Least We Forget – Scouts In WW1

This month sees the 100th year since the end of the First World War. But as we stand in silence on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, in the 11th month, around the war manorial, marking our respects to the service men and women who put their life’s on the line for ours. Syston Scouts will also remember their fellow scout members who also gave up there time to help their country and provide a much need service. 

The role of scouts in WW1. Although the Scouting movement had only been in existence for 6 years at the start of the war, the Baden Powell Boy Scouts were recognized as a Government ‘non-combatant service’ and thus scouts were asked to undertake a variety of jobs during the war, some of which are described below. Locally, as soon as war was declared, the Chief Commissioner for Leicestershire, was requested to mobilise one thousand Boy Scouts who were to be placed at the disposal of the Government.  

During the first six weeks of the war Leicestershire Boy Scouts patrolled the Knighton Tunnel and Viaduct on the Midland Railway. Scouts were often on duty at recruitment offices where their role was to run back to the barracks with enlistment papers. During 1915 to 1917, three hundred Leicestershire Scouts were employed on ‘look out’ duty at various patrolling stations on the east coast; some Syston Scouts took part in this work.  

A very brief history of Syston Scout troop. The Scout movement was officially launched in January 1908, and Syston registered in February that year, becoming the first official troop in Leicestershire, and the second in the whole country. Very soon after this a drum and fife band was started in Syston, which was the first Scout Band in the Kingdom. The troop was well established with a wide variety of yearly events being held by the time that World War One was declared. There is not a complete record of the troop’s activities during the war years, but a report dated December 1915 has survived, and gives a fascinating insight into what the local troop did during 1914 and 1915. Sentences in italics (below) are quotes from this report.  

Syston Scouts in World War One. The report starts with a description of the troop’s camping trip to Bridlington in 1914. The troop had no sooner pitched their tents when war was declared, and a few days later they received (by post) the Chief Scout’s call for scouts to volunteer to help the government, followed by a letter asking them to return home. In actual fact they were not allocated duties immediately, but all of the members of the troop sent in their names as volunteers for when their services were required 

After this, ‘the Chief Scout now put the present system of Scouts Defence Corps into going order. Sixteen of the Systons took it up with such keenness that very soon they were proficient in drill, and also skilled shots’. The record then goes on to describe an inspection of the Leicester Association Defence Corps the following spring when Syston scouts were praised for their Ambulance work, followed by a description of another camp soon after; –‘During Whitsuntide holidays we held what might be termed an exceptional record camp. The whole of the troop spent the weekend under canvas. The camp had originally been intended for Defence Corps only, and on this account was conducted on Military lines. The troop was split up into sections, and each section took its turn at guard duty. During the whole time the tents were standing a guard was kept day and night. On Monday Major Coates and the Assistant District Commissioner visited and inspected the camp. The Defence Corps was examined in Ambulance, Signalling, Drill and Pioneering. Each section had the highest praise from the inspecting officers.’ 

The report then describes other things that the Syston troop and its band did during those early years of the war; they assisted at many recruiting meetings held in the village and provided a band for route marches of the Leicester Volunteer Training Corps. 

That year the troop camped inland near Nuneaton, as camping at the coast was not allowed.  Shortly after they returned to Syston the Defence Corps was inspected again by Major Coates, who watched the scouts demonstrate their shooting and drilling skills, and the signalling sections exchanging messages. The official report to headquarters read; ‘The Syston Troop are smart in appearance and are very proficient in both Defence Corps and Scout work.’       

On Saturday 11th September the troop paraded to Barkby Hall for inspection by Mr V. R. Pochin, (Acting Commissioner for the local Association). ‘The troop built a bridge across the stream with scout poles which bore the weight of 15 scouts. The Commissioner then examined a number of scouts for their signallers Badge and passed six of them. Drill was the next item, after which Mr. Pochin distributed 11 War Service Badges to the scouts for Voluntary War Service.’ 

The report concludes with up-to-date news about how old Scouts were serving in the forces. It was written by Mr. Henry Moore, who was Scoutmaster from 1912. At some time after December 1915, Mr. Moore joined the Leicestershire Regiment and became a machine gunner. He was wounded and invalided out. After recuperating, he returned to Syston and continued to lead the troop until 1958. He died in 1982. Mr Moore’s report paints a vivid picture of what Syston’s scout troop did during the early years of the war.  

All around the country Scout troops were undertaking various types of war work.  

Scouts still believe today as it’s was 100 years ago in preparing young people with skills for life. we encourage our young people to do more, learn more and be more. 

Each week, we give young people the opportunity to enjoy fun and adventure while developing the skills they need to succeed. We’re talking about teamwork, leadership and resilience which have played their roles over 100 years ago in Syston and help shape the community today. 

We believe in bringing people together. We celebrate diversity and stand against intolerance, always. We’re part of a worldwide movement, creating stronger communities and inspiring positive future. 

If you would like to volunteer or get your son or daughter to join the adventure 

Please contact Chris Bodycot - 0788 4245 089GSL@systonscouts.org.uk 

Syston Scout Group is open to girls and boys aged from 6 years upwards 

Band Open Evening 14th November, 7pm-9pm @ Syston Scout Hall, Oxford Street” 

Read a fuller version of this report can be found at the World War One Remembrance display in Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Upper Church Street, Syston. The display will be open all day on Saturday 10th from 10.30am to 5.00pm and just in the afternoon of Remembrance Day (11thfrom 1.30pm until 4.30pm.  

Roll of Honour of Syston Scouts who served in World War One. 

Navy; – T. Pollard, G. Preston 

Army;– S. G. Annis, Boufield, H. Briggs, T. Broadhurst, R. Byatt, W.T. Challenger, T. Carnall, W. Fagan, B. J. F. Franklin, G. Layton, S. Lewin, T. Lewin, G. Moore, H. Moore, J. C. Needham*, C. D. Ogden, S. Parr, C. Riley, C. Sharpe, H. Taylor, J. R. N. Taylor, G. H. Tilley, F. Talbot, S. Ward, J. Westbury, K. Whittle. 

Coastguard; — W. H. Bastard, K. Hemmings, H. Hill, J. F. Hunt, D. Payne.  

*Corporal John Cleaver Needham was killed in action 13th May 1915. See the WW1 memorial book for more details.   

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