This brief history of the Group must, of necessity, be incomplete since it has been compiled from the memories of three former members of the Group. It therefore covers mostly the very early years in the first part of the 20th. century, together with the 1940’s and the 1950’s. Memory, at this length of time can make mistakes. Should anyone reading this have a different story, or be able to provide a more recent history, please type it up and send it to a member of the Leadership Team.
John Hasselgren, Group Secretary
1909 – Formation of the Group
The Group was founded, as a Land Scout Patrol, in 1909 with assistance from Mr. P. G. Blyth who was teaching at Bancroft’s School. Some years later he wrote the following in the School magazine:
At the bookstall at Chingford Station in March 1908 I noticed Part 1 of Scouting for Boys by Lt. Gen. Baden-Powell, which was first published in fortnightly parts. As a boy I had thought that schools did not teach many things that I would have liked to know, and when cadets were started in those days I thought that, though there were interesting things about them, they wasted a lot of time over too much drill, and did not do enough else. When I read Scouting for Boys I thought that this was just the sort of thing that was wanted.
In August Baden-Powell had his second experimental boys’ camp by the Beaulieu River near the New Forest. There were 30 boys selected by a competition in gathering coupons from the weekly paper The Scout which had started in April, and one of them was a Buckhurst Hill Bancroft boy R. N. Brock. In September R. N. Brock, E. R. Hart, A. A. Mead, A. E. Pluck and L. C. Scott formed a Patrol, which met at Brock’s house, and they were joined soon after by L. J. Hirst. Knowing that I was interested they asked if I would act as Scoutmaster. I said that I would like to do so the following term, but that there would have to be a School Troop. I was also approached by a boarder. The 4th. Epping Forest (Bancroft’s) Troop was started at the beginning of the Lent term 1909, Brock’s boys forming one of the patrols (Kangaroos) and E. R. Hart became Patrol Leader of another Patrol (Lions).
Three other Troops had already started in the District, the 1st. (Congregational Church – George Lane), the 2nd. (All Saints, Woodford Green) and the 3rd. (Snakes Lane). They were run by men who had been accustomed to Boys Brigades and were much inclined for parades, marches, flags, bands etc., which did not agree with my idea of Scouting, though we sometimes joined them. Those ways have now gone.
Gen. Baden-Powell had made a brilliant suggestion, but we had to work out the details and find things out for ourselves gradually. Scouting has now developed a lot, but it has not been worked out like Cricket to the last batting-glove and pitch manoeuvres nor like Football to the last line, flag and lemons in the interval. Scouts, besides getting experience and fun for themselves, have the interest of knowing that they are working for still greater development in the future.
– By PG Blyth
The following memories about the 4th Epping Forest (Bancrofts School) Scout Troop have been contributed Norman Hammond who was at Bancroft’s School from 1940 to 1948:
I went to Bancroft’s in 1940 and joined the 4th. Epping Forest, as it was, in early 1943. Meetings were held in the Troop Room – now the Tuck Shop. It was Jack Earle – a Geography Teacher who changed the Group to Sea Scouts from Land Scouts just before the war. Whilst he was away on active service in the navy Mr Houston took responsibility for the Group. After the war Jack Earle returned for a short period before going to teach in Northern Ireland. Our summer camp in 1947 was at Newcastle in County Down. When Mr Earle went there was not a master who would take over the running of the group. However Mr Tom Winder and Mr Jim Cunnington helped. Neither had connections with Bancrofts.
My first camp with the 4th was on an old sailing barge called Quest in 1943 and it was moored off what is now Fox’s Marina, Ipswich. I remember sailing on the Broads, Summer Camp at Salcombe and Chichester, and at Goodwood we pulled the Trek Cart round the car racing track and wide games were held on the race course! In 1946 I went to Sweden as part of the British contingent to the Swedish National Camp held on the East Coast of Sweden near Stockholm. So far as scouting proficiency was concerned I finished up a King’s (now Queen’s) Scout and received my certificate from the Chief Scout Lord Rowallen at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich shortly before I joined the Royal Navy for National Service in 1948.
– By NF Hammond
I will try to take up the story from Norman. I joined Bancroft’s as a boarder in 1949. There were no girls at the school in those days. At the interview at Drapers’ Hall, when asked if there was anything I wished to know about the school, I asked if there was a Scout Troop, having been a Cub and recently moved up to the Scouts in the 16th. Fulham Group. I was assured that there were Scouts at Bancroft’s, so decided that leaving home at the age of eleven wouldn’t be so bad after all.
You were not allowed to join the Troop in your first year, so I had to wait until September 1950 before joining. Those applying were each interviewed by the Court of Honour (Patrol Leaders’ Council) before being accepted, although I cannot recollect anyone being rejected. The Troop, consisting of Scouts and Senior Scouts, was run by Jim Cunnington, a Yorkshire man and a Post Office engineer who lived in the Monkhams area. He was assisted by Ron Knights, known as Nickel Knights, an Old Bancroftian and captain and hooker for the rugby club. Sadly, neither Jim nor Ron are still with us. About this time Norman Hammond, sometimes called Wally after the famous English batsman, returned from National Service, and became an Assistant Scout Leader.
We met, then as now, on a Thursday evening. On Friday afternoon at 3.00 pm., when the Combined Cadet Force paraded, we had a second Troop meeting. As Jim, Ron and Norman were all at work, this was run by the Senior Scouts. Having no boats of our own, with only occasional use of Duckling – a small wooden dinghy built by D. L. Houston, Housemaster of School House – we had to learn seamanship ashore, getting afloat whenever we could. We learnt to tie knots and bends, to splice rope and to signal with semaphore. We even had a navigation class. As a treat we went pulling in whalers from RRS Discovery, then moored on the Thames at the Embankment in London. Then P.G. Blyth left us some money in his will and we were able to buy Blyth I and II. These were wooden GP 14 sailing dinghies which were kept at Burnham on Crouch, where we sailed at week-ends. Travelling was by steam train after morning school and lunch on Saturday. As boarders we had to catch the Yachtsmens’ Special train back, returning to school on Sunday evening. In addition we covered the normal scout activities.
In the summers, a Broads cruise alternated each year with a land camp. On the Broads we could hire as many as eight boats, all yachts with not an engine amongst them. When the wind failed they were quanted along. Camps that I can remember attending took place at HMS Dryad, a stone frigate at Southwick, just outside Portsmouth. Here, in the harbour, John Turner capsized the boat after I had slopped a wave down his pocket and soaked his cigarettes. And on Anglesey in the grounds of Conway House we camped at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogeryllantysylliogogogog (I’m not sure I have spelled that correctly) where we walked up the local mountains. Occasionally other trips came up – a weekend on board the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable at Portland, arranged by Gary Hope, then doing his National Service in her and a visit to Cowes Week in a destroyer whose name escapes me, acting as guard ship. It was during this visit that Prince Philip, drifting past in his Dragon, Coweslip, in a flat calm told those on board, in some choice language, to stop saluting him and to pray for some wind. Happy, carefree days.
My Queen’s Scout certificate was presented to me by the Chief Scout, Lord Rowallen, at Gilwell Park. I was accompanied that week-end by Tony Arnold and Mick Gillett; Mick Highstead should have been there with us but was unwell. My certificate, as has been usual throughout my life, has my name incorrectly spelt.
Leaving school in 1956, National Service in the navy came next. Boarding at Bancroft’s and being in the Scouts made the transition from school to services very easy. Later, college and starting a career meant that I only saw the Scouts when I assisted at camp and Broads cruises, so the next part of the story must be taken up by someone like Steve Thirsk, who joined in about 1957 and has never left.
– By JO Hasselgren
Mr. Jack Earle
In 1999, whilst contacting former members of the Group to arrange the 90th. Anniversary Dinner, Norman Hammond told me that Jack Earle was still alive and living in Norfolk. He also provided a telephone number. Jack Earle, when I spoke to him, felt that anno domini prevented him from accepting my invitation to the dinner as our guest. However, he told me of the days when he changed the Troop from Scouts to Sea Scouts. It seems that he owned a sailing yacht in which he was able to offer some sailing to the Scouts. The then headmaster became slightly worried lest some unforeseen accident should happen which would not be covered by the school’s insurance. Between them they decided that the easy answer was for the Troop to switch to being Sea Scouts. Then the Scout Association’s Insurance would cover sailing activities as well as normal land activities. That’s how it happened.
– By JO Hasselgren
Beryl Sharma joined the group in 2007, taking on the Cub group
The group almost ended as the existing leaders moved up North to new roles. Stephen Young from Bancroft’s school and Melanie Knight, a parent at the time took over the helm with no previous scouting experience between them but with adventurous activity experience, under the guidance of Rob Youd as GSL, John Hasslegren and Steve Thirsk. Handover was brief! During this period, Stephen focussed attention on leveraging the benefits of the RN recognition and many young people have since enjoyed the facilities of sites such as Whale Island in Portsmouth.
Matthew Balchin, another parent, joined the Scout section, joning Stephen and Mel and the team, having been roped in after taking a group of the scouts through the National Junior Indoor Rowing competition with another parent. During this period tyhe group has worked hard to re-build a range of activity permits that allow us to take scouts on the water in various Sea scout traditional activities and to help our young people with their own water permits and badges.
Three more leaders; Ajay Pamneja, Jacinta Balchin and Lahoucine Oudara joined the group as assistant section leaders. Chris Brown and Juliette Balchin became young adult leaders.