1st World Jamboree, 1920
Olympia, London, England
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The Winning Team of Dispatch Riders
L-R: A. R. Gilbey, T. G. Streetly, S. J. A. Jossett
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

Wednesday, August 4th.

THIS again was a Day of Days. The Pageant of Youth was making all London young.

The crowds, indeed, were remarkable. At three o’clock there was not a seat to be had, and many people again consoled themselves by making a tour of the sideshows. People had found what a wonderful sight it was to see these myriad of youngsters.

Apart from the attraction of the Jamboree, it had been announced that Prince Arthur of Connaught would be present to open the proceedings, while quite a lot of people were keenly interested in the Long Distance Ride which was in progress.

It had been a wonderful thought to them that night arid day, never ceasing, little lads all over the country were speeding on London with a precious package that was destined for the hands of the Chief himself.

From York in the North, from Exeter in the West, from Liverpool and Wales and the East Coast of England the dispatch riders left under varying conditions of weather. From one part came a telephoned message that the weather was good; another wired to say it was raining in torrents; a third rang up quite late to inform the Staff he had lost the cyclist who was to hand him the dispatch, and what was he to do?

Still, it was all a great source of wonderment and awe, and the numerous enquiries from the Devonshire boys who were anxious to know about the Exeter dispatch, and the North country lads interested in York and Liverpool, kept the Officer-in-Charge quite busy apart from any other work he had to do.

The dispatch carriers were meanwhile hurrying across England to Olympia from York, Liverpool, Exeter, Carmarthen and Grimsby, with letters to the Chief Scout.

York was included in the first sector, and its distinctive appellation was "Dick Turpin’s Way," keeping well into line with reputed history. The Lord Mayor (Ald. E. Walker) and the Sheriff (Lieut.-Col. R. E. Key) sent the following message:

"On this anniversary of the war having been declared between England and Germany, and a glorious victory having been achieved, it gives us great pleasure to congratulate the Chief Scout upon the success of the International Jamboree, which we feel will draw together all scouts of the allied nations, and prove to be a happy augury for the future peace of the world."

The message was taken from the Mansion House dead on two o’clock by Senior Patrol Leader J. Shaw, Sea Scout W. Precious, and Rover Mate R. Leadley.

The boys selected for the first part of the ride from Liverpool were Rover James Arnall and Rover A. Fisher. They were both about sixteen years of age, and they set off from the Town Hall for Roby, where they handed over the wallet containing the letter to their reliefs.

In the absence of the Lord Mayor, who was on holiday, Mr. H. H. Noble, President of the Liverpool . Boy Scouts Association, handed the letter to the boys, whose departure was witnessed by a considerable crowd. The following is a copy.



I am glad to be able to have the opportunity of sending a message to you to read at the Jamboree, in London.

The Boy Scout movement is an organisation which has grown beyond the most sanguine anticipations of its worthy originator and head. Its activities are not confined to this country, but other countries have also followed our example, and have their Boy Scouts.

Everyone who has the best interests or the youth of England at heart should foster and support the Boy Scout movement. It encourages high ideals, helps to form character, teaches independence, and self-reliance.

I hope the movement will prosper, and that this city will not be behind other places both in its numbers and the personnel of its scouts.


Lord Mayor.

Promptly at noon the Mayor of Carmarthen handed to Second Scout Sidney Jones a dispatch containing a message of greeting to be conveyed to the Chief Scout. The ceremony took place in front of the Guildhall.

In the route from Carmarthen to Olympia, the part allotted to Carmarthen Scouts extended as far as Kidwelly, where the dispatch was handed to a Llanelly scout, who took it to Llanelly, where a Swansea scout took charge of it, and so on till Olympia was reached.

Addressing the gathering who witnessed the departure of the Carmarthen scout, the Mayor said he had taken the liberty as mayor to add a footnote to the dispatch inviting the Chief Scout to visit Carmarthen in January, 1921, when a conference of scout workers would be held in the town, and he, hoped the Town Council would ask the Chief Scout to become a freeman of the borough.

The gathering having sung the National Anthem, the Scout left for Kidwelly on a bicycle amidst cheers. Wretched weather prevailed.

Patrol Leader Lincoln was the Scout selected to carry the dispatch on the first relay of "The Fish Way." He left Grimsby at 5 P.m. on August 4th, and made the first run to Boston (Lincs.). In addition to the dispatch, the cyclist brought a surprise for the Chief—a basket of fresh fish.

The Scouts at Grimsby caught a quantity of fish on the same afternoon, and at 5 o’clock a basket full was on the way to London with the message. The boys travelled all night, and at 7.55 the following morning the basket was delivered at Olympia, and the fish was immediately sent off for the Chief’s breakfast.

From the Guildhall, Exeter, a start was made by Scout Chester at 5.30 p.m. The message from the west was handed to Chester by the Mayor of Exeter. The route followed from Exeter was that known as the Pilgrims’ route, and the message was carried by scouts of the counties traversed by the route. Nine scouts of the Exeter and Devon troops were selected to convey the message as far as the Somerset border. There was a crowd of interested spectators, which included the Mayoress of Exeter, Major-Gen. Sir Edward May (County Organiser), Major Tyler (County Secretary), and Mr. Harbottle Reed (District Commissioner). A troop of Oxfordshire scouts, who were camping in the neighbourhood, formed a guard of honour.

The Jamboree proper was opened in the afternoon by Prince Arthur of Connaught, who was accompanied by Princess Louise Duchess of Argyll, the Earl of Macduff, the Countess of Mayo with her two young nieces, the daughters of Col. Douglas Stewart, the Chief Scout, Lady Baden-Powell (Chief Guide), the Chief Cub Peter, and members of the various foreign delegations. His Royal Highness was received by a Guard of Honour formed by scouts and girl guides, and took the salutes during the impressive International parade and march past.

The little Earl of Macduff was one of the most interested spectators. With shining eyes and parted lips he made a thorough tour of the exhibition accompanied by his father, who was accompanied by the Duchess of Argyll, the Chief and Lady Baden-Powell. Perhaps the little Earl would have confessed that the turn that pleased him most was the "Cubs’ " howl, for he listened to their blood-curdling cry with evident enjoyment.

The great international tug-of-war, for which The Daily Mirror offered a handsome challenge cup, was being even more keenly followed as a decision was approached. In this contest the South African team was beaten by the Switzerland team and England by the boys from Luxembourg.

The invasion of these thousands of boys, with their happy enthusiasm, and invigorating young personalities, was a tonic to London, and each boy was filled with a burning desire to live up to the Scout’s code. One boy spent nearly the whole of the evening doing "good turns."

Another scout’s good turn consisted in taking charge of a baby. The tiny tot crowed with delight as she played with a gas balloon tied to her wrist, but the scout made one mistake. He took the infant behind the scenes, where the Red Indians with war paint and feather head-dresses were indulging in playful encounters with their tomahawks.

Although the painted chief used a lot of conciliatory infantese, baby refused to be pacified and had to be returned to its mother.

There were one or two other incidents that added to the gaiety of nations—and the Jamboree. Two Scouts got lost—actually lost. After an all-night search they were found—at Olympia. The lads belonged to a party of 200 Farnham Scouts. They were missed when the roll was called in the Tube, on the way to Waterloo. One of the Scoutmasters went to look for them, but it was not until six o’clock next morning that he found them. They had gone back to Olympia and spent the night there.

During the day Sir John Norton Griffiths, M.P., conducted a much-impressed party of Scouts over the Houses of Parliament. The tour concluded, and Sir John having been heartily thanked, what more natural than that the Scout leader should draw up his party in Palace Yard to take a "snap " of them with the Parliament buildings as a background?

And what more natural than that a reluctant constable should come up producing a book of instructions which stated that in 1899 it had been ordained that no photographs or sketches could be taken without the consent of the Lord Great Chamberlain, or, while the House was sitting, of the Serjeant-at-Arms?

The Scouts were disappointed, but rules are rules.

An elderly husband and wife from the Midlands who were paying their first visit to London dropped into Olympia. The man was the most excited spectator in the vast crowd. The ever-changing displays in the arena, with the rapidity of movement, only whetted his appetite for more, and he persisted in clapping his hands to the great annoyance of his wife who objected to demonstration. Very stolid, she was.

"I’ve seen lots of Boy Scouts near home," he said, "but I never thought they could do anything like this. They seem to be trained to do everything."

Asked whether he would have been a Scout if he had had the opportunity when a boy, his face beamed with delight.

"Yes," he replied, without hesitation.

We used to get into mischief when I was a lad. There was nothing like this for us. We had to get our amusements as best we could. I shall tell my grandson he ought to be a Scout when I get home."

At the Central Hall, Westminster, Sir Ernest Shackleton was telling the story of the South Pole to a crowd of Scouts. His deeds had long ago captured the imagination of every Scout who longs to be an explorer and that is, all of them. The boys sat enthralled as Sir Ernest unfolded to them the splendid story of the voyage of the "Endurance."

The films which showed the general life of the camp—the men lightheartedly at work, the look-out in the crow’s nest, the dogs being dosed with medicine, were received with huge glee. Every Scout who had mastered painfully the art of rapid tent rigging when out on the trail was intensely interested in the life of the explorers their little round tents amongst the snow, their talks round the galley fire, their clothing and outfit, and the packing of the sledges.

"We tugged and toiled all day with the dogs getting the sledges over the pack ice—and did a mile and a-half."

A long whistle of amazement came from the rows of youngsters.

When the sadder parts of the history came-the crushing of the "Endurance " in the ice pack—there was dead silence in the hall. Every Scout was in his heart far away amongst the ice with Shackleton.

Sir Ernest had to wait several times during his talk until the boys had finished showing their appreciation of the "Endurance " men, and when he told them how the scarred and battered ship sank below the ice with her Colours still flying such a shout went up that even the Central Hall has rarely known.

During the day M. Demetrius Caclamanos, the Greek Minister, entertained the Chief Scout and representatives of the Boy Scouts attending the Jamboree at luncheon at the Legation.

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A Part of the Vast Audience That Packed Olympia Each Day
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

Thursday, August 5th.

BY Thursday, Olympia had captured the Spirit of Fun. There was another name for it. Just Fun, with a capital F. And the whole thing was ridiculously infectious.

You entered the Jamboree rather serious. You wanted to see this "League of Nations " for yourself. You expected, perhaps, to see groups of boys, gravely shaking hands, or talking earnestly about the rights and wrongs of the world. That was your attitude if you were a stranger.

And you found nothing of the sort. Instead, you gazed incredulously on the thousands of laughing young imps who infested the great building, who seemed to find uproarious enjoyment in every minute of the day.

And unconsciously you caught the fever. You couldn’t help yourself—now could you? You were amused—and five minutes after you arrived you were wandering around chuckling.

"This Jamboree, this great playground for the boys of all nations, was the most delightful entertainment that has been seen at Olympia. It fairly caught public imagination. The crowds were terrific," was an actual observation.

Some of the "turns " again were charming. The Herefordshire apple song, with the old villagers in smocks and whiskers, drew rounds of applause. The whistling chorus in the gallery was a joyous thing to listen to, especially when they started the jolly marching song. When a real live motor fire-engine dashed to the rescue of the people in the burning shack the enthusiasm of the boys and girls in the audience broke loose, and they simply rose at it. The Welsh boys performed prodigies of valour every time they were lowered into the smoking colliery, and when a "miner was eventually hauled out by the rescue rope, strapped to a stretcher, you might have heard the clapping in the Tower of London!

Yet if all those things had not been in the programme there was still the American Scouts’ Red Indian pageant. Red Indians! What boy—or girl, for that matter—has not yearned for feathers and warpaint and tomahawks and ponies and tepees? Here they all were. The Sioux call, the ghost dance, the war dance, and the Peace Pipe ceremony were all plays of the highest order, and the vast audience were thrilled through and through. The costumes cost £3,000 and the Scouts were largely descendants of Red Indians themselves.

The dispatch from York arrived next, the last relay bringing it to Olympia at 9.30. The weather along the "Dick Turpin Way," as it was called, had also been very bad, and the dispatch case was soaked through.

Misfortune attended the dispatch carried along the "American Way" from Liverpool. All went smoothly until the dispatch was nearing Lichfield, and then the system appears to have broken down. A telegram was received from Lichfield stating that the dispatch was being forwarded by post.

Amid the wild enthusiasm of thousands, two of the closing rounds of the international tug-of-war competition were "pulled."

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Danish Sea Scouts after Winning
the International Tug-of-War
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920,
Boy Scout Association

Twelve tall, muscular Danish boys first met twelve equally healthy-looking youngsters from South Africa. After a tremendous contest Denmark just managed to win. Sweden then pulled with America, and only lost to the Stars and Stripes after an heroic struggle.

Throughout the contests the shouts of boys of all nations completely drowned the band.

In the evening, at the House of Commons, Mr. J. Seddon had the unique distinction of presiding at a dinner over a company of Scoutmasters representing 22 different nationalities, taking part in the Jamboree.

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Greek Boy Scouts Who Were One of the Great Successes of the Jamboree
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

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