The Jamboree Book, 1920
1st World Jamboree, Olympia, England
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In the British Lines at Richmond Camp
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

Richmond Camp.

THE Great Camp held in the Old Deer Park, Richmond, deserves its own record as one of the striking features of the jamboree. Planned and carried out by the Scouts alone, it earned the unique compliment of a notice in the Orders of the Brigade of Guards, in which officers and men were invited to visit it. When it was first mooted, the London Scout Council were asked to be responsible for it, and Sir Alfred Codrington, the Commissioner for London, took up the task with great enthusiasm. The problem was to find a suitable site, within easy travelling distance of Olympia, where the British competitors and performers at Olympia could be housed under canvas. It all seemed clear sailing at first. The Headquarters of the London District were approached, and at once offered some of the huts in the Guards’ Camp on Wimbledon Common. It was not until mid-April, when the news came that the War Office would not help in any way, that ‘ the real difficulties began. Everything had been promised huts, bedding, blankets, kitchen and hospital accommodation—and then, within three months of the Jamboree, it was found that nothing could be got at all.

To find a site was the first problem. Some 18 possible spots were. visited, but there were insurmountable difficulties in every case. The Office of Works could not permit the use of any of the Royal parks, the London County Council refused all the open spaces under their control, the various private parks available were all too remote to be of use, and finally, even the Crystal Palace management turned the project down. It was too big an undertaking to fit in with their exhibition.

Then the Old Deer Park at Richmond was suggested, and members of the Boy Scouts’ Association were invited to meet the Richmond Town Council on behalf of the London Scout Council, to explain what it was proposed to do. After a few anxious days it was heard with delight that the Town Council would grant the use of the Old Deer Park. This was on April 26th, and a few days later Sir Alfred Codrington appointed the Rev. Everard Digby to be Camp Commandant, in spite of his protests that he knew nothing about the work. However, a Scout obeys orders, and he soon got going, drew up specifications for contracts and planned out the camp. The plan was , designed to cover 40 acres of ground, with wide roads running north and south and east and west across the centre, and an equally wide space to run all round the camp. It was a new idea in camps, but gave every block of tents a parade ground and playground, too, of its own.

The five blocks were laid out in lines "A" to "Z" and each tent numbered. There were also a block of staff lines, with the various camp offices, recreation, chapel, and hospital marquees, and a large parade ground and flagstaff, a similar position opposite being given up to the giant marquees and kitchens of the caterer.

The contracts proved very difficult to fix up. Tenders were invited from every likely firm, but in nearly every case the answer was the same-"It is too big a job for us to undertake." At last the canvas and equipment contract was fixed up, also the catering, and those responsible began to feel safe at last.

Then the water had to be brought from nearly half a mile away, and this contract was a great worry for some time. The cheapest quotation from any London firm was nearly £1,200 but a firm was found at Norwich who were willing to do the work at a more moderate figure. It was obvious, very early in the day, that the £1,000 that had been allotted by Headquarters Council for the camp would be entirely inadequate, and at a meeting of the jamboree Directors it was decided to grant another £1,500. When it is remembered that over 10,000 Officers and Scouts passed through the camp, and that on four occasions there were well over 6,000 sleeping under canvas at the same time, it will be realised that every possible economy had to be practised to get anywhere near that figure. The intention was to keep the camp down to 3,000 if possible, but in no case to exceed 5,000. On the Saturday before Bank Holiday, though, so many troops would have been stranded in London had they not been taken in that the camp authorities were forced to throw their plans overboard and take all comers. This led to a shortage of blankets for a few hours, but the Deputy-Commandant was dispatched with orders not to come back without 2,000 blankets. How and where he got them must not be told, but they came along all right. When the news got round the camp that there was a shortage the Quartermaster was besieged by Scouts offering to give up one of their two blankets to those without any. It was a real bit of Scout sacrifice as the nights were bitterly cold and nippy. The result was that both the Deputy-Commandant and the Quartermaster were so struck with this’ exhibition of the Scout spirit that they both asked to be allowed to become Scouts, and were taught the Scout Law and Oath and were sworn in on the following day.

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Twenty-one nations were represented at the camp, the largest party outside the British Isles being the Dutch contingent, with the Scouts from the United States as a good second. Each party numbered nearly 400. From the four South African provinces came nearly 200 Scouts, and other large parties came from Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. Gibraltar and Malta sent strong contingents, while smaller parties came from Jamaica, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malay and British Guiana. Ireland had the strongest party from the British Isles, bringing over 500 to camp. Scotland and Wales had about 300 each, and nearly every English county was represented, the largest contingent being Manchester’s 200, Liverpool, Birmingham, Hereford and Worcester being next in numbers.

The proportion of Officers was very large, about one to every five Scouts. The London Local Associations provided guides at all the big terminals to put the visitors in the right trains for Richmond, where the local troops were stationed to bring them along to the camp. The Richmond Local Association did yeoman service for the camp, acting as guides and camp orderlies, and a strong body of Rovers helped by policing the camp.

On arrival at the camp Capt. Sayburn-Wilson and his staff at the reception tent took the troops in hand, issued them an order on the Quartermaster for ground sheet and blankets, gave them a map of the camp, and a slip with the line and number of their tents, and handed them over to a Richmond guide. Then they were taken to the Food Officers, who issued them food tickets for their stay. There were separate tickets for each meal, and different colours for each day. Their guide took them to the Quartermaster’s stores to draw their bedding, and then saw them safely to their tents, showing them the way to the latrines and ablution benches en route.

Near the entrance to the camp was the post office with two large pillar boxes for posting letters, public telephone call office, etc. Here Rovers from Lincolnshire had a complete sorting office and delivered letters throughout the camp twice daily. They handled over 40,000 letters, parcels and telegrams, and with the assistance of a Richmond postmaster were able to sell stamps, send telegrams and register letters. This was one of the most effective and best run departments in the camp. It was ready and at work before anyone was on the ground, and was the last office to close down.

In the Commandant’s office, beside his own desk, that of the Deputy-Commandant and the Chief of Staff, there was the bank, the railway office, and the lost property office. Nearly £1,000 was paid into the bank in small sums and withdrawn as needed. The railway office was kept busy day and night, and the motor transport to and from Olympia was also worked from here.

The lost property office was one of the greatest successes. All sorts of articles found their way there-cameras, purses with money in them, toothbrushes (nearly 100 of them, and mostly still unclaimed, worse luck), and even the kilt of a Scottish Officer.

The Chief Scout wrote in the office register, "This is the finest example of the keeping of the 1st Scout Law I have ever seen," and every visitor who visited the camp was struck by this display of honesty. One of the Guards Officers who came said, "I wish this were possible in the Army." He was advised to try it and see what happened, but he went away unpersuaded.

The formal opening of the camp by Sir Alfred Codrington was on Wednesday, July 28th, but there were nearly 2,000 Scouts in residence by then. They began to arrive days before, and as the ground was acquired only a week before the opening date, and the contractors were very behind, the boys put up their own tents, dug sumps, and generally looked after their own comfort,

Indeed, the boys were splendid in the initiative they displayed and in the way they met and disposed of petty troubles of this kind.

The Swedish Scouts arrived first, and were followed in a few hours by the Gibraltar and Malta contingent. It was of no use saying the opening day was nearly a week ahead, they had nowhere to go, and they had to be taken in. By the opening day the Americans, the South Africans, the Scottish contingent and a number of English Scouts were in, so there was a big parade when Sir Alfred first hoisted the Union Jack and then the Scout Flag as a sign that the Camp was open.

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An American Scout’s Mascot.
The first Alligator ever known at Richmond.

The rain came before the parade was dismissed, and remained for several days, culminating in a cloud burst about 9 o’clock on Bank Holiday night. The River Thames over-flowed its banks, and part of the camp was flooded out. As it was feared the whole camp was going to be flooded, an S.O.S. signal was telephoned to the Mayor and Town Clerk of Richmond. Within an hour fires were going in all the schools and 2,000 Scouts were soon in warmth and shelter in the schools and private billets. The good people of Richmond dried their clothes and gave them hot tea and coffee until it was possible to send round a Bovril ration at 11 o’clock, Every boy in the camp was served with hot Bovril before going to bed, and to that is attributed the fact that there were no colds at next morning’s sick parade.

This parade was held every morning at the Medical Inspection Tent, and some 600 cases were seen, They were all very slight ailments and accidents through such things as cut fingers, bruises and monkey bites, and there was a clean bill of health as regards serious illness. There was a report in the town, which even got into the local papers, that there were two deaths from pneumonia, but the good people of Richmond were soon reassured by the cheery behaviour of the Scouts next day. They smiled, whistled and sang all the time.

The discipline maintained was very marked and much commented on by visitors. The wonderful thing was it all came from the Scouts’ side. There was no attempt at military methods, except at one big parade, which was rather spoiled by the Commandant, who had his right foot bandaged, suddenly appearing to take the parade himself in a trek cart pulled by Scouts.

True, London Command lent four Military Police, but their work was to keep the crowds away from the camp. They did their work thoroughly well too, and saved no end of trouble.

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South African Scouts on Parade in Richmond Camp.
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

The internal discipline of the camp was simply the good manners of the Scout at his best, and only two very minor offences had to be dealt with during the whole fortnight. The various nations soon got together, and after the first day Richmond was full of mixed parties marching arm in arm singing merrily the Scouts song "Be Prepared — in their own languages The coloured Scouts from Jamaica, with a kilted Scot on one arm and an American Scout on the other, with Irish boys and Swedes flanking them, was a sight worth seeing.

There were several National days in camp, e.g., the birthdays of the Queen of the Netherlands, and the Crown Prince of Norway, but everybody took part in them. The favourite game around the camp fire at night was for a Scout to call out a: word in his own language, and everybody else* to try and pronounce it, each nation taking the same word in turn. The laughter caused could be heard a mile away. Towards the end of the camp "swopping" badges, etc., as souvenirs, began. First it was to remember a friendship by, but it soon became general and you could not judge the nationality of any boy by the badges he wore, The canny Scots got the best of the deal usually, and every Scot managed to keep not, only most of his own badges but to sport some of other nations as well.

Every body wanted the Commandant’s Silver Wolf, or said, so, but then any excuse was good enough to invade the Commandant’s. tent. He struck on the third morning,. when having worked until 4 a.m., he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a Scout-master who wished to complain that "his tent had earwigs in it!" The Commandant confesses that he forgot the 4th Scout Law for a moment.

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The Chief Scout with the Earl of Meath and Lord Holmpatrick Inspects the Camp.
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

The Chief Scout paid half a dozen visits to the camp, and the devotion to him displayed by the Scouts of every nation, touched all. The Irish were the most demonstrative, and whenever the Chief was about they would not move from the parade ground until they had seen and cheered him. On America’s Day he brought Peter and Heather with him, and Peter had a real success of his own. The Scots made him into a Highlander, the Americans composed a special yell for him, and Peter took it all gravely, responding with the Cubs Salute.

America wound up its special day with a dinner in the staff mess to the officers commanding the various foreign contingents. They did it well too. The staff mess was a gift to the camp from the contractors, and the tapestry on the walls and the furniture were loaned by another firm. The caterers furnished the dining room and staffed it .free of charge, and no camp ever had a more comfortable mess.

They were a very happy party there, and much hospitality was dispensed, but the American dinner was the greatest function of all. They had neglected nothing in the way of organisation for the jamboree, and had even brought along two distinguished orators to make speeches at, all social functions. They excelled themselves on this occasion, but England rose to the situation, and the general opinion was that the English speaker kept his end up.

Another cheery mess dinner was the one given to the Mayor and Corporation of Richmond, with Sir Alfred Codrington in the Chair. This followed a "Tamasha" given by the Scouts, to which the townsfolk of Richmond were invited. It was a great programme, although entirely impromptu, and a collection made for the Richmond Hospital realised £43

On Sunday, at the Church Parade, where the Commandant was turned on to preach, a collection was made for the Richmond Local Association and over £21 was collected. At night there was a dinner to the Commandant and Staff at the Castle Hotel.

The Chief Scout bestowed various decorations, the Silver Wolf, Badges of Merit, Thanks Badges, etc., on the leaders of the Overseas contingents and the Camp Staff. This was the last of the camp functions except the farewell services in the Chapel. The morning the French Scouts left, Father Sevin, S.J., the Chief of the Catholic Scouts in France, with two assistant priests, celebrated High Mass. The Chapel was crowded, the Gregorian music of the Mass sung unaccompanied, was most impressive, the Belgian trumpeters sounded a Grand Salute at the Elevation, and there were over 300 communicants. The Church of England Services, too, were well attended. There was a celebration of the Holy Communion every morning, and several on the Sundays, as well as night prayers in the Chapel Tent.

The great camp is now no more, but the lessons learnt will endure for ever. Brotherhood, courtesy and service, as the ideals of boyhood’ the future of the world is in the hands of the boys.

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Preparing to Strike Camp at the Close of the Jamboree
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

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Last Modified: 10:21 AM on December 27, 1998