Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948

Chapter IV


Scouting in Occupied Countries: Part Seven — Greece, Yugoslavia and Hungary


In Greece the Boy Scouts Association suffered the same fate as the Boy Scouts in Germany on the advent of Hitler. They were dissolved by President Metaxas in May, 1939, and "with tears in their eyes, their hands clasped in a chain of brotherhood, the Scouts of every troop sang the Song of Parting." The law might decree their dissolution, but their devotion to the ideals of Scouting particularly to those which enjoined love and friendship between Scouts could not be broken. The boys continued to remain in contact with each other, and the older among them to study the writings of Baden-Powell in the hope that one day they would be able to reform the Association.

So matters continued uneasily for more than a year, during which the Boy Scouts’ International Bureau in London lost touch inevitably with the former Association. Then on the 28th October, 1940, Mussolini launched his coward’s attack on Greece. Immediately every Greek Scout volunteered his services. Soon all who were not of military age were working as stretcher bearers for the Red Cross, which rapidly trained a number of them to give blood transfusions, they themselves being, in many cases, the donors. Soon there were Scouts in every theatre of the war, in the mountains of Albania, in the rugged uplands of Macedonia, and finally in Crete. In that brief and bloody campaign, which, until the German wolf came to the rescue of the Italian jackal, had gone wholly in favour of Greece, many Scouts were killed, among them the Commissioner General for Thrace. 

When all was seemingly lost and the Germans in full occupation of their country, the Greeks, with fine courage, seized this moment to refound the Scouts. They did so with the approval of the Government in exile. Old Cubs became Scouts, new ones joined, the whole Movement being on a Patrol basis, and all uniform, camping and hiking being forbidden. Very soon the Scouts found themselves fighting an even more arduous battle than that sustained so gallantly by the army of their country a few months before. In the tragic winter of 1941-1942 thousands starved, and the Scouts and Guides engaged in a grim struggle to save at least the children. With such food as could be provided by the Greek Red Cross, they opened kitchens where school children from the poorer quarters of Athens were fed. Following the invariable practice of Scouts, they did not confine their efforts to the doling out of a plate of soup, a few biscuits or a chunk of bread, but tried to make the surroundings in which the meals were eaten as attractive as possible. The walls of the kitchens were decorated with pictures telling in bright colour the traditional fairy tales of Greece. The children were taught songs, home-made toys were provided, clothes were collected for them, and at Christmas a wonderfully-attired Father Christmas gave them presents. The children were treated as though they themselves were Scouts and divided into Patrols, and before very long twenty centres had been set up in Athens at which every day 5,000 children were fed and given two or three hours of rest and recreation. March 25th, 1942. the anniversary of Independence Day, was celebrated everywhere, but in secret, in damp ill-lit basements and cellars, in ruins and caves, in little coves by the seashore. Here half-starved, ill-clothed children saluted the Flag and sang, in a soft undertone lest they should be heard by the enemy, the Greek Anthem. That summer their lot improved somewhat, for the International Red Cross was able to send sufficient food for them to be fed in summer camps. These were organised and controlled by Scouts and Guides, and run on Scout lines. Many thousands of Greek children spent a month or six weeks in them. Such Greek banks and other commercial organisations as survived called upon the Scouts and Guides to run camps for the children of their employees.

As in every other occupied country, the number of Scouts and Guides increased, so much so in Greece that every Troop had presently founded three or even four other Troops. To train the Scoutmasters and the Patrol Leaders, schools, to which the hopeful name of Phoenix was given, were founded, and in November, 1943, the books containing the tests for 1st and 2nd Class Scouts, which had long been prohibited, secretly printed. Some forty meetings of Scoutmasters took place in Athens during this period, and on the whole the standard of organisation achieved became remarkably high.

All this time the main work continued. The Scouts had to succour their fellow citizens, not the children only but their parents, for by the end of 1943 1,200 villages had been burned and destroyed either in battle or by way of reprisal, and their inhabitants left without food, shelter or clothing. They were cared for as best they could by the International Red Cross, who enrolled every Scout they could find for the purpose. When Greece was finally liberated, in Athens alone fifty first-aid units manned by eight to ten Scouts were in existence end working hard.

The Scouts in the islands of the Greek Archipelago were as active as their brethren on the mainland. In Crete, where strong enemy forces maintained a reign of terror for three years and more, they published a secret newspaper containing information picked up from B.B.C. broadcasts from London and Cairo. This did much to encourage the inhabitants. In Samos three young Scouts crept into the German headquarters, stole the maps and smuggled them to the Allies.

Not a few of the Scouts, both from the mainland and the islands, succeeded in escaping and joining the Allies, where they rendered many services, some in the Royal Hellenic Navy, others with the Royal Air Force. One of them, a fighter pilot, was shot down behind our lines at El Alamein. Some were not so fortunate. George Zlatoglov of Mytilene was caught seeking to escape and shot, and his comrade, Michael Karafilis, suffered a worse fate, dying under torture in prison. Still others performed even more dangerous work, deliberately returning to Greece as Intelligence agents for the Allies. Like the small Scouts of Samos, they obtained much valuable information at the risk and often at the cost of their lives.

Rover Andrew Kalyvas of the 3rd Athens Troop of Sea Scouts was eventually shot by the Germans on September 8th, 1944, after having been subjected to six months of intermittent and excruciating torture. In the intervals between these ordeals he found means to communicate in Morse with his friends outside the prison. His fate was shared by Scout George Mavroukakis, shot for stealing plans of fortifications. Rover Persakis of the same Troop as Kalyvas was arrested by the Germans after completing many dangerous missions on the island of Scyros. On the way to the Piraeus in a caique with his companions, they attacked their escort. A bloody fight ensued in which all the Germans but one were killed. He, who was left alive, however, was the most important of all, the machine-gunner, and, though wounded, he continued to serve his gun, wounding Persakis, who fell overboard and tried to swim to Andros, but was too weak to do so and drowned. The caique was subsequently discovered by a German aircraft drifting over the blue waters, her crew and their prisoners dead or dying on the deck.

The arrival of Greek and Allied troops in September, 1943, after the collapse of Italy, was a signal for renewed activity on the part of the Scouts, who became dispatch-runners, telephone operators and interpreters. For these services they were given a diploma of honour signed by Field-Marshal Alexander. But though joy now reigned, for Greece was free once more, terror lurked in the background. The Luftwaffe was still active and the Scouts took thorough precautions. In Samos, for example, they instituted a twenty-four-hour air-raid watch, with manually operated sirens to give warnings. Two months later their use became very necessary. On the 16th November a heavy air-raid was launched against the town of Samos in three waves. The Scouts attended those injured by the first wave, but were caught in the open by the bombs of the aircraft composing the second. One was killed and another badly wounded.

In this and other ways did the Scouts of Greece and in the islands serve their country as steadily and as surely as those who left it to fight for the Allies. There was a third category, those who, when the fighting was supposedly over after the conquest of Greece by the Germans, took to the mountains in the north and served with guerilla bands. When at long last the oppressor was driven out, they " made their first official appearance when it was found that they numbered far more than the total number of Scouts in Greece before the war."

These Scouts and all the others who survived the war and who made great and successful efforts to maintain their organisation and their ideals, continued in peace to suffer from the inevitable consequences of war, under-nourishment, lack of clothing, lack of equipment. On the 21st May, 1945, the Scouts of Andros wrote to their brothers in Britain. They were, they said, "without uniform, bootless, and living on a few ounces of dry bread as they used to do during the occupation…. Every response of yours, even the least, will be greatly welcomed, and we here together with the rest of the mainland, will remain faithful to you for ever and ever. Thanking you in anticipation ever so." The appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and by August, 1947, conditions had improved. The bonds uniting Greece and Britain are more than a century old, and despite a political scene of the utmost confusion, still endure. The relations of the British and Greek Scouts are not the least of the links in this chain.


For the first eighteen months of the Second World War Yugoslavia was still neutral and Scouting continued on normal lines, though the Association found communication with London and elsewhere difficult. When their country, too, was invaded, the headquarters in Belgrade issued an immediate order to all Scouts "to be prepared for selfless Scouting service." Within a month they were called upon to obey it. The destruction of Belgrade from the air cost the lives of thousands. The survivors were succoured by the Scouts, who worked in the Relief Centres and acted as fire-watchers. It was a very grim period and was succeeded by a grimmer, for, as a Yugoslav poet said: "Darker than under earth are the days of slavery." Thousands of Scouts made off to the mountains and forests and there joined the guerrilla bands. All organisation disappeared and the Scouts acted as individuals. The few stories which have come through about them show that the Scout Law was followed as conscientiously as elsewhere.

The Scoutmasters of the 2nd and 3rd Scout Troops, both trained at Gilwell Park, leaving their families, acted as medical orderlies to the guerrilla bands and saved many lives. An improvised Patrol supplied a guerrilla band operating in the neighbourhood of Fiume for three months with drinking water, carrying it throughout that period through country held by the enemy. An Assistant to one of the District Commissioners joined a guerrilla band, leaving his fiancee behind. "After many months they met in the woods. She followed him. He married her regular in the woods." Both were subsequently captured, the Assistant Scoutmaster escaped but was presently recaptured and shot in the presence of his wife.

As was the case with Scouts in other Underground Resistance Movements, their training stood the Yugoslav Scouts in good stead. "We met again our son," writes a Yugoslav lady living in Trieste. " He told me he could never have passed all the hard time in the woods if he had not been before a Boy Scout."

One day, perhaps, the full story of the Scouts of Yugoslavia will come to light, but much will always be missing, for many "did not come back and the fields are silent."


Scouting in Hungary began very early, the first Troop being formed in 1910. The first camp, attended by 105 boys, took place in 1913, and it was unique for it was composed of log cabins built on six rafts on which the boys sailed down the Vag River for seventeen days. From the start a certain opposition to Scouting manifested itself in Hungary, and the " boys with the big sticks," as they were called, were the butt of music-hall jokes. By the beginning of 1914, however, they numbered 3,000, and when that war was over they continued to thrive and expand, especially after 1922, when Count Paul Teleki, a former Prime Minister of Hungary, became Chief Scout. During those years the Scout hat with the feathers in it, as worn by the Hungarian Scouts, was seen in many lands from Finland to the United States, and in 1938 was worn by nearly 50,000 boys.

Then came the Second World War. From January, 1939, to April 3rd, 1941, when Count Paul Teleki died, Hungarian Scouts continued for the most part to carry on their activities unhindered. German successes, however, during that period had the inevitable effect on Hungarian politics and the Nazi element in the country grew stronger and stronger. As part of their campaign against Count Teleki and the moderate elements, they attacked the Scout Movement both in the Press and in Parliament, accusing it of being international in character and of tolerating the Jews. This the Movement was only too proud to admit, but as time went on they found their difficulties increasing owing to the operation of the law known as the Law of Social Balance passed in 1939 and directed against the Jews. It was entirely contrary in letter and spirit to the Fourth Scout Law. The Hungarian Boy Scout Movement had never made any distinction of religion or race, and contained within it Jewish, Catholic, Calvinist and other Troops. More than half were mixed and were made up of boys belonging to all races and religions in Hungary.

The Scouts were vigorously defended by Count Paul Teleki, notably in a speech delivered in the Hungarian Parliament on the 22nd November, 1940. Even he, however, was unable wholly to prevent the persecution of the Jews, for which Hungary has been famous, or infamous, for so many centuries. The Ministry of Education, which was the supervisory authority of the Scouts, first forbade the formation of new Jewish Troops and then by a special instruction ordered their dissolution. "The Jewish boys, however, did not cease to remain Scouts in heart and soul, and the overwhelming majority of the Aryan boys continued to consider them as their brother Scouts. Many wonderful examples of this brotherhood were noticed during the hard years which followed."

The demeanour of Count Teleki has been well described by a Pole who met him during this period. "He welcomed me with open arms and with the true smile of a brother Scout such as I had seen at so many Jamborees. In his buttonhole he wore the Scout fleur-de-lys. In our talk he showed himself well informed of the situation in Poland and was obviously glad to have been able to secure the freeing from a concentration camp of the Polish General Commissioner for Scouts. In a few days he was to be still prouder of his successful efforts to allow Polish Scouting to continue on Hungarian soil."

Despite everything that this great man could do, the situation slowly deteriorated, although as long as he lived he was able to prevent any attempt to turn the Hungarian Scouts into a military body. On April 3rd, 1941, however, he died by his own hand, being unable any longer to withstand German pressure.

His death was an irreparable loss to the Hungarian Boy Scout Movement. The attacks on it were instantly renewed, and soon the Levente Movement was started and officially encouraged.: It was a military and political organisation which all boys between twelve and twenty-one were forced to join. Its leader, Lieutenant-General Boldy, realised the vital importance of ensuring that the 10,000 Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters and Patrol Leaders of the Hungarian Boy Scouts should become members of it. Failing to achieve this end, a great effort was made to suppress the Boy Scouts altogether. This, too, was unsuccessful for the Regent favoured them, but they were subordinated to the Ministry of Education and the Association was dissolved, a Boy Scout Movement being substituted for it. The object of the Government was to ensure the national character of the Hungarian Scouts and to weaken the international aspects of Scouting.

A further intervention of the Regent, who appointed Major-General Francis Farkas, once more thwarted the enemies of the Scouts, for the new Chief Scout had had twenty-two years’ experience of. Scouting behind him and was a fervent and true Scout. He was, however, forced to yield in a certain measure to pressure and introduced a number of additional laws to the Scout Law, of which one was "A Scout is always and everywhere a soldier of the Defence." He did so in order to appease the Levente Movement. The Scouts’ tests were also somewhat altered and given a vague military twist. There were, for instance, new badges to be gained called "Tent Pitcher," "Pioneer," "Wanderer" and "Conqueror."

Though by then almost all relations with the outside world had been cut off, the Hungarian Scouts still contrived to keep in touch with the Honorary President of the International Committee, the late Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden, but this tenuous line of communication disappeared when on the 19th March, 1944, the Wermacht occupied Hungary. From then until the siege of Budapest, which began in December, the Scouts went through a most difficult period. The puppet Nazi Government sought to transform them into what they called a "Hungarist Outpost Movement" but once more failed, and this despite the fact that it was no longer possible for the Troops to keep their meeting-rooms, their camp areas or their uniforms. Moreover, many of their leaders had by then been killed or captured. The rank and file, however, had "numberless possibilities of doing their daily good turn in a ravaged and plundered country." By then its main cities were under heavy air bombardments from the Allies, and the Scouts were hard at work saving life and property. They also saved the lives on occasion of Allied pilots. On July 2nd, 1944, for example, an American Flying Fortress was shot down on the outskirts of a village near the Hungarian town of Gyor. Andreas Borsody of the local Scout Troop dragged the pilot clear of the smashed aircraft, bound up his wounds, and prevented the local Germans from killing him on the spot. The pilot was a Scout.

In the autumn of 1944 the Germans and the Nyilasok (Hungarian Nazis) began that mass deportation of youth which was one of the worst features of the Second World War. Many Scouts were driven from their homes. Among them was a Scout chaplain who " had ample opportunity to witness their splendid behaviour . . . sometimes with set jaws, sometimes gaily, they lived in reality a life very similar to that of a camp of concentration. They maintained the principles of Baden-Powell and Paul Teleki. Constantly in danger of their lives from bombardments, hunger and epidemics . . . they continued to fulfil the Third Law, to give faith to the faithless and force to the feeble."

 On January 21st, 1945, while fighting was still continuing on the other side of the Danube, certain members of the Executive Committee met and elected provisional national leaders who began the task of reorganising the Scouts of Hungary. The Scouts themselves occupied their time, several thousand of them in Budapest, in cleaning streets and public buildings, in setting to rights the books in the Public Library, and in work in the railway stations. Summer camps were begun again and many thousand Boy Scouts took part in harvesting and other farm work. The regulations forced upon the Hungarian Scouts covering the participation of Jews were relaxed.

The political disturbance in Hungary did not end with the end of the war, and attacks were still being made on Scouts in 1945. They took precisely the opposite form to those made against them in I940. Then the Scouts were pacifists and supporters of an outworn international creed. Five years later they were described as reactionaries and lovers of Fascism. Undeterred, the Hungarian Scouts went on their way, and despite shortages of every kind, including money, raised their numbers to 50,000. The appearance at the Jamboree of 1947 of a contingent of Hungarian Scouts proved that there was health and life and abundance in the Movement.

  Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948
Chapter IV: Resolution. Scouting in Occupied Countries
Part One: Czechoslovakia and Poland
Part Two: Denmark and Norway
Part Three: Luxembourg
Part Four: Holland
Part Five: Belgium
Part Six: France
Part Seven: Greece, Yugoslavia and Hungary
Part Eight: Channel Islands and Countries Occupied by Japan
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