E. E. Reynolds, Boy Scouts, 1944
Scouting is a pre-citizenship and not a pre-military form of training. The fact that to-day many a Service man is grateful for his experiences as a Scout is a tribute not to the specifically military value of the training, but to the broad general foundation it provides for all types of national service. It is to be hoped that the old charge of being a disguised form of militarism will never again be made against the Movement; its scope is much wider and more permanent than that. The qualities of resourcefulness and adaptability which men are finding so valuable in warfare, are equally valuable in peace.
Peace, however, does not offer such spectacular opportunities for service as war-that is one of the tragic aspects of our modern civilisation. Yet Boy Scouts have always managed to find service jobs to do, sometimes of a very simple character but none the less valuable.
When War broke out in 1914, the Movement was barely six years old and no one would have been surprised if it had collapsed. Lord Kitchener at once saw its value. He called for the service of Scouts as coastguards, as messengers, and orderlies. His confidence proved well founded.
In 1939 the scale of the war produced a different situation, but once again Scouts were quickly finding service jobs of all kinds. A very long list-- containing nearly 200 items--could be given of the different kinds of work they undertook. A.R.P. naturally made use of the services of Boy Scouts and the records of the boys' devotion to duty and heroism in danger makes inspiring reading. No one claims that they are braver than others, but it can be confidently said that a youngster who has been trained as a Boy Scout is more likely to keep his head in times of emergency than a boy with no such training. It should be remembered that a Scout is not only told to be of service to his fellows, but he is trained so that he can render practical service. Great emphasis has always been put on this preparedness, and from the beginning Scouts who have proved equal to emergencies, such as drowning, street accidents, and so on, have received awards in the form of medals or certificates. It would be possible to fill many pages with stories of heroism and endurance, but the whole youth of the nation has come through the ordeal of fire with a proud record and it would be invidious to select a special group for emphasis.
One story, however, is worth telling as a good illustration of the Scout method. A group of Scouts in a West Country town volunteered for fire service. Soon they became the proud guardians of a trailer pump. They practised regularly until they felt thoroughly prepared. For months it looked as though their services would not be needed. Then one night in May 1941 the call came. They were in charge of an objective which they knew would be bombed again and again. One of the team met with an accident during the early part of the raid. He was knocked unconscious and so did not join his fellows on the call. Recovering, he intended to follow them, but saw a building on fire. He went to the assistance of three women whose garage was ablaze and fought the fire with buckets of water. He then climbed to the roof to cut loose a section of it in order to save the rest of the building. A second member, after doing some splendid work with the pump at the main fire, was laying another hose when he received some shell splinter in his back, which, coming out below his stomach, made a bad wound; but he made no complaint, his only concern being for the safety of the others and of his people. The leader, aged eighteen, took the most dangerous position alone, and when offered relief, he declined it, saying : "You are none too strong and have some heavy work; I am all right." A minute or so later two bombs straddled the fire and this boy was killed. His brother was injured in the arm and leg but made no mention of these injuries : it was thus that he came to be sent to turn off the water, the hose being now damaged beyond use, and also to fetch the stretcher party. He dragged himself for half a mile through the height of the blitz but had to give up and was taken away in an ambulance.
It can never be known how far Scouting has helped the hundreds of thousands of boys who have passed through its ranks, to become more efficient soldiers, sailors and airmen.
In July, 1942, Mr. Churchill sent the following message to the Boy Scouts :