Re: need camporee pr...
Norman J MacLeod (normac4101@AOL.COM)
Sun, 1 May 1994 23:03:29 EDT
Thanks for the post. You weren t too far off. Although basically a Canadian
living in the U.S. at present, I arrived here last year after living in The
Netherlands for six years and being the SL (same as SM in the BSA) for the
Friezen Troop of the 1st The Hague Scout Group (British), located in the area
around Den Haag and Leiden.
How did you find Gilwell? I know it more as a more or less normal British
Scout camp with a few extras thrown in. Although we talk about going back
to Gilwell I suppose familiarity has bred a certain sense of almost ho-hum
about the place. I find this most evident in the way some of the British
Troops and VSUs camping there treat the grounds. It is rather a special place
to me, though, since Alan Greenhalgh was my GSL in Den Haag when he lived in
Hellevoetsluis. His Dad, Eddie, was Warden at Gilwell for many years, and
Alan grew up on the place. Eddie has loads of good stories about Gilwell and
the people who have come through there, and perhaps on of my particular
favourites concerns the digging of the Bomb Hole.
The Bomb Hole s creator was a German pilot in a very sick airplane that had
made it through the air over London somewhat intact, but had been unable to
release the bombs in the bay. The crew were furiously working away at the
mess and finally got the last one to release, and voila! Instant swimming
hole! What makes this tale even better is that the pilot, who had been a
Scout before Hitler came along, came back after the war to apologise (he had
become a Scout Leader, if memory serves) and was forgiven, with the thought
that it was perhaps the only way Gilwell could afford to get a swimming pond
put in at the time!
Eddie and his buddies have a lot more stories like this, and perhaps some
better, but we were never able to stay up the entire night for more than a
couple in a row!
I worked at Gilwell during an national Conservation Camp a few years ago,
providing emergency medical response to the teams that were working on a
variety of projects in Epping Forest. I went there with Alan and a few of his
Venture Scouts and a couple of our older Scouts. Eddie was there, along with
some of the other Grand Old Men of British Scouting. I did quite a bit of
repair work on several of the Scouts who were taking part in the experience.
I have been Scouting in many different parts of the world, and am more than
willing to be a resource or idea bouncer for anyone wishing to post to me.
Now, what you REALLY wanted to know was if I could share a few observations
on the differences between British and American Scouting. I do have many,
many, many observations along those lines, and have some rather more forceful
feelings about them than I usually share to the world at large, as I have
some very definite ideas about what I perceive to be upper-level problems
that could be dealt with in better ways than they are now. I don t mean to
offend, so please don t take any offence. I also wouldn t say something is
right or wrong without having some ideas of how to try to make things better.
I don t know where you will agree, and where you might not agree, but I m
always willing to discuss just about any issue (hopefully not in as many
circles of some of the discussions). Where possible, I try to reason from
For instance - I was SL when the Scout Association came to us and asked for
our opinions on the question of whether or not girls should be allowed to
join the Beaver, Cub, and Scout sections of the Scout Association. Or,
rather, they asked us to poll the boys as to their feelings on the issue. So
we did - and got a surprise - Out of 62 boys in our two Scout Troops at the
time, only one was adamantly opposed to allowing girls in the Troop. When we
asked him why, he told us it was because there was no way he wanted his
sister to ever be in his Patrol! When assured that we didn t put sibs in the
same Patrol unless they insisted on being together, he figured it would be
OK, but he would still prefer she join the other Troop...
My reservation toward BSA National on this issue is that they will not even
come out and ask the people most affected by such a change - the boys - what
they think about the question! They seem to prefer slugging the question out
in open court to being thoughtful about the entire thing. I do not advocate
the merger of the BSA and GSUSA (Did you know there were merger discussions
some years back, but that the GSUSA pulled out when it became apparent that
the BSA had something along the lines of a takeover bid in mind?). Nor do I
advocate waiting for the courts to force the issue, because if the courts do
the job, nobody will have a choice but to accept girls in any Pack or Troop
they wish to join. That s not workable in every case.
I think a more reasoned approach is the one we have followed in the UK and
Canada, where each Group gets to chose whether the Group (or some of the
Sections in the Group) will accept girls as members. The key word in all of
this is choice . I fear the courts would remove the element of choice
Another issue where I cannot fully agree with the BSA s approach is that of
the cocooning of the Scouts from everything that can possibly do them harm.
This is, of course, not really within the BSA s ability to control, being
driven, unfortunately< by the crazy findings of lawsuits people bring - and
win - because they took a risk and lost. While a certain amount of this
protection is undeniably necessary, it is taken to extremes in the USA as a
For instance, will you allow a Patrol to go on a Patrol camp without adults
being present? This is common practice in the UK as well as in Canada,
assuming the Patrol s leadership is level-headed and experienced enough that
they can be trusted on their own. Most of us will check up on a Patrol that s
camping without adults, but that s about as far as it goes. Even then you are
going to vary the intensity of your periodic presence or observation from
afar depending on the personalities involved in the camp.
I simply feel there is significantly more freedom for adventure in British
Scouting than what I am experiencing here. For instance, I was advised before
the Camporee that I needed to think very carefully about these Highland
Games because of the risk of injury to the boys. In other words, I was being
asked if I shouldn t consider something besides these games with heavy
things that could cause a hernia . Maybe I stuck my neck out, but we had a
successful Games with the weighted devices keyed to the size of the Scout
competing (it was a Children s Games, after all...). There were no injuries
I know I would not have enjoyed Scouting in the BSA today anywhere near as
much as I enjoyed being a Sea Scout as a youngster. I thrive on the outdoor
challenge and adventure stuff today, as much as I did then. Scouting was fun
because I could go out and take the risks in a guided environment (as opposed
to controlled environment - subtle working difference perhaps, but an
important distinction). I would not have stayed if I had not found the
adventure I was after, because there were other avenues to get the same
levels of challenge. Perhaps this is one of the areas that has caused
retention problems here...
British Scouting offers more opportunities than the BSA. I realise that you
have Sea Exploring, but you cannot be a Sea Scout at ten-and-a-half here. You
can opt to be a regular Scout, a Sea Scout, or an Air Scout in the British
Scouting scheme. America certainly has the population base and interest
levels to have both Sea Scouts and Air Scouts, yet the BSA contends
otherwise. It s the choice I miss, more than anything. I would jump at the
opportunity to be a Sea Scout Skipper here on the shore - but the option is
not available. Here again, British Scouts have the option of flying in either
small powered or glider aircraft, where this option is not as freely
available to American Scouts, and I think that is a shame.
On the other hand, American Scouting is far better supported in terms of
literature. Such things as the Scout Handbook and the Fieldbook are envied
among British Scouters, as well as the variety in official Scout items in the
BSA catalogue. There is also your ability to readily (normally) phone the DE,
and get some assistance from him or her. We do not have professional Scouters
at this level.
Now, let me make a suggestion to you -
Since you are planning to get back to the UK in the next year, why not use
the Internet (rec.scouting is a newsgroup that might be helpful) as a way to
locate some Scouters who might host you on a weekend camp while you are
there? You would be able to get a much better idea of what British Scouting
is like if you were to actually spend some time with a British Group and see
how differently or similarly they work.
I am introducing the Scouts and Scouters here to a wide range of the better
features of the Scouting programmes of several countries. For instance, the
idea of only giving the full schedule to the Patrol Leaders for the Camporee
comes from a District Camp I attended in Finland. I ve always wanted to try
that out... Actually, it worked rather better than I expected, once everyone
understood how to make the communications flow smoothly. Imagine, if you
will, Patrols showing up without Leaders to Flag Break, and the Eureka light
that comes on when they figure out the reason the Leaders are missing is
because the Patrol Leaders forgot to tell them what was up on the schedule!
I m going to close now, since I m getting a bit la-la from fatigue (we had
the police deliver six boys who thought a 1:00 AM stroll through town was a
Good Thing. That was a Troop Problem, as opposed to a Camporee problem - but
we had to hang about until the Leaders got things situated. (Guess who
cleaned the bogs this morning?)
I hope this is along the lines of what you are looking for. I ll let this be
a starting point for you, if you will, and ask that you let me know where you
want to drift with this. Are you looking for practical things that you can
use, or are you more looking for philosophy and so forth? I m happy to move
in either direction.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City