By Maurice Castle
My life with Quinton Scout Troop began in November 1942. A friend took me up to the scout hut one Friday evening, uttering the words, “Give it a try!” As I entered a very old corrugated tin hut, dimly lit by gas mantles and heated by gas fires, I did wonder what was in store for me.
The old tin ‘ut’ as it was known to us lads was in a small field located in the original Stoney Lane, at the rear of the old Rectory. Each Friday we were instructed as to what the Scout Movement expected of the new ones and then what we could offer to the movement in later years. The first few weeks was look and listen; I might add learn that were to have clean shoes of Cherry Blossom shoe polish every Friday , black footwear was all that was available in the War Years. Swear words were unheard of and generally that is the way we were brought up at home.
Each Friday we took part in the weekly proceedings, Flag Break and a prayer read out by an enrolled scout on a roster system. This way everyone had a turn and we were all proud to have taken part. We were inspected to see that our appearance was smart with clean face, hands, shoes etc by the Scout Master; mine was Frank (Pop) Smith. We stood to attention and hoped we looked alright as our Patrol leaders would pick up on faults, which had to be put right, this did us NO harm and we soon learned to look smart for our weekly meeting. At the end of the evening, about 8.30pm we finished off with games, which today isn’t allowed?
I will describe these activities because I believe they were character building for those who took part. “Polly on the Mopstick”-Six in a Patrol and in order of height the tallest one was standing now bending to form a horizontal back and straight legs and head against the wooden wall, the next one in height would run and leap on his back and if he clung on for a few seconds would now become two bending then in turn the rest of the patrol would leap on the backs so becoming three then four then five until you had a full house, points would be awarded as to how many clung on but zero if they all fell over. Points would count towards the Annual Patrol Competition so any slackers would jeopardise the patrol performance. The next activity on certain Fridays was”Grab”- whereby the whole troop of thirty six (six patrols of six) split into two and each went to the two ends of the hut. Dried peas would be scattered in the middle of the floor, the number determined by how many were there on the night, less one. “Grab!” was bellowed and everyone charged at each other with the sole intention of grabbing a pea, obviously one scout missed out, he sat out the next round. Another pea was removed and so on until there were just two boys left and only one pea. The overall winner gained one point for his patrol and the runner up gained half a point. Many cuts and bruises resulted from the splinters on the wooden floor and the First Aiders had their kits ready and waiting. Another activity was “British Bulldog” where the whole troop would be one end of the room and one volunteer was in the middle. “Charge!” came the command and the poor scout in the middle had to stop one or more from going passed. Now two or three in the middle and the rest charged then more in the middle until a few were left to try and get passed all those in the middle. No points awarded for this game but always considered good fun. After recovering from this game and having got our breath back; all gather in a horseshoe around the Union Jack and the same scout that began the evening would lower the flag and fold it neatly ready for next Friday. The flag was also used by our Cub Scouts who met on a Wednesday and would adopt the same procedures as us.
I will now say what the troop did during the evening. The Patrols stayed at their areas which were one down each side of the room and two at each end. Patrols were named after animals e.g. foxes; wolves; owls; peewits; otters and squirrels. Each Patrol had a large box which had a hinged lid and was lockable, also a patrol bench for six. One of five helpers and the Scout Master would now partake in Patrol Time; this was when we would be instructed on the Life Story of our founder Baden Powell, the Scout Promise and the Scout law which became the guidelines for us to lead a good life.
The Scout Promise was as follows:-“On my honour I promise to do my best-to do my duty to God and the King-to help people at all times and to obey the Scout Law”. The Scout Law was as follows:-
All the wording in the promise and the Scout Law had to be memorised word for word. After about half an hour another instructor would take over to increase the level of learning i.e. knots. In our own patrol box was several two foot lengths of hessian rope; first aid kit; tools for maintenance; and books such as “Scouting for Boys” and “The Highway Code”. Very often our own Patrol leader would be experienced enough to take these Patrol Time Teachings. Map reading was also taught and played a very important role in certain tests, which were taken to access our progress and knowledge of the outside world. Fire lighting theory was done in Patrol time and practical was carried out at camp. All this knowledge would enable us to become an enrolled scout. First test was the ‘tenderfoot badge’. We now had our uniform from the Scout shop in Birmingham and so we wanted the badges to sew on them. We were enrolled on a Friday evening after Flag Break. We stood quite proud in the middle of the horseshoe of scouts and asked to recite the Scout Promise and the Scout Law to the Scout Master. We were then given our badges of 169 Birmingham, the patrol emblem, neckerchief, woggle, tenderfoot badge and the Birmingham County badge.
Good wishes and a left handshake (only applicable to scouts)-if you see a scout anywhere and you are not in uniform and you greet him with a left handshake, he will know immediately you are a scout. The scout salute now took place from me to the Scout Master – now from March 1943 - I was a scout and proud of it!
Ed’s comment – Thanks Maurice for your memories and photos, looking forward to Part two. Would anyone else like to share their memories with the members?
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