In the beginning

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Much can be found on the Internet about how Scouting started; Baden-Powell, Brownsea Island and ‘Scouting for Boys’. This article gives a very broad outline of the early development and activities in Finchley.

In 1908, the year after B-P’s famous camp, ‘The Scout’ a penny weekly magazine was first published. This provided an important link for the rapidly increasing number of boys, including those in Finchley, who banded together to form Patrols of Scouts.

On the British Newspaper Archive web site there are several references to Scout activities in Finchley during 1908 and 1909, For copyright reasons we are unable to publish them but give below some of the main events that took place.

One of the earliest activities mentioned was a Despatch Running competition held on the 5th December 1908 between two teams of Scouts. Team A was made up of boys from Troop 1 and Team 2 was made up of boys from Troops 2 & 3. The despatch left Brookman’s Park at 3.15pm and was followed by Scoutmasters Mr T C Osborn and Mr A H Wright on horseback. The despatch was transferred from one runner to another about a mile apart, before arriving at Christ’s College, Finchley and delivered to Major Pemberton (commanding at Mill Hill Barracks), in front of a large crowd that included Mr I T Phillipson, headmaster of the college and Rev. David Annal, of the Presbyterian Church. Interestingly, during the address given by Major Pemberton he spoke about the perils of smoking, saying ‘that cigarette smoking is a dreadful thing, doing more harm than anything else.’

In early January 1909 the Finchley Scouts were specially selected by headquarters to give a display of their work at South Kensington, in connection with an entertainment and ball to the junior branch of the Navy League.

At the end of that month there is a reference to the first, second and third Finchley troops recommencing their drills after Christmas and an announcement that during February the Scouts would give a display at Christ’s College, similar to the one given in South Kensington. General Charles Warren, K.C.B., R.F., who had been involved with Baden-Powell in the creation of the Boy Scout movement, would preside and give an address.

In May there were a number of events surrounding Empire Day.  This was an historic occasion that started in 1902 but did not become an annual event until 1916.  The Empire declined over the next 40 years and Britain’s relationship with the other countries that formed the Empire changed, and it was re-badged as British Commonwealth Day in 1958.  Later still, in 1966 it became Commonwealth Day.

During the celebrations at Victoria Recreation Ground a large crowd gathered to watch the presentation of colours to six recognised Finchley troops of Boy Scouts. There was also an evening event at Finchley High School for the presentation of the Union Jack by Mr Phillipson (headmaster of Christ’s College and local president of the Scout movement) to the 7th & 8th Finchley troops. Finally on the Sunday there was a church parade at St Paul’s, Long Lane which about 50 Scouts attended.

There are also a number of references to the Scouts camping and we are fortunate to have the following photos of Finchley Scouts camping in 1909. They were donated to the District in 1970 by David Powell, an ex member of the 81st North London (2nd Finchley).

Finchley Scouts camping in 1909

Throughout 1909 the movement continued to grow and in September a Rally at Crystal Palace attracted over 11,000 Scouts. The numbers in Finchley were also on the increase and in October they, along with other Scouts from the surrounding area, and numbering about 250, held another display at Christ’s College. An address was given by Sir Francis Vane, who was, at the time, Scout Commissioner for London. Specifically referring to the Finchley contingent he said that they showed marked physical improvement and that the exercises they has undergone appeared to have developed bone and muscle, and in addition they had become exceedingly active and alert.

The Boy Scouts Association was formed in 1910, in order to provide a national body in the United Kingdom which could organise and support the rapidly growing number of Scout Patrols and troops. It also enabled Baden-Powell to gain full control of the Scout Movement, which had been under the influence of his book publisher.

In 1910, following the establishment of The Boy Scouts Association, Headquarters provided the Finchley Local Association with a Warrant to manage Scouting within the District detailed Finchley and Hendon.

Thanks to Ivan Oakes we have a copy of a Leader’s Warrant issued in 1910 to his grandfather, Edward Oakes. A copy of this Warrant is here and a picture of him camping on Brownsea Island, along with some other photos, can be seen by clicking here.

Notwithstanding the District certificate issued in 1910 there is a letter stating that in 1909 a local committee, that became Finchley Local Association, was formed to help the spread of Scouting amongst Finchley boys. This was done in the knowledge that activities had started in the area the previous year. 1909 is therefore considered to be the official year that our District was formed.

Look up your local Scout Group, because you’ve got a safe, practical community who will encourage and support you.'
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls