The World Jamboree of Boy Scouts 1929

The Duke of Connaught, who opened the Jamboree,
chatting to members of the Canadian Bodyguard.




The Duke of Connaught, president of the Boy Scouts’ Association, opened here this afternoon the Jamboree which is being held to celebrate the coming of age of the Scout Movement, and which is being attended by 50,000 Scouts from all parts of the world. The ceremony was performed in the grand stand in the arena, and the fact that the Jamboree had indeed really begun was announced by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Chief Scout, blowing a blast on the famous kudu horn used at Brownsea Island 21 years ago, when the first Scout troop held its first camp.

Never, surely, has a coming-of-age, either of a movement or of an individual, been celebrated in such a triumphant and astonishing fashion as this. To Arrowe Park, which is a few miles outside Birkenhead, by which it is owned and has been lent for this great event, there have come during the last few days boys from 42 countries and parts of the British Empire, boys of many languages, creeds, and races, in contingents great and small. They have built themselves camps here in the park and on land adjoining, and for the time being they have established no mean city, which, diverse though its citizens may be, is ruled by a common law, the law of the Scout, known and obeyed throughout the world.

The entire camp is divided into a series of small communities, and in walking through them one may see with what small differences the general code of conduct and procedure is interpreted by the various families of the world of Scouts. The movement is greater than the individual, but its system is not so inelastic that it crushes individuality. National characteristics thrust themselves forward on every hand. In its general principles every encampment is like all the others. But the Czechoslovakia build their tents with a timber base; the Americans have tents greater in capacity and different in design from any others; the Indians have a superb coloured gateway; a bright orange kiwi presides over the affairs of the New Zealanders; and the Austrians have probably more musical instruments between them than the lads of any other nationality. The flagpoles of some of the Scandinavians are decorated with foxes’ brushes, and there is cooking by a diversity of methods.

Members of the Czechoslovakia Troop preparing their tents.

The French Troop busy making their camp.


Great preparation has made the holding of this Jamboree possible. The equipment of the camp includes shops, a post office and banks, and a great arc-shaped stand has been built in the arena where the displays and parades take place. The precision with which programrnes are carried through, the order that is maintained, the costumes, the banners, and the bands, the general observance of good discipline, suggest a military organization. But this is an organization of peace and good will. There is not a lethal weapon in Arrowe Park, and this mobilization of happy representatives of the youth of the world is for fraternization, for the exchange of ideas, for the greater fostering of international comradeship. It must have, as the Duke of Connaught said this afternoon, a happy influence on the future of mankind. He saw, he said, in the faces of the Scouts the promise of a better world and in the light in their eyes that of a better day. All day there is a great coming and going of lads, of whom many converse only by gestures. There is the smoke of many wood fires in the morning, a great to-do with washing in buckets, a great scouring of pots after mess. The shops are never empty. Correspondence is on a grand scale, and the scout newspaper, the Daily Arrowe, has a vast circulation. It is a penny newspaper named after the park in which the Boy Scouts are assembled. The first number, among other pictures, has a portrait of the Chief Scout and his welcome in English and French to all comers. He tells them to be prepared for rain—and they have already had it— and not to expect to be made comfortable in camp; they will get lots of discomforts and disappointments, which he knows they will take in the right spirit; and he warns them against waste of time in starting to make friends with brother Scouts of different nations.

The weather has not been kind to the boys. A night of showers and gusty wind was followed by a morning in which a deluge of rain fell, and the oldest soldier knows what are the difficulties of turning out with a smart kit and leaving his quarters ship-shape for inspection when wet weather turns the footpaths into streams and reduces his tent to a flapping mass of soggy canvas. However, at least half the idea of being a Scout consists in facing up to hardship and disappointment, and during the last 24 hours there have been 50,000 examples of necessity being made a virtue. Wet bread is a dismal thing, and so is stew diluted with rain-water; nor are moist blankets readily to be endured. But the life of the camp has gone on as it would have gone on if the sun had been shining all the time, and, indeed, it did shine with real summer warmth when the Duke of Connaught arrived and the most important event of the day took place.


The Duke of Connaught, who had stayed overnight with Lord Derby, at Knowsley, had a civic reception when he arrived at Birkenhead this morning, and he continued his journey to the Jamboree camp through gaily decorated streets, where thousands of people acclaimed him as he passed. His presence, his office, and his wearing of the Scout uniform were in themselves sufficient evidence of the universal and democratic spirit of the movement, exemplified anew when later he took his place beside the Chief Scout in the crowded arena. At Arrowe Hall the Chief Scout and the principal members of his staff received the Duke, who, after an exchange of greetings, shook hands with the lads—appropriately, Canadians—who formed the guard of honour. Later he took luncheon privately with the Chief Scout at the time when a great movement towards the rallying ground or arena was beginning.

By this time the midday meal had been eaten, and the last improving touch put to guy ropes, kits and tents. The banners had been got out, the contingents had been mobilized, and the sun was drying the saturated canvas. From every corner of the great encampment columns of lads moved up, led by music to the spot where the march past was to take place. There they formed themselves into a closely paraded mass. Behind them was a belt of trees, and in front were the saluting base and the grand stands. Above the latter fluttered the flags, as it seemed, of every nation on earth, and on this imposing array of the youth of the world the sun graciously shone. The spectacle so presented amid the green fields of England was rare as it was imposing, but there followed an event more stirring yet.


The Duke of Connaught went with the Chief Scout to the saluting base, and the great march past began immediately he had declared the Jamboree open. A succession of cheers, yells, and shouts in a score of tongues, and with as many inflexions, had expressed the excitement and fervour of the throng up to this moment, and a general outburst had greeted the Duke’s pronouncement, but an all-embracing solemnity now fell upon the parade, and there was silence. Presently the music of a composite band set the first contingent moving and the Scouts of the United States headed the procession past the Duke. The flags that led the way were dipped in salute, and every Scout waved a miniature Stars and Stripes. Pipes and drums took turn and turn again with the band, and the march past continued, with the Scouts 25 abreast where contingents were strong enough to make that possible.

The troop from Sierra Leone introduced the first coloured Scouts and received a special cheer to themselves. So did the party of six from British Guiana. The Canadians marched in effective green and yellow jumpers; the Brazilian Sea Scouts wore sky blue; and there was not a white face in the troop from Ceylon. England marched behind the flag of St. George, and close to our own contingent were the Indian Scouts in brilliant turbans. The Germans were loudly acclaimed, and so were the Hungarians, who made a fine show with their banners. The orange kiwi was on parade again with the New Zealanders. The pageant went on, and race succeeded race until after 45 minutes the Scouts had given in ordered ceremonial fresh concrete evidence that their territory is boundless and their cause the cause of friendliness and mutual aid capable of world-wide interpretation.


After the march past there was massed folk dancing by 3,000 British Scouts to such tunes as "Nancy’s Fancy," "Galopede," and "Sellinger’s Round," and then the entire company of Scouts massed themselves in front of the grand stand, where the Duke of Connaught addressed them. He gave them, one and all, welcome, and recalled that their assembling at Arrowe Park was to celebrate the coming-of-age of a great social movement, the far-reaching and world-wide influence of which no man could adequately measure. It was a very ennobling spectacle, and would assuredly leave its mark on the future of mankind. The lads were marching forward to a self-reliant manhood, eager and willing to snatch the torch of progress which feebler hands laid down. He went on to recall the deeds of Scouts in the War. Eleven won the V.C., but the movement had no military significance. It was intended solely to train the boys to be capable and useful citizens. Any and all, especially the poorest, were welcome to receive the training, the only condition being that they made the promise to do their duty to God and the King, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law. The future historian would rank the Scout Movement as one of the great landmarks of our time, and would add the name of its founder to the roll of the world’s reformers. Few men had rendered greater service to the cause of humanity than Robert Baden-Powell, and none deserved a higher place in the temple of Fame and in the esteem of their fellow-men. He bade them hold fast to their faith and keep the Scout Law, and ended with the words quoted above.

The Chief Scout expressed thanks to the Duke of Connaught for opening the Jamboree. He referred to the encouragement they had had from King Edward, and commenting on the wet weather, recalled that in Copenhagen, when it rained persistently, he had been called " the bathing master." Rain showed them to be made of the right stuff.

Cheers for the King, the Duke of Connaught, and the Chief Scout followed, and there was a display of Scottish dancing. To-night there have been performances in theatre, but the camp fire parties have been severely interfered with by the weather. Rain has set in again heavily, with a fall in temperature, and conditions are depressing to all but the Scouts.


Reprinted from The Times, London, 1929

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