with the National Anthem and hearty cheers. 

After the opening ceremony, the Boy Scouts gave demonstrations of their skill in drill and signalling under the direction of Assistant Scoutmaster Cook.