Perhaps the most famous of all of the youth group camps is Baden-Powell’s experimental camp, held on Brownsea Island in 1907. Between 1st-8th August, BP took a group of boys camping to test out his ideas for a new youth movement. As we know now, the camp was a great success and it is taken as the official start date for the Boy Scout movement. In a number of posts this summer I will look at different aspects of the experimental camp and look at how these elements have changed over the years.

The boys were organised into 4 groups of 5 called patrols (with an additional boy who appears to have been attached to one patrol but moved around). Each patrol had an older boy who was in charge of the group and called the patrol leader (marked PL on this list) The boys consisted of public school boys (marked P on the list) from Eton, Harrow and Charterhouse as well as boys from Pool and Bournemouth Boys’ Brigade units (marked BB on the list). The patrols were as follows;

Wolves

B. Wroughton (PL, P)

C. Curteis, (P)

J Evans-Lombe (P)

P Medway (BB)

R. Giles (BB)

Bulls

T. Evans-Lombe (PL, P)

A Primmer (BB)

B Blandford (BB)

J Rodney, (P)

M Noble (P)

Curlews

G. Rodney (PL, P)

H Watts (BB)

A Vivian (BB)

T Bonfield (BB)

R. Grant (BB)

Ravens

H. Emley (PL, P)

B Tarrant (BB)

W Rodney (P)

B Collingbourne (BB)

H Noble. (P)

The organisation of the patrols brings up several similarities and differences with Scouts today. First, Scouts are still organised in patrols, with one of the eldest or most competent Scout as the patrol leader. These patrols are organised in a number of different ways, but like here, mix different classes of members together. The biggest difference, however, comes from the selection of Patrol Leaders. In 1907 Baden-Powell selected only Public school boys to be PLs, demonstrating a concern that boys be given ‘acceptable’ role models which conformed to BP’s own notions of what it meant to be a respectable British citizen. Nowadays, class and schooling certainly isn’t a concern when it comes to selecting a Patrol Leader. Instead, it is more common to select Scouts who have demonstrated commitment, willingness and a positive attitude.

As seen above, each patrol was named after an animal, a tradition which has continued throughout Scouting – all of the patrol animals mentioned above are still official patrol names today. Patrols were allocated a colour and each boy was given streamers in their patrol colour to wear on their left sleeve. Whilst today patrols are not identified by streamers, they do wear badges which are still worn on the left sleeve, although patrols at camp often differ from those during the rest of the year and camp patrols rarely have badges. The patrols camped in their own patrol tent, had their own patrol flag and the patrol leader was responsible for their groups behaviour. Again, this isn’t dissimilar from how patrols work now. In the groups that I am familiar with, we camp in smaller dome tents that weren’t available in 1907 and therefore it is impractical to sleep in patrols, however, each patrol has it’s own cooking tent, cooks together and carries out some of the activities together. Certainly in my experience, more activities today are carried out as a troop, rather than in patrols as was the case in 1907. This could be as a result of numerous reasons but is certainly worth thinking about.

The patrols’ experience in 1907, whilst is still remarkably similar to that of today, it seems even more like my own experience as a Guide in the 1980s/90s. Here, Patrol Leaders were selected because of age, we camped in a patrol tent, made a patrol flag before the camp and wore a specially made patrol badge at all times. Additionally, all but one activity was carried out in these patrols which made the patrol unit much tighter. Perhaps the changes within the patrol system are due to the differences in tents, as many tents today are too small to accommodate 6-8 people and instead patrols on camp need less cohesion as they are not living together in a shared space.

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