Busy Evening

Phew! Last night I managed to visit the Troop, complete an Incident Report Form (not a quick thing to do), complete our annual census (our numbers are up – yey!) and reply to an enquiry from a prospective new Cub’s mum! So I think that’s all the outstanding jobs done. Oh wait, Exec meeting next week to plan!

It’s busy being a Group Scout Leader!

The Duchess of Cambridge

The news today is that the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William’s wife and future queen, is to be volunteering with Beaver Colonies  and Cub Packs close to where she is living, presumably in North Wales.

Now the interesting thing about this is that she is going to actually help out at meetings and activities and not just be a distant ‘figurehead’.

The other thing that is very noteworthy is that she will helping out as a flexible volunteer. I had an email from Wayne Bulpitt, the UK Chief Commissioner, today who explained it like this –

The Duchess has chosen to volunteer with us because she has been so impressed by the impact that we have on young people and on our communities.
Like many people The Duchess is incredibly busy. What has made it easy for her to volunteer is that we offer a model of volunteering that she can fit around her other duties and obligations.
As an organisation we realised some years ago that we had to be accessible to all potential volunteers; not just those who could commit to regular weekly meetings.  All the work we have done to encourage ‘flexible volunteering’ has been to support this.
The involvement of The Duchess is the most wonderful endorsement of the volunteering opportunities that we are able to offer – you must make sure that you seize it.
Over the coming days the news of The Duchess’s involvement in Scouting will be a talking point with other volunteers, with parents, perhaps your friends or family.  When you are speaking about the news, make sure you don’t just talk about the news itself, but the different opportunities there are for everyone to volunteer.


Now this is good, as the impression people get about volunteering is that you MUST do it on specific time and days etc.

The news is all over the media this morning along with the fact that she’s going to be the patron of 4 other charities.

You can read all about it here.

All in all a very good piece of news for the Scout Association and hopefully it will lead to more people volunteering to help out with Scouting and many other voluntary organisations.

Happy Christmas

I’d like to wish everyone who visits my site, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I’ve been a bit busy with other things in my life just recently (her name is Laura and she’s 8 weeks old!), but hopefully I’ll be posting more again in the new year.

Many thanks to those of you who have taken the time and effort to comment on my posts, I really appreciate it,  and I hope to see you all in 2012.

Alternatively, please have a Merry Non-Denominational Winter Festive Period 😉

Bear Grylls Thanks Me!

Ok, not me specifically, but all the adult volunteers who help with Scouts throughout the year.

I have to say that it’s a nice touch to get Bear to do videos like this. He doesn’t have to do it, but it’s nice to know that the work all the adult volunteers do is appreciated.


Earlier this year I bought a book about the men who died in World War 1 and who are commemorated on the War Memorial in Wolstanton. I was quite interested to learn that three of the names on the Memorial are those of our Scouts who died in WW1 and that there is memorial to one of them in the Churchyard and one is actually buried there! Reginald Showan is on the War Memorial and on a Memorial in the Church, Joseph Furnival is on the War Memorial, on a Memorial  in the Church and has a Memorial in the churchyard and Tom Lewis is on the War Memorial and is buried in the Churchyard. See update below.

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The War Memorial and the Memorial in Church

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Joseph Furnival’s Memorial and Tom Lewis’s grave

Having found this out, I decided to look a bit deeper into the men commemorated on our Memorial. Over the last few months as time, job, children etc. allowed, I found out a lot about them, including family information, army records (for some of them), newspaper cuttings and photos of their graves (if they have one). It is my intention to publish all the info on each man on our History site in due course (time permitting!).

On the 11th November I was looking at our local newspaper at and there was a section for remembering those who had been killed in wars. One caught my eye as it was from the niece of Reginald Showan. I asked the paper to pass my details on to her and to ask her to get in touch with me. She did and I went round to see her as she lived locally. She did not know he was a Scout or that there was a memorial to him and his fellow Scouts, nor that his family had paid for a candlestick in memory of him in our Church.

He has no known grave because she told me he was ‘blown to bits’. Very sad.

She gave me an interesting photo though.

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This shows him with his mother and brother Ian Malcolm ‘Mac’ on or around the time he joined up in September 1914. The very interesting thing is that his brother is in Scout uniform and is more than likely a Porthill Scout. So this is now the earliest photo of one of our Scouts we have!

Being a glutton for punishment, I’d also decided to try to find out some information on the list of 34 Scouts we have from 1908 (see here). Again, some I’ve found out lots about, some nothing at all and some just a slight bit of information.
The ones I’ve got information on show that their stories are very varied. One died in 1913 and another emigrated to Winnipeg in Canada, fought in France in WW1, returned to Canada and ended up living in Chicago!

But there is one that is interesting and leaves me with a ‘problem’. One of the Scouts on the 1908 list is a J H Strange. It didn’t occur to me at first that he was living at the same address as our first Scoutmaster, William Hockett. After some digging, I found that William Hockett was his step father.

James Harold Strange wasn’t a Scout for very long however, as he joined the Grenadier Guards at Lichfield as a boy soldier on 18/12/1908 aged 14. He became a drummer in the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, attaining adult service on 14/08/1912, and ceased to be a drummer a year later. His Battalion embarked for France on 12/08/1914 and he was in action from 24/08/1914 during the retreat from Mons until he was killed during the Battle of the Aisne some time between 14-16/09/1914. He has no known grave, but is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

And herein lies the ‘problem’. He isn’t commemorated on our memorial. I guess this is because around the time WW1 started, his family moved to Hertfordshire, where his step father was from. I have, however, added him to our memorial page.

I think at some point we will have to add him to our memorial and in the Church’s Book of Remembrance, but how we add him to the Memorial is something to be thought about for the moment. Although, as ‘problems’ go, it’s not a bad one to have.

He will be commemorated by us, as it is the reason I started to look into the lives of these men. To be honest, although we had the Memorial, up until a couple of years ago, we knew nothing about these men. Which considering we have the Memorial to honour their memory, wasn’t really on! Which is why I wanted to find out all I could about them.

I do wonder if any of the others in the list of 1908 Scouts I have were killed in WW1, although I hope not.

Update 02/04/12: After a lot of searching, it appears that the Tom Lewis buried in the Churchyard isn’t ‘ours’. You can read about the correct one on the site here.

Gang Show

Last week, some of my Group’s Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Leaders went to watch the Burdi Boys Gang Show from Potteries North District (which was kind of our old District before things were changed in 2005).

For those who don’t know, a bit of history of the Gang Show from Wikipedia

In 1931, Ralph Reader, then a Rover Scout who was trying to make his mark in theatre in the USA and London, was asked to write a Scout based amateur variety show to help raise money for a swimming pool at Downe Scout Camp (now a Scout Association National Activity Centre). Rehearsals commenced under Reader’s direction on 25 May 1932 (his 29th birthday).

Initially the show did not have a title, but during a rehearsal break, Reader recalled later, he asked a cast member if everyone was ready to which the response was “Aye, aye Skip, the gang’s all here”. The first production, under the title The Gang’s All Here ran between 30 October and 1 November 1932 at the Scala Theatre in central London.

Despite the fact that the show was not a sell out, enough money was raised to fund the swimming pool and the show was well received. Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, approached Reader and persuaded him to produce another show in 1933. This show was produced with the title The Gang Comes Back and ran for a week.

A tradition had been born and Reader continued to write and produce the London Gang Show. In 1934 the show became known as The Gang Show and the song Crest of a Wave was performed for the first time, becoming over the years the Show’s international anthem.

Burdi Boys itself has been around since 1958 and has survived 2 District amalgamations.

The show was co-produced by Rachael, my Group’s Beaver Leader and had Paul, our Scout Leader, and one of our Beavers in the cast. The show started with 1st Kidsgrove’s Scout Band playing a couple of tunes (The Burdi Boys theme and Crest of a Wave if I remember correctly) which was an innovative way to start the show. After that, came the usual mixture of songs, dancing and sketches. It wasn’t long before the Beavers came out to sing ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ and, as usual, they stole the show! Both the Beavers and the (also excellent) Cubs featured heavily in the first half of the show as they are not permitted to be onstage past a certain time. They, along with the rest of the cast, did really well in the song and dance numbers.

The second half of the show featured the Scouts, Explorers and Leaders and included a rendition by the cast of Bohemian Rhapsody and this actually worked very well! Towards the end, after having some ‘advice’ from Executive Producer Paul (who said again he wasn’t doing another show – now a running joke!), the co-producers Sarah and Rachael sang a duet. After this came the finale which featured songs from the TV series ‘Glee’ followed by, of course, the Burdi Boys Theme tune and A Crest of a Wave.

It was a shame that the Beavers and Cubs weren’t able to take part in the finale (they did on Saturday), but it was an excellent end to an excellent show. Well done to everyone who took part.

Oh, we all liked the comedy District Commissioner – or was it the real one??

Remembrance Sunday Parade

Our Beavers, Cubs, Scouts along with the Brownies and Guides, today paid respect to those who have been killed in wars, by parading round Porthill, led by our drum band and then by joining the congregation of St. Andrew’s Church for a service of Remembrance.

The Scout Group’s drum band was restarted this year by our Assistant Scout Leader after a gap of around 50 years!

Last year marked the first time in over 20 years that the Scouts and Guides paraded from St. Andrew’s Church Hall to the Church and this year they took a slightly longer route around the streets of Porthill.

It’s very pleasing to show to the general public that the members of the Scouts and Guides of Porthill have come out to show their respect to those who have been killed in wars. I’m also proud of the skill and dedication of the members of the drum band who only reformed at the beginning of this year and are now skilled and confident enough to lead a parade through the streets of Porthill.


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I’d invited our local MP and a number of local Borough and County Councillors to come along and see us parading. Only one councillor made it, the others were either at other ceremonies (fair enough) or didn’t bother to reply to me (tut tut).

I’m very grateful to Staffs Police for making sure the roads were safe for us to parade along!

More photos are available in the Scout Group’s gallery here.

11-11-11 Rememberance Day

Today at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year it is 93 years since the end of the First World War and 97 years since its beginning.

Did the War to End All War’s do so? No. But we continue to honour those who died in the service of their countries from that time to, sadly, the present day.

The poem below contains the famous words of remembrance, and although it concerns itself with England (sometimes used erroneously instead of the UK), whichever country you come from, you can make a substitution.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


Porthill Scouts Killed in World War 1 and World War 2

We will remember them

An Apology!

For those of you who wander by here from time to time, you’ll have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet recently. My Scouting has taken a bit of a back seat as we’ve been preparing for the arrival of our second daughter.

Laura Lily Wood was born on Friday last week and is a very health little girl.

So as is to be expected other things are occupying my time at the moment (she’s having her morning snooze at the moment!). So even though posts will be a little sparse for a while, I do have a couple of interesting things coming up in the next few weeks which I will be sharing with you all.

Canvas Versus Modern Tents

For our first discussion, Chris and I talk about the merits (or otherwise) of traditional canvas tents versus modern synthetic ones.

Traditional Canvas Tents – Nick

Canvas tents have been around since the dawn of Scouting, so much so that when people think of Scouts camping, the mental image is of Scouts standing round a green patrol tent wearing their traditional ‘lemon squeezer’ hats!

Some Scouts camping last weekend – possibly!

However, despite their ‘old fashioned’ image, canvas tents, especially of the patrol or Icelandic type, do have their place in modern Scouting.

Although a canvas tent would never be used these days in conjunction with hiking (too heavy), they are extremely useful for a ‘static’ camp – weekend or week.

Firstly they are, when done correctly, quick and easy to put up. There is no messing around working out which pole goes in which hole with which colour! An experienced patrol can erect one in around 15 minutes.

Secondly, is their extreme durability. A correctly pitched patrol tent with a fly sheet can be as close to bone dry as is possible while camping. Also these tents can be a lot more sturdy in extremes of weather. For example, a couple of years back we took the Scouts camping around Easter. This was in mid March and we’d had snow forecast and overnight it did. The following morning, the leaders awoke to part of our modern tent on our faces! The weight of the snow had pushed it down on top of us. The Scouts who were in their patrol tent, didn’t realise it had snowed until they left their tent (at which point the snow balls started flying!).

A canvas tent, if looked after and stored properly, will last for years. In fact, my Group still has the patrol tents we bought in 1983! They have been repaired a number of times and are still usable (although to be fair, I wouldn’t use them without a fly these days). I would be impressed if a modern dome or tunnel tent would last over 5 years.

Finally, the patrol tent encourages a patrol to actually camp together and bond as a patrol unit. In a dome or tunnel tent, people sleep in pods or sections isolated from each other where as in a patrol tent the entire patrol of 6 or 8 (at a push) sleep in a 14’ tent. Of course the other advantage of a patrol tent is that you can stand up in them!

Although not a canvas tent as such, one of the other iconic tents is a Vango Force 10 and when I need a tent for myself when camping, this is the one I always make a beeline for!

In conclusion, the canvas tent should still be regarded as an essential for camping within Scouting and should not be dismissed because they are ‘old fashioned’.

Modern Synthetic Tents – Chris

Some very good points have been made by Nick for the good old style of canvas camping however my first counter to Nick is to say, we as Scouts are now co-educational and the single room canvas tent does not allow the modern patrol to camp together as a patrol, unless your patrol is all girl or all boy.

A selection of modern tents.

If you have a pod style tent where the central dome has 3 rooms off it then you can sleep up to 9 Scouts in groups of threes and you can allow the mixed patrol to stay camp and sleep as a patrol. Boys and girls have their own space to sleep and change, but still feel as though they are camping as a patrol. This can also over come the potentially serious problem of the patrol that has one girl that comes to camp. With a traditional tent the boys all go in to the tent and the girl goes in a 1 person tent next to the boys, is that safe to have one girl sleeping on her own?

My second argument is around at management storage putting up etc. I have put up both canvas and modern tents and I believe a good patrol with put up both in about the same time. However, when it is blowing a hoolie on that campsite you have picked over looking the beach at Barmouth and the two 11 year old Scouts holding the main poles of your Icelandic tent turn to put it in position and the wind catches that sail they have made, the comedy value is great. The safety aspect of dislocated shoulders and poles on heads is never fun.

Thirdly, there is nothing better than coming back from camp to be able to go home pour a beer put your feet up and sink into your favourite chair. Oh wait, it was raining when we struck camp so out comes the tent and quickly throw it over the washing line – hey presto, by the end of the evening it is dry as a bone and ready to be packed away for next time. The drenched canvas  tent will still be handing in the Scout Hut (if you have the room) or in your garage for weeks while you try and get that canvas dry.

Finally, my final case for modern tents comes in the form of space. Most canvas tent will have a canvas bag, pole bag, maybe a peg and mallet bag – if you’re lucky and have plenty of time you will get the canvas, pegs and mallet in the valise, but the poles will always be separate, and the weight of the valise when the canvas is packed tight it considerable. Scouts will struggle to lift it, Cubs don’t have a chance and Beavers, well we won’t go there! Thus transport to camp requires  someone to have a van or a people carrier and adult manpower to do the humping and shifting. With modern tents, two Scouts or four Cubs will easily lift the bag and it will fit in the boot of a standard family car. The benefit of this linked to my third point, is you can asks parents to take the wet tent home hang it on the washing line and bring it to Scouts the following week.

We’ve made our arguments both for and against canvas and modern tents, so why don’t you join the debate and tell us which is your preference and why in the comments? We look forward to reading what you have to say.

Nick & Chris


After I’d had a chat last week with Chris Meadows (see his blog here or follow him on Twitter here), he came up with a rather interesting proposal. We would pick a topic and one of us would argue one side and the other one the opposite. One of us would then edit the arguments and put them on his blog with a link to the discussion from the other’s blog.

The interesting part about all this is that while we can make opposing arguments on a topic, we may not actually believe that position! This can make for some interesting and thought provoking points being made. On the other hand we may believe exactly what we’re saying! The fun thing is to see if we mean what we say!

The first discussion about canvas tents versus modern synthetic tents will be posted here soon, so watch this space.


The holidays are over, the nights are drawing in and life begins to get busy again on the Scouting front. The Scouts are camping this weekend, it’s Harvest at church next weekend and the Cubs are camping next month to name but a few things we have on.

I always find it interesting that after the lull of the summer, we always come back with such a busy programme for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. So plenty will be going on for the rest of the year for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and I’ll let you know what my Group is getting up to!

First Class Scout

My uncle recently sent me a box of stuff which included a couple of Scouting related books – ‘Gilcraft’s First Class Book’ and ‘How to Pass First Class Tests’.

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These books were written in 1945 and 1959 respectively (these were actually printed in 1960) and are to help the Scout pass his First Class Badge. The first requisite to obtaining the First Class Badge was to have already gained the Second Class Badge. Once the Frist Class Badge was gained then the Scout could begin work on the King’s / Queen’s Scout Award (depending if they did it pre 1952 or not).

Reading through the books it is quite obvious how different they are to todays badges. Firstly, the rules regarding passing each section were very strict. For example –

The District Commissioner may allow a Scout to gain the First Class badge without passing the Swimming test, provided he is satisfied that it is not practicable for the Scout to obtain the facilities for learning to swim, and that the Scout gains the alternative badge as in the case of those holding a doctor’s certificate.

So no leeway there then!

Reading the first aid section is quite interesting. The way the methods of providing first aid have changed quite considerably in the last 50 years or so.

There is also a rather unhealthy interest in recognise different species of bird. I’m fairly sure I would have had difficulty with this one!

These book are most interesting and show the way the Scouts of the past gained their badges.