Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948

Chapter IV


Scouting in Occupied Countries: Part Eight — Channel Islands and Countries Occupied by Japan


Last, but far from least in this account of Scouting in countries in Europe occupied by the Germans or Italians, is the story of the Scouts in the Channel Islands. From across the strip of water separating the islands and France there came to their ears one June day in 1940 the rumble and mutter of gunfire. It continued for some time and then "one day the thunder ceased and for a time the Channel Islands lived in a strange quietness." On July 2nd, 1940, a line of dark-grey ships sailed into the island harbours. Down their gangplanks came Nazi after Nazi, arrogant in their field-grey uniforms, their polished jack-boots shining in the sun. So began the occupation of the first piece of British soil to fall into the hands of the enemy since the Norman Conquest. It endured five years.

The Germans banned Scouting and disbanded the Troops, but Scouting has always been a very live force in the islands, and the Scouts continued their activities, above all preserving the ritual of the camp-fire in little woods and copses where they were unlikely to be detected. Food soon ran short and they discovered that a certain kind of seaweed, when they washed it, could be boiled and made into an excellent jelly. This weed they collected in large quantities.

This Troop was but one of many comprising in all about 400 Scouts, whose President was the Lieutenant-Governor. During the Occupation the numbers were increased by the formation of one Troop who, without guidance from Scoutmasters, taught themselves Scouting by reading Scouting for Boys. Its members persuaded their parents to make shirts and scarves for them, and on the day of liberation appeared wearing full uniform.

The Scouts of Jersey owe a great debt of gratitude to the 10th Toronto Troop of Canada, who in August, 1943, adopted them. By May, 1945, they had by various means collected 1,200 Canadian dollars, and this sum was used to help the Scouts of the Channel Islands, particularly Jersey, to find their financial feet again.


Before the long tale is done of the oppression of so many millions of mankind and the heroism which it provoked, especially among the more youthful elements, the activities of Scouts in those countries which fell beneath the yoke of Japan must be briefly set down. The Japanese aircraft which spread destruction and confusion in Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941, spread it equally thoroughly throughout the Far East. After a brief period of fighting, Japan became master of every piece of land between the Philippines and the Naga Hills which divide Burma from India. Everywhere in this great area the Allied nationals were removed to internment camps, and the disaster was so great that no coherent stories of how the Scouts continued to live have been recorded.


In Burma organised Scouting did not survive the advent of the Japanese. Before and during the period of the invasion Scouting was going on steadily and in the large towns they were trained to help in air-raid precaution work," a Scouter from Burma wrote to the Chief Scout early in 1940. "Should war come our way we cannot hope for better than we will do our part as well as the best at home are doing theirs." When the time came, the Scouts had very little chance, though they did what they could before war dispersed them. They trained well and thoroughly in all A.R.P. work, each Scout being careful to know his own area intimately. So useful were they that, as the Burmese Scouts left school, they were absorbed into the Auxiliary Fire Service, where they were allowed to wear Scout badges and scarves in addition to their A.R.P. uniform.

The last gathering of Scouts, most of whom were wearing it, took place on January 10th, 1942, at Lanmadaw in Rangoon. By then they had already proved their mettle in the two great raids made by the Japanese against the city during the previous month. Of all the Rangoon Troops who helped to mitigate their effect, the 51st Kandawgalay took pride of place, not only for the number of Scouts belonging to it engaged in National Service, but also because of their great devotion to duty in time of danger. When the Auxiliary Fire Service left Rangoon with the retreating army, the Scouts went with them and moved successively to Mandalay, Maymyo and Shwebo. Most of them went farther and under their officers tramped the long road through the Naga Hills to Imphal and on to Assam and India. There some of them joined the Burmese Navy.


From the Gilbert Islands comes the following story, from Tuitonga Merang, who was their Assistant Scoutmaster of the 1st Troop.

"I want to tell you about our friend whom we loved so much, A. L. Sadd, and the way in which he, a Scout, helped us of the 1st Gilberts Scout Troop at Rongorongo. When Mr. Sadd first came here, we the Scouts at Rongorongo welcomed hum with great joy, as he was the first British Scout who had come to help us and to be our friend. He became our Captain and the leader of our Rover Scout Troop at Rongorongo…. When I think of Mr. Sadd and his life among us, I feel that he carried out the ten Scout Laws….

This is what happened when the Japanese took him, and he showed the Scout spirit. Early one morning in September, 1942, two Japanese warships and a submarine appeared off the island. The people ran away from the village and Mr. Sadd was here alone. Soon guns were fired from the ships and an aeroplane came flying over very low, Japanese soldiers then came ashore—over 300—to the Government station. Only the Commander and a few men stayed there, the rest spread out to search for the white wireless men, who had gone into hiding. One group of soldiers came to our school to take Mr. Sadd, and we were surprised for he just stayed in his house waiting for them to come to him. They took him to the Government station and we saw no sign of fear, but just a stern face and a great courage. When he came before the Commander, the Union Jack was lying on the ground in front of him, so that he should tread on it, but Mr. Sadd stooped down, picked it up, folded it together and put it on the table before the Commander. It was decided that he should be taken away. He was allowed to go back to his house to get things for the journey, and he called good-bye to the schoolboys as he was taken away by the soldiers. I went along with Mr. Sadd to the Government station. When we arrived there, he was taken outside to sit on a rough stone for more than an hour. While he was sitting there waiting to go, he got very thirsty and hungry, for he had not eaten anything since early morning, and now it was after 3 p.m. So he beckoned to me to go to him, and he whispered asking if I could get him a young coconut to drink. It was very difficult as the place was full of Japanese soldiers, and they liked coconuts too. When I was getting some and husking them, some soldiers came to me but they did not take the nuts away. Perhaps they had had enough. I went with the coconuts to Mr. Sadd, but it was difficult as the Commander was looking at Mr. Sadd’s things only a few yards away. So I decided to go first to the Commander, to give him one coconut to please him, and then perhaps he would not be angry if I went and gave one to Mr. Sadd; and perhaps the Japanese soldiers would not ill-treat me, for there were a great many standing round staring at Mr. Sadd. My plan worked and Mr. Sadd got his coconut and was very grateful. But as I was leaving him, glad that I had managed to help him, he asked me to do something even more difficult. He was very distressed when he saw his things which he had been allowed to bring from his house being given by the Commander to different soldiers to take down to the wharf, so that he knew they would be scattered and he would never get them on the ship. So he asked if I could get hold of his kitbag and hide it till I saw him being taken to the wharf. Then would I take it and give it into his hands, as he depended upon the contents, a little food, some money and some warm clothes, to keep him alive if he was taken to Tokyo. So I tried to hide it but it was big, and I had to carry it in my arms, but I was fortunate that no Jap soldier tried to take it from me. Perhaps, if one had come, I should have been afraid to hold it for fear of his gun and bayonet. Presently the time came to go and Mr. Sadd was led down to the wharf by two soldiers, and I with two boys followed at a little distance. But he was kept another half-hour at the wharf, while they waited for the Commander to get on his launch, saluted by all the soldiers who were gathered on the wharf. We knew it was very dangerous to stand about among the soldiers, and I began to get very nervous and worried lest they should take us away too, because we were standing there. While we were waiting, a soldier came to tell me to help load some pigs, which they had shot in the village, and were taking out to the ship to eat. I had to go to do the job, but I was thinking about that kitbag. I did not want to leave it for it would soon be lost. I tried to hold it between my feet, but I could not work like that, so I put it near the wharf and I was very glad that no Jap soldier took it away. After about ten minutes more the Commander came, the soldiers saluted, and he went away on his launch. Then Mr. Sadd was taken to the boat. I and one of the boys who had some of Mr. Sadd’s things wanted to go and give them to him as he had asked me. But we were too frightened because the boat was full of soldiers, so we put them on the near end of the boat. Then I thought of poor Mr. Sadd’s request, and God helped me. I jumped to the boat, picked up Mr. Sadd’s things and took them round to the far end of the boat and gave them into Mr. Sadd’s hands. He took them and said, ‘Thank you very much, Tuitonga.’ I went back to the wharf, glad that I had succeeded with the help of God, whom Mr. Sadd served, and for Whose sake he was suffering.- I did it because of the great love which God had put in my heart for Mr. Sadd and because He gave me courage not my own. Well the boat left the wharf and Mr. Sadd started on his lonely journey. I and the two boys stood at the end of the wharf and waved him and called ‘ Good-bye, Mr. Sadd.’ He did not answer us because he was too full of sorrow at having to leave all his Gilbertese boys, but he was not afraid, and he waved his hat to us. We stood and watched till the boat reached the ship, about two miles away, outside the reef. We left the Government village then for it was nearly six o’clock and we returned to our village of Rongorongo. It was all very quiet—no noise or games or singing. Every one was very unhappy because Mr. Sadd had been taken away. The ship took Mr. Sadd to Tarawa Island and he stayed there about a month before he was killed. I very much wanted to tell you about Mr. Sadd’s courage when he was put to death but we have heard so many different stories that we do not know the whole truth yet. We heard that he was always cheerful and helped the other white men with him, when the Japs threatened them and made them work hard. He was always’ prepared,’ even for the danger which ended in his death."


News from the Philippines came in but slowly after the war. The Scouts there suffered great privations and many hardships. On the outbreak of war most Philippine Scouts bad undergone some form of training for emergency services. This they began to use to good effect. In Bataan, for example, they took on the duty of directing the traffic, and on the 27th December, Scout Joson, remaining at his post, was killed in an air-raid. Another, Scout Montilla of the 3rd Y.M.C.A. Troop in Manilla, had lost his life a fortnight before, thrusting women and children into a shelter during a raid on Cavite.

In general, the Scouts’ most urgent duty and that performed most successfully was in helping a terrified population to avoid the extremes of panic and giving special succour to about fifty women and 120 children, the wives and dependents of Philippine soldiers summoned hurriedly to the Colours. Boy Scouts of Dansalan helped these unhappy women and children on their arduous road from their homes to the hills in the north. They moved only a few hours in advance of the Japanese, and eventually reached Liang after traversing malaria-ridden forests and streams teeming with reptiles, leeches and mosquitoes. Their refuge lay at the foot of a mountain surrounded on three sides by forests and on the fourth by a crocodile-infested river. The Scouts built shelters for the women and children and cleared the ground to grow crops. In a few weeks they had transformed this piece of Jungle into a village of nondescript huts, where these refugees lived for many months, succoured and looked after by their young protectors. Gradually as life grew more normal even under the occupation, they found their way back to their own homes. But "in that now deserted village you will find spoons, saucers and cooking utensils made from coconut shells, slippers and bags of abaca twine, rows and rows of garden plots now overrun by weeds, and wells dug deep in the earth . . . all the results of skills learned by boys in Scouting." So writes a Philippino. He goes on to say that in unspectacular but important ways the Scouts throughout the Philippines helped the various Resistance Movements by feeding guerrillas, carrying messages and receiving and distributing supplies landed by American submarines. The most noted in this work was a young Rover, aged nineteen, Jorge Fajardo by name, of Troop 61 of Manilla, an expert signaller who maintained communications in Morse with submarines and thus prevented many tons of essential supplies from falling into Japanese hands.

After the liberation the Scouts in the Philippines did what their brothers were doing elsewhere all over the world. They collected food, clothing and medicine for destitute civilians and were used by the Civilian Affairs Units of the United States Army for the orderly distribution of relief. They also collected magazines, books and newspapers for the troops, and took care, by the manufacture of abaca handbags and belts, which the Americans bought eagerly and sent home as souvenirs, to relieve them of as much money as they could, which they devoted to charitable purposes.

By far the most remarkable exploit performed by a Philippino scout was that of Valerino Abello, a member of Troop 11 of Leyte. As a Scout he had learned signalling, and on the day of the attack on Leyte, this accomplishment was to stand him and the American invading forces in good stead. The Japanese had massed the most formidable of their defences along the eastern coast of the island and they stretched from the Ambao mountains to the San Juanico Strait which divides Leyte from Samar. The defences included tank traps, pillboxes, slit-trenches, barbed wire and individual foxholes, and were manned by a full Japanese division. On the seashore and at certain points in the hills behind, batteries of guns and mortars had been installed.

Having served as a capataz, or foreman, over the Philippino labourers who had been forced to build these defences, Abello possessed detailed knowledge of their general disposition, and the many strong-points they contained. On the 20th October, 1944, he was at Telegrafo, near Toloso, when looking out to sea he saw a long line of warships moving into position. A moment later heavy shells began to burst near him and he ran at once to the beach, where he was joined by two comrades, Anterio Junua and Vicente Cononigo. By now the bombardment was at its full height, and large and medium-calibre shells were falling along the defences. It was obvious that this was the preliminary bombardment not of a raid but of a landing in force.

Abello began to signal, repeating over and over again, "Please let me direct the shelling." The waving flags were presently seen and a destroyer closer in shore than the great ships flashed back, "Come immediately. Waiting." The three men jumped on board a native outrigger canoe and paddled out towards the destroyer. They were closing her when shells from a Japanese battery burst into the water nearby and upset the canoe. They took to the sea, swam towards the destroyer and were dragged, exhausted and dripping, on to her decks. Abello was taken at once to the bridge where, giving the Scout’s salute, he said, "I know where every main defensive position on shore is to be found, for I helped to build them." The destroyer signalled to the flagship, and soon Abello, from her bridge, was directing the bombardment. New targets were given to the gunners and, most important of all from the point of view of Abello, Tolosa and the other villages and towns within the defence area were spared the hail of fire which fell upon the beaches. One by one each strong-point was shelled in turn, and two hours later the assaulting troops headed by the famous Marines, swept in in their landing-craft and set foot on shore.

With the noise of battle roaring, echoing among the palm trees and drowning the voice of the surf on Leyte, let us leave this story of suffering and heroism imposed by war upon half the peoples of the world. For five long years and more their fate was hard, their ordeal grim, their lives a dull pain exchanged at moments for a sharp agony. Alleviation was small, consolation meagre. For those in bondage the inevitable ills of life are made sharper and more difficult to bear because the corresponding joys are lacking. Yet their fate would have been harder, their lot more onerous, their lives more hopeless had Boy Scouts not come to their rescue. The tale, plain and unadorned, of what they did has in part been set down. More will presently be told as fresh evidence of what the Scouts accomplished in those stricken countries comes to light. Yet it will never be told in full. Too many, who suffered and received comfort, are now dead and their testimony lies with them in their graves. But enough remains and has been set down to make it possible to maintain with no fear of contradiction that, when the time of testing came, the Scouts and Scouters of Baden-Powell proved not the happy-go-lucky children or the figures of lath and plaster their enemies would have them to be, but boys of true and solid worth, young Paladins with souls of steel and hearts brimming with unselfish devotion.

Nearly twenty-three centuries have passed since certain old men stood upon a stage in Athens cried out that love was unconquerable in battle. Scouts the whole world over provided, in six years of the greatest tribulation, the latest and the clearest proof that those words are true.

  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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Last Modified: 12:17 PM on August 3, 1997