Below is a brief history of the 8th Wimbledon, formed from two sources, running up to the year 1959.
- the first is a copy of the Souvenir Programme for the Group Social held in St. Andrew's Hall on Thursday, 27th February, 1936, wherein a Brief History of the 8th Wimbledon was published.
- the second source being an article written in 1959 by the then Rover Scoutmaster, Mr. C. Meier. His account of the Group's history was written as a three-part serialisation to be published within the Group Magazine, Woodsmoke, on the occasion of the Group's Golden Jubilee - 50 years.
The vast majority of the text is from the second source with additional points added from the first source.
The Eighth Wimbledon
That's a title which has been known in Scouting for more than forty years and one which many, many young boys and young men have been proud to carry on their sleeves throughout those years.
You may be interested to know something about the history of this Group of ours and I have been asked to sketch for you the picture of the Group that started as long ago as August 19, 1909 - only one year after Scouting was born and can be classed as one of the first Troops in the world.
In those days there were no Wolf Cubs or Rovers, only Scouts, and it was a Scout Troop that was formed by a Mr. Pinehard at Holy Trinity Church which then stood on the corner of Merton Road and Trinity Road, Wimbledon, using the Mission Hall. [Conflicting 1936 evidence suggests a Mr. Russell was the first Leader.]
It is interesting to note that two of those original Scouts were present at the Group's Fortieth Birthday Celebrations and we heard from them some first-hand accounts of what they did in the Troop in those days. Apparently they were very keen Scouts and they were very much to the fore whenever there was a chance to show what they could do.
In the February of 1910 the Troop came into the limelight when, after a Service of Dedication in Holy Trinity Church, held by the Rev. W.J. Margetson, the Troop colours were presented to the Troop by none other than the then Lt-Col., now Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell, the Chief Scout himself.
This presentation took place in the old Baths Hall - doubtless because there were so many people who wanted to see the ceremony and also because they wanted to meet the Chief Scout.
Filling the gaps
In skirting over 40 years of Group history there are bound to be many gaps and because of lack of records, some things may get out of order in the picture. For example - we had a very noisy drum and bugle band in 1918 but just when it was started I do not know. Neither do I know when Mr. Russell became Scoutmaster or even when he was succeeded by the Rev. Cecil Clarke, but he was.
During the First World War
During the War years of 1914 to 1918 the Troop, in common with other Scouts throughout the Country, did their bit of War Service.
Our Scouts were on duty at the Council Depot and the Fire Station day and night under the guidance of Scoutmaster Arnold from the 6th Wimbledon Troop. One of their jobs was to call up men of the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance when Air Raids were pending and afterwards when all was over to go out on bicycles sounding the all clear on their bugles.
Towards the end of the 1914-18 War the Rev. S.W.G. Frost became Scoutmaster and he was followed in 1919 by Harold Raymond Parry, a Church Army Captain who at that time was in charge of the Church Army Hut which stood on Wimbledon Common, close to where the War Memorial now stands.
The Church Army Hut became naturally enough a meeting place for the Troop on Saturday afternoons, when games on Wimbledon Common were regular features of the Troop programme. So popular was the Hut that although the Troop had its regular meetings in Holy Trinity Parish Hall and the Mission Hall in Pelham Road, two nights a week; it was decided that the Troop must have its own Headquarters.
This meant years of hard work, jumble sales, whist drives, concerts, sales of work, collecting sacks of work paper and so on to get together the funds for a hut of our own. The driving force behind all of these efforts was Scoutmaster H.R. Parry. He was a grand fellow and he enlisted the aid of many of his friends who had been interested in his Church Army works.
One such person was the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos who became Patron of the Troop in 1920 and who, until her death on 15th September, 1931, took a great interest in the Troop and was present at a number of its functions.
A new base
In 1920 the Troop severed its connections with Holy Trinity Church and for a few months Meetings were held in a classroom in the Queen's Road Schools. Then the Late Rev. J. Drew-Roberts came to the rescue and offered the use of St. Andrew's Church Hall, in Herbert Road. It was here that the Troop eventually, in 1923, had its own Headquarters built on land behind the Hall in Hartfield Road. We had an old Army Hut - 60 feet long by 20 feet wide.
It was ceremoniously dedicated by the Late Rev. Horace Munroe and opened by the Late Sir Joseph Hood on 29th September, 1923 - St. Michael and All Angels Day.
Upon the Anniversary of that day for nearly every year for the 24 years during which that Hut was used by the Troop, we held a short Service in the hut to commemorate the occasion.
Unfortunately, Mr. Parry's health was failing at the time the Hut was opened and he had to go away from the District to rest and seek recovery.
Along come the Rover Scouts
A Rover Crew had been started in 1922 and they, together with Mr. J. Holder - Officer with the Parish Red Cross Society, carried on with the work of running the Troop.
Mr. Parry never returned to the work he had loved and done so well. He never saw the benefits deemed to the Troop through having its own building in which to work and play. He passed to Higher Service on 31st January, 1925 and later a Memorial Service, at which his portrait was unveiled, was held in the Hut to commemorate his passing.
Mr. Parry was a wonderful man, for despite ill health he showed remarkable vigour in his Scouting activities. He was a fine organiser and his camps at Selecombe 1920; Parkfield 1921; Luccombe, Shanklin 1922 and Westgate 1923 were amongst the finest ever known in the Troop. There can be no doubt that he was a powerful influence for good in the lives of all those boys who were lucky enough to be in the Troop in his day. His first thing in Scouting was Duty to God and by his example and encouragement we learnt that our Scouting was useless without it.
Mr. Holder, although by no means a young man, had been acting as Scoutmaster since October 1923 and he now assumed the job officially. Under him the Troop had some of its most successful years. In 1926 they won the Commissioner's Flag for the most efficient Troop in Wimbledon and in 1927 the William Wells Challenge Shield for Small Bore Rifle Shooting. Many very successful camps were held - 1924 Shanklin; 1925 Worthing; 1926 Seaford; 1927 and 1928 Broadstairs. For a man advancing in years this was no mean task and the success of the Troop in those years speaks well for his keenness, organisation and efforts.
Along come the Wolf Cubs
In 1929 a Cub Pack was formed under Miss E. Douglas and now we were a Group complete with Scouts and Rovers and Mr. Holder was made our first Group Scoutmaster. Then Mr. A.R.G. Ashworth, from the 82nd Manchester Troop joined us and became Cubmaster.
Under him the Pack grew until it became necessary to split it up into two Packs. They won the Association Totem Pole in 1930 and held camps in 1929 and 1930. The Group had a special 21st Birthday Celebration in December 1930 and we managed to gather together many of the old and original Members of the Troop at a social evening in St. Andrew's Church Hall. In 1931
Mr. Holder retired from the active position of Group Scoutmaster and was succeeded by Mr. Ashworth, whose Leadership was also outstanding. Mr. Holder was given an Honorary rank.
The Group Scouters were encouraged to take the Training Course for Officers at Gilwell Park and we had, as a result, several Wood Badges in the Group.
In 1933 we again won the Commissioner's Flag and the camps at Trotten 1932 and Brockenhurst 1933 were of the highest standard. Mr. Ashworth was succeeded by Bill McCarthy in June 1934 and he too had a grand Troop and some excellent camps at Weymouth, Osmington Mills and Brokenhurst then, in 1936, he had to go to Weymouth to take up an Admiralty Appointment and so the Group lost a fine Scouter.
Next came Scoutmaster George Robinson and Group Scoutmaster William P. Grimstone who, as you know, are still with us.
During the Second World War
George was known to his boys as Tonhah, an Indian name which is probably derived from some North American Tribe. Tonhah it was who carried the burden of Scouting through the War years of 1939 to 1945 and the Eighth was one of the Troops which carried on through the War and through all those difficult and dangerous days.
For his Services, Mr. Robinson was awarded a Letter of Commendation by the Chief Scout.
During the War Years the Cubs and the Rovers ceased to function as complete units. Many of the younger boys were evacuated and the Rovers were either in the Services or on Work of National Importance and Voluntary War Service.
Despite the difficulties of the War Years a good deal of weekend camping was done by the boys and in 1942 and again in 1943, Summer Camps were organised by the Group Scoutmaster and Rover Leader at Forest Row, in Sussex, and jolly camps they were too, despite the difficulties of rationing and transport.
Sometimes at night we would hear the distant gunfire and noise of air raids on London and we would hear the German bombers as they limped off home but otherwise the War did not stop us. We did a lot of Scouting and many tests were passed at those camps. Then came the end of the War and the return of our Rovers and Scouters from the Forces and we set to work to revive our Rover Crew. This was immediately successful and we have been going from strength to strength ever since. We had hardly got going again before a very sad thing happened.
We were asked to remove our Headquarters from Hartfield Road. The Hut that for 24 years had been our home was sold to the 4th Ewell (Nonsuch) Scout Group and they removed it and erected it in the grounds of Ewell Hospital, where I am pleased to say it is again doing good Service as a home of Scouting.
We lost no time in finding ourselves a new home and thanks to the kindness of the Deacons of Dundonald Church we were soon established in our new Headquarters.
One of the first to welcome us was Mr. E. Ashdown, whose interest became so real that we made him our Troop Chaplain and we hope he will serve us in that capacity for many years.
Once again we started a Cub Pack which under Mr. R. Stone and his Assistants, soon grew to considerable proportions. Then when Mr Stone went to Africa on business Mr. Grimstone took over the Pack until our present Akela came along.
Home at last..?
Since we have been at Dundonald Church useful work has been done. There have been some good camps at Forest Row and Arundel and we have been able to play our part in the work and life of the Church to which we now belong.
We have had some very enjoyable entertainments and have been a very happy family. Let us build upon these foundations a strong and healthy Troop of which you will be justly proud in years to come. The future is in your hands. See to it that you do your job very well - Good luck! Good Scouting and Carry on the Eighth!