3rd Finchley Sea Scouts

Sea Scouts have been an official branch of the Scout Movement since 1909 and although it is known that in the early years some Groups in the District had Sea Scout Patrols they did not survive.

However, in May 1943, during the War, there was a suggestion that the District should form a Sea Scout Troop and after a lengthy delay Mr Wrightson, a Sea Scout leader in St Pancras and the Sea Scout adviser for the County, was invited to discuss the matter at the Executive Committee meeting in November 1944. He spoke at some length on the attributes, activities and equipment needed for the running of Sea Scouts, and pointed out that there were many difficulties to overcome in their formation.

The District Commissioner (DC) reported that the services of Mr Boyle, an old Sea Scout who had spent the last 10 years in the Navy, had been promised, and that by forming a Troop it would assist those boys that wished to make the Navy their career. While Sea Scouts follow a similar programme to Scouts there is a particular emphasis on boating and other water based activities and they learn navigation and how to work on engines.

At the end of the meeting, following a general discussion Cyril Allen proposed that ‘Sea Scouts should be formed in Finchley’. This was seconded by Mr Alvarez and the meeting was in unanimous agreement.

Despite the commitment to start the Sea Scout Troop it was another year before everything was in place to begin, including having already agreed that the new Group would be called the 1st Finchley Sea Scouts. Additionally all Groups in the District were put on notice with a suggestion that they should, if possible, have separate patrols of boys who were wanting to become Sea Scouts.

At the Executive Committee meeting in November 1945 it was reported that Mr Heatley had offered his services as the leader and that Mr Wrightson was satisfied with his boatmanship.

The first meeting of the new Group was therefore scheduled for Tuesday 11th December. At the meeting it was also agreed that the Troop could meet at Finchley Lodge, the District Headquarters, free of charge for the first six months.

The Lodge, which had only recently been purchased by the District and opened in May, was not only the meeting place for the new Troop. It also provided rooms (Dens) for the Air Scouts, the 7th Finchley and the 11th Finchley to meet in, as well as having enough accommodation for District events and activities.

The new Group did not immediately attract a lot of members and in January a short item appeared in the press which, although announcing the Troop was up & running, was in reality a recruitment advert. At the end of March when the Group first appeared on the District census there were 6 Sea Scouts and 2 leaders.

The census also stated that the Group had one King’s Scout. This is believed to be Alan Cutter who was previously a member of the 2nd Finchley, and may have completed his Badge before he transferred to the Sea Scouts. At the Windsor St George’s Day Parade in April Alan was one of four King’s Scouts to represent the District and he had the honour of carrying the County Colours.

During May two more press reports appeared, the first about swimming lessons and raising funds to purchase a boat. The other was about the regular help given to Wellhouse Hospital (now Barnet General Hospital) in Barnet and the trips to ‘Discovery’, the ship famous for its connection to Captain Scott, where the boys received training in boatmanship.

During August there were two further press reports about the Sea Scouts. The first told of a night hike from London Colney to Mill Hill and the second detailed a training course that some of the lads had attended on board ‘Discovery’.

At the District Executive meeting in September the DC reported that it was not possible to have two Groups with the same number, there already being a 1st Finchley Air Scouts. As a result it was agreed that the Sea Scouts should be renamed as the 3rd Finchley Sea Scouts.

Over the next few months Group numbers began to pick up and with a canoe having recently been purchased they were looking forward to the arrival of their first boat.

Additionally a warrant had been approved for Mr E Hudson who was to be the Scoutmaster.

A Cub Pack had also been formed and on the 3rd December, at a small gathering, the first 6 recruits were invested by Mr R Jackson the Assistant District Commissioner for Cubs. Although the press report noted that Miss June Hudgell was the Acting Cubmaster her warrant was approved shortly after the event.

Around the same time Mr Balsillie the Assistant County Commissioner for Senior Scouts visited the Group and took part in a wide game that they had planned.

During February 1947 the District announced the names of the Scouts that would represent Finchley later in the year, at the World Scout Jamboree in Moisson, France. Among those chosen were four members of the 3rd, Alan Cutter, A Kirby, P Hassell and B Hatt, who were to be part of the London Sea Scout Troop. As the article referred to A Kirby and P Hassell as King’s Scouts it must be assumed that they gained the Badge at some stage since the 1st April 1946.

Training on ‘Discovery’ continued in February. In March the Group entered teams, with great success, in both the Junior and Senior races at the District Cross Country. In the Juniors’ race Leslie Richardson won with Edward Stevens coming in second. In the Seniors’ race J Smith completed the course first. In the team competitions the Juniors came first and in the Seniors they shared the honour of first place with the 11th Finchley. The full results were given in a press report.

The census figures at the end of March revealed a substantial increase in numbers. The recently formed Cub Pack had 8 while the number of Sea Scouts had increased to 25, of whom 8 were Senior Sea Scouts.

On the 1st April 6 Senior Sea Scouts enjoyed a visit to the television studios at Alexandra Palace. They were given a guided tour of the facilities during which they were able to watch the recording of a half hour show. Later they were given the opportunity of watching it again as it would be seen by the television audience.

A couple of weeks later the Group performed its own show. Jointly with the 20th Finchley they gave a concert at the Holy Trinity Church Hall, East Finchley. The show entitled ‘Byts and Pieces’ was well received by the full house and the local press.

On the 26th April P Hassell was one of 6 King’s Scouts to represent the District at the National St George’s Day Parade at Windsor.

On the 31st May along with the other 3 Groups that were using Finchley Lodge as their Headquarters (1st Finchley Air Scouts, 7th Finchley & 11th Finchley) a ‘Combined Ops’ garden fete was held to raise money for their Group funds. The fete, attended by more than 500, was given good press coverage and was opened by ‘Gert & Daisy’ (Elsie & Doris Waters) the comic actresses and singers who performed as a double act.

Although the 4 aforementioned boys attended the Jamboree in Moisson during the summer there is no mention as to whether the rest of the Sea Scouts went away on a summer camp.

The issue of qualified leaders for the Sea Scouts was an ever present concern as well as funds and the lack of parental support. The Troop was being led by Gordon Read. the SM of the 186th North London who was providing cover while the Group found their own leader. He was fortunate to have unwarranted assistance from some of the Senior Sea Scouts.

The minutes of the Group Council note that there was a parents’ social in December at which it was announced that a supporters group would be formed. With 5 volunteers this moved forward over the next couple of months and resulted in plans to hold a jumble sale and regular whist drives. These events supplemented the collection of newspapers and bottles that the Sea Scouts were already doing.

When the census was taken at the end of March Norman Littledyke was the new Scoutmaster having had his warrant approved a month earlier. The Senior Sea Scouts were still helping to run the Troop whose number had risen to 30. Although the Pack still only comprised a handful of Cubs, June Hudgell had 2 warranted assistants: Audrey Palmer and Doreen Vernon, although Doreen had in fact been helping the Pack since its inception.

The next piece of information that has been found about the Group is a newspaper article in November concerning a social, at which 60 parents and friends were entertained. The article also makes reference to Gordon Reid being the Scoutmaster again, and showing photographs of a successful summer camp in Northern Ireland.

The leadership of the Troop remained fluid and by early 1949 Jeff Hutchinson was the Acting Scoutmaster with assistance from some of the Senior Sea Scouts. Additionally, to try and steady the ship (no pun intended) Cyril Allen agreed to act as the GSM while still undertaking his duties as DC.

The census figures at the end of March were little changed from the previous year although there was one less ACM as Doreen Vernon had resigned.

A summer camp was held at Wray, close to the castle and the shore of Windermere from the 6th to the 20th August. When it was discovered that the 20th Finchley were also camping there at the same time arrangements were made for them to travel together. There was a press report that gave full details of the Group’s activities.

At the end of October, by which time Eric Whittlestone had taken over from the DC as acting GSM, the Group held a dance jointly with the 7th Finchley. In December the Group held a 4th birthday party which received press coverage.

At the end of the year the District Executive expressed concern that the Group was still relying too heavily on them for support and wanted the parents’ committee to sort out the leadership problems and start to run the Group on their own. They also specifically mentioned that they should not continue to rely on Gordon Reid, from the 186th North London, as he needed to concentrate his efforts on his own Group.


More to follow.



To view associated press cuttings and photos click here.

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