World Jamborees: 1951 Report

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1951 – 7th World Jamboree, Bad Ischl, Austria.

Jamboree Badge

31 July – 8 August / Participants 12 884 / Countries 37 / South Africans 83 / Days 70

Editors Note: After the "Jampats" had returned from the 1951 Jamboree a competition was held where participants were invited to submit an Essay on their Jamboree Experience. The 1st prize was Ten Guineas(£10.10s), which was a lot of money in those days. Here is the winner's report.

My Jamboree Trip and Experiences

By Troop Leader John Muirhead 'Spike' Deane
3rd Pietermaritzburg (Scoutholm) Natal
Cost £170.00 (R340.00): Duration 10 weeks

The Sea Voyage

Having sailed slowly down the coast from Durban, the members of the 'Natal Contingent' were pleased when the "Sterling Castle", steamed out of Table Bay on Friday 13th July, 1951 with the 83 Scouts onboard. The great adventure had really started then. There was no time to think of those we had left behind us, so much was there to find out, and remember. At the farewell functions in our hometown and in Cape Town, we were made to realise that we held in our hands the reputation of South African Scouting, and how very interesting our whole trip would be. Getting to know the other fellows however, was the matter we had to give our attention to. In each Patrol there would perhaps be a Scout from every Division in the Union (of SA), but soon they were no longer strangers, and Patrols, Troops and the Contingent began to pull together. The further we travelled from home, the more we regarded ourselves as South Africans and not as Natalians, or Transvaalers or Cape Westerns. I suppose this is only natural, but it is wonderful how distance from home unites a crowd of any people, but especially Scouts.

S A Contingent

During the voyage (which had now been reduced from 18 days to 14 days) we groaned in the usual way when P.T. (Physical Training) said that we must rise early, and Smartness said that we must have some marching practice, and we knew like a doctor, that it was "for our own good". One day was much like another on the voyage except the twenty-third of July, when we spent a few hours on Shore at Las Palmas.

To describe Las Palmas in a word, it is Foreign. The people are dark skinned Spaniards, the buildings are in the Spanish style the traffic is on the "wrong" side of the road, and no English is spoken except by very shrewd pedlars on the quayside. The Contingent wore white shirts with no badge, to avoid any incidents with the Fascist authorities who do not recognise Scouting. The weather too, demanded white for although the Canaries are outside the tropics, it was still very hot there.

England before the Jamboree

The 27th July at 6 a.m. saw us crowded on the Deck, getting our first glimpse of England. Here at last was the land that I had read so much about and that my grandparents, refer to as "home", the land that divides the loyalty of English speaking South Africans between itself and their birthplace the Land that had suffered from the war, and was still in difficulties as a result of it. That was what I thought as we moved slowly between the green banks of the estuary into the docks. After delays in the Custom's shed we were shown our train, and were soon speeding through the Hampshire countryside towards London. One thing that struck me as we neared the Metropolis was the sameness of the houses. Rows and rows of houses, joined to one another and each section identical to the next are something that one rarely sees at home. We had been warned about the uncertainty of English weather, but we had nothing to complain of all the time that we were in the country. Admittedly, we had not as much sunshine as we had in South Africa, but there was none of the dreary drizzle lasting for days, which they can have there.

Cape Western Contingent. Back Row: M Davidson, P Zietsman, J Bowden, D Davidson Second Row from Back: B Goldblatt, D Clain, B Ferguson, A Levitt, D Smyth, Norman Clausen, Buster Couves Middle Row: Doug Adams, B Zackon, Basil Zimmerman, E J Bryant (Leader), A G Mckenzie (Deputy), E Finberg, Mike Meintjes Front: K D H Baker, E F Duell, M J G Wood, E Chicken, M Phillips

On our arrival at the huge Waterloo Station, we were met by Wembley Scouts. Our kit was packed into a van and we were taken by tube-train, to a restaurant, for lunch. I had heard people describe the tubes, but to know how good the descriptions are, one must travel in them. I was to make very many more journeys in these trains, but the first fascination never wore off. If I ever go to London again the tubes will still exert a magical power over me. After the lunch, we were put on buses and these took us to Wembley, where we were to be the guests of the parents and Scouts. On the way, all the pictures and films of London I had seen came to life. There was Nelson, on his column, the dominant dome of St. Paul's, Buckingham Palace, all just as I had imagined them, but with the added thrill of being "alive". Whenever I think of England, I shall always think of hospitality. A thing that struck us with more force than the magnificence of Cathedrals, or the size of cities, was the way that the people of Wembley, and of all the other places where we stayed, took us into their homes and into their hearts. They knew that we were far from home and tried to make us feel at home with them - and they succeeded as far as was possible. We were made comfortable in their houses, often displacing one of the family from the best room, and everywhere we went, we could hardly realise that food was rationed. Once or twice I had a feeling that someone was giving up his weekly egg or few ounces of cheese so that I could have it. It gave me a strange feeling and once or twice I mentioned the food problem, but with characteristic British cheerfulness the answer was always that they "got enough" - things could be a good deal worse.

Princess Elizabeth inspecting the S A Contingent

The two or three days after our arrival in Wembley, were spent in seeing the sights of London. Trips to such places as Buckingham Palace and the famous squares were arranged. The important inspection by Princess Elizabeth was on the twenty-eighth of July. It was a fine, warm day, and the South African Contingent marched down the tree-lined Mall from Trafalgar Square to Clarence House to take its place among contingents from other parts of the Commonwealth. The Chief Scout and Princess walked slowly through the ranks on the lawn, stopping here and there to speak to a boy or to be introduced to a Scouter. The Press was well represented and as we left Wembley Station on the return journey, papers were already on sale in the street, showing pictures of the inspection. I see that the saying is correct, "Fleet Street never sleeps".

The time passed quickly and before we realised it, the time had come to go to the Jamboree. On the night of the thirty-first of July the whole contingent slept on the floor of the Wembley Scout Hall, so that we could all be together when the lorry called for us early the next morning. It took us and our kit to Victoria Station. There, together with all the other Scouts of the "third British Contingent", we boarded the train for Newhaven. After much queuing and carrying of kit, we at last found ourselves on the "Londres", a channel steamer with a French crew.

The Jamboree

The crossing was very smooth and took about two hours. It was near midday when we disembarked at the dirty dockside of Dieppe and were packed like sardines into a dirtier third class carriage of the French Railways. We were about thirty hours in the train, and while we could look at the green countryside of France as it flashed past, we did not notice the discomfort, but after dark, eight of us had to sleep in a small compartment with hard seats! We can look back now and smile and say that it was an experience not to be missed - but at the time it was no joke. Our meals were always something of a surprise. They came in a packet and with the air of having a "lucky-dip" one put one's hand in and pulled out a roll or piece of cheese, or little pot of jam, or bottle of apple juice. Unfortunately we passed though Switzerland in darkness and as a result, we missed what must be some of the finest scenery in Europe.

First Day Cover

When we awoke from our rather uncomfortable sleep, we were in Austria - and it is so beautiful that I cannot imagine the beauty of Switzerland, which is said to be better. The train ran along deep, green valleys, surrounded by tree-clad slopes and high grey peaks, it raced the clear shallow rivers, it whistled and made the quaintly dressed villagers look from the windows of their peak-roofed houses, it ran through a peaceful land of munching cattle and children playing in the fields. But at Innsbruck, we received a shock, we had forgotten about the second World War as we travelled through the countryside, but now as we looked from the train upon bullet scarred buildings and blackened ruins not yet cleared away, we remembered. On we went through the mountains of the Tyrol Province, through the flatter Salzburg Province and by early afternoon we were again in the mountains - those of Upper Austria where Bad Ischl and the Jamboree awaited us! Of all the scenery we hardened travellers had seen, that was certainly the most breath-taking. Even the most garrulous of us were silenced by the sheer magnificence of the sights we saw. Calm lakes mirroring the tall peaks and blue sky above, homely little hamlets at convenient places along the shore, boats, jetties, huge sweeps of water and the green, green trees and grass everywhere - all made it the most thrilling experience of the journey. Every now and then, when the beauty got too oppressive, someone would give a combined whistle and sigh, but apart from these understandable sounds, there was only the clattering of the train. It took us along the edge of several lakes, and at last we drew up at a little Village, whose station was decked with flags and by the notices of welcome, we knew that we had arrived at Bad Ischl.

After a whirlwind of kit bags and packs, we found ourselves on a little narrow gauge train which took us the remaining few kilometres to Aschau Golfplatz (Jamboree) Station. Our kit had preceded us in a lorry and was there when we arrived. We arrived at our campsite with a muddled impression of flags, roads, lorries, foreign tongues, heat, American Soldiers, huge wooden framed "tent-halls", and our dirtiness from the train. Soon we were pitching tents, for rain seemed near and with each of the ninety odd Scouts doing something, the camp was suitable for a night in about two and a half hours. We ate supper in the dark and it began to rain slightly, so everyone was in bed very soon, not knowing where, how or next to whom he slept and not, caring very much either.

SA Gateway

The next two days were spent in sorting ourselves out and adding the details to our camp. A pole fence and an impressive gateway, two marquees to dine in a table for the "grub tent" occupied us first - real luxuries came later. Our immediate neighbours, who had arrived days earlier than we, were French and English, from Reims and Surrey.

Soon we got to know all the parts of the widely spread camp. The site was once a golf course and had roads built to serve the sub camps and the very convenient shopping centre. This was in a central place and consisted of a double row of log built shops, selling everything from Scout equipment to perfume. A large modern equipped Post Office regulated the mail and there were a dozen or so post boxes throughout the camp. On the first few days there was a great rush to buy the attractive Jamboree Stamp and many letters were posted home with those on them.

The day after we arrived, the impressive Opening Ceremony was held. Towers representing previous Jamborees were raised, and the song of those Jamborees sung, then the last tower rose, and every Austrian Scout sang the enchanting melody which was to be the "hit" tune of the camp. All this was done on a huge arena which barely held the 15 000 campers and spectators. The people conducting the ceremony were on a little hill so that all might see them. At the signal, the Scouts of the different nations marched around the hill and back to their camps. It took close on two hours for everyone to pass one point. That will give an idea of the immense crowd assembled there. There were large contingents from England, Scotland, Germany, America, Austria, France and Italy. Smaller ones represented Norway, Sweden, Pakistan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, Holland, West Africa, Belgium and Switzerland. There were many more countries which we did not know, but it was announced that forty-two countries were represented.

There was no very elaborate programme organisation for the camp and each Contingent was left to arrange its own activities. Apart from our various expeditions and tours we had plenty of time to meet other Scouts in their camps. The Contingent was divided into "A" and "B" Troops, which were separated by about two hundred yards. In between were other camps and it was not always very convenient, especially as the whole Contingent ate and cooked at the larger site, that of "B" Troop. There were eight Patrols and each had to cook about two days during the whole camp. This was not very hard and everyone enjoyed much free time. Special trips were made to the old city of Salzburg, which enchanted us all the Grossglockrier Glacier, and Bad Ischl. When we reached a town, the arrangement, usually was that we walked around as we pleased, in little groups of two or three and were expected back at a certain time. Thus when we were in Salzburg, those who were interested in music were free to see Mozart's birthplace, the Opera House and the Museums, while those to whom shopping appealed more, could wander amongst the little streets and lanes, coming back heavily laden with carved pipes, wooden figures and souvenir glassware. However, almost everyone ended up with a pile of souvenirs at the end of the trip. Everywhere one went there were picture postcards maps or booklets to be bought and on looking at them now, one recalls, the place where they were bought atmosphere, and more or less lives it all over again. Many of us were in snow for the first time when we went on a day's bus journey to the Grossglockner Glacier. Although it was summer, the altitude was great enough for much of the snow to remain all the year round.

Everything went far too quickly in that little fortnight in Austria. We swam in ice-cold lakes, boated, climbed a peak by a cog-railway, heard a magnificent concert by the Mozarteum Orchestra, which travelled from Salzburg to give the concert to an appreciative audience of about four thousand Scouts saw national dances at a huge campfire, learnt new songs, formed pen friendships, bought more souvenirs and, when we found time, ate and slept.

The Campsite at Bad Ischl, Austria

The South African Contingent had been among the last to arrive and was to be one of the last to leave. On the last evening before the breaking of camp, the three thousand strong British Contingent held a Scouts Own and the Chief, Lord Rowallan, addressed us. We had an opportunity of meeting him earlier, when he visited our camp, and shook hands with each boy. The next day was the Closing Ceremony of the Jamboree. It was just as huge and impressive the Opening Ceremony had been, but the march past was done in National Groups. Scouts spontaneously linked arms with those of other countries, and it was not unusual to see eight Scouts, all from different countries and in different uniforms, forming one rank of the column. By the end of that day, Monday the 13th of August 1951, many of the tents of Austrian and Swiss Scouts were down and the campers had left for their comparatively nearby homes. The next day more left and in a very short time the camp was looking very bare, but we got a good idea of what the golf-course had originally looked like.

In our own camp, all unnecessary structures and tents were taken down and it was just a case of waiting until the Thursday, when we were due to leave. The weather had improved considerably after a very wet spell and we were able to enjoy ourselves in much less crowded lakes and rivers. At last, on Thursday, it was time for us to go and although we were glad to be going one step nearer home, we could not give a last look at the Jamboree without feeling the sadness of leaving a place where we had spent two very happy and eventful weeks.

Back in England

The same uncomfortable type of train carried us back to Dieppe and we were able to relax for two hours on board the "SS Brighton", which crossed the channel to Newhaven. To get back to England was like getting back home for us, having heard no English officials, Policemen or shopkeepers for two long weeks. On arrival at Wembley, we went to our hosts again and took things easy for the next few days. Something which we all enjoyed was being shown over the gigantic factory of Lyons, the caterers, at Hammersmith, where we saw sixteen miles of Swiss roll being made for one day's consumption!

After these few "days for recovery" each boy had five days into which to visit relatives and friends in England and Scotland. The Contingent was widely spread, three boys flying as far as Holland. I stayed near London and with my relations I saw more of this wonderful city. Visits to such places as the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Kensington, Epping Forest, Gilwell Park, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, these filled up my time. If by chance, I was doing nothing in the evening, then there was always the television to watch – something we never had. No sooner had I got to know my relations well, and they me, than the five days were over and we were on the last lap of our stay in England.

This was a ten day coach tour of England, which, although, very rushed, gave us a good glimpse of English life outside London, which naturally takes most of a visitor's interest. We visited Oxford, the famous Stratford-on-Avon, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, York, Leicester, Worcester, Salisbury, Wells, Cheddar and Winchester.

At each place we were honoured guests and several towns gave us civil receptions. We were housed in the homes of Scouts, in Scout halls or even in school dormitories, as in Worcester. Everyone enjoyed the visits to towns immensely, for there was not the upheaval of constant packing and unpacking.

Our three motor coaches remained our homes, more or less, and we could leave in them all the kit that we did not need for only one night. Towards the end of the tour, when boys saw that they might have some English Currency left over, spending on souvenirs increased.

Although not everyone appreciated the beauties of Gothic architecture and there were many audible complaints at the number of cathedrals we visited, I think everyone will be pleased ultimately, for how could one travel through England and miss those magnificent buildings the like of which we can never see in South Africa. It was very disappointing to see how a section of the Scouts would much rather spend their few hours in some historic and beautiful town, by sitting in a cinema, than taking the trouble to see sights which they should never forget.

So far, all my memories have been pleasant, but it would be false, to give the impression that all our experiences were of that kind. Towards the end of this tour, when everyone was experiencing mixed feelings of tiredness from all the travelling, sorrow at having to leave soon, and gladness at being nearer home, our behaviour I am afraid, left much to be desired in places. It was only a minority, but it served to lower South African Scouting in the eyes of people who witnessed it. The unfortunate part was that it was not always brought to the notice of the Scouters. This does not deserve a big place in memories and experiences which are overwhelmingly pleasant, but to give a balanced picture it must be included.

The Voyage home

With our minds a whirl of roads, towns, cathedrals, castles, rivers, historical facts, sights, sound, smells, impressions and feelings, we at last reached Southampton the day before the "Carnarvon Castle" was due to sail. As a last example of the friendship and brotherhood which had sprung up in our short stay in England the last few faces we saw as the ship pulled away on the 6th September from Berth 101, were those of the Wembley Scouters and some of the Wembley parents who had been our hosts for most of our stay. Although we sang and shouted our Zulu War Cry as a farewell demonstration, no one was very cheerful when at last we were out in the Solent away from old England.

Then followed fourteen days which we accepted gratefully, as a rest from our hectic race round the British Isles. We lazed in the tropical sun, swam in the pool and tried to sort out everything we had seen felt, done, heard and learned in the last two months. This took us half the voyage, at least, we stopped consciously trying after a week. The second week went by very slowly as we got nearer and nearer home. In our minds we went over what we were going to do and say, what we would give to each one at home, and what we were looking forward to most.

To everyone, but especially Capetonians, the sight of Table Mountain on the 19th September in the cool twilight before dawn, with the dock lights still burning, was the greatest event of the voyage. We were home at last and for those of us who lived further away, it would only be a matter of days before we were again amongst the familiar things of home, leading a settled home and still remembering, reminiscing and retelling stories of the greatest adventure of our lives - our trip to the Seventh World Scout Jamboree.

Contingent badge and insignia

To identify the contingent as South African, it appears from photos that only the Area badge was removed and replaced by this 'Springbok' badge. There does not appear to be a cloth Jamboree badge that was issued to all participants, although there are leather versions of it.

The Jamboree Badge

The Jew's Harp

THE JEW'S HARP, the symbol of the 7th World Jamboree is one of the simplest musical instruments aptly symbolising the Jamboree theme of "Simplicity" as well as the Austrians' great love of music. The Jew's Harp (in German - Maultrommel) is produced almost exclusively in Austria. Many thousands of them are produced in Molln a tiny village in Upper Austria and sent all over the world.

Its simple music can be heard played by shepherds in Austria, Hungary and Rumania on the prairies of America and even under the burning sun of India.

To play the Jew's Harp you press the ends of the iron frame to the teeth and let the steel spring swing through the half-opened mouth and teeth. The cavity of the mouth produces the sound and regulates the pitch. In this way one can with practice produce an almost magical tune. Experts use two differently tuned instruments at the same time.

In the last two centuries artists on the Jew's Harp earned great renown at several Royal Courts of Europe. Masters of the art used whole sets of instruments tuned in harmony. To do this, great practice and a clever selection of suitable pieces of music was required.

Why is it called Jew's Harp? The answer is that no one really knows. Most authorities say that it is not a corruption of Jaw's Harp as often supposed. To quote one dictionary: "It is not known how this very simple instrument got its name ... it has no connection with the Jews and is not a bit like a harp."

S A Scout Heritage

See Also