During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
The year of Peace has been looked forward to by every man, woman, and child in the land as a release and change from the overclouding horror of war — and nobly the weather has played its part in making it so. For us Scouts in particular it has given the very best encouragement in the direction of camping — and I am bound to say we have not missed the opportunity.
I am trying through the goodwill of our officers to get some sort of estimate of the number or proportion of boys who have been under canvas this season.
As experts in camping it is going to be possible for Scout officers to be of real help to the education authorities under the provisions of the Fisher Act. As experts. But there you are; some of our men have not so far had much experience in this direction; this naturally makes them shy of taking their boys out into camp and giving themselves away; they wear their cowboy hat bravely enough in the clubroom or street, but all the time their inner self is saying, “If only I could get away quietly and learn how you really do light a fire with wet sticks, or make yourself comfortable with a blanket and a pot hook.” It is the efficiency that is needed — and Gilwell Park is there to help them.
Of course the vast majority of our men know all about it, having gone through the best of schools — experience.
At the same time the reports of Commissioners on camps that have been held this year do show that although the majority were undeniably good, there were weak points here and there which a little knowledge or attention could easily eradicate.
For instance, I notice some of the following straws that point to want of care or experience:
Sites. — Badly chosen where better were available for surface drainage, shade, level for games, exposure to prevailing wind, water supply, etc.
Cleanliness of ground. — No system of keeping camps clean; paper littered about camp; food refuse not destroyed, and consequently flies and ill-health; latrines badly placed and not filled in, etc.
Cleanliness of Scouts. — It seemed to be thought the correct thing in some instances that when in camp Scouts could go dirty, unwashed, and unkempt. When I was in Afghanistan — but that’s another story! In the meantime, camp is the Scoutmaster’s opportunity for expecting cleanliness among apparently difficult conditions. He can show the example himself and insist on it in his boys — which, as a matter of minor discipline and hygiene, is of pertinent value. A change of shoes, and flannel trousers or gym suit, should be an important part of the camper’s kit. Proper washing and bathing facilities should be a first care in arranging a standing camp.
Occupation. — A camp if it is used merely as an excuse for loafing and slackness is almost worse than no camp at all. Where you have a large camp, drill becomes necessary to keep the crowd of boys employed, unless you have enough space for endless football and other games.
Whereas in small Troop camps the varied Scout games and activities, interspersed with physical team games, can be carried on all the time without boring or tiring the lads. In too many instances camps were held without previous intimation being given to the local Scout Commissioner. This is not only contrary to the unwritten Scout Law of Courtesy, but in very many cases the Commissioner would have helped the Troop to far better sites and greater enjoyment had he known they were coming.
And — Scoutmasters — wouldn’t you enjoin on your boys that as Scouts they are expected to differ from ordinary boys by carrying out this simple Irish camping motto: “On breaking up camp leave two things behind you — “1. Nothing. “2. Your thanks.”