THE BRITISH EMPIRE JAMBOREE, 1924
The Imperial aspect of the Scout Movement was
demonstrated during the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. In deciding to hold
a great Jamboree at Wembley, Baden-Powell considered that the meeting would help the
Scouts of the Empire to get together and compare notes, that it would develop good-will in
the rising generation of the States of the British Commonwealth, and that it would show
the world the methods by which Scouting developed character and intelligence, handicrafts
and skill, health and service for others. Thousands of Overseas Scouts were present, and
many more came from all parts of the British Isles.
The organization of rail and road transport, camp
routine, and sanitation, all worked out by Commissioners, Scouters, and co-opted
officials, on a voluntary and honorary basis, ran with a smoothness which was then
astonishing, but has since become commonplace in the great Scout rallies. The Scouts were
received at the Wembley stations from 3 A.M. until late at night and were fed and
sheltered, as they arrived, with the regularity of a machine. The camp in Wembley Paddocks
extended over forty acres, and was like a town, divided into sections or wards, with
street and tent names— "Mafeking Lane" "Princes Street,"
"The Merry Mudlarks," the last being a very appropriate title, for the Overseas
Scouts saw something of English rain and mud I The camp contained a post office, bank, a
quartermasters’ department for the issue of tent-equipment and valises, reception
departments, lost-property office, a stores to provide everything a Scout might need, from
a new kit to needle and cotton, and an administrative office which was on duty incessantly
day and night during the ten days of the Jamboree.
The greatest number of Scouts in camp together was
12,461; 75,000 gallons of water, 6,000 loaves, and 250 pounds of tea were used daily. The
Scouts handled transport and administration, but the catering was wisely left to Messrs
Lyons, who fed, on the average, about 12,500 boys daily at the charge of 3s.4d, a
day per head. Twelve great marquees arose, two miles of iron piping and two great boilers
appeared, for providing steam for cooking and cleaning some 70,000 plates, 1,000 dishes,
and 1,500 baking-tins each day. For each lunch 500 yards of suet roll were cooked! Messrs
Lyons provided packed luncheons for Scouts who were going sight-seeing, as Baden-Powell
was anxious for the Overseas Scouts to see as much as possible of England.
The public were shown Scout methods of first aid,
gymnastics, athletics, life-saving, hygiene, and pioneering. The whole organization of the
Jamboree was in itself an object lesson in Scout service for others. All the displays were
well attended, but the largest audience arrived for the Wolf Cubs’ performance.
Akela, the Old Wolf, from the Council Rock in the centre
of the Stadium, summoned the Pack, which stalked a deer in the jungle. Then Mowgli, the
boy, was chased by Shere Khan, the tiger, and was rescued by Baloo, the bear, and
Bagheera, the panther. Playing with Baloo and Bagheera, Mowgli was next attacked by
monkeys, but was rescued by Kaa, the snake. This snake was an enormous reptile, composed
of a cardboard head and a hundred yards of body made up of Wolf Cubs. It swallowed the
monkeys, curled up, and went to sleep. This performance was given by London Wolf Cubs, and
was followed by all the Cubs, 7,000 in number, concentrating in a great circle in the
arena, where they sat down and gave the Grand Howl.
"Akela, we’ll do our best."
"Dyb, Dyb, Dyb, Dyb (Do your best)," came the
high-pitched cry of the leading Sixer.
"We’ll Dob, Dob, Dob, Dob (do our best)," . . .
rejoined 7,000 voices.
There were many pageants, as, for instance, of the
cotton-industry, and of Australia past and present; but perhaps the most thrilling display
after the Cub show was the Massed Highland Dancing of the Scots contingent (some 2,800
strong at Wembley) with their hundred pipers, an amazing scene of coloured tartans, wild
music, wild cries, and intricate movements performed with mechanical precision. The Prince
of Wales attended a camp-fire sing-song and afterwards spent the night in the camp, under
canvas. The problem of organization in a Jamboree does not merely consist in getting the
Scouts concentrated, sheltered, and fed; it also involves seeing them safely home. This
work went as smoothly as all the rest in 1924, but with boys elaborate organization could
not succeed unless there was co-operation from the boys themselves. Baden-Powell was well
pleased with the splendid conduct and self-discipline of this great assemblage of youth
When I have been asked what impressed me most about the
Jamboree I have been able honestly to say it was not the pageantry, it was not the fine
appearance of the boys nor their numbers and efficiency—it was the fact that
discipline from within showed itself to be an established force among them, and that they
have a true grasp of the ideals of the movement.
From R. H. Kiernan, Baden-Powell,
1939. Reprinted: Argosy-Antiquarian Ltd., 1970