Deep Sea Scouts

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The Deep-Sea Scout Branch of the Scout Movement was formed in 1928 as a birthday present to the founder, Robert Baden-Powell. It was officially launched in July of that year and was announced in the Headquarters Gazette in the August. The first conference of Deep Sea Scouts was held at the “Coming of Age” World Jamboree held at Arrow Park, Birkenhead in 1929.

The aims of the branch were to enable Scouts afloat to get in touch with their fellow Scouts in ports throughout the world and to afford them the opportunity for continuing their Scouting activities in their sea-going profession.

Deep Sea Scouts magazine

The news magazine for the Deep-Sea Scouts was called "Scouts in Ships" and kept the members onboard many ships abreast of events and of visits to various ports. Originally any member of The Scout Association was eligible for membership of the Deep Sea Scouts if they were serving in any of the following organisations:- Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve, Merchant Navy, Royal Marines, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Deep Sea Fishermen, Deep Sea Rigs, Deep Sea Yacht Crews and Sail Training Ships. A peak was achieved of over 3000 members, but as the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy have shrunk in size, so did the membership of Deep Sea Scouts.

Initially the Branch had been run by the Headquarters Programme and Training Department at Gilwell. But with changing times it was found that the Branch would benefit by moving to come under the umbrella of the National Scout Fellowship. As a result, from 1991, it was decided the Branch would be known as the Deep Sea Scout Fellowship, operating as an autonomous unit within the Scout Fellowship. As from 2010, with the advent of Scout Active Support Units, the name was changed back to the original name of “Deep Sea Scouts”. Today, the Deep-Sea Scout membership list includes serving and retired members of the Armed Forces, officers and crew in the Merchant Navy, fishermen, yachtsmen and women, oceanographers and many others who have strong connections to the sea.

South African involvement
Members of South African Scouting who were living in the coastal towns could apply to the Headquarters Commissioner for Deep Sea Scouting in London, to be appointed as a Port Liaison Officer. Their role would be to keep in touch with local Scouting and to arrange for the introduction of Deep-Sea Scouts visiting their ports. A booklet listing Port Liaison Officers from all around the world was published and their names and contact details were added to the list. The updating of this booklet however proved difficult and members later relied on personal contacts.

Visits by Deep-Sea Scouts
Port Elizabeth – Scouts in Shipping, December 1965
I have the honour to report that during the period 1st January, 1965 to 31st March, 1965 I visited a total of 28 vessels of the Ellerman & Bucknell, Hall ana Mitsui O.S.K. Line in the Port Elizabeth Harbour. Contact was made with 59 ex-Scouts, Deep-Sea Scouts or persons at one time or another connected with Scouting. Wherever possible outings were organised for these people, and they were given every opportunity to visit a Troop either at a normal Troop meeting, or at a. Patrol meeting, etc. Important ex-Scouts met included Mr F Garside of the "City of Exeter", whose father was a friend of BP and who actually attended several camps held by BP in the early of Scouting; Mr T Tanaka, Master of the "Meiohaan Maru" who serves on the Scout Executive Committee in Tokyo; Captain Gordon Stockley, Master of the "Letabata" who was a member of the Algoa Sea Scout Troop some 20 years ago, and Brigadier Sir Henry Lowell, a Badge Examiner for Scouts in Sussex. A group of ex-Scouts now serving as Cadet Officers on the "City of Liverpool" was taken on a tour embracing "WeIbedacht", King Edward Park, Walmer Scout Centre and the Baxter Hall, whilst a further group from the "Mombasa Mara" visited a Troop at a normal meeting.

From the Scouts in Ships Editor: It is obvious that any member of the DSS Branch would be sure of a welcome in Port Elizabeth and I am sure that all our thanks are due to Mr. Walton who has done such good work in furthering the aims of the Movement.

Cape Town – Scouts in Ships July 1966 "News from Windsor Castle"

Deep Sea Scouts 1966 Cape Town

During our latest voyage out to South Africa, we were extremely fortunate to arrive at Cape Town in the early hours of Sunday 20th February 1966. This being Baden-Powell Sunday, the Crew Leader contacted the ship's Captain, Captain Hart and as a result permission was granted for the Scout Pennant to be flown from the yard arm for this Special Day. During the afternoon, four of the Crew members attending the "Scout's Own" held in the City, along with a long time Scouter friend from Cape Town, and as a result met many old Scouting "Friends of the Crew". The Service was a truly memorable one and Scout Groups from all over the Cape were represented. After returning to the ship for a quick freshen up and a meal, we then set out to visit the 10th Green and Sea Point Rovers at Bainskloof, a marvellous camping spot up in the mountains. Once introductions were over we soon had a fire going and gathered round for a chat and sing-song with a guitar which one of our Crew took along for the occasion. After filling up with grilled chops and chicken, washed down with hot coffee, we chatted into the night on Scouting overseas and finally broke camp at about 11 o' clock. The day over, we piled into the Scouter's car, thanked the 10th for a truly enjoyable evening and were soon back in the City and civilisation once again. Our sincere thanks go to all concerned, for making this day a truly memorable one.

A Deep-Sea Scout that settled in Cape Town
Nigel Harrison was born in England in January 1947 and attended the Saint Francis School for Boys, a boarding school in Hooke, Dorset that was run and managed by Society of Saint Francis. Here he joined the school's Cub Pack at age 9 1/2 , went up to Scouts and later became a Senior Scout and their Troop Leader. In 1963 at 16 years old he was one of the youngest Scouts' to receive the Queen Scout Award and the Duke of Edinburgh (Sliver) Award. In June 1964 he became a Rover with the New Forest East Rover Crew.

Deep Sea Scouts 1964 Winsor Castle. Nigel, back row, second from left
1964 Nigel Harrison

He left school at age 16 ½ and joined the Merchant Navy and after a three-month training course Nigel joined the crew of the Windsor Castle. The Union-Castle Line was a British shipping line that operated a fleet of passenger liners running on a rigid timetable between Southampton and Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Durban.

Soon after starting work on the Windsor Castle, Nigel discovered that there was an organisation called Deep-Sea Scouts enabling young people serving on British ships to participate in Scouting activities. He signed up and when next in Cape Town they were hosted by local Scouters visiting groups and sightseeing. On one of these occasions Nigel met a Ranger Guide that was to become his future wife. Staying with the Union Castle company, in 1968 at the age of 21 he immigrated to SA and set up home in Vredehoek.

His workload was quite busy and as he was no longer on the ships , he resigned from the Deep-Sea Scouts.

Back in Uniform
When Nigel's granddaughter joined the Pack of the 2nd Plumsted Sea Scout Group in 2017 they were looking for adult helpers and she mentioned that her grandfather had been a Queen Scout. Well, it wasn't long before he was in uniform as the Assistant Pack Scouter and when the Akela resigned, he became their Akela. In 2022 with many more Star awards added to Pack Flag, a 5-year Service Award and feeling the need for a younger Akela, Nigel stepped down.

Deep Sea Scouts in the 21 Centaury
As per their 2024 website:- "Deep Sea Scouts (DSS) is a registered National Scout Active Support Unit (NSASU) of the UK Scout Association, with many members also holding other roles throughout Scouting. As a Scout Active Support Unit we travel the country – and in some cases even the globe – attending camps and activities, continuing our involvement in the Scouting calendar whilst also bringing a little bit of the sea to Scouting. The DSS has a long history of providing this support, and continues to do so with the support of the Steering Team".

Ack: Website of Deep Sea Scouts, Scouts in Ships and N Harrison