Group History

Welcome to a rough history of the 10th Royal Eltham Scout Group on Shooters Hill

The information here is taken from our newsletters and records over the years. If you have ever been involved in our Group then please mail us in the ‘Contact Us’ section with anything that you can add to these pages.

In 1907, Robert Baden-Powell ran an experimental camp on Brownsea Island, Dorset to try out his army training techniques on boys from a variety of backgrounds. After this success, he wrote Scouting For Boys, the basis of the World Scout Movement.

Soon Scout Troops began forming all over the country. Local Scout Associations and Scout Troops were formed including the Eltham and N.W. Kent (Woolwich) Associations part of the N.W. Kent (S.E. London) District and Kent Boy Scouts Council. On 1st January 1911, Eltham had 3 Troops and 91 Scouts and Woolwich had 6 Troops and 227 Scouts.

Other young people were also interested in becoming Scouts, so in 1916 the Wolf Cubs and the Girl Guides were founded. On 1st October 1919, a national register of Troops and Packs was begun.

The 10th Royal Eltham Scout Group 1921 – 1938
The 10th Royal Eltham (Shooters Hill) Troop was first registered nationally on 25th October 1921.
The 10th Royal Eltham Wolf Cub Pack was registered on 3rd January 1922. These registrations were cancelled on 30th September 1925 due to lack of numbers.

A 10th Royal Eltham (Avery Hill) Troop was registered on 5th May 1926 and was re-registered as a group on 23rd October 1928. It was sponsored by the Avery Hill College and “confined to physically defective boys.”
This group’s registration again was cancelled on 1st October 1937. It is not known where these groups met and there are no direct links between these and our current Group on Shooters Hill.

On 17th May 1938, under registration number 19445, another 10th Royal Eltham Scout Group (Shooters Hill) was registered. The Group consisted of 12 Wolf Cubs, their Cub mistress, Miss MJ Couper, and Assistant Cub mistress Miss Barbara M Hart. It met at Christchurch Hall, Shooters Hill, and recruited from Christ Church Infant and Junior School.

The War Years 1939 – 1945

There are very few records that cover the next 10 years, but the group certainly grew.

By 1939 there was also a Scout Troop, and both sections were as large as the church hall could handle, 24 at max.

The war was a big blow to the Group, the Scoutmaster Mr Baxter was called up for the war effort. Mr Wood the Assistant Scoutmaster was also in the Royal Artillery. The Troop’s remaining four scouts were left in the charge of Mr. A Ludgater, a Patrol Leader.

Miss Couper was evacuated to the provinces and Miss Hart carried on alone with just two cubs. Money was scarce and fundraising almost impossible.
It was suggested that the10th merged with another Eltham Troop, but they were either too far away or met on the wrong night. Mr Beck, Scoutmaster of 11th Woolwich, was approached. Their meeting place had not been blacked out so they could not meet there. The troop they were supposed to merge with the 11th but again it was thought it was also too far away. The Shooters Hill War Troop was formed on 15th November 1939 and Mr Beck ran meetings when he could on most Wednesdays and Saturdays at Christ Church. The Groups equipment with shared with the 11th Woolwich and special funds were started.
Mr. Ludgater became troop Leader with Mr Beck as the Scoutmaster. The War troop soon changed meeting places again. Mr Beck continued until March 1941, when he was evacuated along with the Royal Arsenal. The leadership fell into the hands of a new troop Leader, A. Oates and the troop went from strength to strength.

On Monday 10th August 1942, Miss Hart retired her post as cub mistress, and handed over to Mrs Evans and her 2 assistants at the 11th. Working together wasn’t always easy. There was much discussion about which district the 10th should come under. A Woolwich scoutmaster wanted to open a new troop on Shooters Hill at the 10th HQ at Christchurch.
However, no firm decisions were made, and things carried on as before.

On Monday 17th April 1944, 17-year-old Peter Munro and 16-year-old Ken Monks restarted the 10th Royal Eltham Troop. The ex-cubs and other young people were asked to join again. This did not last very long as the ‘V2 Flying Bombs’ scared more people away.

The troop’s HQ was hit and the roof was destroyed in mid 1944. The Scouts did their best to repair it. The Hall was soon hit again, and meetings were discontinued.

In April 1945, Acting Scoutmaster Oates arranged for the War Troop to hold meetings at the 10th HQ and its meetings were resumed for a short while. Leadership problems continued and on 17th September 1945 Mr Ayres, a cub parent with no scouting experience, helped restart the 10th Troop again.

By September 1947, the Troop was leaderless again. The older scouts moved to another Troop, and Mrs Evans became Acting Scoutmaster for the younger ones. The district began searching for new leaders.

An opening evening with the District Commissioner

1947 – 1957: The story is taken up by Cliff Blake in an email sent to Paul Bienkov, Group Scout Leader in 2004.

Dear Paul, June 15th 2004
A couple of years ago I exchanged e-mails with the Severndroog site, but now I see you have a group site. Let me tell you of my involvement with the 10th. In 1945, I was a Patrol Leader in the 5th RE. Our Group Scout Master, Wally A Wray, had also become Assistant District Commissioner. Sometime after VE Day he said to PL Eric Scott and myself, “I am going to restart the 10th Royal Eltham … on Shooters Hill, will you help me?”
We were 15, coming up to 16, and agreed. I believe Mrs.Evans was at the first meeting to take over as adult supervisor, but after the first few meetings Wally Wray dropped out and we PL’s actually organised the instruction, games, etc. with Mrs.Evans taking the closing prayer. Eric Scott then also dropped out due to evening classes, and I enlisted the aid of my school friend Peter Kennedy, also of the 5th.

Later Mr. Ayres agreed to take over from Mrs. Evans, but we lads still organised the activities. I joined the RAF in January 1947, leaving Peter K running the troop with the aid of the older 10th boys. I still have a book, “Jet Flight” with the inscription “Presented to Clifford Blake in grateful recognition of services rendered — From the 10th Royal Eltham Scout Group”.

Somewhere along the way Frank Osborn and Dick Barron, both 10th Scouts, began to assist, eventually becoming Scouters organising summer camps. From time to time I did help at the camps when on leave, and remember one of the Scout’s fathers, Mr.Armstrong { actually Mr Chapman}, being Scoutmaster.

As late as August 1957 I was invited to the 10th RE summer camp on Exmoor. Dick B was the driving force with Frank O assisting. I remember when we arrived it was cold and raining. Each adult took a patrol and had to bully the dispirited lads into erecting the tents. The boys withdrew inside and lay on their ground sheets saying that they didn’t want to get tea or supper, as it was too wet. Again we had to drive them into changing out of uniform, while we each tried to start a patrol cooking fire in the wind and rain. When the water was boiling they reluctantly came out for a drink, and were encouraged to collect firewood. The hot drink got them going, and thankfully we got a hot meal all round. After that it was a most enjoyable camp with hikes, treasure hunts, campfires, etc., not to mention signalling and map reading. I have a few snaps which remind me of the birthday cake and jelly we organised for one of the boys. We had travelled to Minehead railway station, which I believe was closed by Dr.Beeching…
10th Troop in the early 1950’s

In 1958 the camp was at Kingsdown near Walmer, and I again went along. Highlights, a neat kitchen dresser and aerial runway were built. A young girl in a nearby house gazed wistfully out of a window at the boys who all gathered below exchanging ribaldry, no girl scouts in those days.

By 1961, Frank O was Group Scout Master of the 10th, Dick B had become the maths/physics master at Portsmouth Boys Southern Grammar School and also ran the 2nd Portsmouth there. I had left the RAF in 1959 and by chance got a job with GEC at Portsmouth, so was invited to a joint 10th/2nd summer camp at Kingsbridge (Devon). I remember an amusing incident when I had been given the job of sharing out the supplies between patrols. I called out “Come and get your rations!” whereupon one small voice asked “What’s rations?” followed by a second small voice asking “Are the provisions ready yet?” I then realised that the war was well and truly over.

Sadly, in 1963, Dick B died of kidney failure, just after having become father to a little boy.

I am still friends with Frank O who now lives at Doncaster.

Best wishes!
Cliff Blake

The first ‘Hut’ behind Christchurch Hall circa 1961, note Cub Scout Master John Kingsmill far left.

Frank Osbourn continues:

Dear Paul, (August 2004)
Six weeks ago I sent you an e-mail about the history of the 10th. I mentioned the name “Armstrong” but now realise he was in the 5th, and the name I was trying to recall was “Chapman”. John Kingsmell (District Commissioner Royal Eltham) sent me a nice e-mail with some nostalgic 5th info. Thank you very much John.

I have had further exchanges with Frank Osborn, and he has written the following:- Some History of the 10th Royal Eltham Scouts by Frank Osborn

As a former Cub, Scout, Rover, & Scouter, perhaps my memories can help. I lived in Ankerdine Crescent, Shoooters Hill, and with some friends, tried to join the 10th before the war. Meetings were held in the
Church Hall which to the best of my memory was not bomb damaged at all.
Our bid to join was rebuffed, perhaps because we did not attend the School or because as a few of the Cubs said to us, they didn’t want boys from the Wimpey Estate, so much for being a friend to all!
We attended Eglington Road School [which was] subsequently bombed. Naturally we then joined the 11th Woolwich, very smart black jerseys & yellow scarves. Handy to identify friends on Empire Day when we were allowed to wear uniform to school & when after school, there were running street battles between rival groups, especially with the Sea Scouts.

With the war & the closure of schools my parents got me into the School & I transferred to the 10th. With clothes rationing I kept my 11th uniform & eventually became Senior Sixer. I recall Barbara Hart & Mrs. Evans in particular. We used to ‘perform’ at church Garden Parties which were held in The Vicarage garden. The Vicarage was subsequently sold off as uneconomical to maintain & a close of houses was built on the site, between the Memorial Hospital & the entrance to the woods.

I went into the Scout Troop although in 1942 I was evacuated to Sevenoaks having passed the entrance exam to Shooters Hill Grammar School in Red Lion Lane, now called Eaglesfield School. (Shooters Hill 16 plus Campus) I returned home at the end of that year as “emergency” schools were opened in London.

I do not recall any of the Scouters you mention other than Ludgater & Oates. I also remember Peter Munro. I recall a weekend camp in the Memorial Hospital grounds, my first.

Arnold Howe returned from army service & became SM. I became a Senior Scout & Rover until I was called up in January 1949. I managed to keep in touch & as I was eventually re-posted to London became an ASM.
Cliff & I & Pete Kennedy became friends & enjoyed weekend camps/hikes together. As I recall Mr. Ayres did not stay for long. Jack Chapman & his wife Margaret became involved & Jack became GSM at some point.

The first summer camp proper was with the 5th organised by Wally Wray — it was in Kent & on a farm, probably in 1946.
The Chapman’s & I became close friends & we were able to set up a Supporters/Parents Committtee to raise funds as our equipment was nil, other than ex-army small 2-man tents provided by parents. As I recall the principal fund raising organisers were John Kingsmell’s mother (whist drives) & ASM Graham Stemp’s mother (jumble sales). The treasurer was Mr. Coe, father of John Coe.

The group thrived & we had the best attendance in the District at the Arrowe Park Jamboree, a patrol, Seniors & a Rover (my brother). We also had a representative (Robert Jerrams) at the Jamboree in Yugoslavia in the year of the Skopje earthquake. We did well and won most of the District activities in those years. We also had a good number of Queen Scouts.

Sid Turner & his wife Jane were tremendous supporters & Sid fitted out the Hut which we got built for storage & Seniors meetings behind the Church Hall. Until then equipment was stored in parents’ garages, under floors & in my cellar.

In the note to Cliff of 27/11/2002 the names I recognise & recall well are Richard Turner (and Dave Turner possibly a brother) Richard Spiers, Owen Davies (son of another staunch supporter) & Dave McLavey. The last one helped with Seniors. He suffered a severe injury in a motor cycle crash, but managed with a leg in plaster & steel pins sticking out.

In so far as personal history goes, both Jack Chapman & I became Wood Badge holders & after the Arrowe Park Jamboree organised a home from home stay for a troop of French Scouts for 10 days amongst Eltham District parents. Many of the French Scouts were black and, in those days, this was a real test of friendship. Also many only spoke French, another difficulty of fitting boys & hosts together.

I still have a few photos of camps, the French visit & so on, if anyone is interested?

I left in 1961 after 12 months in hospital with TB & with the need to move to a smaller house. Subsequently I got involved with a Troop in Welling when my own sons became Cubs & Scouts.

Frank adds further comment:

What would interest me is the site of the HQ allegedly bombed, as the only meeting hall I know of was the Christchurch Hall.
I notice comments about the troop being founded by Avery Hill College & being for physically defective boys. resumably this was not at our Hall! However, in the 20’s & 30’s there were a number of open-air schools for children with health problems, founded by the LCC.
There was one in Charlton Park. Whether or not Christchurch was another I don’t know, but when I was a pupil there we had summer classrooms in the school building — lit by gas & heated by coal fires. There were only 2 classrooms!.
I hope this is helpful.
Cliff Blake

Alex Bienkov our current Group Scout Leader continues the story:

1st October 2012

I joined the 10th Royal Eltham Wolf Cub pack in September 1966. The pack was run by Cub Mistress Mrs Margaret Chapman for the first year and was assisted by Assistant Cub Mistress Pat Slee. Pat Slee took over as
Cub Scout Leader as Wolf Cubs changed to Cub Scouts in 1967 and she continued in this position as our Akela until her retirement in 2001, a total of 34 years of dedication.

Sid Turner was Group Scout Leader at the time. I became Sixer of the Brown Six and moved up to Scouts in 1969 where Dick Spiers was Scout Leader assisted by Gus Ferguson. Severndroog Venture Scout Unit was set up by Dave McLavey but it did not last for more than a year. My major memory at scouts was our trip to Kandersteg, Switzerland led by Dick Spiers in 1973. At some point Sid Turner stood down as GSL and the position was taken up by Ken Pointer. I had to leave the 10th in 1975 as the group did not have a Venture Scout Unit.
I joined Longbow VSU at the 7th Royal Eltham at Deansfield School. The Unit moved to the 12th RE in the Scout Hall at the bottom of Oxleys Meadows. In 1976 I became assistant cub scout leader and remained there for 13 years. In 1989 Paul Abbott the GSL of the XRE asked me to restart the Severndroog Venture Scout Unit at Christ Church. I jumped at the opportunity. I was assisted by Martin Pyle, Andrew Crompton, Claire Tranter and later
Louis Pinto.

Our first ever group mini bus was a former LCC Ambulance which was purchased in 1968. It had bench seats down each side and was only accessible for passengers via the two rear loading doors. Over the years we have had a total of ten minibuses, which have pulled us and our trailer all over the UK and Europe.

Sadly our hut suffered an arson attack in 1990 and we lost everything. The only thing left was the hut’s concrete base. Eventually our insurance claim was paid and in 1994 a new larger hut was built by the parents, leaders and venture scouts. The new hut had two store rooms and a larger meeting room. Over the years we improved it with wood panelling, a kitchen, and a wood burning stove. We also replaced all the camping equipment lost in the fire.

We continued to run Severndroog Venture Scout Unit until 2001 when the Venture Scouts became Explorer Scouts, and we just carried on!

The Unit flourished (and still does today) taking part in expeditions to Norway, Sweden, Corsica, the Alps, the Pyrenees and countless Easters spent at our campsite at Lyndy Isaf at Nant Gwynant in Snowdonia. On May Bank holidays we canoed on the River Wye, Thames and Severn. We have also undertaken cycling summer and winter trips to Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France.

One of our greatest achievements was putting three Explorer Scouts on the top of Mont Blanc (Western Europe’s highest mountain) at 15,781 ft. Previously in 1993 we attempted the summit whilst on and expedition to the French Alps, but failed due to bad weather and exhaustion 500 meters from the summit.

In 2007 we were determined to conquer the peak and went on a two week acclimatisation trail on the Tour du Mont Blanc with 13 of our Explorers. Finally a team was chosen to attempt the top. James Crudgeington, Joe Raines and Alex Kakoulis and leaders Louis Pinto, Row Pinto and Andrew Crompton summited at dawn on Friday the 24th August.

We are proud to have gained six Queen Scout Awards (the highest award in UK Scouting) over the years in Jon Coe, Louis Pinto, Dylan Capon, Anna Bonavia, Edmund Bing and Jack Crowe.

We celebrated 100 years of Scouting in 2007 with the 21st World Jamboree in Chelmsford, Essex. 30,000 scouts attended from 158 countries with over 50,000 UK scouts attending as day visitors.

I stood down as full time Explorer Scout Leader in 2011 and handed the baton over to Louis Pinto, I then took over as our new Group Scout Leader.

Oh dear, who got me into this!!!
Alex Bienkov GSL XRE

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls