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Brownsea and its significance - The world's first Scout Camp

Brownsea Re-union Header
The header of the Brownsea 21st Anniversary Reunion programme, July 21st, 1928
There were many significant happenings that led to the formation of the World's greatest youth organisation. Brownsea certainly ranks very highly and, because of its prominence, it is perhaps surprising just how little detail is generally available. I hope this contribution will help to shed light on the happenings at what is generally billed as The World's First Scout Camp

MILESTONES to Scouting was originally chosen as the title for this series of articles to demonstrate that there was no single event that can claim to be the starting point for Scouting. It must be remembered that the Brownsea participants were not Scouts in the true sense of the word - they had not taken the Law and the Promise.Memorial stoneSome did go on to become Scouts, but others did not join when eventually the opportunity was presented, preferring to remain in the Boys' Brigade or their School's Cadet Corps. All of the original participants that left any sort of written record seem to agree that what happened on Brownsea was very special and stayed with them throughout out their lives.

Baden-Powell was 50 years old in 1907. He had achieved world-wide fame as 'The Hero of Mafeking'. He had toured Britain extensively and spoken to a wide range of audiences about his ideas of using Army Scout training to motivate what he saw as disaffected youth. He had involved other youth organisations - notably the YMCA and the Boys' Brigade. He had a populist publisher waiting for the drafts of his latest book, which was a revision, designed especially to appeal to the young, of his army manual Aids to Scouting. He had the support of the great and the good throughout the land. What he did not have was practical experience in working with young people! True, his ideas had worked on Army Scouts. The Mafeking Cadets were, in the main, much younger and though inspirational were not trained by Baden-Powell. As far as boys of 'scout age' were concerned, B-P only had the word of others, young and old alike, that his ideas would work. Now he needed to find out for himself.


Organisation

DURING a fishing holiday in May 1907 at Knocklofty in Ireland, B-P had met Mr and Mrs Charles van Raalte. They got on very well and invited B-P to visit them in their London home or at their castle on the 500-acre Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset.Brownsea Island

As a boy, B-P had sailed in Poole Harbour with his brothers and made illegal landings on Brownsea Island's private beaches. It seemed to him to be the ideal place to conduct his experimental camp. On his return to London, B-P wrote asking for permission, and was sent back van Raalte's recently-published little booklet about Brownsea. Yes it had everything he needed, particularly isolation. He wrote,

"I was anxious to get away from outsiders, press reporters and other 'vermin', where I could try out the experiment without interruption."

SOME press reporters must have become aware of the camp, because B-P replied to the Editor of The Daily Mirror from Brownsea on August 4th, 1907, on Brownsea Camp headed stationary (see later image). B-P insisted that the camp was a "small experimental one" and in no way worth publicity at that stage. He skilfully manipulated the situation by promising full co-operation when "the scheme" was in its complete form. I am sure that the Editor of The Daily Mirror understood by this that no such 'co-operation' would be forthcoming had he dared go against B-P's wishes and report on the Brownsea "experiment".

Baden-Powell invited some of his army chums to send their sons, but right from the start he was clear that Scouting was to be for all boys, not just a privileged minority. In Edwardian Britain this was a revolution in its own right. As far as education was concerned, youngsters from the different classes were well segregated. On Brownsea there were ten of 'town boys' and eleven were the children of his friends who were mainly at (fee-paying) public schools. To make this social mix a reality a 'sliding scale' of fees was charged, the 'town boys' paying three shillings and six pence (17½p) whilst the public schoolboys were charged £1 per boy. Baden-Powell intended that 'the troop' be 18 strong, but found that 21 boys wanted to attend, plus one he had not expected, his nephew Donald Baden-Powell - the nine-year-old son of his late brother George.

Boys' Brigade

B-P could not of course run the entire venture by himself and so he invited his life-long friend, Major Kenneth 'The Boy' McLaren to accompany him on the venture. McLaren had served with B-P in India and in South Africa. He was wounded in the relieving of Mafeking and made a prisoner-of-war. B-P wrote to him every day and, knowing that the Boers would read his letters, B-P used them to give misleading information.

The 'town boys' were to come from Boys' Brigade Companies, seven from Bournemouth and three from Poole. B-P left much of the practical details to the local Boys' Brigade in the person of Captain Henry Robson of the Bournemouth Company and instructions were coming to him from B-P in London thick and fast. In a letter to Robson, dated June 19th, 1907, B-P asks him to supply six lads (this was later to alter) and, where he can, hire bell tents with flooring for sleeping and obtain a "contractor for feeding and cooking". There would need to be a flag pole and several other items that caused Robson to scratch his head; B-P wanted two rowing boats, a quantity of logs and some steel-tipped harpoons with an eye in the shaft so that they could be secured by rope. Harpoons were not common in Poole, and Robson had to have them speedily-made by a local blacksmith. In the same letter, B-P declared the purpose of the camp: "I propose to teach them" [i.e Robson's Boys' Brigade boys] "my new form of Scouting for Boys . . ." It seems likely that this might be the first use of the term 'Scouting for Boys'.

The photograph (taken after the Brownsea Island camp in 1909) shows two of the boys selected by Captain Robson - Sgt. Herbert 'Nippy' Watts (left) and Sgt. Herbert Collingbourne (right) of the 1st Bournemouth Boys' Brigade.

The venture needed food stores and catering facilities and in this B-P was lucky. Robson's friend, Captain G W Green of the Poole Boys' Brigade, was involved in the catering business.

In 1927, Captain Robson re-visited the island with 500 Scouters on the occasion of the Bournemouth Scouting Conference. He told the delegates of the "marooning" of the provisions for the camp and, except for "the mercy of providence" how they very nearly found a watery grave on their way to the island the night before B-P arrived. Unfortunately, I have found no further details of these dramatic events.

After correspondence with B-P, the two BB Captains supplied the names of the ten Boys' Brigade 'town boys'. B-P had written to Captain Robson on July 19th, to say he could take eight in total. He was under the impression that some of these would be from the Church Lads' Brigade. Of his friends's children, two came from Eton, two from Harrow and and two Cheltenham, one from Elstree School Charterhouse, the two remaining boys as were at that point being tutored at home.

B-P Letter
B-P Letter

William Stephens, the C.O. of the Coastguard Station at Sandbanks, near Poole, was contacted and agreed to be on hand to give demonstrations to the boys in First Aid and Firefighting.

B-P wrote letters of invitation to all the parents, they were explicit and promised " ... wholesome food, cooking and sanitation, etc. would be carefully looked into ... " The boys should be practised in three knots - reef, sheet bend and clove hitch - before arrival and they must be able to swim.

The camp was planned for nine days starting on Monday, August 1st, 1907, but both Baden-Powell and McLaren were on Brownsea before that, preparing for the boys' arrival, contrary to what some sources say - but the evidence is incontrovertible.

The first letter sent out from the Brownsea Island camp by B-P is shown on the right (John Ineson Collection). The postmark is '27 JY' and the letter itself clearly records the date as July 26th, 1907. The writing paper was obviously supplied by the van Raaltes. B-P wrote:

"Now I am down here preparing my Boys Camp. It is the perfect place for it - a splendid island, well-wooded and wild, giving plenty of scope for Scouting. I think we shall have a very good time if the weather is only kind, which it doesn't promise to be at the moment."

In a subsequent letter, to a Miss Lyttelton, again written from Brownsea, dated July 28th, B-P gives an interesting insight on one of his pet hobby-horses:

"But I quite agree with you one wants to teach these boys the quality of not 'grousing' - and I think that may come as a result of such training as that of 'Scouts' - for they are not born grousing: there is hope if one catches them young enough . . . The Loafers are the grousers."

During the Siege of Mafeking, B-P had been disconcerted by 'grousers' and had publicly remonstrated with them, threatening financial consequences should they continue! The success of the 'anti-grousing' training at Brownsea can perhaps be best demonstrated by the comments of one of the BB lads, who wrote to him afterwards.

"The most important thing that a great many boys need to learn is to look at the bright side of things and to take everything by the smooth handle. I myself found that a great lesson . . ."

THE Projected Schedule for the Week, as quoted by Sir Percy Everett. Note that this must have been written in advance, as the actual camp lasted for 9 days - longer for the first arrivals.

1st Day.
Preliminary. Settling into Patrols. Patrol leaders received a special course of instruction.
2nd Day.
Campaigning. Camp Resourcefulness. Hut and mat-making. Knots. Fire-lighting. Cooking. Health and Sanitation. Endurance. Finding your way in strange country. Boat management.
3rd Day.
Observation. Tracking. Training eyesight etc.
4th Day.
Woodcraft. Study of animals plants, birds and stars. Noticing details of people. Reading their character and condition.
5th Day.
Chivalry. Honour. The Code of the Knights. Unselfishness. Courage, Charity and Thrift. Loyalty. Practical Chivalry to Women. Obligation to do a 'Good Turn'.
6th Day.
Saving Life. From fire, drowning, sewer gas, runaway horses etc First Aid. The Albert Medal.
7th Day.
Patriotism. Colonial Geography, History and the deeds that won the Empire. Our Army and Navy, Flags and Medals. Duties as a citizen. Etc
8th Day.
Games - Sports.
9th Day.
Going Home

Setting up Camp

'All aboard!'
"Any more for the Hyacinth?" (B-P is in the flat hat)

BILL Harvey, a local boatman, with his motor boat Hyacinth was hired to make the two-mile crossing from the Custom House, Poole to Seymour Pier on Brownsea Island. Terry Bonfield, one of seven boys picked from the Winton Boys' Brigade in Bournemouth remembers;

"The Bournemouth boys were taken to Sandbanks on a lorry by Henry Robson, who had a big grocery business at The Triangle. We went to the island on a boat belonging to Harvey's which I think was called the Hyacinth. The other boys went in a bigger boat from Poole Quay."
Bell Tent
B-P with the famous
Kudu horn

B-P walked with the first party of boys the half-mile round the shore to the intended campsite. All soon got to work pitching camp - six bell tents, a cooking shelter and dining marquee. The other boys arrived the following day.

The site was in the lea of a pine wood shelving gently over an open heather and grass area to a rocky beach - but close to a sandy bathing beach. A flag pole was erected in the centre of the camp, and B-P stuck a pigsticking lance in front of his own tent, with the Union Flag that had flown over his office in Mafeking secured to its tip. This must be the flag and ersatz flagstaff shown in the picture on the right.


B-P and boys at Brownsea

B-P had the lads change out of their 'best' to camp clothes. He had brought hats which had the brim turned up on one side Ė a reasonable imitation of the 'Smasher' hat worn by the Mafeking Cadets. As you can see from the photograph on the left, some of the lads wore shorts but most were in long trousers. I think that this photograph shows B-P helping the boys to identify leaves (you can see two boys fossiking about in the background for examples) as part of the 'Observaton' activity planned in the 'Projected Schedule' for the camp (see above) for the third day, B-P at Brownseawhich would have been, coincidentally, August 3rd. Donald Baden-Powell mentioned a competition which involved collecting leaves. (See below)

Much to the disappointment of the boys, B-P wore a trilby, rather than his famous 'wide awake' hat. He did, though, wear below-the-knee shorts with almost knee-high golf stockings, an a old South African shirt with a white collar and tie! Quite a strange mixture, but, as the photograph shows, B-P, as always, looked completely at ease.

By Tuesday, the 30th of July, all were present and a camp fire was held that evening with B-P as leader. He 'yarned' of his experiences in Africa and India, and spoke of the activities for the next day. In all the accounts I have read, some written half a century later, the participants recall these stories with affection.

"Baden-Powell used to tell us about his adventures in Africa and India ... and on a nice summer night, with him standing in the centre of the ring and telling these tales ... that was the highlight of the camp."
Arthur Primmer

The evening finished with prayers.


The Patrol System

NEXT day, the 1st of August, the boys were split into four patrols. They were given shoulder-knots in their patrol colours, which hung almost down to the elbow. They were made from two strips of 1" wide woollen tape or ribbon, 18" long; one placed on top of the other, then folded in half over a safety pin and sewn along the fold - a method which was still used up to the 1960's, although the shoulder knots were considerably shorter by then. The triangular Patrol flags, affixed to short staffs, were painted in green on white cloth by B-P himself. Alongside the outline of the animal or bird were the letters "BA", the first and last letters of the word "Brownsea". Patrol leaders were given the special distinction of wearing a white fleur-de-lis on the front of their hats.

The table below contains the names of 21 boys, including that of Simon Rodney. His inclusion his fully backed by evidence from a number of sources including his own writing. The evidence is contained in the Author's book Brownsea:B-P's Acorn which runs to several pages- see details of the book at the end of this Page. However, as always, I would welcome the opportunity to learn more.
Name Age From Comments

As Donald Baden-Powell, B-P's nephew, was only 9¾ years old and the other lads were between 10 and 17 years old, he was not assigned to a patrol, but made B-P's adjutant. Donald was also present at the second 'B-P Camp' at Humshaugh, Northumberland in 1908 and the third at Beaulieu in 1909. Donald was born on October 5th, 1897 and died in 1973, aged 75. He went to Eton, was wounded in December 1917 in France, when he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade. He went to Oriel College, Oxford, and became a much-published academic Geologist and a distinguished professor at Oxford University.

As our research has continued, more and more information about the boys at the camp has come to light, in particular a copy of an interesting document given to me by Michael Loomes, curator of the Scout Museum at the Waddecar Scout Camp, which lists the dates of birth and the dates of death of most of the boys. It was something of a surprise to see how old most of the boys were - their average age at the time of the camp was 14 years old. The average age of the 11 boys who attended Public Schools was somewhat lower (13½ years) than that of the 9 boys whose ages we know from the two Boys' Brigade Companies (14¾ years). The reason for this (if there was a 'reason') is unclear. We do not know at present whether Baden-Powell suggested an appropriate age for the boys to be selected by the two Boys' Brigade Captains - their age range was from 11 to 17 years old, with only two boys under 14, whilst Baden-Powell's selection included 6 boys of 14 or under.

The table above gives the full names - where they are known - of all the boys. From the document above, from a Brownsea Letterhead all but one of the boys signed before leaving the island and from other written sources, it has been possible to deduce what the boys called themselves. These names are shown in ordinary face, their other names which they did not use, are shown in italics.

The Un-official Participant

IN the 'Jubilee Number' of The Scouter of July, 1957, there is an article by Arthur Broomfield, whose name is not a corruption of two of the names of participant's at the Brownsea Island camp - Arthur Primmer and Terry Bonfield - but so close that it might well have caused some confusion in the past. Mr Broomfield's family had moved to Brownsea Island in 1897. His father was one of 120 people employed by the Van Raaltes. Arthur Broomfield states that he used to row his father's boat to the mainland in order to attend school. By 1907 his older brothers and sisters had grown up and left the island, so he had little company in the summer holidays, which was when Baden-Powell arrived on the island. Despite his father's warning to stay away from the camp, Arthur went every day to observe the camp being set up and then, when the campers arrived, he rowed round to the site in his father's dinghy, made friends with some of the campers, and began to take part in some of the Scouting activities. Mr Broomfield writes of his first meeting with B-P:

"I had reached the point where the camp came into sight when I heard someone calling me. I looked down the hill and saw a man floundering in a patch of bog. As he came towards me I realised it was none other than Baden-Powell himself . . . After that I saw Baden-Powell several times, when I was invited to join the Scouts round their camp fire, and I listened with rapt attention to his stories."

Quite why the intrepid Outdoorsman, 'King of Scouts' and Military Strategist had allowed himself to be mired in a bog, we can only speculate on. Perhaps it was to 'test the metal' of Arthur, or draw him out of the shadows, where B-P must have surely seen him on previous occasions.


The Daily Programme

Koodoo Horn
  • 6.a.m - Wake to the Koodoo Horn which B-P found on his expedition to the Somabula Forest, whilst serving in the Matabele Campaign, 1896.
  • Wash
  • Cocoa
  • Clean up campsite
  • Subject of the day (Introduced at campfire the night before)
  • Physical drill - led by B-P
  • Flag break and prayers
  • Breakfast
  • Scouting Exercises
  • Lunch
  • Games and competitions on the dayís subject
  • Dinner
  • Campfire

The picture shows B-P demonstrating the Koodoo horn (not at Brownsea). The original is kept in the Scouting Archive at Gilwell Park and, whilst sound enough to handle, is no longer fit to blow.



Camp Activities

OF the Brownsea camp, B-P wrote, many years later:

"The troop of boys was divided up into four 'Patrols' of five the senior boy in each being the Patrol Leader. This organisation was the secret of our success. Each Patrol Leader was given full responsibility for the behaviour of his patrol at all times ... (One patrol in fact has six members see table) "
A B-P deliberately mixed town boys with public school boys and separated brothers.
"Each night, one patrol went on duty as night picket, i.e. drew rations of flour, potatoes, meat and tea and went out to some indicated spot to bivouac for the night. Each boy carried his greatcoat, cooking pots and matches."

The night pickets had to take their job seriously as there could be 'enemies' lurking. One night the van Raalte's daughter and son, Noel, decided to invade the camp, but they were 'arrested'. (Noel van Raalte was also with B-P on his lecture tour of the USA in 1912) Another night a party of guests at Brownsea Castle out for a stroll were intercepted, and B-P himself was spotted by his nephew as he tried to conceal himself in the branches of a tree.

The meal they cooked whilst bivvying was the only 'self catering' the boys did on the island. The picket patrol returned to the main camp for breakfast, which, together with all the other meals for the boys not out on picket duty, was provided by the good offices of Boys' Brigade Captain, G W Green, prepared in the Cook's Tent and served in the Dining Marquee.

Arthur Primmer of the Bulls Patrol remembers making some flour balls using the inside of his jacket as the mixing bowl. "I am afraid they would not have passed muster with the camp cook - but to us boys it was great fun." B-P first described this method of bread making in his diary of the Matabele Campaign published in 1896.

Arthur Primmer at Brownsea

Arthur Primmer was active in Scouting for many years, becoming Rover Leader of the 1st Parkstone and District Rover Leader for the Poole District, appointments he did not relinquish until 1947, when he was no longer able to do any active work. In a letter written in 1947, Primmer said "I have had several enquiries latterly regarding the Camp and Brownsea and as (quite naturally after the passage of years) our recollections vary somewhat, I am thinking it might be a good idea if I asked the other local Brownsea lads to meet me and put together as much as possible a detailed account of our stay at the camp." At present, I have no knowledge as to whether this meeting ever took place. He maintained his interest in Scouting for many years after that, holding honorary offices with Scout Groups both in the UK and the USA, to one of whom he claimed quite correctly to be "The Oldest Boy Scout" all he other survivors at that point had never been Scouts,but also claimed to be the last survivor of the boys who were at Brownsea Island but Brian Evans-Lombe, who lived to be 100, who died in 1994, was in fact the last survivor.

The photograph shown here is of enormous interest. It was produced for Arthur Primmmer to give out to Scouts when he attended the Scout-o Rama, Los Angeles, as a guest of the Boy Scouts of America in 1983. Primmer is the boy kneeling at the victim's feet and standing in the sunhat on the left is Donald Baden-Powell. The picture also shows one of the tents the boys must have slept in and the impressively bearded gentleman of military bearing is William Stephens, the Commanding Officer of the Sandbanks Coastguard Station who instructed the boys in First Aid, in this case, I think, the long obsolete Silvester method of artificial respiration. The dedication, (clearly readable on the original, which is larger than the image reproduced here) reads: "Life is for living and Scouts learn how to get the best out of life and to give their best. Keep it going. Congratulations & best wishes. Arthur Primmer, Brownsea Scout 1907"


BADEN-POWELL had formulated a successful teaching strategy which he went on to recommend to others. The topic to be considered was introduced informally and in an interesting way, usually at the campfire the night before. The following morning there would be a period of instruction which later on would be reinforced by a game using the principles that had been taught, or in some sort of competition. This strategy was in direct contrast to the formal periods of instruction beloved of the Boys' Brigade. As B-P himself put it,

"We found the best way of imparting theoretical instruction was to give it out in short instalments with ample illustrative examples when sitting round the camp fire or otherwise resting, and with demonstrations in the practice hour before breakfast. A formal lecture is apt to bore the boys."
Nearly 100 years on, B-P's teaching strategy would not displease a modern Inspector from The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) who would certainly recognise the 'testing' element of the game or competition.

B-P's nephew Donald remembered;Paper chase

"Among the first things we did was tracking, for the sand was especially good. We learned to distinguish the tracks of a man running from a man walking, and various animals and birds.
"A competition was organised to see which boy could collect and name the greatest number of leaves, which we also had to draw in a given time. As we were not expecting such a competition to take place, our success depended largely on how much we had noticed the nature of the trees which we had passed every day."
Published August 12th, 1929 in the Daily Arrow, the newspaper of the 1929 World Jamboree held at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead.

E E Reynolds in The Scout Movement records that Herbert Emley won a prize in the observations tests. I wonder if this was similar to the book given to Cedric Curteis by B-P which is illustrated below? Also from Reynold's book comes the picture, reproduced above right, said to have been taken on Brownsea. It shows a boy who, I presume from the bag across his shoulder, is laying a paper trail. Indeed, I saw just such a track, running the length of the island, on my visit there. Naturally, the boy is not wearing any sort of uniform, but I am sure that the photograph was taken during the Brownsea camp, as he is wearing a long patrol shoulder knot, issued to all the boys on the camp, on his jacket. Possibly this was a part of the 'Tracking' exercise the Projected Schedule lists for the 3rd Day of the camp, but who was the boy?

Spotty Face
B-P playing 'Spotty Face'

Other games played were: 'Spot the Thief'; 'Lion Hunting'; 'Bang the Bear'; 'Dispatch Running'; 'Old Spotty Face'; 'Whale Hunt' (using logs for whales, two rowing boats and those specially-made harpoons.) and 'Deer Stalking' - this was one of the most popular games. The 'deer' went off armed with a dozen tennis balls, four 'hunters' followed five minutes later with one tennis ball each. The deer would hide and try to ambush its hunters. One tennis ball 'hit' on a hunter counted as being gored to death and removed him from the hunt. On the other hand the hunters had to hit the deer three times before it constituted a 'kill'.

Some of these games are cribbed in every detail from Ernest Thompson Seton's Two Little Savages, such as the 'Whale Hunt', which he called 'Hunt the Great Sturgeon' and 'Spotty Face', Seton's 'Quicksight'. Prior to Brownsea, the two had agreed to share ideas, but later on Seton was to feel very aggrieved. Baden-Powell though was always ready to acknowledge his help, and at a dinner attended by Seton in 1916, B-P was very generous indeed in his praise. An assessment of Seton's contribution to Scouting will be found in the Scouting Milestones article on Scouting for Boys.





AUGUST 8th was the last day of the camp and B-P had planned something special - a Sports Day. Did the idea for this originate, I wonder, from the very motivating Sunday Sports and other 'special events' that were held in the beleaguered town of Mafeking? The boys prepared the programme and carried it through 'under their own steam'. B-P had invited the van Raaltes and their house guests plus the Literary Manager from Pearson's - B-P's publisher - Percy W Everett.

Tug-of-War
"Take the strain..."

The programme include many activities that had featured in the time the boys had spent on the island. There were games, competitions and demonstrations. First aid, Ju-jitsu, mat weaving and firemanship were demonstrated. The afternoon ended to great applause with a Tug-of-War. (Any readers of these pages who have worked in a school under my headship will recognise the format!)

Note the fleur-de-lis in B-P's hat. This could either be one those he made himself which were given to the Brownsea boys, (see Terry Bonfield's testimony below) or one of those B-P designed for use in his regiment in 1897. (For more on this, see "The Scout Badge" Page.) As far as I am aware none of the Brownsea badges are still extant, so it is a moot point.

After the sports, the van Raaltes invited whole camp to the castle for tea where a rousing three cheers "for the best general in the world" went up. One of the campers was asked by an adult what had impressed him most about his visit to the van Raalte's Castle. He replied,
"Splendid tuck in, and Mr Van Raalte's pet monkey . . ."
The monkey had apparently tried to steal some of the boys' hats.

The campers then returned to camp for the last campfire, where for the last time the words of the Eeengonyama Chorus startled the dusk -

B-P:
"Eeengonyama - gonyama."
The Boys:
"Invooboo. Ya bo! Invooboo."

B-P brought the Zulu chant with him back from Natal. When wrote it down later (for Scouting for Boyss)it was from memory and so, not surprisingly, the spelling is not that of a Zulu. Accompanied by mime, dance and yells, it became a rutual at early campfires but has long since been deemed unsuitable for modern youth.

Percy Everett of Pearson's wrote twenty years later,

"I can still see him, as he stands in the flickering light of the fire - an alert figure, full of the joy of life, now grave, now gay, answering all manner of questions, imitating the call of birds, showing how to stalk an animal, fleshing out a little story, dancing and singing round the fire ... "

Remaining a firm friend of Scouting for the rest his life, Percy Everett attended the last 24 hours of the camp as Pearson's Literary Manager, to observe 'the experiment'. Pearson had already committed himself to publish B-P's major revision of his Aids to Scouting.

In his book The First Ten Years, written in 1948, Everett writes that he assisted B-P in the organisation of the camp, "... making arrangements for the assembling of the boys". He was certainly responsible for two reunions of the participants at the then Chief Scout's Home at Pax Hill in Hampshire and the following year at the Coming of Age Jamboree in Birkenhead. So it would seem that Everett's 'testimony' on the participants would be the most accurate available, but, of all the sources found, he is the only one not to list Simon Rodney of the Bulls Patrol, whilst other sources comment specifically on the four Rodney brothers. More serious perhaps is his assertion - which is also to be found in B-P's later writings - that there were participants from the East-End of London. This cannot be the case if the number of boys from the public schools quoted by all the other sources is correct.

Sir Percy, as he later became, was to become a central figure in the development of Scouting and was in fact knighted for his services to Scouting in 1930. B-P said of him that he had "been his right hand man". He was the first Director of Leader Training and became Deputy Chief Scout. He was also instrumental in the 'Peace Cruises' in the 1930ís. He won an early adult Silver Wolf for organising the 'The King's Rally' at Windsor in 1911 and B-P presented him with a six bead Wood Badge, previously an honour that was unique to him, and he in turn presented this unique Wood Badge to Gilwell in 1949. (I am currently working on a separate Scouting Milestones article on the Silver Wolf - watch the introduction page for more details.)


Book flyleaf
Endpapers to Seton's Two Little Savages. Presented to C Curteis on Brownsea.
From the collection of David C Scott

THIS is the flyleaf of Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton. It bears a dedication to Cedric Curteis and was given to him on Brownsea on 8 August 1907. A rare find, now in the collection of my friend Dave Scott, of Texas, USA. It poses several questions. Did all the boys get one? This must be a possibility; all the boys at Humshaugh were given a signed copy of Scouting for Boys. Perhaps it was a prize for winning one of the competitions held on the camp? Maybe we shall never know. The book does, I think, provide one answer, or at least a strong riposte: It is often said that B-P borrowed material from Seton and never acknowledged the part he had played in the early development of Scouting. The link above to Seton on the Page on Scouting for Boys provides other evidence that this was not so, but here were have an important discovery, at the very place most people would define as the birthplace of Scouting. By giving a Seton book and not one of his own, B-P freely acknowledges to his first 'disciples' that some of the games that they had been playing were from Seton and that his writings are 'recommended reading.'


THE next day the boys returned on the Hyacinth. There is a story that some of the lads, thinking that the experiment was over and they would never need them again, threw the brass fleur-de-lis badges that Baden-Powell himself had made into the muddy waters as they were ferried back to civilisation. As a collector and an archivist, I can only hope it is an apocryphal tale, however the fact is that no living person has ever seen a 'Brownsea Badge'.

Last camp letter
Last camp letter
The last letter posted from Brownsea island. Note the embossed fleur-de-lis on the paper - Pearson's, the future publisher of Scouting for Boys had provided B-P with his own camp notepaper. (John Ineson Collection collection)

Terry Bonfield, who was in the Bournemouth Boys' Brigade remembers that the brass scout badge B-P had made was awarded was in two parts.

"At first, we were called tenderfeet. We got the bottom part of the badge when Baden-Powell made us second-class Scouts and the top part when we became 1st class Scouts."
(Brownsea Beginnings for Scouting Adventure - Article in the Bournemouth Evening Echo 4th October, 1989)

Though B-P was to comment that " ... discipline was excellent", the two social groups looked askance at each other from time to time.

Arthur Primmer from Poole -

"One of the upper-class boys in my patrol put his hand up one day and said 'Please, sir can I leave the room?' and one of the town fellows said 'Silly fool, doesn't he know heís in a tent?'"
(I could tell a very similar story about a child who came to my school from America - and wanted to use the bathroom! [Note to US readers, we do not have bathrooms in schools - only toilets].)

The future Lord Rodney said that he felt sick watching the Town Lads eat raw cockles. (Presumably it would have been alright if they had been oysters?)

Despite these cultural differences, the two groups of boys lived and worked together in their isolated setting in a way that would not have been thought possible on the mainland. The camp exceeded B-P's expectations in every way. At the 'Sports' on the last full day, the lads had entranced the van Raaltes and their guests and convinced Everett, a hard-nosed journalist and businessman, as to the value of B-P's idea. B-P was ready to take his embryonic training scheme to a far wider audience.

In his last letter to be posted from Brownsea island, B-P wrote - "I am just breaking up Camp here - I am in a tearing hurry ... The Camp has been a great success but hardish work."

The 'hardish work' had hardly begun.


AS soon as he was back in London, B-P, much encouraged by the responses of the boys and their parents, had already started to 'flesh out' his 'scheme'. Within a few weeks he had published a little four page leaflet, Boy Scouts: A successful trial, and then put his mind to a major revision of his Aids to Scouting. It was to be called Scouting for Boys, but that is yet another Scouting Milestone.

The Boys' Brigade continued their association with Scouting until 1927, but that too is another story!


Camp Finances

Costs in 1907 . Equivalent in 2002
£ s d ... £ s d ............... £ p ... £ p
Expended . . . 55 2 8 . . 2,858  66
Receipts . . . . . . . . . .
Thirteen boys Messing @ £1   13 0 0 . . . 674  05 . .
Nine town boys @ 3/6 do. 1 11 6 . . . 81  66 . .
Donations to date 16 0 0 . . . 829  60 . .
_______ . _______ .
30 11 6 . . . 1,585  31 . .
. _______ . _______
Leaving . . . 24 11 2 . . 1,273  35

The not inconsiderable deficit was volunteered by Saxton Noble, the father of Humphrey and Marc.

To those who have planned camps, two things will be apparent: Why did expenditure exceed income by almost 45%? And why were the boys charged so little? If each boy had been charged half as much again, the deficit would only have been £4 5s 5d - £221.44 at today's values. The presumably more affluent Public School boys would only have paid £77.75 at today's prices, whilst the poorer 'Town Boys' would only have had to find £13.60 for a week's camping with all meals provided.


The Boys in Later Years

'Bob' Wroughton

With the forenames Musgrave and Cazenove, it is not surprising that 'Bob' was the name preferred by young Wroughton. His name was odd in other respects; his father was William Musgrave, but he took his surname from his mother, Edith Constance Wroughton. His sister, Dulce, is often linked romantically to B-P. He wanted her to stay as she was, like "a female Peter Pan". After Brownsea, B-P corresponded with Bob far more than he did Dulce.

When he was twenty years old in 1912, Wroughton accompanied B-P as his ADC to go, on January 3rd, together with Noel van Raalte and others, on the S.S. Arcadian on a lecture tour of the USA. It was on this voyage that B-P became re-aquainted with Miss Olave Soames, whom he had met in passing when she was walking her dog in a London park. It appears that Bob Wroughton was the first to be told of their engagement by letter on September 12th, 1912. B-P had met his future wife. The wedding took place six weeks later on October 30th, 1912.

Whilst this was a new stage in life for B-P, Wroughton's was soon to end. After Christ Church College, Oxford, he joined the Northamptonshire Yeomanry (his home was in Creaton, Northamptonshire) as a 2nd Lieutenant. He transferred to the 12th Lancers in 1913 and accompanied his Regiment to the front in August, 1914. He saw action at Mons, the Marne and the Aisne before being killed in action at Ypres on October 30th, 1914, only 29 days after his twenty-fourth birthday.

Brian & John Evans-Lombe

Brian Evans-Lombe at Brownsea

An obituary published in The Daily Telegraph on February 4th, 1994, on the death of 100-year-old Brian Evans-Lombe, a former Cheltenham Public School boy, reports that he retained the Bull's Patrol Flag - with the silhouette of the Bullís head painted on it by Baden-Powell - for many years and remembered baking bread and making his own mattress. His Scout training was no doubt called on in his long career in the army during which time he invented 'The Universal Sun Compass'. He maintained his interest in Scouting throughout his life and is shown in the photograph opposite, from the UK Scout Archives, with the former D.C. Of Brownsea Island, Mr Les Grafton, whilst on a return visit in 1987. Mr Evans-Lombe looks remarkably sprightly on his 80th anniversary re-visit to Brownsea, when he was 93 years old.

His brother John was in the Wolves patrol and was one of the youngest members of a patrol attending, being born on April 7th, 1896 and so just 3 months past his eleventh birthday. He also was a career Army Officer, serving in the Royal Artillery in WWI, rising to the rank of Major and winning the Military Cross. He died in Bombay whilst on Military Service on October 30th, 1938.

The brothers were the sons of Major Charles Spencer Brown Lombe (later Evans-Lombe) who served with the Leinster Regiment in Barberton, South Africa.

The Noble Brothers

Humphrey Brunel Noble and Marc Noble were the sons of Saxton Noble, who generously met the shortfall in income over expenditure of the camp. Both boys went to Eton. Marc Noble left Eton in 1915, went on to become a 2nd Lieutenant in the R.F.A. and died of wounds received near Boesinghe at Ypres on July 1st, 1917, whilst showing great bravery in trying to get help for his wounded comrades. He was not quite two months past his 20th birthday. Humphrey, who also attended B-P's second camp at Humshaugh and the third at Beaulieu, went to Eton in 1905, on leaving became a Captain in the Northumberland Yeomanry, won the Military Cross and, later in life, became a M.B.E.

Humphrey had been knighted by the time he wrote an article about his Brownsea experiences in the 'Jubilee Number' of the The Scouter in July, 1957. Sir Humphrey writes that he was 15 years old at the time of Brownsea and his brother Marc was only 10 years of age. The Noble boys' uncle, George Noble, was a brother officer with B-P in the 13th Hussars and they were firm friends. B-P often visited George Noble at a minor stately home in the Noble family near Humshaugh in Northumberland, and was involved in the impromptu productions put on at the 'house parties' there. Over time, B-P got to know all the family members well, and asked if Marc and Humphrey could attend his 'experimental camp'. "I believe I was in the Curlews Patrol," wrote Sir Humphrey, "I certainly remember trying to imitate the call of that bird." This somewhat hesitant statement is probably occasioned by the fact that all other contemporary sources have Sir Humphrey in Ravens. Of his experiences in the First World War he cites his Scoutcraft training, received on Brownsea, as being of 'supreme importance' which "enabled me to get away unperceived by the Germans from an extremely awkward situation at the Battle of Loos."

Sir Humphrey Noble, M.C., M.B.E. died on August 15th, 1968.

There is more on the Noble family on the Scouting Personalities Page

The Rodney Brothers

There were no less than four Rodney brothers at the Brownsea Camp, although Percy Everett does not include Simon Rodney in his list of the boys attending the camp, whilst another source claims that Simon only came to Brownsea at the end of the camp to collect his brothers, though this seems odd, as he was second youngest of the brothers.

Lady Margery Rodney
Lady Margery Rodney in her Guide Commissioner uniform

The Hon. George Brydges Harley Guest Rodney was born on November 1st, 1891 and was a descendant of George Brydges Rodney (1719-92), who rose to the rank of Admiral and became the 1st Baron, Admiral Lord Rodney, following his success in capturing Martinique in 1762, during the Seven Years' War. George Rodney inherited the family title and became the 8th Lord Rodney. He married Margery (born 1895), the daughter of Lord Lonsdale, in 1917. They emigrated to Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada in 1919, where they farmed until retiring in 1960. The couple were leaders of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements in Alberta, Lady Margery Rodney becoming the first Alberta Provincial Commissioner of the Girl Guides. Lord Rodney died in 1974, a year after Lady Rodney.

The Hon. James Henry Bertie Rodney was born on March 29th, 1893 and went to Harrow School between January and the summer of 1907. During the First World War he became a Captain in the Rifle Brigade, a Major in the Royal Flying Corps., was wounded twice and awarded the Military Cross. He died on December 9th, 1933.

The Hon. Charles Christian Simon Rodney was born on July 26th, 1895, so was only three days past his twelfth birthday when the camp began. He was to become a 2nd Lieutenant in the 17th Liverpool Regiment in September 1914; a Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards in 1917 and was taken Prisoner Of War in 1918. He married in 1922, served again in the Armed Forces in 1940, became a stockbroker after the War, and died in 1980.

I have been unable to find out much about the Hon. William Francis Rodney, except that he was the youngest of the Rodney brothers, born on October 2nd, 1896. I assume he too attended a Public School, but do not know which, except that it was none of the Schools that any of the other Public Schoolboys at Brownsea went to. He may well have been educated privately. During the First World War he joined the Rifle Brigade and it must have been partly due to his ability to shoot accurately that he was attached to the 3rd Squadron Royal Flying Corps, presumably in the earliest days of its establishment, as he was killed in action on May 9th, 1915, aged only 18 years and 7 months. His mother was Corisande, Lady Rodney, divorcee of the 7th Lord Rodney, with whom B-P formed a romantic attachment.

The Mystery of the other boys

Sadly, then, as now, the privileged and upper-class had well-documented lives, whilst the rest of us seldom leave a thumbprint on the pages of history. This was the case for the boys at the Brownsea camp. Of those who attended Public Schools, my researcher, Mike Ryalls, found his task easy. Not only was he able to find the dates during which a particular boy attended a particular School, the School Archivists (to all of whom Mike Ryalls is exceptionally grateful) were able to provide information on their 'Old Boys', their later lives, their achievements, and even the dates of their deaths. No such records exist for the 'Town Boys', unless their achievements in later life were notable, as were Terry Bonfield's and Arthur Primmer's, and then only partial details can be ascertained. With the exception of Primmer, we even do not know which schools they attended, let alone what they might have done or achieved as adults, or when they died.

1928 Reunion
The picture is from The Scouter of August, 1929, and lists those shown as:-
Back Row: G Green (Boys Brigade Officer); B Watts; P Medway; Major McLaren (an adult at Brownsea)
Front Row: B-P; A Primmer; T Bonfield; J Vivian; H Robson (Boys Brigade Officer); R Giles; D Baden-Powell; H Noble

In an article in The Scouter of August 1929, timed to coincide with Scouting's 21st Anniversary and probably written by Percy Everett, there is a photo of many of the surviving Brownsea participants taken at B-P's home at Pax Hill on July 21st, 1928. Sir Percy Everett was given the task of tracing the campers, many of whom also attended the World Jamboree at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead in the same year. In addition to the 'boys' (who would then be aged between 30 and 38), also present were Henry Robson who, as Captain of the 1st Bournemouth Boys Brigade Company, had selected the Boys Brigade boys who had attended Brownsea and organised much of the equipment used at the camp, and Robson's friend, G W Green, the Captain of the 1st Poole Boys Brigade Company, who had organised the catering at the camp. A different source has a picture of the 1928 Pax Hill reunion showing the Boys Brigade Officers Green and Robson, together with B-P's friend McLaren, who was another of the adults present on Brownsea.

A further article in The Scouter goes on to say that, of the boys at the camp, seven had died, seven were abroad and the rest attended. Confusingly, Everett states that there were 20 Brownsea boys but, as can be confirmed by many sources, there were 21 boys in patrols - Everett missed Simon Rodney from his list - and the camp was also attended by Donald Baden-Powell, making a total of 22 boys. So 'the rest' that the article equivocally quotes, must have numbered eight.

Everett states that, by the time of the reunion in 1928, seven of the boys had died, one third of the participants, and our research agrees that was the case.

Added to this list should be the name of Ethelbert (Bert) Tarrant who, we learned from an article in another issue of The Scouter (see below), had died soon after the camp during a medical operation and , who died in 1926.

We know from Charterhouse School that Brian Evans-Lombe farmed in New Zealand and that Herbert Emley became District Superintendent of the North Eastern Railway and later the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Nigerian and Sudanese Railways, so he may have been in Africa in 1928. However, we also know that he became General Manager of the Aire and Calder Navigation from 1939 to 1947, the year before his death, so he clearly returned to live in England. But of Cedric Curteis, James and Simon Rodney, we know little else other than they must have been 'abroad' in 1928.

In addition, there is an account in The Scouter of April 1927 of the Brownsea Camp by Bert Watts (we call him by his Boys Brigade name of 'Nippy', although his Christian name was Herbert) and Terry Bonfield. In the last paragraph they say:

"...our greatest regret being that our other three pals from Winton have answered the Final Call, for
Mr H Collingbourne died after the effects of gas-poisoning,
Bert Blandford was killed in Flanders
and Bert Tarrant died soon after the camp."

It is the case that those boys who attended public schools, the children of B-P's friends, are very well documented, however of those Boys' Brigade Boys who died in World War I, even 100 years after the camp still very little information is known.


THE progress of our research into the history of the Brownsea Island camp has been rewarding if at times a struggle. It is unbelievable that we do not know anything but the briefest details about some of the campers at the most significant camp in the history of Scouting.

Now, nearly one hundred years later, the opportunity to interview and record the facts from the original participants has passed. There is, it has to be said, some degree of responsibility on the shoulders of those who researched and formed our present day archives for failing to attend to this when memories were fresh.

Surely there had never been a time in the whole history of Scouting when the importance of this camp has not been recognised? It is true that there are in existence some interviews with the last of the surviving participants made shortly before they died, but this was too little and too late. Mike Ryalls, my Web designer and researcher into the Brownsea Participants for this Page, makes the point that he cannot remember the names of the his fellow Wood Badge course members and that only happened 20-odd years ago. (He cannot even remember the year!) Researchers were asking Arthur Primmer to remember Brownsea forty years after the event when one could naturally expect his memory to have dimmed.

Yet even at this later stage all is not lost. These Pages have proved over and over again that the power of the Internet is unsurpassable when it comes to revealing missing information. The 'lost boys' - Reginald Giles, Percy Medway, J Alan Vivian and Herbert Watts - must all have surviving relatives and their family records must be able to traced. It is our challenge, if not to say our duty, to do so.(See the conclusion of this web article)

In a letter to the Scout Association dated November 16th, 1964, William Hillcourt Baden-Powell's biographer writes:
"I think that, possibly, we should get together to really develop the Brownsea Island story into a complete monograph, getting together in one spot all available information and all photographs."
I trust that spirit of 'Green Bar Bill', a great historian and a great Scout, looks down on these efforts with some satisfaction. Together we can make his dream come true.


Brownsea Badges

Brownsea Today

"Every year during the period between the beginning of April until the end of September the National Trust allow visitors to land on Brownsea Island. With prior arrangement, the Brownsea Island Scout Fellowship will be pleased to arrange for parties from Scout and Guide Districts or Counties, Fellowship Groups, Trefoil Guilds, Rotary Clubs and similar organisations to join them at a 'Fellowship Lunch'."

The above is taken from the excellent pages of the 'Brownsea Island Management' Website, I have good reason to be thankful for their excellent catering and organisation. It is they who maintain the Trading Post which part of the newly opened Baden-Powell Outdoor Centre. The centre was build after the old wooden providore had been condemned. £500,000 were required to be raised and much of this had to be found by the National Trust who has a result now own the centre and manage both the original campsite and the South Shore Lodge residential hostel, though of course all of these facilities are still own to Scout and Guide groups.

As always in Scouting it is the people that make the difference and if you are going to Brownsea you can do not better that to visit the Website link above and arrange to be accompanied by one of the group's excellent voluntary guides.

National Trust

Brownsea attracts visitors from all over the world, as you can see from the donated badges and Visitors' Book in the Trading Post / Scout Visitor Centre run by the Brownsea Island Service Team. The photograph below is of Scouters from Japan who, with me, were a part of the Headquarters 'Heritage Tour' in September 2000. I do hope they get to see it. In August 2007 the island will be the focus for the 'Brownsea Sunrise' a re-enactment 100 years on of blowing of the kudu horn which heralded the start of the first day of the camp. The author of this site was proud to be an historical consultant to the re-enactment campers and and will be present for the Sunrise Ceremony.


Brownsea:B-P's Acorn

Since originally writing these Brownsea pages in the year 2000, as a result of the author's researches much new information has come to light. Up to 2006 the webpage has been amended on every occasion. In 2006 it was felt that whilst the page should be kept factually up to date it was no longer possible to keep adding information. The number of images was causing a problem - not allowing for the normal clear 'magazine' style associated with Scouting Milestones and to keep pace, the text would need to expand beyond article length into a book. Clearly Scouting Milestones is a collection of articles not books!

In January 2007, the author of this site, Colin Walker, published a professionally produced volume Brownsea:B-P's Acorn, The World's First Scout Campincorporating much additional information, with a foreword by Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. The work contains 160 A4 format pages with over 140 images. I was fortunate to make contact with five families of the 'original' Brownsea Boys. The full justification for my controversial listing of 21 participants on this site is given, - there is much previously unpublished information on the Brownsea Badges and patrol pennants. Every photograph thought to taken on Brownsea is illustrated and all the letters sent by B-P about the camp, before, during or after are listed. There is a complete Scouting History of the island from 1907 to the present day including the Brownsea Sunrise Ceremony. The book concludes with an appeal on behalf of the Brownsea Scout and Guide Management Committee with whose support the book was written. The work has been acclaimed as being definitive and having unparalleled research.

Brownsea: B-P's Acorn can be supplied via this email link at a cost of £ 14.99, £2.50 post and packing - if you live within the UK. Please use the link to enquire the postage rates to where you live. The stamps used to cover the postage will be those of the UK 2007 Scout Issue if posted after their first date of issue on July 26th 2007, and the 2007 St George's issue otherwise.

Images from the book have been made into postcards, 12 in all, in two sets of six (Set A and Set B) Each set costs £3.00 post free. The cards each bear the unique 'Brownsea' Fleur-de-Lys which B-P had printed on his camp notepaper (see letter to Mrs Langdale August 9th above).


Acknowledgements

I have enjoyed my time on Brownsea Island, both through my researches in print and on the Web and my 'real-time' visit in September 2000. The information I have presented is as accurate as I can make it and comes mainly from the following sources:

My particular thanks to:
Kevin D Aitchison - BB collector and historian for his help;
John Ineson Collection, for images of many of the artefacts;
Michael Loomes, curator of the Scout Museum at the Waddecar Scout Camp, for documents listing the ages of the boys at Brownsea and a list of those attending the Reunion in 1928.
Printed SourcesBrownsea visitors
Daily Arrow, 1929 World Jamboree Arrowe Park, Birkenhead. Article by Donald Baden-Powell
The First Ten Years by Sir Percy Everett, 1948
The Scout Movement by E E Reynolds, 1950
Boy Scout Jubilee by E E Reynolds, 1957
Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero by William Hillcourt, 1964
Baden-Powell by Tim Jeal, 1989
Why Brownsea? by Brian Woolgar and Shelia La Riviere. Brownsea Island Scout and Guide Management Committee, 2002
Info Sheet SFH2 25/06/99 Scout Information Centre
Internet Sources
The Boys' Brigade and Scouting
Brownsea Island - The Birthplace of Scout Camping - ScoutBase UK
Brownsea Island Management - Brownsea Experiment - Heritage Column & associated pages.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Scout Information Centre

If you have any information that would help make these pages better, especially concerning those who were present for the experimental camp, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your information will be gratefully received and will, if you wish, be included in the acknowledgements for help given above.

Return to the "Milestones" introduction.
Colin (Johnny) Walker hopes that you will sign the Visitors' Book, look at the Forum Page and welcomes your comments about this Site,
which is v 6.2 and was last updated in June, 2007.

This article, the text, the images (unless separately acknowledged) and the underlying coding are Copyright C R Walker©, 2001 - 2007