|1st World Jamboree,
Olympia, London, England
Monday, August 2nd.
Bank Holiday opened dull and dismal; that is to say, from an atmospheric point of view. Indeed, it was worse than dull, for the day outside was noted for a jolly good downpour that lasted as long as daylight and even after. As a consequence, Olympia which ordinarily would have filled, was overflowing by mid-day. And the first performance did not begin until half an hour after two! People were pouring into Olympia soon after eleven, and a great river of scouts and their friends streamed slowly down the streets of stalls that surrounded the arena.
It was a river of colour. The uniforms alone were worth the money. Here was no monotonous khaki. There were grey, blue and brown scouts, green scouts with red handkerchiefs round their necks, kilted and tartaned scouts, all bristling with knives and whistles, many-coloured tassels and ribbons. There were dark-blue Sea Scouts from the Tyne and jolly little green wolf cubs in caps, instead of the familiar hats. There were scouts in jaunty little flying corps caps perched on the sides of their heads, and others in white helmets, such as the French army wear in the East.
It was such an army that Xerxes might have commanded or Napoleon taken with him into Russia. And nearly every soldier in this Grand Army had a balloon, red, green, or blue, the string either tied to his hat or carried. in his hand, so that as the army flowed by a never-ending procession of balloons floated over it like an escort of protecting aircraft.
The stalls presented an astonishing mixture of interesting things. First of all, there was everything that a Scout could possibly want to buy—uniforms and bats and footballs and bicycles, with beautiful little wax-work Scouts sitting on them; tall, tapering bridges made in Meccano, and "light drums for little Scouts and long marches," with a charming lady showing how to beat them.
Then there were side shows to exhibit different forms of Scout activity. There was the neatest little wigwam made by the Second Vesterloo Troop of Danish Scouts with fur rugs and a Totem pole and a canoe. There were Troops of working Scouts from Peterborough and Swinton, surrounded by flying wheels and belts. There were coal-mining Scouts from Northumberland, suitably grimy, with lamps in their hands, handling coal trucks in a mine, with a dear little patient pit pony in its tiny stable to add versimilitude, and at one point was this tremendous notice: "Explosion here."
A little farther on was a miniature stage, with a rustic bridge and woodland scenery, and a real tent where a pack of Wolf Cubs under a motherly Lady Wolf was camping out and squealing joyfully over it. On a plot of pretending grass near by more Wolf Cubs were playing organised games of the nature of "Here we go round the mulberry bush" to a large audience. And there was plenty more. So dense was the crowd that one could only see a fraction of all that was going on.
At 2:30 Lord Robert Cecil, accompanied by the Chief Scout, went into the Arena, where, in formally declaring the Jamboree open for that day, he said, addressing the audience, there was a great connection between the Boy Scout movement and the League of Nations. The principles of the two ideas were the same. Candour, self-control, friendship and co-operation, these were the watchwords of both the. Scouts and the League. "After all," said Lord Robert, "they are young. The future lies with them. We of the older generation have got the world into a terrible mess, a welter of slaughter and famine. There is only one hope stands above the flood, that after all the terrible destruction we see around us this is to be the door of the new era. That is our one hope, and that is our one chance. We have begun the task, and it is for the younger generation to carry through that to which we have set our hands."
Then the performance commenced. There was again a huge attendance, competent authorities estimating that no fewer than 14,000 people were present. The vast throngs were thrilled again and again by the entertainment. Not by its magnificence, not by its dramatic incidents, but by something far more inspiring, far more exciting than either-the unflagging enthusiasm of healthy boys of the far-flung nations of the world, indulging in a series of demonstrations of perfect training and perfect discipline such as have rarely been seen before. The vital spirit of life was there. The atmosphere was electrical—with an electricity that never lost its invigorating sting.
Two incidents alone will show the spirit of the afternoon. A party of khaki-garbed Scouts hurried to take a handcart over a 10-foot wall. Two boys surmounted the obstruction very rapidly, and one, a very small child, landed too quickly and fell over. Before he had time to get on his feet, the boys on the other side of the wall began to throw bags of sand across it. The small Scout literally got these "in the neck." Fourteen thousand people laughed hilariously, and the vast roof echoed with their mirth.
Again, there was a proof how deeply discipline is ingrained in the very nature of these young adventurers on the threshold of life. The Danish contingent, a fine body of boys, marched on to the arena to give a demonstration of hand-ball. At the beginning of this game there is an exact lining out of the two sides. It so happened that one of the forwards, to be in his correct place in relation to the other players, would have to stand in a small pond of water which was let in the floor. Without a moment’s hesitation—without, indeed, even showing that he noticed it—he stood in the water, taut, and at attention, eager to begin the game.
One of the serious contests of the week opened on this day, when the relay dispatch carrying competition was entered upon. Its object was to organise the system throughout the English counties so that messages and letters may most efficiently be passed from one Troop to another and from the County Scout Headquarters to any Scout Troop in the county. For this purpose England had been divided into eight districts, each with its own historical and instructional title. They were: "Dick Turpin’s Way," which was from York to London; "The Fish Way," Grimsby to London; "The Nelson’s Way," obviously the road from Portsmouth; "The Norman’s Way," with equal felicity the route from Hastings; "The Pilgrim’s Way," which started from Exeter; The Saxon’s Way," originating at Norwich and most poetically, "The Minstrel’s Way," which began in Wales at Carmarthen.
The dispatch had to be carried by individual Scouts who had to proceed on foot or on some vehicle propelled by themselves, such as bicycles, scooters, roller skates or boats, and it had to pass through the hands of at least 25 troops. So if any Bank Holiday road tourist encountered a Boy Scout travelling as though chased by the furies he was unwittingly taking part in the Jamboree.
The three contests on August 2nd were along the "Nelson’s Way," 73½ miles, the dispatch starting at 9.38 a.m. and reaching Olympia at 1.00 p.m.; the "Norman’s Way " (10.48 a.m. to 3.35 p.m.), a distance of 64 miles; and the "Saxon’s Way," 108½ miles, which were covered between 6 a.m. and 3.8 p.m.
The thought of dispatches being carried by relays of messengers across great stretches of country has always appealed to the adventure-loving mind (that is, every mind), and excitement grew more and more intense during the afternoon as on large notice boards the progress of the dispatch riders on cycles from Norwich, Portsmouth and Hastings was recorded.
When the statement that a certain messenger was 3 miles away was announced, interest was at fever heat, and when finally a steward announced through a megaphone that the scout had arrived there was a thrill of expectation. A little figure suddenly swept into the arena on his bicycle; hot-foot with a sense of duty, he threw the bicycle down, raced across the ground, climbed frantically up the tiers of seats, leapt over a railing and climbed another, and with shining eyes and proud face handed the sacred dispatch case into the hands of the Chief Scout himself, who was in the Royal Box.
Presently another roll of cheers began at one end of the arena and swept along towards the other, to meet another wave of sound half-way, where the two waves crashed together and threw up a real Niagara of noise.
The cheers were for another little lad on a bicycle. He rode in between the giant trees at one end of the arena, and passing squads of lads at athletics, sprang from his bicycle, threw it aside, raced across the arena and leaped up the steps of the tiered seats as far as the Royal Box.
The dispatch rider saluted and placed his packet in "B.P.’s" right hand. Then "B.P." held out his left hand, and the Scout and the inventor of Scouts "shook."
Once more this scene was enacted. The first dispatch rider bore a packet from Norwich, the second brought one from Portsmouth, and the third one from Hastings. The average speed was 13-21 miles per hour. Scout Headquarters had worked out a time table based on a speed of 10 miles per hour. The boys’ enthusiasm however, could not be held in check. An average of 20 miles per hour might have been maintained but for the fact that reliefs—warned according to the time table prepared before hand-were not always ready. Once or twice the lads—they were all under 18—scorned to wait and rode a double distance. The last lap from Esher to London, roughly 12 miles, was done in 35 minutes!
During the day the Chief visited the Old Deer Park, Richmond, and inspected the 5,000 Boy Scouts encamped there. In honour of the birthday of the Queen of Holland, the Dutch flag was hoisted and the Dutch Boy Scouts, about 400 in number, sang the Dutch National Anthem.
Nothing could give a better idea of the international character of the Jamboree than the result of the Tug-of-War competitions in the afternoon: Holland beat Gibraltar A; Denmark beat Greece; Union of South Africa beat Scotland; Luxembourg beat Ireland.
Tuesday, August 3rd.
TUESDAY opened splendidly. All the rain of the day before had disappeared, the sun shone out, the air was crisp and invigorating. Olympia resounded with the merry laughter of the hundreds of boys who lived in the building for the period of the Jamboree. All the morning the lads investigated the wonders of the place. They watched with interest the electricians at their work, supervised the telephone linesmen and instructed them how to "carry on," much to the amusement of the men concerned.
Every automatic machine on the premises underwent a complete course of investigation, too, and provided endless fun to as many as could gather round. "Lady Baden-Powell’s Kitchen " came in for a particularly bad time—or good time. The lads, with the spirit of destruction that lies dormant in every boy, smashed every bit of crockery in the place over and over again, only stopping to replenish the dresser with more cups and plates to return to the attack which lasted until all was again demolished.
At eleven o’clock the doors of Olympia opened again and the waiting crowds poured into the building. By lunch-time the "house" was packed and the temporary transfer booking offices were besieged by waiting queues anxious to secure seats for the arena performances later in the day.
All this time the Chief was busy at Richmond where he was paying a visit to the American Contingent accompanied by the Chief Cub and the Chief Brownie.
The camp, which had been so abominably treated by the weather on the previous day, had recovered in the welcome sunshine, and it was a gay scene with the Americans, who represented thirty-five States in the Union, drawn up on parade, each detachment carrying the Stars and Stripes surmounted by the eagle and its own Scout flag. Sir Robert made a careful inspection of the ranks. With right arms outstretched, the Americans then shouted: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice to all." The Scout Oath followed: "On my honour I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout laws; to help other people at all times to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
Then came the rally "with wild shouts to the Chief Scout and the Americans squatted round him in a circle. Introduced by Colonel L. R. Gignilliat (in command) as " the friend of the boyhood of the world," Sir Robert said that this was the fourth time that he had seen their work, and he could not tell them how delighted he was with it. Their Indian pageant at Olympia the previous night had transcended everything. Since their arrival they had been watched very carefully, and they had proved themselves true Scouts. He was mighty glad of it, because he had always expected great things from America, but not so much as they had given. He hoped that when they went home they would convey to their brother Scouts "over there" a favourable impression of their brother Scouts here, for the more they could get together the better it would be for the world.
He had been asked which was the greatest feature of the Jamboree, and said that it was the Richmond Camp, and especially the Lost Property Office, which exemplified the first principle of Scout Law.
Little Peter (Chief Cub) was the hero of the day. He was ordered to select an American boy to take command in the physical exercises, and made his choice with due discrimination; he was raised shoulder high and received a special "howl" of welcome and was presented by the Highlanders with a little skean-dhu.
When the performance opened at 2.30 p.m. there was not a vacant seat in the place. Not hundreds, but literally thousands, crammed the alleyways outside, filled the gangways to the despair of the commissionaires deputed to keep them clear, and overflowed into the annexe and the open air where they contented themselves by looking at the Zoo, the pit ponies and the fine weather.
And the toy balloons—what a success they were! There were hundreds in the arena seats and the lads took immense delight in maneuvring them. A great game was to tie on lengths of string so as to see who could get one the highest and still bring it back to earth. Roars of applause would greet the breaking away of an odd one or two which, speeding skywards, soon found their graves—in the roof.
The chief event again was, of course, the Pageant of Nations. After that came the Wolf Cubs in their never-to-be-forgotten howl.
There were many enquiries during the day, too, as to how the Long Distance Relay Dispatch Carrying Competitors were getting on, but enquirers had to be satisfied with the information that they were not expected until the next day. The Marathon Long Distance Ride, which started the night before drew entries from French, American, South African, Belgian, Danish, and English competitors. Many of the visitors borrowed bicycles in order to compete, and how they managed to find their way over the many miles set aside for the race is a question only they can answer.
One of the exciting items of the afternoon performance was the fine display given by the South African Scouts in the trek-cart race. The boys took the cart to pieces, climbed over a high wall, put the cart together again, and then dashed round the arena and through a pond-and back to the starting-point-all in two and a-half minutes!
Later a team of Boy Scouts from Cornwall was successful in winning the Inter-County Obstacle Race, when they defeated a London team after a strenuous and exciting contest.
In the evening the Earl of Meath, Chief Commissioner for Ireland, gave a dinner in the Pillar Hall to the Chief Scout, the Chief Guide, the H.Q. staff, the Irish Provincial Commissioners, and the Irish Local Association officials of the Boy Scout movement. The Earl of Meath was supported by Lady Ardee, Viscount Powerscourt (Provincial Commissioner for Leinster), Lord Oranmore and Browne (Assistant Commissioner for Connaught), Sir Edmond Elles (Chief Commissioner, Imperial Headquarters), Lord Holmpatrick (District Commissioner, Dublin), Sir Stanley Cochrane (President, Wicklow Association), Colonel de Burgh (Commissioner for Rovers, Imperial Headquarters), General Ricardo (Deputy Provincial Commissioner, North-West Ulster), Mrs. White (Cape Province Wolf Cubs), Major-General H. B. Jeffreys (Committee of Council, Imperial Headquarters), Mr. J. A. Seddon, M.P., Mr. G. H. Roberts, M.P., Captain Loseby, Captain Tupper, and Mr. J. A. Sexton, M.P.
Proposing "The Chief Scout," the Chairman said that he was anxious they should all meet their revered chief and get acquainted with those who managed the central Imperial affairs of the movement in London. In the hope that they would all get to know each other better he had invited the leaders of the movement in the Overseas Dominions to meet there that evening, and all the Scouts who were not exactly of the British Empire—which he regretted very much those belonging to a place called the United States of America. (Laughter.) Theirs was a world-wide movement, and with the toast he wished to associate the name of Lady Baden-Powell. (Cheers.) The Scout movement had already impressed its beneficial ideas on the minds of millions of boys and girls. In the Boy Scout movement they had a true prophet, a true seer who was capable of seeing beyond the limits of the vision of ordinary mortals. He could look into the future, and to the chairman’s mind the world would do well to recognise the statesmanlike qualities possessed by their prophet, and to listen to his warning. He did not say they should adopt all his suggestions, but he thought where practicable statesmen would do well if they consulted him, especially in the education of the young of both sexes. The Irish Scouts were collected from the four provinces of Ireland, and numbered 600. They would remember their Scout promise, and with their brothers from all parts of the globe they expressed their undying devotion and loyalty to their chief.
The Chief in the course of his reply said that the true pedestal of the movement was not the figurehead but those who were doing the work, It was not a one-man show at all. It was a wonderful experience to see the Jamboree. When comparing notes they were stunned by its size. They had not yet grasped the meaning and perspective of it. They did not yet realise the big possibilities that lay before them. He referred to the wonderful service organised on Sunday, and the presence of so many South Africans marching in the arena on Bank Holiday. Lord Robert Cecil asked him if they were really from South Africa. The Chief replied: "You don’t suppose we are dressing up supers and giving them a South African flag. Everyone is from South Africa, and, what is more, a great many are of South African blood." A very large proportion of the boys were what we used to call Boers a few years ago. They were our enemies until they became our brothers. (Cheers.) He had discovered no fewer than three whose fathers were fighting against himself in Mafeking not many years ago. But the Scout movement had brought together those who were once our enemies, and had made them friends and brothers. (Cheers.) There at Olympia they had gathered from every corner of the world people who never before had anything to do with each other. They had met as friends and brothers. True it was in a small way, but big things had small beginnings, and he hoped out of that Jamboree they were going to grow very big in the future.
"Scout" Meath had spoken of him as a seer, but what it really meant was using common-sense as far as was possible, and then looking wider and still wider all the time. In that way guidance was to be found for carrying on the work. We strove for our country, not in order that our nation should be supreme as a nation, but that she should be more effective for the good government of the whole world. In the same way they were trying to train the boys to think of others and riot of themselves, so that they would become better men.
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