1st World Jamboree, 1920
Olympia, London, England
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H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught, Who Opened the Jamboree, at the Dress Rehearsal.
He was accompanied by Princess Mary, Princess Lousie, The Chief Scout,
Lady Baden-Powell (Chief Guide), Peter (Chief Cub) and Heather (Chief Brownie)
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

The Dress Rehearsal.

AT last the great day arrived-Friday, July 30th, 1920, the day on which H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught was to open the Jamboree. Previous to the arrival of the Royal Party an inaugural luncheon was served in the Pillar Hall over which Sir Samuel Waring presided, supported by the Chief Scout.

About 150 guests were present when the, Chief read the following letter from His Majesty the King:

Buckingham Palace, "July 30th, 1920.

To Lieut.-General Sir ROBERT BADEN-POWELL, K.C.B., K.C.V.O.

"I am much gratified that the First Boy Scouts’ International Jamboree, to the organisation of which you have so zealously devoted yourself, should be held in London. I welcome the contingents from abroad who have come to take part in the competitions and displays, and whose friendly rivalry cannot fail to act as a healthy stimulant to the boys of all countries.

"I am fully alive to the great benefits, both moral and physical, which the Boy Scout training assures, and recognise the admirable results already achieved under your direction. I wish the gathering all possible success.


Sir Samuel Waring, proposing the health of the Chief Scout, said that the gathering was representative of the Boy Scouts’ Movement in many parts of the world, and was a remarkable indication of its character. Those present were the representatives of no fewer than twenty-one nations and a million of Boy Scouts, and what was a million today might well develop into several millions in the course of a few years. The object of the movement was to take hold of the boy when he was young and to train him into a good citizen. How many boys there were who, for the want of discipline and example and good associations, drifted into evil ways, developed views antagonistic to the welfare and stability of society and became the active enemies of ordered government!

The Boy Scout Movement was the best plan yet devised for averting this danger. The movement was all for the shaping of character. As Pope said: "just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined," and if the boy who otherwise might go to the bad could be encouraged to cultivate feelings of fineness, the virtues of truth and straight dealing, and the qualities of obedience, courage and cheerfulness, he would not merely promote his own health and happiness but become an asset to the State of which he was a member instead of an encumbrance. This was the aspect of the movement to which he (the speaker) personally attached the greatest importance. He regarded it as an effective system of national insurance against the subversive doctrines and wild nostrums for social inequalities which periodically swept over the world to the peril of civilisation itself.

Nor was the advantage confined to the State. The boy himself reaped a great benefit; he was brought within the influence of a movement that would make his life happier. It was something to be a useful citizen to be on the side of order, to have the regard and respect of those with whom they came in contact, and this was what the movement was effecting. It was making them better men, capable of enjoying life in an intelligent and wholesome way. A Scout could never degenerate into a loafer, and could never turn his back on a comrade in need of help. It was a great movement, but it could not be successfully carried out without external assistance. They required about a further £150,000 to increase the present capital account to £250,000, and the annual interest on this would supplement the funds received from other sources and maintain the head office work of the organisation without undue harassment. He, therefore, appealed with confidence to all those who could contribute to come forward with their generous help and thereby strengthen a movement which formed a defensive wall round established institutions, and promoted the order and prosperity of the State.

"I am not easily impressed," said the Chief in reply, "but the sight of these wonderful boys from all over the world cannot fail to touch the most callous mind." They wanted an audience, he continued; they had got the boys and the displays, but could not be sure of the public. "The weather is splendid," remarked Sir Robert; "it is helping us like Billy-o! It’s a beastly day to-day, and I hope we’ll have another to-morrow." The boys were learning; why should not the parents, guardians and teachers learn, too, by applying for tickets at 66 Victoria Street! If the Scout Movement was not going to put the spirit of the League of Nations into the life of the world he did not know what would. They wanted to get hold of the poorer slum boys, but needed more power to their elbow. "Give us a million pounds now—a quarter of a day’s cost of the War—and we will make wars impossible in the future." What he was actually asking for was the sum of £150,000 which, with the capital now in hand, would make the Movement in this country self-supporting, and the Chief mentioned that Sir Samuel Waring had offered £1,000 "if six other fellows will come forward with the same amount each." He concluded with a story of a visitor from the country who applied for a ticket for "the Jamboree at Lambeth." The visitor was informed that that was a conference of gentlemen in lawn sleeves, and he replied that what he wished to see were the boys with their sleeves rolled up.

The Royal Visit.

THE Royal Party arrived at 2.55 P.M. and included His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, Princess Mary and Princess Louise Duchess of Argyll. The Royal visitors were received by the Chief Scout, Mr. R. G. Heaton (a Director of the Jamboree), Mr. C. C. Branch, O.B.E., Headquarters Commissioner, and Major A. G. Wade, M.C., the Organising Secretary. A guard of honour was provided by Rover Scouts from Peterborough and London Girl Guides, and during the afternoon the Duke conversed with several of the officers from overseas. He was particularly interested in the Swedish contingent, as the Scout movement in that country was under the especial care of the late Crown Princess Margaret, and the whole of the officers from Sweden were presented to the Duke. Princess Mary, who wore Girl Guide’s uniform, was attended by Lady Joan Mulholland, and in attendance on the Duke of Connaught were Sir Malcolm Murray and Capt. the Hon. F. Needham.

The gathering was enthusiastic. That is a mild word to use. All round was a sea of faces. The Royal party, who were obviously more than interested in the show, were surrounded by thousands of Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, Wolf Cubs and Girl Guides, to whom the happenings in the Arena were an absorbing occupation for the eyes, ears and all the other senses. The architecture of the Arena was itself a joy. Down the whole length—about 120 yards—was the built-up scenic effect that was a triumph of its kind. On the left the old three-decker that must have recalled to thousands the stories of pirates and treasure ships and the Spanish Main, but now a scene of peace, flanked by a tropical scene with a fleckless blue sky. Towards the right was the pine forest that looked for all the world as if you could penetrate into its vastnesses for miles and miles and miles. On the edge of this forest were huts, and a gorgeous log house of two stories. Fenimore Cooper and Robert Louis Stevenson and "Treasure Island " and all sorts of boyhood’s wonders visualised before the wondering lads.

It was the One Big Game made up of all the games that boys and girls have ever played since first there was hide-and-seek in the woods, and hero-worship for those who took the lead, and listening ears for those who told a thrilling tale, and laughter for the comic loon, and love for animals and birds that are the playmates of life.

It was the challenge of youth to an old and tired world, and all those boys from all those nations, with their courage, their skill, their health and their joyousness proclaimed in a shout as loud as the howl of the wolf cubs—surely it was heard across the frontiers of strife-that they had the magic password which holds all the promise of the future—Comradeship.

It is hard to describe all that took place that day, and all that happened in the days that followed. In the first place one never knew what was going to happen next, and in the second place so many things happened together that one’s eyes went roving from one interest to another. By a touch of magic Olympia had been successfully transformed into a wild, sea-girt place, with rocky paths and. mysterious caverns and enchanted woods, from which strange crowds of human boys, and stranger animals, came unexpectedly. Red Indians came creeping out of the glades, stealthily, on the war path, with thrilling "totems " and sharpened tomahawks. Maoris came dancing the "hoola-hoola," with shields and spears. A dragon, most monstrous, with flapping ears and rolling eyes and flame-tipped tail, set forth from the dark cavern seeking whom it might devour. A giraffe reared up its long neck scornful of a group of monkey boys who came chattering and tumbling. "Billy" the elephant paced at the head of a procession, and the boys inside walked him with a stately grace.

It was a thrilling moment when the Wolf Cubs came. There was not a sign to be seen of them when the little cub came on to the lonely plain, stared around, did not like his lonesomeness, and gave the call. It was heard by his little brother cubs. With a shrill yell they answered it, and from all sides of those glades and cubby-holes came a torrent of jolly cubs who one day will grow to be Scouts.

In the midst of the plain there was a lone rock, and to this came an old and honoured wolf who, lifting up his paw, gave the sign for the Grand Howl. It was some howl! It was the call of the wild in the heart of youth.

That was not the beginning of it. The Jamboree really began with the march of the nations, the League of Youth, with their flags and emblems, and to old eyes looking on here was a good pageant to make the heart leap up with hope. How gallantly those boys marched! How fine and free in their health of boyhood! How close in comradeship in spite of the barriers of race and tongue! It was the self-determination of youth that made this great alliance of boys. They were playing the same game together, as children of the same big family. Surely there is hope in that?

The music of the pipes broke in upon the singing and the whistling choruses of the London Scout Choir massed in the galleries. Loud and thrilling was the cry of the pipes, but they were little pipers who came with the big, sound. In the tartans of the old clans—the Royal Stuart leading—they marched with a fine and solemn gallantry and put their souls into the pipes, and all the spirit of Scotland.

There were tugs-of-war, obstacle races, team races, boxing bouts, physical exercises, wrestlings and jumpings in competition between the different nations and whoever lost shook hands with whoever won and the vanquished cheered the victors, which is real chivalry.

And the great audience, which was full of Cubs and Scouts and Rovers and Girl Guides (to say nothing of the Ambassadors of the United States, Spain and Belgium, and lots of old fogies laughing and cheering themselves young again), was tremendously excited when their boys came into the field of honour and did their best, whether they won or lost, and did it gloriously well.

It was good to hear the peals of laughter at the boy-clowns who fell over themselves, at the comic animals, at Macnamara’s band, with the funniest musicians who ever marched round an old English circus. A Jamboree? Why, it was the best show in the world.

During the afternoon Col. Hobday, C.M.G., Major Lord Hampton, D.S.O., and Mr. Arthur Poyser were presented to their Royal Highnesses. After tea the Royal party left, but not before they had paid a visit to the Annexe where the exhibition of work by the Spouts was inspected.

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The Jamboree Book, 1920
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Last Modified: 10:21 AM on December 27, 1998