World Jamborees: 1920 Report

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1920 – 1st World Jamboree, Olympia, London, England

30th July to 8th August / Participants 8,000 / Countries 34 / South Africans 186

Official South African Report by F. H. Hodgkinson

Leaders of the South African Contingent
L-R. Captain Piffy F. F. White, M.C. (District Commissioner, Cape Province), F. H. Hodgkinson, B.A. (District Commissioner, Transvaal), Scoutmaster G. Collin Grace (Natal)

The boys from South Africa, numbering in all 186, made a splendid show, their uniforms being most picturesque. The boys from the Transvaal wore a distinctive strip of Leopard skin round their hats and the rest a Gold Springbok Head on diamond springbok skin sewn to the shirt. Their display in the arena was one of the best, earning full marks at the first performance because of the fact that it had been unrehearsed. They arrived in two contingents, the first going into camp at Sidcup Foots Cray Place until the Old Deer Park had been made ready, the other proceeded direct to Richmond. Both contingents were present at two Investitures at Buckingham Palace and were afterwards inspected by the King.

During the Jamboree the South Africans sprang a little surprise on the Chief Scout. It was intimated to him at one of the afternoon performances that his presence in the arena would be appreciated, and on his arrival with Lady Baden-Powell, who brought with them the Chief Cub and the Chief Brownie (Peter and Heather) he found the contingent drawn up in a semi-circle and anxious to make a presentation. This consisted of a leopard skin rug for Lady Baden-Powell, a live jackal for Peter, and a charming little Chesterfield ottoman that should delight the Chief Brownie's heart for years to come.

South Africa at Richmond Camp, with Mrs White and her three Cubs

Three South Africans never saw the Jamboree after all. One because he had to undergo an operation for appendicitis as soon as he arrived and two others were laid up with chicken-pox. All the South Africans said they were amazed at the bad weather in England. The climate Was such as they are quite unused to, but the most amazing thing of all to them was the length of daylight here. They were accustomed in their own country to darkness at about 6 p.m. and to be able to read without artificial light at 10 p.m., was to them little short of marvellous. It is a fact that many of the South Africans had never seen the sea, and the thing that worried one little lad from the Transvaal most was how on earth they were going to get the whole of his contingent on one boat! These South African Scouts were made up as follows :--

The Queen, Accompanied by Princess Mary, Chatting with Scoutmaster Cecil Sims, the Disabled South African, at Buckingham Palace.
From: The Jamboree Book, 1920, Boy Scout Association

The Cape Province Contingent numbered 10 Officers, 40 Scouts and 3 Wolf Cubs, the latter being the only ones to come to the Jamboree from overseas. Capt. P. F. F. White, M.C., was in charge, and Mrs. White, the only lady officer from overseas, came too, in charge of the Cubs. One of the assistant Scoutmasters of the party, Mr. C. Sims, lost both of his legs in a railway accident some time ago, and his Cape Province Troop, with an eye to the "good turn" that every good scout does to another, set to work to raise a fund to bring Sims to the Jamboree. So successful were they that not only were they able to afford the disabled scout his heart's desire, but they also raised enough money to supply him with that which he most badly needed, a pair of artificial legs. As a result of a photograph in a London illustrated paper, Norway cabled, offering to supply the artificial limbs. This had to be gratefully refused, however, as the money had been already subscribed. Most visitors to the Jamboree will remember Sims, a jolly South African, who managed to get about exceedingly well in a mechanically propelled bath-chair. How many times he was photographed, Sims said he had really forgotten. As for his autograph, none appears to have been more sought after. The party brought with them a lion cub, a fine healthy little fellow who spent his days sleeping in the Zoo. Before leaving, the lion was presented to the Curator for inclusion in the Edinburgh Zoo.

Natal sent 35 Scouts with S.M. G. Colin Grace in charge. One of the Scouts had a wooden leg, but this did not seem to impede him in any way, for he was as active as any, and said he did a lot of trekking with it in South Africa.

From the Orange Free State S.M. J. Huber (Silver Wolf, in charge) brought 12 scouts. They were to have brought a springbok, but it died.

Transvaal Scouts presenting a magnificent pair of elephant tusks to the City of London

From the Transvaal came nine officers and 58 Scouts in the command of Mr. F. H. Hodgkinson (Silver Wolf). This contingent brought two jackals and a monkey for the Zoo. The collection would have included a springbok, but that died in South Africa. The contingent paid a visit to the Mansion House during its stay in London, and took the opportunity of presenting a magnificent pair of elephant tusks to the City of London on behalf of the Transvaal as a token of thanks for the hospitality that London had offered to the Transvaal soldiers wounded during the war.

The tusks were exceedingly fine specimens, measuring 6 feet in length and weighing just 100 pounds. An interesting feature of this contingent lay in the fact that while speaking to them the Chief Scout discovered that some of the boys were sons of Boers who had fought against him in Mafeking. When the Jamboree was over the South African Scouts moved to camp at Foots Cray, Sidcup, in Kent. From there they were given leave to visit relatives in the various parts of the country and were also taken for tours all over England, visiting interesting parts en route.

In his farewell message Sir Samuel Waring said: - "I wish you God speed on your return to South Africa. By your Scout like behaviour whilst in England you have won universal praise. I feel sure that you will maintain the high standard set by your officers, and that as members of the Great Brotherhood of Boy Scouts, you will strive to realise in your lives its great and noble ideals, remembering always 'A Scout's honour is to be trusted'."

Photo of the 1920 South African Contingent taken at Foots Cray, home of Sir Samuel Waring.

Report by Scout John Chicken

World Jamboree Badge
Commentative SA Badge

Mr. W. John Chicken was a member of the 2nd Green & Sea Point Scout Troop when he attended the first World Jamboree in 1920. However, in later years he was an active member of the Camps Bay community and the following is an excerpt from the letter he wrote in 1961 for 'Glen Echo' the magazine of the 1st Camps Bay Scout Group.

"About 300 of us from all parts of South Africa travelled over in the 'Balmoral Castle, which was the biggest ship in the Union Castle fleet at that time and which was commanded by the Commodore Captain. She was scrapped many years ago.

Except for a few 'top notches' who were provided with cabins we were all accommodated in the cargo hold of the ship, some of the chaps sleeping in hammocks and the rest in bunks, which had been specially rigged up for the voyage. All meals were cooked and also served in the hold and as the sea was rather choppy on the first day out quite a lot of the food took a speedy trip to the side of the ship (inside the chaps, of course). Anyhow, we all survived and landed in England after a very enjoyable voyage.


The actual Jamboree was held at Olympia in London but our camp was situated at Richmond, on the outskirts of London, in the Old Deer Park and a lovely spot it was, too. We slept in Bell tents, eight boys to a tent, and we found this a bit crowded with all our kit as well.

The regulation kit for that Jamboree was just a haversack and kitbag (no suitcases etc.) One joker in our Patrol, the son of a Sea Point butcher, had not read the regulations correctly and had turned up with a huge trunk! This was promptly dubbed 'The Butcher Cart' and as there was not enough room for all the chaps AND the Butcher Cart in the tent, the latter was thrown out, none too gently, each night, much to the indignation of the owner.

Richmond Park where the South African Scouts camped

As the Jamboree was held shortly after the 1914-1918 War, rationing was still in force in England, although not nearly to the same extent as after the last War. Meals at the camp were served in huge marquees and the food was none too good. For instance, the main course for breakfast was a very thin porridge, without any milk. Instead of milk, we were given watered down treacle.

It was the considered opinion of everyone that the contractors for the meals at that camp must have made a fortune from it. However, the food which was obtainable at the London restaurants at that time was very good so we very seldom ate at the camp.

The Jamboree itself was a wonderful affair and was attended by Scouts from all over the world. Some had even come from the Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and that was long before the Air Services to there had started.

There was great competition in all the events at the Jamboree and, as far as I can remember, South Africa did very well at all of them.

The highlight of the whole function, though, was the address by Baden-Powell himself on the last day. We particularly remember his concluding exhortation to us all to 'Look wide, my boys, look wide', and not to indulge in anything petty. This was a very inspiring address and the thousands of boys who heard it were deeply moved. I have never heard such thunderous applause as that when he finished speaking. He was a very fine man in every sense of the word and we should all be proud to carry on his great tradition of Scouting

When the Jamboree was over the South African Scouts moved to camp at Foot's Cray, Sidcup, in Kent. This camp was held in the grounds of a big country estate owned by a wealthy Englishman and it was a beautiful spot. From there we were given leave to visit our relatives in the various parts of the country and were also taken for tours all over England, visiting the interesting parts en route.

Transvaal Contingent

We paid a visit to Buckingham Palace and were inspected by King George V and Queen Mary, and also had an aeroplane trip over London in a Handley Page plane. You can imagine what a 'crate' a plane was in those days.

We eventually came back to South Africa in the old 'Armadale Castle' (also long since scrapped), in the hold, the same way as we had gone over in the 'Balmoral Castle'. This time there were double the number of boys travelling and we were packed in the hold like sardines. Many a 'rough house' took place in these quarters and it got quite hot at times. My main impression of that trip back, though, was the awful smell of cabbage water running under our bunks practically all the time, (or so it seemed). Like the outward journey in the 'Balmoral Castle' all the cooking for the Scouts was done in the vicinity of the sleeping quarters. Anyhow, we arrived back in Cape Town without any casualties."

A sample of their activities whilst in London.

The following Programme is a brief summary of the arrangements which have been made. Daily Programmes will be issued to the senior officer of each contingent, giving full details of the arrangements and organisation.

Tuesday, 27th July.
9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Visit by contingent, of fifty to the Houses of Parliament. (St. Stephen's Entrance.) 1p.m. Luncheon by the City Corporation in the Guildhall and by various City Companies in their Halls. 2.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Visit by contingents of three hundred to the Tower of London

Wednesday, 28th July.
2.15 p.m. to 5.45 p.m. Visit to the Imperial War Museum at Crystal Palace.
(The first special train will leave Victoria at 2.15 p.m., and the last return special train. High Level Station. Crystal Palace at 5.45 p.m.)
4 p.m. to 5.20 p.m. Tea at the Fountain Cafe at the Crystal Palace.

Thursday, 29th July
1 for 1.15 p.m. Government luncheon at the Carlton Hotel to the representatives of foreign countries and overseas dominions accompanying the various contingents

Sunday, 1st August.
2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The American and Overseas Contingents attend the afternoon service at Westminster Abbey
4.15 p.m. All contingents march from West- minster Abbey to Olympia

Tuesday, 3rd August.
2.30 p.m. Special Matinee at the Alhambra. (By kind permission of Sir Oswald Stoll.)

Wednesday, 4th August
7.30 p.m. Lecture by Sir Ernest Shackleton, C.V.O . "on South," at the Central Hall, Westminster.

Thursday, 5th August 10.15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit to Windsor and Eton
12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. Luncheon at the White Hart Hotel, Windsor. (The first special train will leave Addison Road Station for Windsor, at 9.35 a.m., and the last special train will leave Windsor for Addison Road Station at 4.15 p.m.)

Friday, 6th August
2 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Visit to Hampton Court Palace.
3.45p.m. to 5.15 p.m. Tea in the Children's Playing Field

All Scouts are requested to take great care of the various tickets (particularly meal tickets) issued to them, and to surrender them when required

Foots Cray Place and Lord Waring

Foots Cray Place 1904

All that is left of the 18th century Foots Cray Place estate is an area today known as Foots Cray Meadows. It is parkland in the London Borough of Bexley and is near the town of Sidcup.

The Foots Cray estate dates back to Elizabethan times when it was owned by Sir Francis Walsingham. Sir Francis (1532-90) was Secretary of State (1573- 90) to Elizabeth I. Towards the end of the 19th century the house was sold to Mr S J Waring later Lord Waring. A pioneer in household furnishing and decoration he was Chairman of the well known firm of Waring and Gillow Ltd.

During the Great War he organised factories for the production of aeroplanes and other equipment and for this work was given a baronetcy in 1919 and a peerage three years later when he became Baron Waring of Foots Cray Place.

He was a supporter of the Scout Movement and County Commissioner for Kent and held Scout gatherings at Foots Cray Place. He played host to the South African Jamboree Contingent during the 1920, 1924 and 1929 World Scout Jamborees.

WSJ 1920RepP10.jpg

In 1920 and 1924 the Chief Scout Lord Baden Powell paid a visit to the South Africans who were camped in the grounds and the South African flag that was used in 1920 is today housed in St. John's Church, Sidcup.

In 1929 after attending the 21st Birthday Jamboree at Arrow Park, Liverpool, the South Africans attended a 'Welcome Rally' in the Foots Cray grounds.

The end of Foots Cray Place

His name is perpetuated in Waring Park, his gift to the people of Sidcup, which was opened in 1931. He died on 9 January 1940 aged 80 years old. From 1939 to 1945 the Royal Naval Training establishment HMS Worcester occupied the house and in 1946 the Kent Education Committee bought Foots Cray Place intending to use the house as a museum.

However on the night of 18 October 1949 the house caught fire. The Kentish Times for 21 October 1949 reported:


"For more than three hours firemen from eight stations fought the blaze, which had taken a firm grip of the building before being noticed, and which was fanned to great severity by a strong wind. When they brought it under control the mansion was a charred shell of stone and brick only the basement having escaped the havoc to any considerable extent." The building was so badly damaged that it had to be demolished.

The land passed from the County Council to the London Borough of Bexley in 1965 and is now administered by the Leisure Services Department.


See Also