Our History 1946-1976

Our History 1946-1976

These short notes attempt to set out something of the background of the 5th Beckenham South Scout Group. There are a great number of Scout Groups who can look back on many more years than ourselves but in our 30th year the recollections of present members barely extend back to the early years of the Group. Fortunately some of the events of these early years have been recorded and it has been possible to bring some of them together for the interest of those now joining. This is not a chronological record of events but merely an attempt to paint in some of the background.

John Manthorpe

John Manthorpe in 1953

Since 1946 well over a 1000 boys have been associated with the Group, some for a good many years. The real story of the Group is not the sum of individual events in our Past, but the memories and experiences of these boys the majority of whom are now adults. The reminiscences of past and present members would fill many Pages and give a far truer picture of the spirit and atmosphere of Scouting in the Group. My own personal recollections which date back to 1946 (as a 9 year old Cub) are of many happy times at meetings, camps, hikes and outings. There was a comradeship and kind of unobtrusive discipline which was happier than that of school and at least different from that of the home. It provided a sphere of activity for the boy which was all his own and enjoyable for that reason.

By John ‘Thorpe’ Manthorpe in 1976
(pictured right in 1953)

Briefly then Father Byrne, Rector of St. Edmund’s, commissioned me to start a Scout Troop and after some manipulations on the part of Father Fooks, the curate, four lads appeared they came to my own house and we started with the Tenderfoot Badge, Scout Law and Promise…the foundation members are Michael Mace, David Elvin, Brian Bell and Brian Colwell…

Thus Captain Richard Garnett recorded the beginnings of the Group

The first official meeting was on 15th April, 1946 and two patrols were formed; the Lions and the Panthers. The first meeting of the parents took place in May and the first church parade on June 2nd (left). The Troop’s first camp was at Oxted for four nights at Whitsun (below right) and in late June the first proficiency badge (a Spanish Linguist) was gained.
The Cub Pack Was formed in June by Monica Davidson and later in the year the Group held its first money raising event; a jumble sale which netted a profit of £22. The first full summer camp of the Troop was held in 1947 at Hole Farm, in the Ashdown Forest, when we were joined by the St. Anthony’s Troop from Anerley. Other camps were also held in 1947, at Biggin Hill and at Westerham.
By 1948 the Troop comprised three Patrols and the Pack four Sixes and the pattern of meetings, hikes, camps, outings, church parades, and fundraising events became well established.
When the Group was formed we were part of the Beckenham, Penge and Wesst Wickham District and were registered as the 47th Beckenham. Until 1967 we knew ourselves as the ’47th’ and this is the name engraved on the foundation stone of our Headquarters. When the District grew too large and was divided into two, it was decided that we would be renamed the ‘5th Beckenham South’. There was a great deal of protest from within the Group, but we accepted the inevitable and the 47th became known as the 5th.
Although many parents had helped with the administrative side of running the Group since its founding, about this time the Group Council and Group Supporters’ Association were officially formed and have done sterling work ever since helping the Group go from strength to strength.

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Meeting Places

In 1946 meetings alternated between the old St. Edmund’s Parish Hall in Village Way, (now re-built) (left) and two adjoining attics at No. 7 Copers Cope Road.
The meetings at the Parish Hall were never entirely satisfactory because other functions or meetings would necessitate us restricting our activities but the attics of No.7 Copers Cope Road provided a very satisfactory base. No. 7 was a large Victorian house (happily still standing) and was the home of the Bate family who were closely associated with the Group at that time. All I recall of these rooms is that the night sky was painted on the white ceilings of the attic and depicted the main constellations. It fascinated me and I often wonder when I pass that house today whether those ‘stars still shine’.
The Parish Hall and No. 7 were our base until 1950. For some time the Group were hopeful that some alternative meeting place could be found and eventually, when the Diocese bought the old Shortlands House Hotel for conversion to a school, Father Byrne offered the Group the use of the old stables at the rear of the main building. The stables (left) were in a dilapidated condition and quite unsuitable for meetings. The floor was cobbled and sloping, the roof leaked and there were no doors or windows, plumbing or power.
Undaunted ‘Gaffer’ Love, who had taken over from ‘Skip’ Garnett in 1948 as Group Scout Leader, saw its possibilities. The boys, parents, and friends of the Group converted it into a habitable friendly Headquarters complete with Scouters’ room, store room and main hall, and the boys had the use of the adjacent school grounds and playground. The new Headquarters was converted in 7 months and opened in November, 1950 by the District Commissioner.
Although the Group was now very low on funds it was a rewarding day particularly for ‘Gaffer’ Love. He not only saw the realisation of his hopes and efforts in at long last acquiring our own Headquarters, but on that day no fewer than 3 King’s Scout badges were presented to boys in the Troop, and warrants were presented to a new Assistant Cub Scout Leader (ACSL) and Assistant Scout Leader (ASL).
It was a very happy Headquarters. We had our independence and the Premises were in use most evenings of the week and at weekends. However In 1955 we were informed that our much prized Headquarters had to be demolished to make way for an extension to the school. It was quite a setback and must have been a great disappointment to ‘Gaffer’ Love who had put so much into the conversion of the stables.
‘Watch it come down’ Syd Bishop, the demolition contractors, had the job of flattening the stables, but a lot of the materials in the Headquarters had been paid for by the Group and ‘Gaffer’ Love negotiated for the retention of these. A fortnight before the Contractors were due to move in Father Byrne gave him permission to remove any materials he wanted. What followed was possibly the most active and exceptional fortnight in the Group’s history.
By working 7 evenings a week and at weekends the Scouters and older Scouts, using pick axes, sledge hammers and crowbars razed the building to the ground, removed all the roofing slates, the roof and floor timbers, most of the bricks, doors, window frames and lighting fitments. Syd Bishop was left with a pile of rubble. The story has it that he was not a little peeved with Father Byrne!

The Old Stables

Once the old Headquarters had been demolished we were again without a meeting place. For a time we met at the Parish Hall, but the same problems occurred. Others had prior claim and many of our meetings took place in the park. We even met under the street lamps one night when there was confusion over the Hall booking. Fortunately we were rescued by the 7th Beckenham Scout Group (now one of the Beckenham and Penge North Troops) at St. Michael’s in Churchfie1ds Road. They arranged that we should use their Church Hall and we met there until our present Headquarters was built.
‘Gaffer’ Love had seen the worth in preserving the building materials from the stables.
Although there seemed little prospect of our acquiring another site, let alone the money to build a new Headquarters, he secured the permission of Father Byrne for us to have the use of a corner of the school grounds. He got together an enthusiastic and hardworking committee of parents who did wonders in raising funds. They came up with the idea of forming the ‘Beckenham Bingo Club’ long before Rank and Mecca came on the scene, and pulled bus loads of enthusiasts into the Parish Hall every Tuesday.
In two years they raised enough to pay for the main hall of our present building, which was officially opened by the District Commissioner in 1958. On that day two Queen’s Scout badges were presented to members of the Group. A great many people helped in getting this part of our present Headquarters built, but although so many helped I like to think of it as a permanent memorial to ‘Gaffer’ Love who died aged only 52 not very long after its completion. He enjoyed the best of relationships with the Parish and with the School, and he encouraged the parents into playing their part, what is more he rolled up his sleeves and did a lot of the work himself. And he did all of it for the boys. (Continues after the gallery)

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Our New Hut

Originally the new Headquarters was merely a 36’ x 18’ hall ideal for games but lacking in storage space and without toilets or water.
In 1963 after some difficulties and objections, we secured planning permission for an extension to incorporate a Scouters’ room, toilets, and a store room.
Again the work was carried out by the Scouts and Scouters. We were again virtually independent with facilities to organise a number of events and space to store our equipment, but as the Group grew, even this became rather cramped and in 1971 we secured permission for a further extension providing a larger store room and further room for instruction and Patrol meetings. Whilst this was being built, again by the Scouts and Scouters, the opportunity was taken to completely renovate and re-wire the existing buildings and to landscape the surrounding area. Once again funds were raised by our Supporters Association and in this they were helped considerably by a generous gift from our sponsors, St. Edmund’s Church.

The Scouters

captainCaptain Richard Garnett (pictured left) returned from Army Service in 1945 and came to live in Beckenham. It was not long before he was asked to form a Scout Troop and it is thanks to him that the group got underway. He kept a log book of the early days and happily, the beginnings of the group have been preserved for posterity. He left the group in 1947 to take up an appointment at a Borstal Reformatory (we gave him a farewell gift of a beer tankard inscribed ‘he left the Scouts to go to Borstal’) and later heard that he had taken Holy Orders and had a parish in Sussex, subsequently serving in a post at the Vatican. Many years after he had left, he turned up one evening at a scout meeting unannounced and was happy to see that the troop was still flourishing. He recruited Dick Bate to take over from him as Group Scout Leader and ‘Gaffer’ Love (below right)to take over as Scout Leader (SL). He also persuaded Monica Davidson to start the Cub Scout Pack.

Gaffer Love

Gaffer Love

Dick Bate moved on when his work took him away from London but his sons Fred and Tony were the first Assistant Scout Leaders (ASLs) in the Group and played a large part in assisting ‘Gaffer’ Love with the running of troop activities in the years 1947- 1953. About this time, David Smith became the Group’s first King’s Scout and later took out an ASL’s Warrant. He later emigrated to Canada. David Elvin and Bernard Haestier briefly held ASL’s warrants, but National Service, University and jobs away from London made it difficult to retain assistants and ‘Gaffer’ Love really held the Group together.
In 1952 ‘Skip’ Marshall arrived on the scene and has been there ever since. He had been a Scout in pre-war days and very quickly felt at home in the Group. He took over as SL and ‘Gaffer’ Love continued as GSL. ‘Gaffer’ and ‘Skip’ had much in common and the boys benefitted a great deal from the enthusiasm with which they approached Scouting. They both communicated a great sense of fun to the boys, retaining at the same time their respect and co-operation.

In 1954 John (Guts) Gordon and John (‘Thorpe’) Manthorpe, both of whom had joined as Cubs in 1946 were enrolled as Rover Scouts and became ASLs. John Gordon was in the thick of all Group activities, not only helping ‘Skip’ Marshall run the Troop, but also running the Senior Troop as well. On top of this he took on most of the administrative duties of running the Group and its equipment and not least of all recorded the events of the years 1947-1956 in the Group logbook. It became increasingly difficult to get adult help and from 1957 ‘Skip’ Marshall took over the Cub Scout Pack. John Manthorpe, on returning from National Service, took the Scout Troop and John Gordon ran the Senior Scout Troop. Gaffer Love, still GSL during this period, and was our real source of encouragement although all four Scouters helped each other out.
In the early sixties Paul Vernon took over the Senior Troop when work finally took John Gordon away from Beckenham. Paul ran the Senior Troop (Venture Scouts, as they became known from 1967) unaided for many years and led and inspired many of the Group’s most adventurous activities. He took the Seniors to Wales, Scotland, the Lake District and Peak District and most notably to Iceland. What is more, during his time as leader, two Queen’s Scout badges were awarded when John Link and Gordon Hayward gained the badge. Paul left the group in 1968 for a District appointment and now the District Commissioner for Beckenham and Penge North. For three years, the Venture Scout Unit ceased to function although many of the boys remained associated with the group as a service crew. In 1971, David Dawe joined the Group and later that year re-formed the unit from amongst the older scouts who at that time were having separate meetings from the Troop. However due to ill health, he was unable to play an ‘active’ part in the activities, but happily in this he was greatly assisted by Martin who in 1974 officially took over the Venture Scout Leader’s warrant, David Dawe becoming our first ever Assistant Group Scout Leader. Martin’s brother Peter is also involved with the unit and helps as an Instructor.

Paul Vernon’s brother, Richard, took out an ASL’s warrant and contributed a great deal to the Troop in the years 1962-1964 before University and later work abroad took him away from the district. John Link who took out an ASL’s warrant and Gordon Hayward were of great help and ran a number of the Troop’s most successful camps in their University vacations in 1966-1968. For a number of years Anthony Shepherd (‘Shep’) assisted in running the troop and he took out an ASL’s warrant during 1966. He left to join the army in 1967 from which he was demobbed in 1972 and he has now returned and is helping to run the WednesdaY Troop’
For a number of years there was no assistant to the Scout Leader although the Troop numbered over 30 boys. In 1969 the District sponsored an ‘Adult Leader and Helper’ recruitment drive and we for our part organised ,a very thorough door to door delivery of postcards inviting potential Jeaders to contact the District Secretary. From this source the District ,received about half a dozen replies one of which was from John Potter. Although he had originally only volunteered his services as a proficiency badge examiner he was soon helping at meetings and attended the Whitsun and Summer camps as a helper in 1969. Later that year he took out an ASL’s waarant and by the summer of 1970 he had become thoroughly involved in Troop activities. He ran the 1970 Whitsun and summer camps and finally in late 1970 took over as SL. He runs both of the Scout Troops today and in latee 1972 also took up the District’s invitation to fill the long vacant post of District Scout Leader which he held for two years before relinquishg the District post in order to devote more time to the Troop· Nick Gowing is his assistant and invaluable help is provided by Trevor Greenland who apart from playing a major role in running the Thursday Troop runs our successful Troop football team. Under John’s direction the Troop has over been so strong and there are now over 60 boys on the books. From 1970 to 1973 John was helped greatly by Paul Mapstone who at present is serving a three year tour of duty in Germany with the Ministry of Defence. John has also been the guiding light on the building of the new extension, the renovation of the existing buildings and the landscaping of the surrounding area, doing a lot of the work himself. He has also introduced a lot of new activities into the Troop and has put more into his 7 years of scouting than many would imagine possible in twice that time.

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The Cub Scout Pack was started in 1946 by Monica Parnacott (nee Davidson) assisted, by her two younger sisters. She ran the Pack with a flourish and an energy which has remained my main recollection of those early years. She ran the Pack until 1950 when Kathleen Gordon (pictured above in ‘colour’) took over as the new ‘Akela’. In 1954 she married and Mrs. Mitchell took over for a year. She was followed by Miss Jordan for a brief period until the end of 1956 when ‘Skip’ Marshall became the Cub Scout Leader. ‘Skip’ remained involved with Cub Scouting for many years although doubling as GSL since the early sixties. The pack flourished, numbers grew and eventually a second Pack was formed. Shelagh Corrigan, Mary Conroy, Annette Vernon, Martin Blackmore, Monica Slaughter, Brian McKie, Mrs Paget and Martin Leach have all held CSL Warrants during the last ten years, but now the Packs are run by Trevor Greenland and Mary Paget assisted by Michael Northwood, Teresa Totterdell and Karen Pearce. David Gorman runs the Cub Scout football teams having taken over from Michael Totterdell in 1973.
Much of the background administrative work of the Group, the Quartermastering and maintenance of the Headquarters, was taken on by Adrian Slaughter and Andrew Russell. Both helped with Group activities regardless of the section involved and were invaluable in helping at the Scout Troop’s summer camps, Adrian Slaughter’s active association with the group spanning about 15 years. He maintained the Headquarters, kept a protective eye on Group property and used his van extensively for activities and outings. He also continued the good work of John Gordon and maintained the Group logbook from 1967 to 1972. At present we have no Quartermaster the job being done largely by John Potter and Martin Leach who also do the necessary hut maintenance works. Sadly the logbook has been allowed to lapse.

Much of the life of the various sections of the Group is made up of activities outside the regular weekly meetings, and as with most Scout Groups the highspots are the camps. For a number of years the Troop camped at Hole Farm, Fairwarp in the Ashdown Forest (Below right and above in 1949). The farm was owned by the parents of Father Fooks who was the curate at the time of the formation of the Group. They had a lovely home with extensive grounds, which included a lake, and the farm run by their tenant Mr. Turner was adjacent to their grounds. Fairwarp occupies a special place in Group history for thirteen camps took place at Hole Farm. Mr. Turner died in 1965 and the farm was sold and although we were unable to camp there again we did camp on two occasions at the nearby Lower Misbournes Farm.

Other Troop summer camps were held at Burwash, Lindfield, Graffham, Bignor Park, Horsted Keynes, and Duddleswell all in Sussex, at Chudleigh (below)and Ringmere in Devon, Wookey Hole in Somerset, St. Ives in Huntingdon and Talybont in South Wales. Innumerable shorter camps at Bank holidays and at weekends were also held. In more recent years the Cub Scouts have held an annual camp during the Spring Bank Holiday and have camped near Sevenoaks and at Knockholt.
In the international field Tony Bate represented the District at the World Jamboree at Bad Ischl in Austria in 1951 and Bernard Comny the Group at a County International Camp in Germany in 1971. In addition both the Cubs and Scouts have been on day visits to France.
The Senior Scouts (Venture Scouts) have camped in Wales and Scotland and most of the wilder parts of England. They also visited Iceland in 1968 and Austria and Switzerland in 1974.
There have been a great number of outings, visits and activities too numerous to mention individually, but we have entered District Camping Competitions, Swimming Galas, Sports Days, Cross Country races, Cyclo-cross events, 5-a-side, league and knockout Cup Football Competitions, have tried our hand at Archery, Rifle Shooting, Pony Trekking, Caving, Skating, Karting and Hill Walking. We have visited newspaper offices and dairies, the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, Greenwich Observatory and Hampton Court Palace, Theatres, Pantomimes and Gang Shows. We have run Garden Fetes, Jumble Sales, Bingo sessions, Beetle and Whist Drives, Dances and Socials. Collected waste paper, milk bottle tops, jam jars, sold Christmas cards, football pool tickets and participated in Job Weeks as well as sponsored events in aid of charities. We have enjoyed participating in gang shows, training courses, wide games, cricket, table tennis, darts and handball. Put on displays of first aid, bridge building, camping etc. Been to the Schoolboys Own Exhibition, Madam Tussauds, and Battersea Funfair. Been selected for ‘duty’ at the Coronation and provided guards of honour locally and attended church parades at Southwark Cathedral. (Below) Visited the sick, delivered coal to the elderly, done a good deal of voluntary work, and generally enjoyed ourselves. We will probably carryon just like that, and if we do, the present and future members of the Group will get as much fun and inspiration out of Scouting as past members of the Group have done.


In 1946 the group started with four boys and met in the home of the Scout Leader. Now we have well over 140 boys and have our own Headquarters. Although the Group is old enough to have some of its own traditions it is still young enough to be able to ring in the changes that the passing of time demands. Although the appearance of Scouts has changed over the years, our name has been changed due to District re-organisation and some of the activities are in different directions, the underlying spirit of the Group and of Scouting probably hasn’t altered very much at all. Baden Powell, who is answerable for all this, saw it in the following terms at the beginning of the century.

‘The joy of the life of a Scout is the living in the woods under the stars. He can find his way by the map in a strange country. He can build his hut or boat or bridge (which means the use of the axe, and a knowledge of knots) and of course he can light his fire and cook his grub and mal{e himself generally handy and comfortable’.

In an indirect way the above conjures up for me what Scouting really tries to do for a boy whilst remaining relevant to modern day life.

Written and published to celebrate the Group’s 30th anniversary in 1976

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