© David Hallam 1988 - 2006
Black & Gold - the Story of 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts - continued
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Sheltering from the Storm (September 1939 to June 1945) - Tragedy struck soon after the beginning of the War, and in a totally unexpected way. Harold Peel, 19 years old and a member of the Group since 1932,
died suddenly of pneumonia, in February 1940. The Rover Crew acted as pall bearers. His parents were keen supporters of the Group, both serving on the
Parents’ Committee, his father George Peel was its Secretary. They both tried to continue to serve that Committee but were both severely effected by
losing their only son and eventually reluctantly resigned in 1942 after many years’ service.
During the war, of course, many of the older members served their Country in the Armed Forces, many of them in the Royal Navy. Serving members included George
Smedley, Disney Keeble, Dennis Hudston and Doug & Fred Thraves. Margaret Hillery, an Assistant Cub-Mistress, served in the WRNS from 1943 to 1945.
James Utting, one of the Troop's founder members, was killed whilst flying with the RAF. Doug Thraves survived when, in 1942, HMS Manchester, taking part
in the operation to supply besieged Malta, was torpedoed and then scuttled off of Tunisia.
The Troop meanwhile actually grew in numbers, fed largely by a healthy cub pack. From a scout membership of 20 in 1939, numbers in that section had
grown to 38 by 1945. Cub numbers remained a consistent 30 over that period with F.W. Gant taking over as Cubmaster in 1942, assisted by Miss M.J. Burton
& Miss M.L Hillery. One may speculate that the increase in numbers was brought about by the dearth of other activities available to a boy at that time
and perhaps a desire to 'do something', however remote, for the War Effort. The older members of the Troop helped as Civil Defence messengers; both Arthur
Smedley and Bernard Highton were Shift Leaders.
In this period, the Troop did its best to maintain its tradition of regular camps, both at the River Base and the Summer Camp away from home. In 1940,
however, owing to the general uncertainty of the War situation and curtailment of holidays generally, no Summer Camp was held and week-end camps at the
river were somewhat curtailed. Travel during the War was, of course, restricted which meant that any Annual Camps had to be held close by. In 1941,
therefore, the Group held its Annual Camp at Walesby Forest, the now well known County Association 200 acre campsite in Sherwood Forest. Numbers were
down - only about 10 attended - but, when that site was visited again for the Annual Camp in the following year, 1942, things were more promising with
about 22 in camp - and the weather was excellent. New faces in the Troop by the time of this camp included Peter Bertram, John Bywater, G. Cawthorne, R. Featherston,
J. Goodliffe, Donald Hallam, D. Hocken, Anthony Krarup, K. Richard, A. Smith and B. Stubbs. Catering at camp, as at home, was by no means easy - the Quartermaster,
Bernard Highton, had to carefully balance, not only money, but food points. In addition to the camp fee, members were required also to bring along their Ration
Book and surrender the required number of these points. The campsite itself was under War conditions - some of the fields were under cultivation growing
much needed vegetables and the area around was bristling with ammunition dumps.
At the 1942 AGM, Arthur Smedley was able to inform the meeting that the Group was now recognised by the Naval Authorities as an organisation giving pre-entry
training under Scheme Y. This was the beginning of 'Admiralty Recognition' status which has always been prized and exists to this day.
In 1943, a change was attempted within the prevailing travel restrictions and the Annual Camp was held at Kingstone-on-Soar. The site was not entirely
promising but a successful and enjoyable week was spent by all - despite food shortages and the unavoidable absence at first of Bernard Highton - who always
worked miracles as Quartermaster - but he did come later in the week when everyone was very pleased to see him !
It was in 1943 that the first competition took place for the Jardine Trophy. This trophy had been presented to the S.W. Notts Association, in 1939, by
Col. John Jardine but had become another victim of the restrictions imposed by the War so that competition for it had been delayed. On this first occasion,
the winners were 2nd Beeston’s Sturdee Patrol led by it's P/L, Jack Simmons.
It was in 1943 that Rev. Canon J.P. Halet replaced Father Hansford as Beeston's Vicar.
In 1944, a reorganisation of the Troop took place, in response a request from Scout Headquarter that experiments should be made in forming Senior Troops
consisting of scouts of between 15 and 18 years of age. This concept was taken up immediately by the Group as it enabled a separate, more suitable, programme
of training and activities to be developed for the older and younger members respectively whilst still providing scope for combining forces for Church
Parades, Summer Camps, etc. Bernard Highton became Scoutmaster (Seniors) whilst Arthur Smedley led the Junior Troop. G.J. Pogson became ASM. One early
member of the Senior Troop, Peter Burton of Nelson Patrol, was the first in the Group to gain the Red and White all-round cords. This award was granted
to a King's Scout who had also gained twelve proficiency badges.
It was in 1944 that a Sea Rangers Unit was formed as a sister organisation to the Group. Alice Hingley was its Skipper. Most of the scouts and rangers
of appropriate age at that time were also members of the Church Youth Fellowship which had as its meeting place the other half of the Old School premises
on Station Road.
Another Competition trophy was introduced that year - the Sea Scout Trophy. This was presented by ACC Don Stocker and took the form of a boat's compass,
to be competed for annually by Sea Scout Troops in the County. The competition was in two parts, squad drill and boat crew work. In that first year,
the 2nd Beeston won with a narrow margin over 1st Notts. The coxswain of the winning crew was none other than P/L Jack Simmons.
The by now familiar Walesby was revisited for the Annual Camp of 1944. The number in camp of 38 broke all previous records. The camp was however marred
by an unprecedented incident in which one of the scouts, Patrol Second Jack Savage, was injured. On the third day, progress was being made in building
a rope-bridge across a stream when it collapsed causing him to break his leg. The unfortunate lad spent the rest of the week and several weeks following
in Mansfield Hospital but he eventually recovered with no lasting ill effects - and, despite this setback, his patrol, under P/L Peter Bertram went on to win the
award for best patrol. It was at this camp, too, that one young scout, overcome by homesickness, abandoned ship on the third day. New names which may be identified
at this time include J. Aldridge, Barker, Dearden, Gagg, Harrison, Hoult, Jackson, Michael Johnson, Moreton, J. Paton, Savage, D. Scothern, Charles Smith, Thwaites,
G. Town, Turgoose, Turner, Ulyatt, Brian Underwood, Walters and Percy Warner.
Early in 1945 there was a change in the leadership of the cub pack when the Curate, Father H.S.Martin took over as Cubmaster for a little over a year.
Father Martin will be remembered by all who met him for his unfailing smile and good humour despite a disability which left him awkwardly lame in one foot.
He continued to take an interest in the Pack, after leaving its leadership to others a year later, until his leaving Beeston in 1949.
The Parents’ Committee continued to operate all through this period - largely with the same faces - organising a steady stream of dances, whist-drives
and jumble sales despite the difficulties of the War conditions involving Food Rationing and the Blackout. In 1943 Mr Mathews became the Committee’s Chairman
and, about that time, Mr Stubbs became its Secretary. By 1943, the GSM, Arthur Smedley reported that the Troop's boat - the 'whaler' - was in poor condition
due to age. By now, also, the sailing dinghies were without serviceable sails. He announced the creation of a Boat Fund to raise the estimated £40
required to buy a replacement boat. Of course, finding a replacement would not be easy - boat yards were dedicated to war work and any boats that were
around were doing essential War duties. The Troop's own Whaler had been requisitioned by the Home Guard 'River Patrol' early in the War and in fact
the Committee had, in 1941, involved itself in attempting to collect £5 from the Patrol for damage they were believed to have caused to the boat. In
January 1944, therefore, the GSM reported that he was having no luck in finding a new boat but that the Boat Fund had reached £6 l0s. By June a boat
had been located at Thorn in South Yorkshire. It was a 15 foot cob boat solidly built by Mr W Tomlinson of West Stockwith and was complete with four
oars and a tiller rudder. The boat cost £31 and the Committee pledged itself to raising the money. An Open Day at the River Base was held for that
purpose but the plans for this reflected the problems of the day - 'individual ration to be taken' - and a practical problem of the venue -
'Scouts to provide hot water'.
It was at that time, early 1945, that the Group received a most severe blow. Having just begun to face the problem of its deteriorating boats, it now
faced the reality of losing its prized River Base. Much work had gone into this original site, the facilities had been maintained, with parents' help
but with some difficulty, throughout the War. As we have seen, the site was leased from Mitchells' Boathouse but with no long-term rights. When a rival,
in the form of the Beeston Sailing Club appeared, the site - considered by many to be the best on that stretch of the River - was made available to them
and the Group was required to find an alternate position. With some difficulty, the local farmer was persuaded to rent a piece of his land alongside
the river, on the bend, now known to many as 'Windy Corner', about mid-way between the old site and Barton Island. It was a difficult time for the move -
many of the senior members of the Group were still on Active Service - but nevertheless a start had to be made and by April 1945 progress was being made
in transferring all that was moveable - including the huts.
At the April 1945 AGM, the Treasurer was able to report that, although the Group had spent more money in the past year than ever before, nevertheless
it ended up with a more healthy balance on-hand than ever before. It was also reported that the Group owned equipment valued at about £200. Faced with
this situation, the Committee was moved to vote a ten shilling (50p) gift to each of the members now serving in the Forces. Also at that time, a.
news-sheet, 'The 2nd Beeston Bulletin' was issued for distribution to these Serving members, designed to keep them in touch with what was
happening in the Group.
This healthy financial position and the support of older members would be vital in facing the task of rebuilding the Group's facilities. The main bulk
of this work would, however, have to await the peacetime conditions which, thankfully, were not far away.
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