Camping before the Advance Party Report
The first camp ever was held at Humphrey's Farm, Guestling, at Whitsun 1934, as a training camp for Patrol Leaders and Assistant Patrol Leaders (or Seconds as they were then known). Whitsun camps, which started straight after school on the Friday of half-term and finished on the Tuesday morning, continued to be held at local farms until the late 60's. They were regarded as training camps for the Tenderfoots, as new Scouts used to be called.
The first Summer Camp, attended by 13 Scouts, was at Shopham Bridge, near Petworth - an area to which we have returned many times. The trek cart, which we still use, was already one of the Troop's treasured possessions.
By now there were 35 Scouts in camp, plus the first of a long line of visitors from abroad, one André de Ny, a French Scout, whose excellent singing voice was much appreciated at the camp fires. I think it was at this camp that the tradition of camp fire singing, which was to become such a feature of the Troop's life for many years, really began to blossom.
By the time of the Cranham camp of 1939, two Senior patrols, the Owls and the Buffaloes, had been established, and there were over 40 Scouts at camp. Aerial runways and axemanship were well established in the programme, as these two photos from the second Cranham camp illustrate.
During the war camping continued more or less as normal; the two main problems the war brought were camouflaging the tents, and coping with food rationing. The camps were mostly held at Gorhambury Park, which was about 3 miles from the St. Albans HQ. It says much for the enthusiasm of the Scouts at the time that everything had to be taken to camp by trek cart. By the time the Troop returned to Hastings there were eight patrols, with eight Scouts in each patrol!
As you can see from the list of venues below, the following twenty years took the Troop to many locations around the South of England, and Wales. Always there were large numbers in camp, usually over 50, including Seniors and Rovers. Camp invariably lasted two weeks and included many hikes, often staying out overnight to qualify for the 1st Class Scout test. Cooking was always done by the Patrols on wood fires (as it still is today), and everyone, including the Scouters, slept in bell tents.
The whole Troop went out on a day hike together, and there were camp sports, and a coach excursion to a local place of interest. There was always a church parade on Sundays, and there were many camp fires, usually led by Mr LHG Baker, or Com as he was known to the Scouts.
My first camp was in 1965 at Wootton Courtney. This was rather an in-between period. Of the old team of Messrs. Baker, Byrom, Cookson and Bowmer, who had run things for so many years, only Bish (Mr. Byrom) was still active. David Thompson joined the year before me, and Bish taught us all about camping, 24th style. By now, the glory days had passed and things were rather run down. For the next few years we only had a comparative handful of Scouts in camp - about 15 was the average.
Icelandics replaced the old bell tents, which were mildewed and unusable, and by now the Scouters had taken to using 14 x 14 ex-army tents, but otherwise remarkably few changes were made to our style of camping.
Another popular pastime, which is still enjoyed, was bivouacking. Although it was inevitable that the Scouts would get almost no sleep, and would probably be soaked if it rained, there was never any lack of enthusiasm to try one's hand at shelter building.