Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948

Chapter VI


Scouting in the Empire and in the U.S.A.

TO MAINTAIN that Britain fought for a year alone is but a half-truth. In Europe, until Greece entered the war, she had indeed no allies, but from first to last there was at her back the full strength of the Empire, whose Dominions and Colonies lavished it upon her without stint. In the field of Scouting they were especially generous, and their activities took much the same form as those performed by the Scouts in the home country. To some of these, burdened as they were by the stress of war, it must at times perhaps have seemed that they were very much alone, but if they paused to think, they could not but realise that they were members of an organisation greater than that known as the Boy Scouts Association of Great Britain. Scouts have made their promises, played their games, done their good turns everywhere where the British flag flies, not only in the great Dominions where they number many thousands, but m tiny inaccessible islands such as St. Helena, Tristan de Cunha, remote atolls in the Pacific, far-away stations in the jungles of Malaya and Assam. When war came all these Scouts, wherever they were, shewed the same eagerness to help in the common effort. Everywhere the picture painted by the reports is the same, a mild sense of frustration because, with the except1ons of those who lived in Malta and Gibraltar, India and Ceylon, they were far from the conflict, soon conquered by the determination to let nothing prevent them from aiding those who were, by every means in their power.

Of these, money was the most obvious. Fortunately there was an admirable and tangible object for which to collect it. Soon after war broke out a special Relief Fund for war-distressed Scouts was opened in London by the Boy Scouts Association. The idea made a strong appeal and the response was very great. It ranged from the £3 collected by Scouts and Cubs in a leper colony in Uganda to the £322 sent by the Scouts of Australia, principally through the Blitz Cheer Fund. Scouts of South Africa, Rhodesia Nigeria, Canada, where the average contribution was fifty-three cents a head, all set about raising money for the Fund. They did it by what can surely be described as the Scouts’ classic method, the collection of salvage of all kinds, much of it paper and metal, and its sale to the Government. Soon the Fund, made up in this manner and from contributions from British Scouts, reached a total of £26,141. It was used for such purposes as relieving British Scouts in London, Portsmouth, Hull, Manchester, and the County of Middlesex, or for the general rehabilitation of Scouting inside Poland, or for the purchase of Scout badges and equipment for the Scouts of Holland, Norway and Malta. The money was expended during the war, and more lavishly after it was over when the needs of Scouts in European countries were made known. The administrators of the Fund did their best to help Scouts in distress wherever they might be. Only in regard to Belgium were they thwarted, for the Treasury refused to transfer a grant of £1,000 to the Scouts of that country. Part of the sums raised by the Scouts of the Dominions and Colonies they used in their own homes to improve their equipment or to help local war charities.

The first of the Dominion Scouts to collect money for the purpose of aiding Great Britain, and subsequently the occupied countries of Europe, were those of Canada. Very early in the war they established a "Chins Up" Fund which produced money for various purposes, particularly for the publication of Scout books in various European languages. Donations to this Fund were stimulated by a visit paid to Canada during the war by four Scouts from the blitzed areas of Britain.

Another means of helping, which Scouts, particularly in Africa, Australia, Canada and India found attractive, was the establishment of clubs for the use of members of the Services passing through those countries or stationed in them. At Bulawayo for example, a club for the Royal Air Force was established, the equipment, furniture, books and cigarettes being paid for by the Scouts themselves. At Nairobi a canteen for African native troops was opened by the Scouts, who sent out Rovers "as decoys to entice the somewhat suspicious soldiery to sample the facilities offered." So successful were these methods that shyness yielded to boldness and the club was in some danger of being overwhelmed. In Australia a Services Club was opened in Sydney and maintained by voluntary contributions from Scout groups, who also supplied volunteers to run it. In Nova Scotia the Tweedsmuir Room, called after Lord Tweedsmuir, was set up in Halifax as a place of refreshment for former Boy Scouts irrespective of rank. In four years more than 18,000 letters were written by visitors to the club, who came from places as far apart as Great Britain and Martinique. The Bengal Scout Club, set up in 1942 to bring together as many Rover Scouts, Scouters and Commissioners from overseas as possible, more than fulfilled its mission. Before the war was over it had been visited by nearly 7,000 overseas Scouts and Scouters. A direct result of the foundation of this club was the formation of twelve Rover Service Crews in different districts of Bengal, whose services during what was known, somewhat euphemistically, as the food crisis at the end of the war were particularly noteworthy.

A successful and important club was started in Alexandria by an International Rover Crew consisting of eleven Greeks, three Jews, one Egyptian, three Sudanese and four British Rovers. So popular a rendezvous did this become to its visitors from divers countries, that in May, 1943, it was decided to publish a quarterly magazine to inform the club members of its activities.

As has been said, the collection of waste-paper, metals and salvage of all kinds was carried out by Scouts everywhere in the Empire. In South Africa toothpaste tubes, tins and bottles were the favourite forms of salvage, in Australia clothing and aluminium, of which 26,000 pounds was amassed in a year. New Zealand preferred rubber, small jars for ointment, rags and ergot; Canada scrap iron, shoes and bottles. Books and periodicals for the use of merchant seamen were also everywhere collected. The Scouts of Nigeria and Northern Rhodesia shewed themselves to be particularly eager to provide merchant seamen with reading, matter. From Jamaica came 328 binoculars and telescopes, those indispensable adjuncts of war, collected by the Scouts of the West Indies. In Dominica "it was a hot day" but the Scouts were busy collecting scrap and in one day reckoned on having well over 1,000 pounds; it was the same story from St. Lucia, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, the Windwards, Trinidad and Tobago.

Another universal service performed by the Scouts of the Empire was that of carrying messages. One of war’s tribulations appears to be an overwhelming urge on the part of those in authority to send as many messages as possible to as many people as possible. The Scouts did all they could to assuage this strange passion of their elders, and everywhere formed the nucleus of the A.R.P. messenger services established in such places as Bombay, Colombo, Kandy, and in the towns of Australia and New Zealand. The Scouts of Ceylon were particularly efficient in this service, and upwards of a thousand of them entered it. Some Troops in some countries went further and encouraged their members to learn and use signalling. In Kenya, for example, a number of Scouts learnt telegraphy in the Post Office at Mombasa. In Transvaal more than fifty Rover Scouts formed a radio company of the South African Air Force. In the Cameroons Scouts acted as signallers for the local defence troops. In Trinidad the Scouts were attached to the local military units for the same purpose, and in Zanzibar one Scout, who eventually passed the Yeomen of Signals test, organised look-out posts for submarines. The posts communicated with each other by means of heliographs.

Sea Scouts became very popular and their numbers greatly increased. In Cochin State, Indian Sea Scouts took part in mine-sweeping operations. In Sierre Leone the "deep-sea Scouts helped to run troops and train Scouters, provided books, papers and pamphlets, joined in camps, camp-fires, rallies and shows, and generally set a fine example of the Scout spirit." In Australia Sea Scouts helped flying-boats on the Swan River. The 5th Gibraltar Sea Scout Troop was responsible for the dockyard special messenger service, of the utmost importance in that bastion of our Empire, and their smartness was such that they, earned a special word of commendation from the rear-admiral in command.

These were some of the more general ways in which overseas Scouts sought to be useful in war-time, but they represent a small fraction only of the tasks performed from the Arctic Circle to the coasts of Tasmania by the eager youth of the Empire. In Nigeria, for example, a special effort was made to spread official information to the native population, and this was achieved by collecting crowds round a camp-fire. Here the Scouts sang songs made up by one of their number in which the prowess of West African soldiers in the Abyssinian campaign was extolled and the vices of Hitler condemned. Small plays with these themes proved very popular, especially those in which a dusky and determined actor portrayed Mr. Winston Churchill proclaiming the justice of our cause.

The Nigerian Scouts seem to have been called upon to render unusual forms of service. Those in Lagos, for example, surrendered their whistles because the police were unable to obtain any for Special Constables, and their Digging for Victory included work on ground-nut farms. In Uganda eighty Scouts were continuously employed in guarding lorry parks and directing traffic in Kampala, and were thanked by the Governor for the excellence of their service. On the Gold Coast the training of Scouts was carefully fostered, 160 being put through the test for King’s Scout badges at a great training camp at Kumasi.

In New South Wales, on the other side of the ocean, Scouts spent long periods at airfields erecting "Shadow hangars" and doing other camouflage work, and in New Zealand a demand for camouflage nets made from heavy rope was met by the Scouts Association, between eighty and ninety Scouts devoting themselves for months to this task, which it was estimated would have occupied the time of one man, had he alone been charged with it, for more than a quarter of a century.

In Bombay ammunition boxes were being produced in large quantities but there was a lack of skilled labour to splice the rope handles. An appeal was made to the Scouts and in less than twenty-four hours twelve Troops numbering over 500 Scouts were splicing the pliant manila at the rate of 1,000 rope handles a week. In Bombay, too, the Senior Scouts were attached to the hospitals and to the A.R.P. posts.

In Ceylon the village Scouters organised local food drives, while the town Scouters concerned themselves with A.R.P. work and proved of great use in the raids on Colombo. The Scouts and Rovers of that lovely island were prominent in organising carnivals during 1940 and 1941, which raised several lakhs of rupees. The Scouts of Bermuda took the opportunity to entertain refugees from Europe calling on vessels bound for more distant lands.

One part of the Empire deserves special mention. The Scouts of Malta endured a heavier ordeal than any others. They were employed, like their comrades elsewhere, as coast watchers, messengers, telephone operators; they manned A.R.P. centres worked in the Censor’s office, in the hospitals, and those who were old enough, in the Volunteer Defence Force. One of their most important duties was that of acting as telephone orderlies when convoys were unloaded. The ships—those of them that were fortunate enough to survive a voyage beset by enemy submarines and aircraft—had to discharge their cargo with the utmost speed and nearly always under heavy bombing attack. Telephone instruments were placed at intervals at the discharging points along the quays, and the Scouts were made responsible for collecting and relaying the necessary information. The bravery of the Scouts during the frequent air-raids became a by-word among the population. Early in the war they adopted as their motto "Scarred but not scared." Their headquarters were destroyed together with all records, but two stories that have survived shew their quality. One is that of Scout David John Archer of the Pembroke Group, who received the British Empire Medal for remarkable coolness under heavy air attack and for constantly passing information "invaluable to the defence of the Island" when on special coast-watch duty. The other concerns that of an unnamed seventeen-year-old Scout who "held a lamp the whole night" to enable the men extricating persons buried under the debris of a bombed house to see their way, and was killed a month later by a bomb which destroyed the room he was decorating for a children’s party.

The conduct of the Scouts of Malta caused them to be specially remembered by Lord Baden-Powell, then in the last year of his life. The aged Founder of Scouting sent them special congratulations on the manner on which they had withstood "the infernal bombing."

Despite the fierce attacks, camping and other Scout activities continued as usual, and only on St. George’s Day, 1942, did the bombing prove too severe to hold the customary Rally. On the next anniversary of that Festival the Bronze Cross, awarded to the Scouts of Malta, was solemnly presented in the presence of 800 of those who had contributed so valiantly to the winning of it. When in June, 1943, the King visited Malta, the Scouts broke the police cordon and gave him a "roaring welcome," running beside his car so that he arrived at the Palace escorted by "Scouts and flags." The George Cross conferred on Malta for its dogged resistance was earned as much by the Scouts as by any of its inhabitants. All of them, from the members of C Company of the 3rd King’s Own Malta Regiment, each one a Scouter, to the young boys who helped Mr. Spiro Giudice "in getting the flour down," must be a shining example to Scouts everywhere as long as the Movement endures.

In these and many other ways did the Scouts of the Empire support the common cause and, like those at home, when they grew old enough, they joined the Forces in large numbers. In their new and more perilous occupations their Scout training stood them in good stead. Second-Lieutenant Keith Elliott of the Fielding Troop of New Zealand won a Victoria Cross at Ruweisat in July, I942, leading a bayonet charge with four wounds in his body. Major C. F. Hoey of the First Quamichan Group of British Columbia was posthumously awarded the same decoration for his heroic fight on the Ngakyedank Pass in Burma, Sergeant A. G. Hume of the Lower Hutt Group of Wellington, New Zealand, gained his upon an airfield in Crete, and a chaplain, Major J. W. Foote of Madoc Troop, Ontario, his upon the blood-soaked beaches of Dieppe. These are conspicuous examples of many acts of gallantry, recorded and unrecorded, performed by Scouts of the Empire of which the whole Scouting world is justly proud.

While they were upholding the cause of Democracy on the field of battle, their American comrades were far from idle. Their efforts both before and after America’s entry into war were, indeed, on the highest scale.

Scouting in the United States began formally on the 8th February, I9IO, and was granted a Federal Charter by Congress on June 15th, 1916. Since 1910 several million boys have been Scouts, or still are, and the active membership at the end of 1945 was a little less than 2,000,000, including Scouters and Senior Scouts. America has, therefore, the largest Scout population of any single country.

Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, which transformed the United States from a passive to an active belligerent, the Scouts, whose motto was the simple and effective statement, "We too have a job to do," were engaged on numerous projects initiated by Government agencies. Here are some examples. At the demand of the Secretary of the Treasury, they put up in shops 1,607,000 posters calling on the American public to buy Defence Bonds and Stamps. 266,400 circulars containing the same appeal were handed by 3,784 Scouts in uniform to the public attending 121 games of baseball on August 28th. After this effort it must have been impossible for any American citizen not to realise that the Government wanted him to save. With their eyes on the international situation and the grave menace which Germany presented to the world as the result of her victories in 1940, the Offices of Price Administration and of Civilian Defence called upon the Scouts on June 18th, 1941, to collect all the aluminium they could find. The response was very satisfactory. Before the end of that year 10,500,000 pounds had been amassed in 11,369 civic communities. As the total collected was about 12,000,000 it will be seen that the Scouts were responsible for more than five-sixths of this remarkable amount.

On November 7th, a month before America entered the war, the Consumers’ Division of the Office of Price Administration launched a campaign of which the object was to induce American consumers to pledge themselves to consume less. Ten million such pledges were distributed to housewives by Scouts, and the Scouts’ pledges themselves reached a total of several million A month earlier another department of the same office opened a campaign to collect waste-paper, and the Scouts of America responded by producing 300,000,000 pounds between September 12th, 1941, and May 1st. 1942, an average monthly collection of 50,000,000. These huge figures were made possible by individual efforts such as that of Robert Siersted, who went round the district in which he lived in New York with a small hand-made cart and "an informed sales talk." His daily average collection was between 100 and 120 pounds of paper. This collection earned the Boy Scouts the unstinted praise of General Eisenhower, one of whose many duties it was to act as head of the Waste-paper Collection Campaign. A special medal bearing his image was issued to any one who collected a thousand pounds or more of paper. 220,000 Scouts won it, members of 41,000 Packs and Troops So efficient did the Scouts prove themselves to be that the War Production Board urged them to turn their attention to other forms of salvage since, thanks to their efforts, there was no longer any shortage of paper. Accordingly, responding to the appeal of the Industrial Conservation Bureau of the War Production Board, the Scouts began a continuous salvage drive for old rubber, non-ferrous metals, iron and steel, sparking plugs and, a trifle oddly perhaps, coat hangers. In June, 1942, on the order of President Roosevelt, a "whirlwind rubber collection" was carried out from June 15th to July 10th In the first fortnight the Scouts amassed 22,910,300 pounds.

By then America had been at war for six months and was getting into her stride. By then, too, the Scouts had, by order of the President, become official Government dispatch-bearers for the Office of War Information, which, since there were 1,589,281 of them, must have had the largest messenger service in the world. It was presently reduced by some half million who, leaving the Office of War Information, joined the Civil Defence Services, but 424,000 still remained to carry its voluminous dispatches.

Now that America was in the war, War Savings became of major importance, and before V.J. Day the Scouts had succeeded in selling the enormous amount of $1,800,000,000 worth. By then their collection of paper, though it had been slowed down by the War Production Board, had reached the enormous figure of 480,038,000 pounds, or 240,019 tons, an amount sufficient to make, among other things, 3,500,000 protective bands for 1,000 pound bombs, more than 5,000,000 similar bands for 500-pound bombs, more than 16,000,000 casings for 75-mm. shells, some 64,000,000 containers for blood plasma, and 93,593,075 cartons each containing ten cartridges for inflating life-floats. Such figures, which fire the imagination, are a tribute to the energy and pertinacity of youth.

Collections, however, were not by any means the whole effort of the Boy Scouts of America. Far from it. Their special training was recognised by the commanders of the State Guards of America, who made the greatest use of it and appointed Scout instructors to their Tactical School. The results of the training the Scouters gave to embryo State Guardsmen was extremely encouraging. The Scouters imparted their instruction by means of a "learning by doing" process, treating the recruits much as they treated Cubs and Scouts. " Do not be surprised," said Major-General Sherman Miles, commanding the Ist1st Corps Area of the United States Army, when opening the Tactical School, "if we frankly teach you Boy Scout Law. We grown men and soldiers may have thought we were beyond such elementary games. We were mistaken." The "games" to which the general referred were adaptations of the old Kim game, stalking, hiding, and personal camouflage. There was also an obstacle hike in which such barriers to forward progress as "bottomless canyons" and electric fences were met with. The course ended with instruction in tracking, based on Baden-Powell’s original work on that subject.

As in Britain and elsewhere, American Scouts dug for victory. In 1945 more than 67,000 Scouts were working in victory gardens, and more than 20,000 possessed gardens over 400 feet square. To these, "Green Thumb" certificates and MacArthur medals were awarded. The Forestry Service of America was also helped, the Scouts planting 142,103 trees. Blood Banks were established all over the country which received the blood of Scouts who also worked in large numbers with the hospitals. The Services were looked after by providing entertainment, collecting more than 3,000,000 musical instruments, gramophone records and furniture for Services hospitals.

Certain Scouts rendered individual service of great importance. The Germans made an attempt to organise a Fifth Column in the United States and for that purpose sent agents who landed from submarines. Scout Marvard Hodgkins of Hancock Point, Maine, was coming home late one night in the winter of 1943 when he saw two figures trudging through the snow. "What struck me," he reported, "was that they were wearing light overcoats. Nobody here wears such coats, least of all on a cold winter night. I saw their tracks in the snow and noticed that they were leading from the shore, where the seas were pounding on the beach." His observation was correct and accurate. The two men had just been landed by submarine. A telephone message from the boy’s father, a Deputy Sheriff, secured their immediate capture

As elsewhere, the number of former Scouts, Scouters and Scoutmasters who won distinction in battle when serving with the American Forces was very large. The records shew how varied was their service, both in quality and locality. Seventeen former Scouts formed part of General Doolittle’s gallant band which bombed Tokyo. Noel A. M. Gayler, a Scout of Bremerton, Washington, was the first naval lieutenant to be awarded three Navy Crosses. He was a pilot of one of the aircraft carrier Lexington’s aircraft, and among other feats shot down eight Japanese fighters and bombed and set on fire two Japanese destroyers. Colin P. Kelly of Troop 601, Madison, Florida, of the United States Army Air Corps, destroyed the 29,000-ton Japanese battleship Haruna. On returning, his bomber was attacked and set on fire but he held it straight and level enough to enable the crew to bale out. He himself was killed. Edward F. Cheney of Troop 85, Yeadon, Pennsylvania, gained the first Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for rescuing non-swimmers in a sea covered with burning oil spouting from his torpedoed tanker. Coastguardsman Douglas A. Munro, a Life Scout of Troop 84, South Cle, Elum, Washington, put a party of Marines ashore at Guadalcanal and later took them off under heavy fire, himself losing his life.

The tales of these gallant American Scouts are examples chosen by the simple method of shutting the eyes and pricking with a pin from the numerous reports of their velour. They serve to shew that in war, as in peace, Scouting was invaluable, giving those who practiced it not only resource and trained intelligence above that possessed by non-Scouters, but also that ultimate scruple of courage which enabled them to endure to the end.

When the war was won, the Scouts of America concentrated on raising the World Friendship Fund launched by their National Council, of which the object was to help the reorganisation of Scouting in Allied countries devastated by the war. The success already achieved was very great, and their efforts were enhanced by the strong encouragement of President Truman, who urged them to keep on "building together." By February, 1946, nearly 2,000,000 Scouts had paid heed to their President and were helping in this invaluable work.

  Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948
Chapter V: Endurance. Scouting in Captivity
Chapter VI: Partnership. Scouting in the Empire and in the U.S.A.
Chapter VII: Assurance. Scouting in Refugee and Displaced Persons’ Camps
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