Oldest troop had 80 years being prepared

BE prepared, the motto of the Scouts, now one troop is preparing to celebrate its 80th anniversary this August and as it marks its time in the borough the POST looks back on its rich history. Eighth Barking and Dagenham Scout Group was established in the

BE prepared, the motto of the Scouts, now one troop is preparing to celebrate its 80th anniversary this August and as it marks its time in the borough the POST looks back on its rich history.

Eighth Barking and Dagenham Scout Group was established in the summer of 1928 and is now the oldest scout troop in Barking. Helping generations of boys learn valuable skills and make friends it still thrives today teaching now both boys and girls how to be a good citizen and enjoy themselves.

The troop began its rich history under the leadership of its first Scoutmaster Paul Dawson and in the early 1930s they moved into a small timber scout hut at the side of the Methodist Central Hall building.

It was there that the tradition of scouting began for Eighth Barking and Dagenham as members were taught the basic skills that it was hoped would prepare them for life. Slowly the troop began to establish itself and became more and more popular.

Peter Reynolds, a former assistant scoutmaster at the troop, said: "I joined the cubs in March 1944 and I remember that pack meetings were held in the Hut and hot chocolate was served at the end of the pack meetings.

"Following a wartime V2 rocket falling adjacent to the Central Hall much of the building and Scout Hut was destroyed. The Salvation Army in Ripple Road came to the pack's rescue and we met in their building for many months until repairs were carried out to the remaining parts of the Central Hall premises.

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"The scout troop in the 1940s and 50s camped at Gilwell Park, Chingford, Lambourne End near Hainault Forest, Greenwoods near Stock and Debden Essex on land owned by the West Ham Central Mission.

"By the 1950s the Scout group had expanded with a large Cub pack, a Scout Troop of four patrols, a Senior Scout section and a group of Rover Scouts."

Indeed the 50s were a boom time for Scouting in general and many of the borough's younger residents were attached to a troop. The camping, camaraderie and strong moral messages made them exciting for children and parents could rest assured that they were at a good place.

John Symonds, now group treasurer of the group, joined in 1953. He said: "The scout master when I joined was Sid Greenough who seemed to me to be extremely firm with us boys.

"The games we played on Troop nights in the 1950s were rather rougher and more dangerous, but probably more fun, than permitted now days. In those years no one would have dreamed of carrying out a risk assessment with the game of British Bulldog for example which was one of our favourites.

"The whole troop had to run from one end of the hall to the other trying to evade the bigger scouts who had to stand in the centre of the hall.

The bigger scouts had to try to capture one of the runners and lift him off the floor, or in an alternative version force him down onto the floor.

If you were caught then you joined the catching team and the winner was the last one to be caught."

"The way in which we set off for camp in the early 1950s would also now be frowned upon, the preferred mode of transport being a removal van when it was available, into which we all piled along with our equipment oblivious to any risks.

"At camp, especially at Greenwoods near Billericay or at Debden, axes would be brought out to cut firewood to size, axemanship being an important and enjoyable aspect of training. For 'wide games' the troop would divide up into two forces, each trying to outwit the other among the woods, most exciting when played at night. Wide games were also played among the streets of Barking, one team trying to reach headquarters without being spotted by another which was on the lookout for them."

"During the 50s and 60s, older boys were called up for national service and returned form time to time to take up positions as leaders with the group including Russell Daniels who stayed on as a leader until his untimely death and Bernard Gosnell who passed away earlier this year.

"Russell and Bernard both served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and after they returned to the group they established a detachment of the British Red Cross Society. This also met in the Central Hall and a number of boys from the group became members."

As time moved on so did the group and by the time Steve May started there in the late seventies it was evident that the scouts were adapting to continue to be relevant for children.

Steve said: "The group will always have its traditions but it has to adapt to the children of the day. Since I became the Cub Leader in the early 80s we have seen redesigns of the uniform and there is a lot more caution involved with planning activities than there were before.

"The badges have also changed and the group offers badges for IT and Public Relations, things that weren't very relevant when it was set up.

"Last year we moved out of the Methodist Church where we have been for so many years and we moved into the Salvation Army Hall in Ripple Road.

"For all the changes though the children are mostly the same. Society changes around them but the children are still keen and enthusiastic and want to learn the skills that we try to teach them. I don't think that will ever change."

The club will be officially celebrating its 80th anniversary on September 27 at its base in Ripple Road. They intend to celebrate with a host of old members and plan a buffet and entertainment.