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2nd Beeston Sea Scouts


© David Hallam 1988 - 2006


Black & Gold - the Story of 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts


This account of the 2nd Beeston Group of Sea Scouts is republished here in memory of Frederick Edward Samuel Smedley who died on 6th October 2006, aged 92. Edward ('Breeze' to all who knew him in scouting circles) was a founder member of the troop in 1928, went on to serve as a scouter and remained a stalwart supporter of the Group all his life. To the many who were members in his active days in the Group he is remembered as remarkable man, not least for his engineering and seamanship skills but also for the many ways he helped both individual members and the Group as a whole - but always in a modest way. Those who were privileged to know him will miss him and will not forget the major contribution he, and his brothers Arthur and George, made to their lives and to the Group.

The account was written by David Hallam (a member of the Group from 1947 to 1958), originally on the occasion of the Group's 60th Anniversary in October 1988. It was compiled from memories, newspaper stories, official records, diaries, scrapbooks, etc which had been found at the time. It has now been reproduced with only minor changes but with the addition of a large number of photographs which have been assembled from various sources - including the collections of Edward Smedley and the late Disney Keeble. The account of the early days owed much from input at the time of writing by Edward Smedley.

The title of the account - 'Black & Gold' - comes from the colours of the Group's neckerchief which is black with a yellow border.

Father Otway with 2nd Beeston Setting Sail (October 1928 - October 1932) - In the autumn of 1928, Lt. Col John Jardine, the then District Commissioner for the South-West Notts area, formed a Sea Scout Group consisting mainly of boys from the Nottingham area. This Group was to operate from a Town Headquarters on Queen Street, Nottingham and from a River Training Base which had been prepared on the Reach of the Trent at Beeston. This Group was known as the 1st Beeston Sea Scouts (Jardine's Own).

Col. Jardine had a special interest in Sea Scouting; several years earlier he had started a Sea Scout Group in Nottingham, based on a large barge, the 'Avalon', moored on the Trent there. The Scoutmaster then was Mr W. Macrow who later took a major part in the early life of 2nd Beeston. How this Nottingham Group came to be wound up is not known, but two Patrol Leaders and three or four scouts transferred from it to the newly formed 1st Beeston. It had been Col. Jardine’s intention to move the 'Avalon' to Beeston for use by the new Group but it proved a little too big for the locks on The Beeston Canal.

The 1st Beeston Group’s River Base was in the position now occupied by the Beeston Sailing Club and was rented from Mr G.H. Mitchell of the Boat House, Beeston (now Beeston Marina). The site had been previously occupied by Col. Jardine as a base for his houseboat 'Nadia'.

Col. Jardine felt that, with this River Base so convenient to Beeston, there might be scope for a Sea Scout Group formed from Beeston boys who would share the Base with 1st Beeston. Deciding that the best place to start would be the Parish Church, he approached the then Vicar, the Rev. Fr. Norman Phillips, M.C., C.de G who put him in touch with his Curate, the Rev. Fr. Arnold Handel Otway, MA. Father Otway had arrived in the Parish in the previous May and had quickly established himself as something of a 'live-wire'. No social occasion on behalf of the Church was complete without him and his organisational skills - reports describe him in that context as 'indefatigable'. It was therefore characteristic of him that he received the idea with enthusiasm. (He is shown in the photograph above left, in about 1930, at the river base. Arthur Smedley is on the left of the back row and Norman 'Spot' Spicer is in the centre of the back row.)

Thus was initiated the new Group which was known as the 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts, Parish Church Group. As a 'Controlled Group' attached to the Beeston Parish Church with the Vicar as the 'Controlling Authority', membership of and regular attendance at the Church was a condition of membership. The first members were therefore recruited by Father Otway through his approaching boys of suitable age who were regular worshippers at the Church, members of the Choir, etc. Father Otway became the Scoutmaster and another Church stalwart, Mr Arthur Bond became the Assistant Scoutmaster.

The new recruits, sixteen in number, whose names appear below, held their first meeting on October 16th, 1928 in the old National School building on Station Road, Beeston (on the site of the present Fire Station). Col Jardine assisted by Mr W. Macrow (the Assistant District Commissioner) and Mr George Humphries (Scoutmaster of the newly formed 1st Beeston) explained the arrangements made and the activities envisaged for the new Beeston Group. The subscription was to be five shillings (25p) per year.

Edward Smedley's Membership & Enrolment Card Training of the boys in scouting and seamanship began at once in the Station Road Schools - now soon to be demolished for a Tesco store - opposite the Old Schools, but it took until the end of January before patrols were formed; the majority of the recruits had no previous Scout experience and, as well, individual strengths had to be assessed before that could be properly done. At that time, at a special meeting supported by Col. Jardine and Assistant County Commissioner Lancelot Allen, it was possible to report that the 16 recruits had been formed into two patrols - called 'Seal' and 'Stork'. Six of the boys had reached Tenderfoot Badge stage and were enrolled that evening - Edward ('Breeze') Smedley (whose Enrolment Card is shown here), Kenneth Moore, Frank Young, Paul Towlson, Frederick Smith and Geoffrey Newton. The Patrol Leaders were named as Fred Aneley and Henry Michael and Seconds Richard Shaw and Geof Newton (who had been enrolled that evening). Henry Michael was later to become the first Troop Leader. The other seven members were Stan or Bob Smith, Ivan Ebblewhite, Dick Clayton, Holloway, James Utting, Charles Michael and one other. There would have been more founder members had not Col Jardine imposed a special age limit for entry into Sea Scout Troops, which was not generally recognised by the Scout Association, of 13 to 17 years of age. This restriction was later abandoned - in any case it would have caused problems when Cub and Rover Scout sections were added to the Group.

Shortly after this first investiture, there was an influx of new members including Disney Keeble, Donald Burton, Jack Hayter, Guy, George Heard and Arthur and George Smedley.

Lifeboat appeal In those early days, the 1st and 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts carried out much of their activities together. George Humphries was the Scoutmaster of both 1st and 2nd and they were able to benefit from his guidance and leadership during various joint ventures. In May 1929, for example, 2nd joined lst in parading the Hythe Lifeboat in Beeston and Nottingham in aid of RNLI funds and were commended as ‘one of the best contingents in the County’. Much joint use was made of the facilities at the River including a training session over the long Easter weekend of 1929. The intention, that summer, had been to camp away from Headquarters but this had not been possible so a week long camp was held at the Base. These sessions were held under the leadership of ADC Macrow who was responsible for much of the training in river work in these early days. Assistance was provided by George Humphries and the Assistant scoutmaster of 1st Beeston, Mr W. Underwood. Owing to his commitments at Church, Father Otway could not spend a. lot of time at the week-end training camps at the River Base. For the first two years or so, these were mainly run by Mr Macrow and Mr Humphries assisted in the early days by Patrol Leaders Ivor Whitfield and Bob Parkin of the 1st Beeston. These two had belonged to the old 'Avalon' Troop and had much more river experience than any of the 2nd Beeston members at that time.

Norfolk Visitors at Base The shore accommodation at the Base comprised a wooden hut containing sixteen bunks in the main section, with a. galley at one end and a small veranda at the other (Seen in the background of this photograph, taken when a group of Norfolk scouts stayed at the Base. Bernard Highton is in the centre of the picture.) There was a separate store hut and heads. For the first few years, Col. Jardine’s houseboat 'Nadia' remained at the Base as accommodation for Officers.

The boats used for training and general water activities, at that time were:
The Whaler - always so named although it was not a true Montague whaler but a smaller (16ft), ex-naval, double-ended dinghy. This was the backbone of the fleet until the late 1940s.

A large double-sculler river skiff.

Two identical 12ft, una-rigged, standing lug-sail, centre-board sailing dinghies.

A 12ft open motor-boat with a small American 2-stroke inboard engine (which was very rarely started, much less used and soon disappeared from the scene).

The 'Colonna' - a ship’s lifeboat which had once belonged to Sir Thomas Lipton’s steam yacht 'Erin'. During the yacht’s war service in World War 1, the lifeboat had rescued a torpedoed ship's crew. It had been fitted with a centre-board and rigged as a gaff sloop and was occasionally sailed, but was a little too big and slow for river work. It was used more often as additional sleeping accommodation when the hut was full, as it had a canvas cover. This boat ended it’s days, without rigging or centre-board, with the 1st Notts Sea Scouts.
In October of that first year - 1929 - the joint membership of the two troops - numbering 30 - was inspected at the river base by Col. Sir Launcelot Rolleston DSO of Watnall Hall. Col. Jardine was in charge of the parade and afterwards he entertained the scouts and their friends to tea. This inspection, by the County Commissioner became an annual event in the early days. The boat crew which brought the inspecting officer from and back to Mitchell's Boat House was picked equally from the 1st and 2nd Beeston Troops and it was considered a great privilege to be selected. Lady Rolleston sometimes visited, in those years, to sail the Colonna.

In the winter months of 1929-30, badge work commenced in earnest and First Aid training started. Arthur Smedley gained the Engineering, Electricity and Cyclist Badges while Donald Barton and Edward Smedley received the Engineering Badge. The 2nd Class Badge was gained by Frank Young, Donald Barton, Disney Keeble and Jim Utting.

The Spring of 1930 saw both troops back at 'camp' at Base at The Reach with District Scoutmaster Macrow again in charge. Scoutmaster E. Humphries led the joint troops again in the annual Lifeboat collection in June. By July, the first aid training began to pay-off in a small way six members took part in The Nottingham Red Cross Rally at the Forest around - acting as patients!

From the start, Col Jardine laid down a minimum swimming standard for those attending at the River Base. This was the ability to swim at least 50 yards - by the 1950s this was interpreted as 'across the River' - when clad in shorts, shirt and plimsolls - this was, of course, long before the days when the wearing of life-jackets became general. To cater for boys who were unable to achieve this minimum swimming standard or for those without any particular interest in water activities, Father Otway started an ordinary ‘land’ Scout patrol. This did not last long, the boys involved either leaving or joining the main Sea Scout section.

The 1930 holiday was again spent at the River at Beeston where the boys spent a week in a joint camp of the two troops. During that time, brothers Arthur and Edward Smedley earned their Cooks Badges. Six of the scouts with GSM Father Otway, rowed to Thrumpton and cooked by the riverside before returning.

The following summer, 1931, a camp away from Beeston was possible. This was held at Old Hunstanton, Norfolk In the first week of August. On that occasion, six lads from 2nd Beeston combined with 12 from 1st Beeston and 8 from the Stapleford and Sandiacre Troop. Scoutmaster B. Humphries of 1st was in charge and during the week the camp was visited by Father Otway. As this was a joint affair, this is not usually counted as the ‘first’ 2nd Beeston camp. New members at this camp were, Norman ('Spot') Spicer, Len Kingston, Donald Muir, Walter Rushton and Arthur Cox.

October 1931 marked the Third Anniversary of the troop. It was reported that the troop had performed with great zeal and this had reflected itself in the badges attained. These totaled 35 representing 12 different badges - notably the Cyclist Badge (8) and Interpreter (6) but not forgetting such traditional scouting skills as Ambulance, Signaler, Cook, Oarsman, Swimmer, etc. That winter Assistant District Scoutmaster Macrow was preparing more scouts for the Signaler Badge.

The scouts had by then been able to use their limited resources to purchase a small tent which could be used to support the let Class Badge overnight stay test involving a journey of up to 15 miles. To support a full Annual Camp under their own steam, more funds would be required to buy the necessary equipment. It was thought appropriate to also purchase Troop Colours to mark the 3rd Anniversary.

That November the Church Council under Rev Otway organised a Fancy Dress Dance for that purpose which was held at Station Road Schools. The Dance was a huge success with the Troop receiving great support from the general Church membership - about 180 attended and it was one of the most successful of the season. The new troop Colours consisting of both a Union Flag and a Green Troop Flag with yellow lettering and scout emblem were displayed for the first time, fixed to the wall of the hall. The Vicar, Father Phillips spoke proudly of the Scouts and was able to report that the patrols were up to full strength.

The Colours were dedicated and presented in the Parish Church by the Vicar on the following 31st January following which they were laid-up in the Church. The intervening period had seen an appeal for recruits to bring up numbers. Six were sought, preferably over 14 years old, but in the event ten were found within two months and these were admitted early in January at a ceremony and Service in front of scouts and parents. It is believed that these ten included, Fred Thraves, Peter Roberts, Pax Burnside, R. Dawson, Harold Peel, Stanley Towlson and Leslie Ward. Sometime between then and the time of the very early recruits, the following had also joined - Arthur Rowland, Tom Davies, Fred Robinson and James Searle. This brought the numbers to 21 scouts and made it possible to form the necessary two colour guards for the Dedication Service - but not without a hitch when uniforms failed to arrive forcing a postponement from the original date. The Colours were finally 'laid-up' in the Church in the 1960s after the colour had been superceded by Navy Blue as the approved design, and remain in the care of the Parish Church today.

In terms of Youth activity in Beeston at that time, and indeed prior to then and since, the success of the Boys Brigade, with its excellent Headquarters and fine traditions, took some equaling. Nevertheless, after only three years, at that time, the Editor of the local paper was moved to state that he believed, even in their shadow, the 2nd Beeston was making progress. Scouting in Beeston generally was taking off - early that year, a new troop was formed at the British Legion with 20 scouts with Scoutmaster Chell and ASM Wiseman in charge. Both the 1st and 2nd Beeston supported them and contributed to the rally programme.

May 1932 saw further fund-raising activities towards the camp fund. Station Road Schools were once again the Venue for another Church supported event - this time a concert. Father Phillips congratulated Father Otway on the smartness of the troop describing them as one of the best in SW Notts. The highlight of the evening was the presentation, to Edward Smedley, of the King’s Scout Award - the first of the troop. He also received green and gold colours and the First Class Badge whilst other scouts received other badges and awards including the First Class Badge for P/L Ken Kingston. Later that month, Disney Keeble also gained the First Class Badge. Three new members joined - K Kingston, H. ‘Dewey’ English and Douglas Thraves - and membership of the troop now totaled 24. It is clear from the rapid progress and fast promotion of members that recruitment from other local troops was common practice - it is known, for example that Disney Keeble was previously a member of the Chilwell & Attenborough Troop. The general Church membership again supported the event admirably and provided the entertainment - which included a young Disney Keeble on violin. The evening raised the £15 which would be required to purchase camp equipment - marquee, stores tent and kitchen equipment - for the expected camp at Llandudno in the summer.

Highton, Otway and Hall Having acquired the necessary funds, the Troop set-to to acquire the equipment It needed for the forthcoming camp. To help with this, Father Otway turned again for help from within the other Church organisations. There was, at that time, a thriving Church Youth Fellowship and also a Church Football Team. Active members of these activities included Joe Hall, Jack Thraves (Doug and Fred's older brother), Len Richmond, Bert Edson, Arthur Newbold and Bernard Highton. (The picture on the left shows Bernard Highton (left) and Joe Hall (right), with Father Otway.) Bernard, in particular, although a little too old for the age limits set for membership, had taken a keen interest in the Group since its inception. Now, all six agreed to help construct the camp equipment which would be required and they set-to to construct the galley, heads, etc which would be required. Joe Hall, a joiner in business locally, was a particularly important find.

A practice session for camp was held over a weekend in July when various 'pole and canvas structures' consisting of the kitchen, stores and sleeping tents were erected at the River Base. That Sunday, the practice camp was visited by the Vicar and his wife and Churchwarden, Mr Shaw. Camping skills were also practiced at an Easter Weekend Camp at Newstead and a Whitsuntide camp at Zouch.

Nottingham Pageant It was not long before a. further three members gained the Kings Scout badge - P/L Len Kingstone, P/L Arthur Smedley and Second Walter Rushton. The rank of Troop Leader had remained unfilled since Henry Michael had left the Troop and an appointment had been deferred until the possible candidates had gained the King’s Scout Award - it was Arthur Smedley who was appointed. At a weekend pageant at Nottingham, the Troop’s four King Scouts formed a colour party (Shown right) and shanties were sung with all receiving a thank-you from B-P himself.

That summer saw several changes - Edward Smedley, a. founder member, a Patrol Leader and the Troop's first King’s Scout left to go to sea as an apprentice on a tanker of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to train as a Deck Officer. At a July presentation attended by the Vicar and the Vicar’s wife, he was presented with a set of gold cuff links by the Group - his brother received them in his absence. On that occasion also, Mr Macrow, a stalwart of the early Group, was presented with an engraved teapot on the occasion of his marriage.

1932 Camp - Llandudno The promised summer camp at Llandudno (seen left - click picture for more) saw some 26 members of the Troop under the new canvas. The 20 parents who visited the camp were able to confirm that, unlike at home, the weather was very good and that a. good time was had by all. The Church Company of Guides and Rangers were, at the same time, camped at Penmaenmawr and they visited the scouts’ camp on one day and a joint party went on a boat trip to Liverpool. The camp was under the overall control of Father Otway with Joe Hall, Second in Command and Health Officer. Mr Arthur Newbold was Quarter-Master, Arthur Smedley carried out Red Cross duties and there was support from the other helpers who had earlier constructed the equipment. These included Bernard Highton who was to contribute to so many later Annual Camps as quarter-master - even when GSM - amongst his many contributions to the Group. Click on the image to see more views of this camp.

At a presentation a month later, prizes and Cooks Badges which had been gained at the camp were given out. Prizes went to Second Tom Davis, Acting Second Fred Robinson, Evans Patrol P/L Norman Spicer and Scouts Donald Muir, K Kingstone, Stanley Towlson and H English. P/L Kingstone, P/L Spicer and Second Cox received the badges with Kingstone in particular, being commended for his cooking.

In October 1932, Father Otway left Beeston to take up a new appointment in Ewshott in Surrey. At a special gathering of the Troop and Ranger Crew and attended by Assistant County Commissioner Lancelot Allen, the Vicar presented him with a clock on behalf of the Sea Scouts and the Church football team. Mr Macrow followed with a presentation of the Thanks Badge on behalf of Col. Jardine, now County Commissioner for Sea Scouts. Many tributes were paid - Father Otway had paid a major and critical part in the Group’s success: During the four years of the Group, five had gained the King’s Scout Award - the third Smedley brother, George, received his that evening - and 60 badges had been earned and the Group was in excellent shape for the future. Father Otway replied, in his typical modest way, that he had been glad of the experience and In turn paid tribute to Col Jardine and thanked him for his support. That evening three new officers received their warrants - G. Arthur Newbold, Joe Hall and Arthur Smedley. The first two had, as we have seen, helped the Group In several ways although not formally members. In Arthur Smedley's case this marked the start of a long tradition of recruiting officers from the ranks of the Troop which was to provide much of the strength of the Group over the years.

Father Otway was an excellent leader of boys both as a Scouter and spiritually. It is a tribute to his leadership, training and example to note that, although he left the district at this time - the end of 1932 - there were leaders of the Group who had received their initial training with him, continuously from that time until the resignation as Group Scout Leader, of George Smedley in September 1970.

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