Note: We are very grateful to Tony McTeare, an ex-Scout and Leader of the 4th Finchley, who in 2014 produced a book detailing the history of the Group. With Tony’s permission much of the material that follows is taken from that publication. It has been supplemented by information from old press cuttings and a few other sources.
The first meeting came about in July 1917, when 5 boys, who were members of the 1st Finchley Troop, met together in the road outside 38 Cyprus Road, Finchley and continued in fields at the bottom of Windsor Road. The boys were Arthur Miall (aged 13) who lived at number 38, Leigh Bigwood, Fred Pedler and two others with the surnames Cook and Tarrant. What caused the breakaway is unknown but they continued with similar meeting through the summer, then in the autumn, through the good work of the Congregational Minister, Rev, J. Ackroyd they got the use of a loft at the back of Callows, a small greengrocer in Ballards Lane. They wanted to call themselves the 2nd Finchley.
As a result they became attached to the church, and in the church bulletin for September 1917 the following appeared:
‘A troop of Scouts is in the process of formation and officers of the Sunday School are negotiating for suitable premises nearby in Hendon Lane for working quarters.”
It did not take long before the troop had expanded to 25 Scouts and 10 Cubs. It is not totally clear as to whom the leader was at this time but there is a record that shows that during the war both sections were being run by Miss Ethel Taylor, who later became a Missionary in China.
After the war the Group could be found meeting in ‘The Rabbit Hutch’ (an asbestos building behind the church) and Capt. Hassell is recorded as being the Scoutmaster (SM) with assistance being provided by Arthur’s elder brother Sydney. About the same time, the Group was told to change its name to the 4th Finchley as there was already a troop in East Finchley that was called the 2nd.
The Group number is in fact quite interesting in that it is thought that the Groups were numbered in sequence and by 1914 they were already in double figures. Maybe there had been a very early 4th Finchley that did not survive the early years and the number was available for use again.
The Group scarf was black and yellow and meetings were held on a Tuesday evening. By 1922 there were four Patrols: Seagulls, Eagles, Swifts and Peewits, and the Patrol Leaders were Eric Archer, Charlie Carpenter, Peachy and Frank Jackman?
There was a Whitsun Camp in 1922, held jointly with the 2nd and 10th Finchley, the venue being Dangerfield’s Farm off Frith Lane, Mill Hill. There was also a summer camp that year at Bognor in a field near the beach.
The Rovers were also up and running by then and Arthur was a member. He was also a member of the Local Association, undertaking the role of District Secretary, a position he held until the Second World War.
The Scouts also attended a Rally in that year at Alexandra Palace when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) was invested by the Chief Scout, Baden Powell, as Chief Scout of Wales. The Patrol names were changed to Lions, Panthers, Buffalos and Kangaroos. Two years later, the troop along with another from Hendon was chosen to be the Guard of Honour to the Prince of Wales when he came to unveil the War Memorial at Mill Hill barracks. A further 2 years later (1926) the troop went to the Torchlight Tattoo at Wembley Stadium and with other troops marched round the arena at the end of the performance.
It was the year of The General Strike and many miners came to London to support of their cause. Among them were a group of Rover Scouts from a small village in South Wales who were given hospitality by our Crew. A year later these men sent each of our Rovers a differently carved walking stick in appreciation of the hospitality shown.
There is no record of any 10th anniversary celebration being held in 1927.
Apart from the following that come from the Church Magazine, there are no other recorded notes about the Group during the 1930s.
May 1930 – ‘Mr T. Johnson was presented with a “Badge of Honour” together with an autographed letter from Chief Scout Baden-Powell.’
October 1930 – ‘A most enjoyable function was arranged by our Scouts when the first reunion was held. Thirty four past and present members of the rovers, scouts and cubs sat down to an excellent supper under the leadership of Mr T. Johnson, the retiring President. A few toasts were given and some speeches made; but the main idea was to get together to renew old friendships and talk over old times. We were very pleased to see all the old members of the Group who came, particularly Mr T. G. Hassell and Jim Bidgood our old Rover Mate.’
April 1931 – ‘A Scout and Guide Week is being held by the local Associations from 19th to 25th. Our own Scouts and Guides will be providing the programme at a Social to be held in the Hall at 7.45pm on April 22nd showing all sections at work and play. Mr Dickin, as Chaplain to the Scouts and Guides will be in the Chair. We hope the Hall will be packed as the Scouts and Guides are now definitely associated with our Church and this is an effort by them to make their work known and show us that we have real live organizations in our Church. Please book the date.’
November 1932 – ‘Our Rovers are opening a new den on our premises on Saturday afternoon, November 12 at 3.30pm. The Church has allowed them to make use of the pitch-pine sliding doors that used to be under the gallery of the church. This, together with seven guineas of Rovers funds has made it possible for them to construct a room that shows signs of excellent workmanship. We congratulate them.’
December 1933 – ‘Invitations have now been sent out to all parents and friends for the Guide and Scouts Social on Wednesday Dec 6 at 7.15 for 7.30 sharp. You can be assured of a good entertainment and a social evening combined.’
January 1935 – ‘Please note these dates – Friday, January 25th and Saturday 26th On these dates our scout Group is presenting two plays in the Church Hall. We are certain that our friends in the church, who saw the plays presented by the Group last year, will want to make sure of their seats for this year’s entertainment. Tickets priced 1/- and 2/- are obtainable from any member of the Group, or from Mr A. Wolfe, 35 Clifton Road.’
November 1939 – ‘You may be aware that the accumulation of waste paper in your loft constitutes a grave danger in case of fire. Our Scouts are willing to relieve you of this danger.’
When the war started the Group was, like every other organisation, put under a great strain, especially with regard to leaders. Many were called up leaving many Groups with the challenge of finding volunteers to act as temporary leaders. Arthur who was now the Group Scoutmaster (GSM) was quite fortunate in that he was helped by a string of Rover Scouts whenever they were available.
However, Arthur himself was also evacuated. As a Bank of England employee he was moved to a purpose built camp at Hurstbourne in Hampshire where he and his colleagues could continue their work. He retained his position as GSM and did what he could from afar and when he was given leave.
Like the Seniors and Rovers from other Groups the 4th were quickly into action building Anderson Shelters in back gardens and Morrison Shelters below staircases for the elderly and infirm. They had a good reputation for their work. It is also known that at least 4 Rovers from the Group acted as Stretcher Bearers at Finchley Memorial Hospital.
Meetings continued as best as possible with the camping ground being used on many occasions. The District also managed to hold some of the annual fixtures such as the swimming gala.
In 1940 Eric Poupard became the acting GSM, Jack Field the SM with assistance from Alan Hosier and Don Alvarez. There were 22 Scouts and 12 Cubs led by Nan Friend.
During 1941 many boys showed an interest in becoming Air Scouts and joined others of a like mind, from other groups, by attending meetings with the Air Training Corps at Martin School in Finchley. There they were instructed in Air subjects while still meeting regularly with their own Group. Eventually in 1942 an Air Scouts Group was formed and 2 patrols from the 4th left to join them. Don Alvarez also left to join the newly created troop and his position was filled by Bob Hunt.
At the end of 1942 the Group was deeply saddened to hear that one of their Rover Scouts had been killed in action. Roy Lamerton was a navigator in a crew of three flying a Blenheim Light Bomber and was shot down during an attack on the Philips works at Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
By 1943 leaders were spread thinly. Alan Hosier was called up and Bob Hunt who had completed a six month University course was taking further training with the RAF. Fortunately an old Scout Capt. Booker offered temporary help.
Throughout these years there was great cooperation between Groups, with the 10th and 15th Finchley becoming particularly close. Gordon Hall, (the 10th HQ) was often the venue for many dances organised by the Rovers.
At the start of 1944 Bob Hunt was invested as a Rover, there were 24 Cubs and 20 Scouts but by June, fear of V1 and V2 rockets had reduced the numbers to 8 and 10. Nevertheless the whole Group were involved a month later with the local Scout and Guide week, the purpose of which was to show off the work being done to support the National Wartime Effort.
In May 1945 a Whitsun camp was held at Shenley and after VE Day things started to improve. In August a Summer Camp was held at Martin, near Dover in Kent and the event was even marked by a report in the Finchley Press.
The period immediately after the war ended was probably the busiest in the history of the Group. Servicemen were returning thick and fast, Victoria Hall which had been taken over by civil authorities, was once again available, and boys were as keen as ever to join. The Rovers joined several other Groups by providing regular help at Downe camping ground. Located adjacent to Biggin Hill Airport, it had been used as a base for the Home Guard during World War II and required considerable effort in the late 1940s to return it to a Scout camping ground.
During these years there was also a few comings and goings with regard to the leaders. Eric Poupard had been replaced as acting GSM by Ray Salkilld and Bob Hunt was the SM. The Cubs were being led by Mirtle Fulton with assistance from Irene Lachmann.
1946 started with some sad news. In January came the tragic news that Jack Field had been killed in a flying accident and the Group went into mourning for a month. By coincidence though better news came when it was discovered that two other members of the Rover Crew, brothers Doug and Dennis Leopold, were recovering from war wound and occupying beds next to each other at Stanmore.
In May the Group held another of what they called ‘unconventional dances’ which were well liked and well supported. According to the press cutting dozens of people had to be turned away.
Summer camp that year was held in Exmouth. Ray Salkilld was in charge and he was supported by Bob Hunt, John Richardson, Tony Booker and Eddie Walker. Although there is no report of this more about the Group appears in the press during December.
Although Senior Scouts were introduced in October the Group did not establish this section until the 24th February the following year. In the meantime, like several other Groups they initially set up Senior Patrols. The first separate leader was John Mountain (Rastus) followed by John (Johnnie) Richardson, a tall man, famous for his strength and appetite. As a Scout throughout the war, whilst completing a 14 mile two day hike for the First Class badge Johnnie’s progress was interrupted by an air-raid, a diversion near a prisoner-of-war camp and the reluctance of a farmer to allow camping.
Despite the very poor winter weather, which resulted in many Group activities being cancelled or postponed, 1947 proved to be one of the busiest years. Several press cuttings have been found that include reference to a hike in January undertaken by 4 members of the Group’s Senior Patrol, more dances, summer camp as well as the celebration to mark the Group’s 30th birthday.
The birthday party consisted mainly of fun and games for the Cubs followed by a huge American supper that was served to about 80 Cubs, Scouts and Rovers, as well as a few special visitors, one of whom was Arthur Miall. He and the newest Cub had the privilege of jointly blowing out the candles on the cake.
Derek Batten (Batty) and L Smith, both King’s Scouts, had the honour of representing the Group at the 6th World Scout Jamboree in France where they enjoyed the experience of meeting Scouts from all over the world. From France they went directly to the Isle of Wight and met up with the rest of the troop for their summer camp.
The weather at camp was great and with the site being located next to a creek several boys learnt to swim and they all had a lot of fun with a couple of rubber dinghies. There was however one mishap when Batty decided to set fire to some gorse close to a patrol tent and it took the whole troop 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze.
During the war and for a short while after, Arthur took it upon himself to keep everyone in the Group in touch, including those evacuated and others serving in the forces. His bulletin in 1947 was picked up by the press in which it mentions that the Group had 7 King’s Scouts.
There is also mention of the planned new HQ becoming a reality with work upon the foundation being started. Fund raising started in earnest and one scheme involved collecting jam jars and soft drink bottles.
Other items that get a brief mention by Arthur are a Guy Fawkes dance that attracted about 150 people, the fact that some Senior Scouts helped at the Royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip (5 selling programmes and 3 guarding presents at St James’s Palace), the Christmas good turn (scrubbing out all the church halls), and the ‘Christmas Cracker’ dance on the 20th December that involved the pulling of an enormous cracker measuring 9 feet by 3 feet.
The first order of business for 1948 was the wedding of Bob Hunt. He married Barbara née Surridge on 31st January Holy Trinity Church, East Finchley. Upon leaving the church they passed under an arch of staves held by a 4th Finchley Guard of Honour.
Directly from the wedding Peter Lachmann, Terry Howard and William Lloyd went off to complete their test for the King’s Scout Badge. These were then presented at a ceremony on the 23rd February, when John Mountain and Derek Batten where also able finally able to receive theirs.
The following appeared a while later in the Church Magazine: ‘The Scout Troop is reporting excellent progress; a fourth patrol has been started owing to an influx of numbers from the Cubs. The troop has gained several Trophies recently, and now possesses eight First Class Scouts, seven of whom are King’s Scouts, and six holders of the Bushman’s Thong.’ It is known that L Smith was one of the other King’s Scouts but the name of the 7th is not currently known.
Another dance was held in February but the main focus of attention was the new HQ and the endless discussions about what to call it. The jam jar collection was not going well with only 500 towards a target of 2000.
In March the five new King’s Scouts had the pleasure of attending a ceremony at Imperial HQ, where the Chief Scout presented them with their certificates, A month later they were among the number that attended the annual Windsor parade.
One of the trophies referred to in the church magazine was the Yates Cup. In June the troop were declared the inaugural winners of this new award, given to the troop considered to be the most efficient for all-round activities.
The Cubs had a good year with keen star work being completed and visits to the Zoo and Pantomime. The Sixers attended the annual Sixers camp.
The troop held an Easter camp at Phasels Wood and a Whitsun camp at Cuckman’s Farm, Potters Crouch in Herts. Summer camp was held at Holkham in Norfolk with 33 members attending. This was a great success and a substantial report subsequently appeared in the press. It was reported that during the year well over 600 nights were spent under canvas.
Badge work progressed nicely and they entered the usual District events and competitions, including football and handball. Visits to Madame Tussaud’s, Cadby Hall and the Cricklewood Railway Yard were also made.
The Seniors also took part in the District events that included a wide game and the handball league. Five members acted as stewards at the Bishops’ Conference at Lambeth Palace,
During the year it also became apparent that Arthur Miall was no longer able to continue as the GSM and he resigned his position, although a couple of years later he was made an Honorary GSM. Alan Stilwell took over on a permanent basis, relieving Ray who had been covering the position.
The usual parents’ social was held towards the end of the year, giving the Group the opportunity to display trophies, photos and other items relating to their eventful year.
Apart from the usual ‘crazy dances’ during 1949, the main items to report are the opening of the new H.Q., the troop’s summer camp and an expedition to Lake District by the Senior Scouts. All three events were reported on by the press.
After much discussion about the name for the H.Q., ‘PAX’ was finally agreed on. It was the name of BP’s home in Kenya. Each Patrol was given 15 shillings to decorate their corner. A special souvenir programme was produced and on 19th March the building was officially opened by Mr F Haydn Dimmock, the editor of ‘The Scout’.
The press described the Scouts’ Summer camp in Seaton, on the south coast of Dorset as ‘the best ever’. Nothing can be added to that report. Again, nothing can be added to the press report about the Senior Scouts trip to the Lake District, other than to confirm that it was the first camp they had without a leader.
More to follow.