The Guns Fell Silent…

90 years ago today at 11.00. The Great War, the War to End All Wars was over. Except it wasn’t. World War 2, the Cold War, Vietnam, The Falklands, The Gulf Wars 1 & 2, Iraq and Afghanistan subsequently happened. The list is much much longer and I’ve picked the most prominent ones from my perspective.

From where I sit now in my warm and safe home, these wars seem to have little impact on me.

BUT, just looking at the Great War, my Great Grandfather, William Wood, was hit by a shell and killed on 28th March 1918, one day before my Grandpa’s 5th birthday. So he never knew his father and his brother was less than one year old when he was killed. My Dad and Uncle never knew their Grandfather and they all missed out on the influence he would have had on them.

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William Wood is on the back row on the left right.

We think this photo was taken while he was training with the Royal Engineers although he was later transferred to, and served with, the Durham Light Infantry.

Then there are the 12 members of my Scout Troop who didn’t survive the First War and the 1 member who didn’t survive the Second War. One of the Troop’s Leaders won the Military Cross for bravery (see the memorial here). What effect would this extremely brave Priest have had on the boys of the Troop? Would the others have played any other part in the life of the Troop? We will never know.

To my knowledge, I only ever met one Great War veteran. Harry Goodwin, lived next door to my Grandparents. My main memory of him was that he was great at gardening and was somewhat deaf. He showed me how to take a cutting form a rose bush and grow a new rose bush from it. The only reason I know he had served in the First World War was that for some reason he was telling me and my Grandma about the severe dysentery he suffered from while he was serving in the trenches. Quite why he decided to share this information with us is now completely beyond me! Still I remember he served.

The main thing is to remember and to hope for peace. Harry Patch, the last British Tommy to have served in the trenches, said when he met Charles Kuentz, a German WW1 soldier, ‘”I was a bit doubtful before meeting a German soldier. Herr Kuentz is a very nice gentleman however. He is all for a united Europe and peace – and so am I”.

Today remember those who were killed in the World Wars and subsequent and current wars. It doesn’t matter whether you approve of those conflicts, if they are historical or current, the people who served in the Forces of the UK or of our Allies and friends gave their lives in the service of their countries.

But as well as remembering those who died, remember those who have been injured and the families of those who did not come home.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


All Change Please

As I’ve been blogging more and more, I’ve noticed that the majority of my posts have been Scout related. And as the people who have been good enough to link to me from their blogs are also Scout related, it made me think that the majority of them aren’t all that interested in me waffling on about trains etc (correct me if I’m wrong someone).

So I’ve decided to spin off the non Scouting bits to Nick’s Other Ramblings Blog and keep this on just for Scouts. All the previous content will stay in place here and the other categories will survive as well and I may duplicate some posts on both. But generally non Scouting related stuff will be on number 2.

Lets just hope I can cope with two!


Blogs and Comments

When I started doing this blog around two and a half years ago, I was doing it for me as a trial to see what blogging was all about and to try out the software. After looking at a few of the different options out there at the time I settled on WordPress on my own hosted web space. I stared out writing about anything that came to mind, but it’s gone a lot more Scout related, with the occasional other stuff. That’s probably as my Scouting is a bigger part of my life again.

When I started writing away, I never really expected anyone to read anything I was writing and it was well over a year before anyone made any comments. I guess more people started to read my stuff when I found some of the excellent blogs from my Scouting colleagues in the States and added them to the links list. I think it was the Lone Star Scouter blog (now re-christened Troop 483 Blog – must update!) I first came across, which then led to the others. They in turn added me to their lists and comments started to be left on my blog and also by me on the others. I must admit it came as a pleasant shock to find out people were leaving comments and that we all had many things in common.

Of course, I’ve had to put a couple of serious spam traps in place as the blog would have ended up as one giant advert for gambling and less savoury products! In fact I’ve had over 2500 spam comments which have been caught and deleted before I installed another anti spam device on top of the existing one.

Anyway, so far all but two of the comments (that weren’t spam) have been positive and friendly. They were criticisms, but wasn’t nasty, so I let it through (see the Another Scout Bashing post). Of course I am able to ignore or delete anything I want and that’s my choice as it’s my blog! But so far so good.

The thing that’s made me think of this is that there has been a rather negative comment sent to Jerry over at the Scoutmaster Minute. It was posted by someone anonymous and Jerry was thinking of dumping it but decided to reply and explain his reasons (see here & here). I think he did the right thing by explaining his position and not just ignoring the comment. It is easy, of course, just to hit the delete button and let it be at that, but to respond and explain yourself does take some time and thought.

I believe if you don’t agree with something someone has written (and I’ve never been in that position with the blogs I read), then comment by all means, but do it in a non personal way so it comes across as a debating point and not an attack. We all can’t be of the same mind on everything, but constructively putting our point across is the way to go.

So thanks to Gary, Steve, Shawn, Joy, Jerry and the PTC media crew, long may you keep on blogging and brightening up my days with your blogs and comments. And I hope you all find what I have to say at least vaguely interesting!


Throughout the majority of my working life so far, whether it was at Asda or within the school where I now work, I have been involved in training. I’ve had to train people how to use checkouts, meat slicing machines, ovens, computers and the list goes on. And of course, I’ve been trained before I could train others. I’ve always enjoyed doing training as I’m learning something new. In fact, sometimes when there’s a timetable involved it gets more interesting. When Asda had to bring in the new Wal-Mart computer systems, I and some colleagues were trained in the systems over a two week period away from the store. When we came back to the store we had around three weeks to train all the staff, which I think was around 300 people. It was hard work, both the training we attended and the training we trained out, but it was fun and we did it successfully!

So with that background, why did I avoid doing my Scout Leader’s training for so long?

Well for one thing I think it was the way the training programme used to be. You would start at the beginning and work your way through right to the end. So the first thing you did, irrespective of whether you had walked in ‘off the street’ or been in Scouting for donkey’s years, was to be told about Scouting and its history and structure etc. I always remember that my Dad had to do the camping part of the training to get his Wood Badge, despite the fact that he’d been a Scout and run many successful camps in the past. So not wanting to be ‘bothered’ doing loads of training on things I ‘knew’, I avoided it. Quite how I kept my Warrant, I’ll never know.

Anyway, the Scout Association changed the training programme a couple of years ago to a modular one. This meant that provided you could prove that you’d done the work or got experience in that area, then you didn’t have to do the module’s training.

So after a bit of a kick up my backside from the District Chairman, I started to get myself sorted, attended a training surgery, got the majority signed off and booked myself onto the Group Scout Leader’s weekend training course. I did my ‘homework’ after the course and got signed off and was presented with my Wood Badge. I have to say I was most pleased once I got it!

So now I have to do at least 5 hours of Scout related training a year as part of my warrant review. Not a problem now!

Doing training whether it be first aid or how to do abseiling for example, is good for the Leader as it keeps them fresh and gives new ideas for their programmes and keeps the kids in their charge safe and sound.

So now I’m looking at doing an NVQ in IT to help my career and I’ve already done my Group Scout Leader’s course and my First Aider’s course this year, so I wonder what is next?

Summer’s Here!?!?

Today we took the Scouts the the District’s Archery Competition and it’s been a gloriously sunny day. This is the kind of weather we needed about two months ago!

Anyway the Scouts had a good go, but didn’t win. They gave their best shots (pardon the pun) and enjoyed themselves.

The thing is, when they go to school on Monday and they all talk to their friends and start talking of their weekends, their friends will say that they’ve been watching TV and playing on their PlayStations, where as the Scouts can say they were doing archery. Now that’s something that can’t be said every day!

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Me enjoying the sun!

The 1908 Scout

As we were doing some knots and lashings last night for the younger Scouts, it made me think what would one of our original Scouts from 1908 made of us and Porthill today?

He would probably recognise a lot of the area still as a fair proportion of the houses still around were built in his time. The Church was there already, so were the larger houses on Porthill Bank and the terrace houses near the Church.

However, what he would have known as fields a bit further away, are now covered in houses. The roads he knew would be full of cars, both parked and moving and there would be no more horses or trams. People's dress would confuse him as every man doesn't wear a hat and the women would be wearing trousers. He would have left school at 12 and would now be working. The Titanic had yet to be built, let alone sink and his future was not too secure as the Great War was only 6 years away.

When he saw the current Scouts he would notice that they wouldn't be wearing hats, had no Scout Staff, they wore shirts and long trousers! Of course the biggest change would be that there were girls in the Troop!

He would recognise the fact that the Scouts are still in patrols with animal names, we break and salute our flag at the beginning of every meeting and we still do knots and lashings and go camping. He might not recognise what the Street Sports badge is about, but he'd still recognise what a lot of the badges and awards are for.

I think he'd also be pleasantly surprised to find out that the Troop he helped start 100 years ago was still going strong and was now a Group with Beavers and Cubs and is very proud of its past.

Different Hats

It's interesting how much of a day can be taken up by my role as a Scout Leader / Group Scout Leader (this isn't a negative rant by the way!).

This morning was part one of the District's archery competition. This was where each of the Troops was allotted 3/4 of an hour to practice their shooting. Not a bad thing as some of the Scouts, not just ours, had never shot a bow and arrow before. One of our Scouts, when he stepped out of the car, announced that he was going to be useless at it. Half an hour later, he was hitting the target every time. Mission accomplished. I don't think they'll win next week, but they will put up a respectable performance.

Once we were finished it was time for a quick chat with some of the District people and then home for lunch. Then it was time to type up the Scout's programme for the rest of the year, type up and sort out a few other bits and pieces, type up minutes and agendas and start to organise everything for the next executive committee meeting.

Before the archery, I'd popped round to see our Vicar to get him to sign a couple of Adult Application forms for some new Leaders. He was out doing a service at another Church, so I left them with Mrs. Vicar so I could pick them up later. However, my Mum saw him later in the day, so I got them from her (after helping my Dad to put a door back on it's hinges). Then it was off to the Appointments Secretary to hand in the forms.

Phew, all Scout related things finished for the day!

I do wonder sometimes what I'd do with all my spare time if it wasn't for my Scout 'jobs', probably things around the house :-(, but they wouldn't be as much fun!

The Scoutmaster Minute Podcast

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a very pleasant and enjoyable two or more hours chatting to Jerry of the Scoutmaster Minute. Jerry had wanted to have a chat for his podcast to get a different angle on Scouting. So as we’d been ‘chatting’ by email for some time, he asked me!

We were only able to talk for this amount of time as we both had access to Skype. If it weren’t for Skype, the conversation we had would not have been possible around 5 years ago without one of us racking up a huge international phone bill!

It was kind of odd initially talking to someone from so far away (about 4780 miles as the crow flies), who I’ve never met, about things we share in common. After not very long, we were chatting away as if we’d known each other for years.

We actually only recorded about an hours worth for the show itself and there is more to come at a future date. Having listened back to the show, it’s quite an odd experience listening to myself, especially as I don’t sound like what I think I sound like! I can also hear my North Staffordshire accent quite clearly as well. I did have to be a little careful not to slip into using local slang as I didn’t want to confuse anyone.

So thanks again to Jerry for having me on his show and I really admire his dedication as he got up at 6.00 am to talk to me, while I was having a leisurely afternoon!

Go here or here to listen to the show.

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Now all I’ve got to do is find a convenient time to have a chat to Commissioner Cleary! We got close yesterday……..

11th September

A day of mixed emotions for me.

I remember what I was doing in 2001. I was on holiday from work for two weeks, messing round at home and I remember at around lunch time hearing on the radio that something was going on in New York and that there had been an accident where an aircraft had crashed into a building. As time went on, I put the TV on and remember seeing the second crash. This was no longer an accident. There were reports of other aircraft flying into the Pentagon and crashing. Then the towers fell down – this was very very serious. I kept watching the TV to see what was going on and it was very clear many people had been killed. Not a good day (bit of understatement).

Fast forward to 2004. It’s a Saturday and Carol and I got married! The funny thing is, I don’t remember as much about that day, even though it was a much happier and personal occasion to me. I think it’s because there was so much going on and we were the centre of attention (well Carol was, as the bride always is!). A great day (bit of understatement)!

People said to us that we shouldn’t get married or won’t it be odd getting married on that day, but we said that it’s a day the same as any other. Just one that an appalling event happened on. You could say the same about many dates – 4th August (WW1 started), 26th December (Indian Ocean Tsunami), 8th December (John Lennon killed) or 20th April (Adolf Hitler born).

We actually went to New York on our honeymoon and saw parts of the WTC at USS Intrepid and even a bit of one of the aircraft – very eerie.


So as I remember with sadness those innocent people in America who died in the attacks, I also celebrate with joy our 4th wedding anniversary.


We’re Still Here and Not Been Sucked Into a Black Hole!

The Large Hadron Collider has been started up this morning and we’re all still in one piece! However, they don’t start smashing the particles into each other until next month so we will have to wait and see.

The Happy Couple

We went to the wedding of old friends of ours on Saturday. I’ve known Dave since he was about 11 and he used to be one of my Scouts along with his two brothers. It’s quite odd to think that I knew them as kids and now one is married with his own children, one has his own family and had another daughter about three weeks ago and the other brother is now in the Army!

Also there were some of my old Scout friends from when we were all kids. We’re all now ‘grown up’ and ‘sensible adults’, all married or in long term relationships and with a fair few kids around, but we still keep in touch and see each other (not as often as we’d all like) and are just as daft as when we were 14 or 15!

Once when camping with Scouts, we, as Leaders were setting up a game when we asked what the teams were to be. One of the Scouts piped up and said it should be ‘us against the adults’. It took a moment or two for us Leaders to realise that the Scouts were talking about us!

I think the trick is to keep a young outlook on life and even though you are now sensible and responsible adults, being silly every now and again doesn’t hurt and keeps you young!


The Happy Couple

Anyway, here’s to Dave and Beccie, and the hope they have many happy years together!

Being Prepared – Or Not!

Some of our Scouts are camping next week at the International Friendship Camp that’s being held at Kibblestone. They are going with one of our local Troops, 36th St. Wulstans. They are hosting a group of Norwegian Scouts and it looks set to be a great week.

As some of our Scouts are going, we were asked if some tents could be borrowed. Not a problem! So on Tuesday, me, our assistant Scout Leader and St. Wulstan’s Group Scout Leader went to get the tents. They were got out and I suggested we check them, but it was decided that they would have been put away properly so there wouldn’t be any problem.

Last night I got a phone call from St Wulstan’s GSL who was Kibblestone saying that the main guy ropes were missing! As they are using traditional Patrol Tents you can put you can put them up without the main guys, but it’s always best to have them in case of bad weather (the only time I remember one of these coming down was when we caught the tail end of a hurricane in 1986!).

So out we went with the guys. It did make a pleasant evening out! However, it proves the point that you should always check the kit before going out and therefore you are Being Prepared!

I can’t say that I’ve never done anything similar before. Once, as a Scout, we went backpacking and when it came to put up the tent, we found there were no pegs! It was my job to check the tents and somehow I’d missed the fact that there were no pegs. Luckily we managed to put the tent by improvising with sticks and rocks. I must admit I wasn’t too popular for a while that day!

Keeping Records

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to ensure that all our Group’s records and documentation is up to date and accurate. And as far as I can tell it now is! However, this has lead to at least two bookshelves full of files and ringbinders full of paper and quite a lot of space taken up on my hard drive! What all this does mean is that everything is now quite organised (I wouldn’t like to go so far as to say totally organised as I’m not quite that efficient!) and I can put my hands on the right document quite easily. Of course, with looking more into our history, the amount of documents and photos have grown quite a lot, but now we at least know our own past.

Bearing all that in mind, I’ve just started to transfer all the Scout’s details onto their new record cards. Earlier this year, the badge schemes were slightly altered and new record card were created accordingly. One good thing is that now the kid’s personal details are now on a separate card, which can follow them from Beavers to Cubs and onward.

The trouble is, we haven’t been too good at filling the current cards in smile_embaressed.
So this means that once all the info is copied and when we start back, I’m going to have to speak to all the Scouts individually and make sure all their details and their badge work is up to date. Hopefully this should mean that a few more badges are awarded and that we can ensure that the Scouts who are close to being awarded one will get what they have worked towards.

Once we’re all up to date, then we must ensure that these records are kept up to date. After all, there’s nothing worse than a Scout working hard for a badge and never receiving it because the Scout Leader isn’t very organised!


Apparently, I’m supposed to be on strike on Wednesday and Thursday over pay (or lack of pay increase)! Apart from a letter from UNISON’s HQ and one from the local branch, I’ve heard nothing. There has been no mention of it at work!

Having said that, I won’t strike anyway as I don’t think it’s right to strike in a school – it’s not fair to the kids.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens! We’ll see…….