A History Of:
1st Petts Wood Scout Group
1935 – 1971
In 1934, Petts Wood was growing rapidly, but there were few recreational facilities for young people. A Mr. & Mrs. Barrow decided to try and form a Scout Group. There was no hall available, Crofton School then being approached by farm tracks and unlit country lanes, while St. Francis Church was considered unsuitable for an ‘Open Group’ catering for boys of all religious persuasions.
So Mr. & Mrs. Barrow pushed back their furniture and on the first evening nine boys attended. Only one was of Scout age – Reg Baker who can therefore claim to be the first Scout in Petts Wood. Mr. Barrow became Scoutmaster with his wife as Akela of the Cub Pack.
The Group rapidly grew in numbers and Mrs. Barrow’s dining room at number 74 Crescent Drive (surely a house that qualifies for a blue plaque!) was no longer adequate. The next Headquarters was Mr. Thompson’s Hairdressing Salon in Queensway. In 1935 the Group was officially registered as the 1st Petts Wood with the scarf colours of black and gold halves and a motto ‘Out of Darkness into Light’. This motto was to demonstrate the benefit of Scout training and the new environment in Petts Wood.
The first camp was held in 1935, a cub camp on Pound Hill. In 1936 the Cub Pack won Orpington District Cub Sports Trophy, which was subsequently displayed in the Hairdresser’s window.
Later the Group Headquarters’ moved to a photographic Studio and Mr. Alan Martyn had become Scoutmaster and was assisted by Mr. Les Palmer while Mr. Barrow remained Group Scoutmaster and his wife continued as being Akela.
Among the Scouts were Ken Silk, Ivor Thompson, Geof Whitton, and the brothers Biddel. Leading Cub Scouts were Peter Rawlings, Ron Hall and Roy Thompson.
In 1937 Mr. And Mrs. Barrow left the district, but the Group continued under Mr. Alan Martyn, meetings being held in Petts Wood Social Club and in the community Hall in the Square.
Little is known of the history of the Group during the War years, but it survived. After the war was over, the Group was made a most generous gift of the plot of land at the rear of Crest View Drive and a wooden hut was erected on this site as headquarters. Unfortunately a spark from a passing locomotive destroyed this hut and the Group remains in the debt of 3rd Petts Wood Group, who generously allowed us to share their headquarters at St. James’ Catholic Church.
The Group Scoutmaster at this time was Dr. Don Webb, while Mrs. Joan Tomlinson was Akela. Under the guidance of the Group committee chairman, Lt. Col David Filshill, Secretary Dick Dilley and Treasurer Geof Riddle, the Group commissioned, and had erected, a permanent headquarters, which was opened by the County Commissioner in 1953. It was at this ceremony that Mr. Tony Packham joined the Group.
In 1954 a signal honour was paid to the Group when it was selected for the annual Group visit by the President of the Scout Association, HRH the late Duke of Gloucester. Shortly afterwards Dr. Ebb left and Tony Packham took over. There was a need for development of the Headquarters, which was a shell without lighting or heating and the provision of new equipment since the ancient Bell Tents then in use were no longer serviceable,
A parents committee was formed under Mr. Jack Cole and with such stalwarts as Peggie Sharpe, Ken Gillanders, Tom Styn and their ladies and many others, a great deal was achieved.
The Group prospered, Gorden Sharp and Stuart Dyos gained the first Explorer Belts to be achieved in Kent and a succession of Queen’s Scout Badges and Duke of Edinburgh Awards signalled a purple passage in the Group’s History.
Mr. Ken Jepson and Mr. Alan Baker gave firm foundation to a strong senior Scout Section, while Mr. John Hobling started a Rover Crew, until this was banished by the Advanced Party Report.
It had become evident that the present Headquarters was too small for the numbers attending and thanks to a most generous gift from a parent, Mr. McBean, and much hard work from Leaders, Parents and others, it was doubled in size.
Inevitably during those years many Leaders came and went, all remembered with affection and all contributed to the success of the Group. Particular mention should be made to Tony Crocker and his wife Brenda, Peter Willett. Jack Cole had now taken over as Group chairman with Peggie Sharp as Secretary and Mike Thatcher as Treasurer, later succeced by Paul Kent, while John Osbourne struggled to keep the Group Transport running. I still recall with affection that black Bedford Van, which the Group was given and became the first Group Transport.
A brief history of the Group would not be complete without some mention of camps. The Easters with the Patrol Leaders at Gilwell Park, whitsuns in Knole Park, Sheep dipping in the Peak District at Hathersage and ‘Hat’ and ‘Boo-Boo’ missing the coach. Jersey and the Isle of Man, Charmouth and re-dressing David Davis on the Station.
The camp in North Wales and then a trip to Snowdon. Pony Trekking on Exmoor from the camp at South Molton, where ‘Heap’ melted a billie on the fire. Dawlish, also we were inspected by the Captain of the Queens Guard. He flew down from London in his plane for the purpose and Derf’s potato wide game. Southern Ireland with home-made chairs and the film crews and the new Camp Fire Songs learned from the Cork RFC on the boat home.
So many memories, those fantastic ‘spotted dos’, the journeys and battles with British Rail, the constant relief to find that the equipment sent in advance had actually arrived. A word too, about the water journeys. The cruiser trip to Oxford and back with its many additions to the mermaid club (not least mine). The trip to Llangollen with its award of the Bar & Oakleaf Cluster to ‘Hat’ for his sudden unwished-for descent from a footbridge into the turgid waters beneath.
In 1970 the 2nd Petts Wood Group had arrived on a leased strip of land adjacent to our own site. It soon became clear that two Groups competing for boys, Leaders and finance in the same area would not flourish and an amalgamation was suggested. Tony Packham agreed to resign as Assistant County Commissioner to become the Group Scout Leader for the Group and on an evening in 1971, some 200 boys assembled in the 1st Petts Wood H.Q. to remove their Black and Gold Scarves and to don the scarlet scarves of the 7th Petts Wood.
Both Groups had proud histories and traditions and I am sure that these will not be forgotten by the 7th Petts Wood Scout Group