1st World Jamboree, 1920
Olympia, London, England
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Americans Enter the Arena and Salute the Chief During the Grand Procession of Nations
From archival newsreel footage presented in  the documentary film,
Scouts! The Rise of the World Scout Movement, Michael Murphy, producer, Churchill Films, 1986

Saturday, July 31st.

Any misgivings the Directors of the Jamboree might have entertained as to whether the public intended to support the venture or not were finally dispelled on the opening day, Saturday, July 31st, when Olympia was simply crammed with some 15,000 people, Commissioners, Rovers, Scouts, Wolf Cubs, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, and all the elements that have testified how closely the Scout Movement has interwoven itself with the national life.

The Chief Scout opened the display, and took the salute from the Nations represented in the Grand Parade.

The visitor to Olympia needed eyes all down his coat if he was to observe a tithe of what was going on in the arena at the same moment. Of course, the Grand Procession of Nations was again a complete and satisfying picture of pageantry and colour, and the rally of the Wolf Cubs sticks in the memory from its sheer spontaneity and joyousness, but at other times the floor-space was an almost baffling kaleidoscope of action and activity. In one corner were boy Highlanders dancing their reels; next door a party of athletes contesting the high jump; nearer the spectators a group of flannelled lads gracefully performed the Swedish exercises; while in the background diminutive firemen with hand-pump, hose, ladders, and jumping sheets were rescuing a terrified negro family (and with what unforced humour these children acted their parts) from their burning home. These incidents possibly accounted for about a quarter of the arena, and the remaining three-fourths were equally busy and varied.

Then in a twinkling the great space cleared, to be filled by a new army of performers, who threw themselves into a gigantic "rag" Boy clowns and tumblers flung themselves about recklessly; make-believe animals—an elephant, an ostrich, a giraffe, and a tremendous dragon—with "practical " flapping ears and rolling eyes-wandered unconcernedly among the others; and a group of tiny human monkeys were as near to Nature as one could get for 1s. 3d. All the time a band was playing, or the London Choir was singing a rousing Scout chant; or picked boys were whistling together in unison.

But, for the making of a great big hearty British cheer the boys’ tugs-of-war will take a lot of beating. In these competitions boys of one country pitted their strength and prowess against those of another, and defeat was accepted with such a fine generous spirit that it became as great a quality as success. Blonde young giants from Sweden; dark, graceful boys from Spain; serene boys from China: clear-eyed youngsters from the Colonies, and small boys whose huge horn-rimmed spectacles proclaimed their nationality strove with all the earnestness that was in them to uphold the glory of their own country.

Still, notwithstanding the diversity of nations, of customs, of tongues and of temperament, they were all one in their keen comprehension of sport. "Every Scout is a brother." One minute the building resounded with the murmur of many voices, the next the teams stepped proudly into the arena and picked up their rope. "Take the strain" came clearly and silence filled Olympia. Then came the word "Go," and the rope creaked and creaked again in a mighty pull for victory. But the audience—it was marvellous. It was not content to sit and watch and cheer. Everybody stood up and shouted frantically. Every inch gained on one side or the other brought an even louder roar of applause, and after each tug the audience sank back almost as exhausted as the teams themselves.

On the opening day a representative team of Scottish Boy Scouts beat a team of Americans in the tug-of-war competition. The teams were of twelve a side, and the length of pull 8 feet.

Gibraltar "B" team beat Eclaireurs Unioniste de Francaise "B" by two pulls to nil, and the third contest, between Union of South Africa "B" and Association Francaise de Boy Scouts, was secured by the former team.

Sheffield Scouts started the Jamboree with a number of successes. A composite team representing the city won the first heat in the English obstacle race. Scout Milward, Pitsmoor Troop, won the World’s Scout Boxing Championship (chicken three class, under 6 stone); Cub Branley won the first heat in chicken two class; and Cub Watemand was defeated in the chicken one class, after a plucky fight with a Londoner.

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Band of the 11th Sutton Troop.
Which led the singing at the memorable Service in Olympia on August 1st, 1920.
It also supplied the music throughout the Jamboree.
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

Sunday, August 1st.

OLYMPIA was a wonderful scene on Sunday, August 1st. A special platform had been erected in the arena, and in front of this the Sutton (Surrey) Troop Band, with a choir of 500 Scouts, conducted by Mr. Arthur Poyser, were placed. The arena was filled with 3,000 Scouts, drawn from many nations, while the standard bearers formed a long line down one whole side. About 5,000 other Scouts, with 6,000 or 7,000 of the public, filled every available seat.

A Special Order of Service was printed which enabled everyone, so far as there were sufficient copies, to follow everything that was said and done, with the exception, of course, of the Archbishop’s address. The seating arrangements were carried out most admirably by a splendid staff of officers, and all arrangements, both in assembling and in dispersing, went of without a hitch; in fact, the way in which the whole of the huge congregation melted away at the end without confusion or noise was truly remarkable.

A Guard of Honour for the Archbishop of 50 Rovers carried the Headquarters flags.

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A Wonderful Picture of the Enormous Crowd in Olympia During the Church Service
on August 1st, 1920.  It is estimated that 16,000 people were present.
Inset: His Grace The Archbishop of York, Who Preached the Sermon

From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

His Grace prefaced his exhortation with a request for profound silence, in order, as he remarked, "to help my voice." The recommendation was superfluous, since, from the moment he came to the front of the platform, not a whisper was heard in the vast arena. Selecting for his text the words "Keep that which is committed to thy trust " (Paul the Apostle to Timothy, I vi. 20), His Grace said he would deliver to the Boy Scouts the identical message which he had spoken on three previous occasions, all of which were engraved in his mind, owing to the circumstances under which he had uttered it. In the first month of the War he had conducted divine service on one of His Majesty’s cruisers then stationed in the North Sea. It had been an impressive scene. Assembled on deck was a body of British manhood and youth, and when he looked into the eyes of those gallant and fearless sailors of England he felt assured in his heart that they would, come what might, keep the trust committed to them by God, their King and their country—that of defending to the end the honour and the homes of their native land. And they had kept the trust unto their glorious end, for the cruiser later, in order to save a battleship from the terrible onslaught of the enemy’s guns, had run in between the combatants, shielding the battleship, drawing the German fire, and finally sinking with all aboard from admiral to boy. (His Grace was here referring to the Battle of Jutland, May 31st, 1916, when H.M.S. "Invincible," Admiral Hood, was, after sinking a German light cruiser, cut in two by a shell which caused her magazine to explode.) These brave sailors had indeed splendidly kept their trust. It was his fate to deliver the message again, this time in Flanders fields, to 3,000 British soldiers who were resting on the eve of a great battle. They also had grandly kept the trust committed to them, since two days later they had replied to his exhortation by taking their part in one of the most desperate battles of the War. (His Grace no doubt referred to the battle of Vimy Ridge, fought April 9th-10th, 1917.) Once more, in 1918, he had borne the message across the Atlantic, and had spoken it in an American camp to five or six thousand, clean, fine and determined youths in training and had drawn from them as a reply the sung words, "Over there, we’ll be there, and we won’t come back till it’s over, over there" The world knew how the Americans had kept the trust, and of the heavy sacrifices they had made to keep it. (Battle of Saint-Mihiel, September 12th, 1918, and others.)

His Grace then addressed the Boy Scouts particularly. To quote his stirring words to them, "You are alive, tingling with life, young, strong and free. Yours are the days to be. It is meet and proper that each one of you should be proud of his own troop, and that you should strive to make it the best in the movement. I am speaking to one of the biggest assemblies of boys that has ever met together in history. I am almost awed by the huge power of the boys assembled here. How is such a solemn trust as is implied in this Movement to be used? There is only one answer-to make a new and better world. You are out not to claim rights, but to do your duty not to care for yourselves, but for others not to work for the class, but for the commonwealth; not to suspect and fight other nations, but to make comrades and brothers. I can understand the feelings of the Chief Scout as he surveys the wonderful expansion of the Movement which thirteen years ago was hardly thought of. If the Scout spirit were to lay hold of the nations of the world I believe its face would be changed. When you go back to your homes, some of them across the seas, you must labour in harmony with your brother Scouts of all nations to form a band of brothers, all working strenuously with one magnificent goal in view the peace among the nations of the world. You can and will do it. You are now a great power, which can make for that peace. I exhort you to take this as your aim—the bringing into existence the peace of the world. This is my message to you, Boy Scouts. Keep the trust!"

The Archbishop’s words were eloquent and powerful, the silence was remarkable. It will be remembered that a great number of the boys present were foreigners, who could not have understood what the Archbishop was saying, while many English boys were so far away that it would have been very easy for them to become restless and inattentive, and yet throughout the whole of the address there was not a sound or movement.

Catholic Scouts of all the nations that were represented at the Jamboree attended Pontifical High Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The foreign contingent marched from Olympia via Buckingham Palace Road. It was a stirring scene when the procession passed Imperial Headquarters with Colours flying. The Chief Scout took the salute outside the Imperial Headquarters. A large number of English Scouts also attended the parade and about 800 must have been present in the cathedral.

The colour party were drawn up at the "alert" during Mass, and gave an additional touch of colour to an impressive scene. Among those present were Conte Mario di Carpegna, Capo-Scout della (Chief Scout of Italian Catholic Scouts), M. Jean Corbisier (Chief Scout of B.-P. Belgian Scouts), Chief Commissioner for Spain, Chief Commissioner for France, Commissioner for Western Provinces, India, Count Marty and Le Pere J. Jacobs, S.J.

Mr. M. C. Dunlop, Assistant Commissioner for Wolf Cubs, Westminster, was in command of the Wolf Cubs. Mr. Corballis, County Commissioner for Northumberland, was in command of the parade. After mass the Scouts were formed up and inspected by the officer commanding the parade, and the chief officers in command of the foreign Troops.

There was a service at Westminster Abbey in the afternoon, after which the foreign and overseas Scouts marched from Old Palace Yard to Olympia by the following route: Old Palace Yard, Parliament Street, Whitehall, Horse Guards’ Arch, Horse Guards’ Parade, along East side of St. James’s Park, the Mall, Queen Victoria Memorial, Constitution Hill, Hyde Park Corner, along the carriage road to Queen’s Gate, High Street and Kensington Road.

The procession left Old Palace Yard at 4.15 p.m., and the contingents marched in the following order:

OVERSEAS. South Africa, New Zealand, Malta, Malay, Jamaica, India, Gibraltar, Canada, Australia.

FOREIGN. America, Belgium, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Roumania, Serbia, Siam, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

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