World Jamborees: 1924 Report
1924 - Imperial and World Jamborees
Imperial Jamboree: 1 – 8 August / Participants 12,500 / South Africans 185
World Jamboree: 9 – 17 August / Participants 4,549 / South Africans +/- 7
During the European Summer of 1924 two Scout Jamborees were held, an Imperial Jamboree at Wembley in England and the Second World Jamboree at Ermelunden in Denmark.
The only information the writer found on South Africans attending the Denmark Jamboree was that "The boys from Port Elizabeth with Scoutmasters G Makepeace (SM PE) and RV Geard (ASM 1st Graaff-Reinet) went over to Denmark to the International Jamboree and returned with a glowing report", consequently the following documentation covers only the Imperial Jamboree in England.
The British Empire Exhibition of 1924 was said to be "A stocktaking of the resources of the Empire" including a South African Pavilion and was held in Wembley running from April to October.
As part of the programme the organisers invited the 'Scouts of the Empire' to participate during the first week of August.
This is the story of the South African Contingent's tour and participation in the Imperial Jamboree.
The 17 day voyage to England by ship
In 1924 there were regular sailings of large passenger ships from South African ports to England. The Jamboree contingent of 207 Scouts, Officers and a monkey as a "mascot" sailed from Cape Town at 5 p.m. on the evening of the 4th July 1924 onboard the Armadale Castle.
In charge of the entire South African Contingent was Mr. F. H. Hodgkinson, Assistant Commissioner for Scouts in the Transvaal.
The Scouts, whose average age was 16, were of Dutch and English parentage, but all prided themselves on being South Africans. They were drawn from the Cape Province, Natal, Transvaal, Orange Free State and Kenya, from all classes ranging from doctors' sons to shoemakers' sons.
The voyage took 17 days and was enjoyable but uneventful. "Commander George did all possible to make the boys comfortable and parties were daily taken on to the Bridge and instructed in "Navigation" and the use of the various instruments there, the boat decks were placed at our disposal for drilling and class work, the ship's band was placed at the disposal of the Scouts two afternoons and two evenings each week, the Ladies in the 1st and 2nd Saloon, headed by Lady Bentick, attended the Scout dances in the evenings and helped to make the dances enjoyable. The Contingent gave several Concerts which were appreciated".
On Thursday the 17th they arrived at Madeira where arrangements had been made by the British Consul for launches, trains to the top of the mountain, and toboggans back. The expense of this trip was practically covered by cheques received from Sir Abe Bailey for £45 and Professor Lawn for £50. Mr Hodgkinson called on the British Consul and thanked him for all the trouble he had taken in making such excellent arrangements.
Arriving in England
The Contingent arrived at Southampton on the 21st July, took the train to Waterloo and 'Motor Trolleys' conveyed them and their equipment to Wembley Paddocks where they pitched camp in the pouring rain. During the period before the Jamboree (21-31 July) the time was devoted to sightseeing with the exception of certain periods set aside for camp fatigues, drill, and instruction classes etc. The places were visited were: - The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls, the Houses of Parliament, the Zoo, the National Gallery, Whitehall, Hampton Court, and many other places of interest in and around London, the boys also spent a good deal of time at the British Exhibition. On the 28th the Contingent was inspected by His Majesty the King, and on the 29th attended the Festival Service held at Westminster Abbey.
Official Opening of the Jamboree
The Contingent attended the official opening of the Jamboree on the 1st of August and was on daily duty during the week of the Jamboree. They also attended the great Thanksgiving Service held in the Stadium on Sunday the 3rd August.
On Tuesday, 5th August, H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught opened the afternoon performance in the Stadium. The formality of the grand entry was duly observed, and after the "rush in" the great arena was cleared of all Scouts except those from South Africa, who were inspected by Prince Arthur, whose connection with South Africa as late Governor-General and Chief Scout for that Colony was well known. After the inspection Prince Arthur was presented with a fine lion's skin by the Scouts from the Union of South Africa.
The rainy and muddy conditions were quite a test, but it was reported that the SA Contingent received universal praise for its smartness, discipline, and Scoutly conduct during the Jamboree week. The Right Hon. Lord Hampton, Chief Commissioner said, "What has pleased me more than anything else has been the Scoutly conduct and gentlemanly bearing of the SA boys."
In Sports the Contingent did equally well. It carried off the first prize in the half mile Class A Relay race and also got two seconds and four thirds, making a total number of 15 points, the highest number gained during the Jamboree Sports. The Contingent was declared Victor Ludorum of the sports Meeting. The Wembley Camp Signal Gun was won, and presented by Lord Glanusk with a brass plate inscribed as follows:-
"Presented to Commissioner Hodgkinson (O/C South African Contingent) as a token of appreciation to the Commissioner in Charge of the smartest and best disciplined Contingent at the Wembley Camp from July 22nd to August 9th 1924. Presented by Lord Glanusk (Camp Commandant)."
Touring the United Kingdom and Europe
On the 9th August the Contingent broke Camp and proceeded to Foots Cray Place, Sidcup, the residence of Lord Waring, and previously used on the 1920 Jamboree, where Camp was pitched. This then became the standing Camp for the rest of the period of the stay in England.
The boys were then granted leave to visit friends and relatives in England. The proprietor of the paper "South Africa" Mr. Leo Wenthal, together with several prominent South Africans resident in England, arranged a trip to Windsor Castle and up the Thames to Lord Astor's residence. His Majesty threw open the State apartments for the boys' inspection and Lord and Lady Astor entertained the boys to tea.
From Sidcup a tour of the Midland Counties was arranged for the Natal and a portion of the Transvaal Contingent and two days were spent each at Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham, a trip through the heart of Sherwood Forest and the haunts of Robin Hood was greatly enjoyed. At each of the towns visited the Contingent received a Civic welcome and was hospitably entertained and shown the industries and places of interest peculiar to each town.
The Contingent, in sections, also visited Brussels, the battlefield of Waterloo, and from there on to Paris by charabancs through Delville Wood and the battlefields of France, this tour occupied 6 days and the boys appeared to be very much impressed by all they had seen.
The Contingent was due to leave England on the 5th September, but due to a shipping company error they had to spend one additional week at Foots Cray. On the eve of departure from Sidcup, Lord Waring, County Commissioner for Kent, arranged a farewell concert and souvenir programme, also a photograph of the Combined Contingent, one of which he arranged would be presented to each member.
During his farewell address he said, "You have been true Scouts and perfect gentlemen during your stay at Sidcup and I hear from the tradesmen and people of Sidcup glowing accounts of your conduct in the village and surrounding Districts. I feel that you have by your conduct and example done more for Scouting in Kent than we can estimate. You have demonstrated to our boys what Scouting really is and stands for and for that I thank you. Will South Africa please remember that Foots Cray, Sidcup, is always a home for your boys when they visit England."
On the 12th September the Contingent left Sidcup by special train and embarked at Southampton on the Arundel Castle. The Trip back was similar to the outward trip, stopping off at Madeira through the kindness of Mr. Schlesinger (Johannesburg) who gave £50 to defray the expenses.
On arrival in Cape Town the Contingent paraded and was welcomed back by the Mayor and Mr. Mansergh the Cape Commissioner.
The South African Pavilion
THE BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION April to October 1924 at Wembley
Both inside and out, fairgoers were assaulted with the breadth and beauty of South African resources and manufacture. One example was Ostrich plumes. The finest in the world originated in South Africa and, after examining the display of finished feathers, a visitor could have one plucked fresh from any of the 30 live ostriches in the paddock for only six shillings. Other live animals on display included an entire flock of merino sheep and angora goats.
Back inside, the Central Hall contained a large display of stuffed animals, presented in their natural habitats. Meals were taken on a simulated train ride from Cape Town to Pretoria, courtesy of South African Railways, which set up a line of track with four cars, to create a full service restaurant.
But it is mineral wealth for which South Africa is known and both gold and diamonds were on display, with the famous DeBeers company's plant for washing, cutting and polishing the gems as the centrepiece.
Other items of note included models of the cities of Durban and Port Elizabeth, films demonstrating life and industry in South Africa and products including wine, dried and fresh fruit displays, hides and skins (housed in their own annex), leather, rope, tobacco, coal, tiles and bricks. A weekly newspaper South Africa was also produced bearing news on South Africa, current events and as promotional advertising for South Africa.
Also housed in the South Africa pavilion were the exhibits of Rhodesia, Swaziland, St. Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan de Cunha.