2nd (HGS) Halifax Scouts

The 2003 annual dinner of former 2nd (HGS) Halifax Scouts prompted me to compile this potted history of scouting at Heath. Down to 1959 it is based on the group’s fiftieth-anniversary history and thereafter on (often rather sketchy) reports in The Heathen. If you have reminiscences of your own scouting days to flesh out these bare bones, I am sure the editor would be delighted to include them.

The origin of boy scouts at Heath is largely undocumented. A troop of three patrols is recorded in , but Ray Greenwood, a founder member, reminiscing at the 1959 jubilee dinner, was sure that the first patrol (Peewits) had been formed at least a year earlier. Its patrol leader, chosen by lot, was Lionel Fox, later Sir Lionel Fox, MC, CB, chairman of the Prison Commission. Hugh Seaton, a master at Heath, agreed to become the first scoutmaster, provided he did not have to wear uniform.

The troop survived the First World War, though with reduced numbers, and it was not until ‘Doc’ Browning became scoutmaster in 1922 that scouting at Heath began to flourish again. Summer camps were held in various places in England and on two occasions in France. A cub pack for boys in the junior school was formed in 1922 and a rover crew for older scouts in 1925.

Prior to 1930 the scouts had met first in a box room over the gym and then at Spring Hall, but in that year the scout hut, well known to generations of Heathens, was purchased and placed in the lower school yard to provide the group with its own headquarters. Also in 1930 the familiar claret and gold neckerchief with the school cap badge at its point was adopted.

In 1936 two additional scout troops (B and C Sections) were formed, the original troop becoming A Section, and in the following year D Section was added. 1936 also saw the introduction of the distinctive group tie as a permitted alternative to the school tie. In 1937 a senior sea scout patrol (Seagulls) was formed under the leadership of Peter Walker. Camping continuing to be a favourite activity and in the 1930s the district camping competition was won by teams from the group on seven occasions, including a run of five successive wins by the original troop — A Section, with four second places and two third places. Stainforth, near Settle, was a favourite site for summer camps.

The Second World War seriously disrupted scouting at Heath. Thirteen members of the rover crew, including all the scouters of A Section and all the ASMs of B Section, were called up immediately and others were to follow. The blackout, rationing and other shortages also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, the scout troops continued to meet and still managed to hold summer camps, though in D Section had to be merged into B Section, which changed its name to Beavers in 1941, and in C Section had to be disbanded, its members being shared between the two surviving troops. In 1943 A Section changed its name to Badgers. The senior sea scout section (Seagulls), composed mainly of Beavers, was re-established in 1941 and continued to provide additional activities for the older scouts until 1945, when it merged back into Beavers. The cub pack also survived the war, only to be wound up when the junior school closed in 1946.

The end of the war did not bring about a restoration of the golden days of the 1930s. Finding scouters continued to be a problem. Nevertheless, Badgers under George Cobb and Beavers under George Littlefair and Gordon (‘Nipper’) Bentley continued to be strong troops, performing well in district competitions and providing a full range of scouting activities, including, of course, camping, a regular venue now being West Tanfield.

In 1947 the older boys from Badgers and Beavers came together to form a new senior scout section under first ‘Fishy’ Hull and Ron (‘Funf’) Fawkes and later ‘Micky’ Mitchell and John (‘Pia’) Iredale. They indulged in a wide range of adventure pursuits, adding pot-holing to the more traditional activities of hiking and camping. Also in 1947 the rover crew was re-activated by ‘Da’ Carlin, but it petered out in the 1950s, when it met, if at all, only during university vacations.

The shortage of leaders, as potential scouters went off to national service or to university or left Halifax in the course of their work, continued to affect the scout troops. Temporarily between 1952 and 1956 and then permanently from the early 1960s it became necessary to merge Badgers and Beavers into a combined junior troop. For a brief period from late 1955 to the end of 1956 the senior scouts also had to merge with the junior troop, though they continued to carry out advanced activities as a separate patrol. In 1976 the senior troop became a venture scout unit. Sailing on Fly Flats reservoir was added to the regular activities.

At the end of 1981, facing the departure of three scouters and declining numbers of scouts, the group scout leader, John Hartley, had regretfully to announce the disbandment of both the scout troop and the venture scout unit, though dinghy sailing and small-bore rifle shooting continued for a few years longer as activities for those with scout group connections.

However, one link has survived in the form of the annual group dinner (originating in 1947 as a rover crew dinner), when former members of the group and their wives met to reminisce about their scouting days.

Michael Roper [Heath 1943–51]

The last annual reunion dinner was held at the Imperial Crown Hotel on Saturday, attended by a dwindling band of old scouts and their wives. The youngest old scout attending being already a pensioner! The next reunion dinner was proposed for Saturday, but the Editor is unclear whether this went ahead.

A list of old scouts who had attended in previous years is as follows:

J.P. Allatt, J.C. Allingham, C.R. Ambler, Mrs E. Andrews, M. Bailey, C. Barrett, Mrs S. Bentley, K. Berry, C.J.L. Bowes, G. Brearley, G. Butterfield, B. Capener, Mrs L. Cobb, A.N. Connell, R.L. Fawkes, R.J. Firth, N. Foster. D. Fox, G.W. Hanson, D. Hey, Mrs K. Iredale, J.A. Jackson, W.R. Lofthouse, R. Makin, P. Mansley, P.L. Massey, J.I. McCarroll, K. Pollit, I. Pratt, M. Roper, N.A. Shields, N.B. Shields, J.H. Shoesmith, J. Stoddart, M. Swale, A. Swingler, R.J. Taylor, A.B. Thomas, A. Titley, M. Titley, P. Walker, T. Whitaker, D.I. Whittle, D.V. Williams

First appeared in the Newsletter dated