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The Group 1910 - The Present

Scouts in a Tent

In 1911, with the newly formed Scout Movement growing rapidly, the 3rd Ware Scout Group begins its history. Ware had a population of just over 6,000 and already had two troops, but such was the popularity of scouting that the demand existed for yet another. Although the troop may have been in existence for a few months, the first record is in the Hertfordshire Mercury dated June llth, 1910, as follows:

"In connection with the Christ Church Sunday School and Bible Class a troop of boy scouts has been formed by the Rev. A. Payne. It consists of 3 patrols of which Mr. Payne is the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters are Messrs. J. Kinniburgh, E. Clibbon and A. Mitchell. About twenty-five have already joined and the lads are taking much interest in the preliminary drills and manoeuvres."

Meetings were held in the Church Mission Hall in Amwell End but from the sparse records of those early days it is clear that funds were not easily come by. Equipment for camping, pioneering and all the other activities boys were reading about in Scouting for Boys had to be begged or borrowed: a problem which stretched the inventiveness of the leaders to the full. Nevertheless, the troop thrived and soon after the First World War we have the first records of a Wolf Cub Pack existing with the name of Cecil Clibbon, later to become Canon Clibbon, featuring largely as a leader of both sections.

The pack meetings centred around Kipling's Jungle Stories with leaders taking their names from its characters and the jungle dances forming an essential ingredient. The objectives of cubbing were however the same as those of scouting: to instill a sense of citizenship and self reliance through a programme of games and test work, albeit at a more elementary level.

The summer camp soon became the highlight of the troops annual programme. This for most boys was the only holiday they had and for 9/-Scoutmasters like Geoffrey Fall, J. McNaughton or Jack Taylor could hire a lorry and run a very successful camp at Cromer, Broadstairs or Hastings. Most activities were local however: the trek cart was pushed for miles to camps in the countryside around Ware, big hats and long shorts were worn with pride, the scout stave was carried everywhere and with subs at 1/2d a week the great game of scouting carried on.

1927 saw the start of a Rover Crew by J. McNaughton who the following year was to become the Group's first Group Scoutmaster. The fortunes of the Crew varied over the years up to the Second World War, when it closed down because of its members going into the forces. It did, however, provide a valuable service to the Group in assisting with cub and scout activities up to that time.

This was the pattern of scouting during the first twenty years of the Group's life and it carried on in a similar fashion through the 1930's. Many boys devoted at least two nights a week and most Saturdays to a wide range of activities and the organisation was carried out by the uniformed leaders with little other help. There are still many people living in the town who were associated with the Group in those days and who have countless stories to tell . . . about the time they were invited to Lady whats'er name's stately home and woofed all the food in sight.... about the time the cows got into the tents and Skip spent a fortune on lavender water . .. about the year they got to Clacton before realising the tents were still in Ware!

The Troop at Barwick Ford, 1922
The Troop at Barwick Ford, 1922

The Wartime Years

The onset of the war not only meant a decline in the Group's activities but also a move from the Mission Hall H.Q. to make way for the army. In 1941 a Scoutmaster from Chingford moved to Ware and was immediately 'roped in' to 3rd Ware. His name was Harold Warren (or 'Wob' as he became known) and he continues the story in his own words: "We met in a kind of shed in Viaduct Road; it was small with a low ceiling on which anybody over 5 feet was inclined to bump his head. My first impression was of a bit of a rabble but when I got to know them I realised there was some very good material there.

There was a nucleus of 7 or 8 who were the foundation of future success. One of the boys was Robert Hilton and his home at The Thrifts became a second home for us and was our venue on fine days. It was also the scene of many money-raising efforts and Mrs. Hilton's wonderful things to eat became a by-word in those days of rationing.

When the shed became too small for us, we shifted back to the Mission Hall (in 1947) in which the Troop was built up to full strength. Later, when I acquired 27 High Street, each patrol was able to have its own den over the old stable block and the yard seemed full of Scouts most evenings.

One of my early recollections concerns Josephine, the coffin shaped, home-made trek cart; she was a great-hearted little vehicle which never stalled nor grumbled. She came to a peaceful end, worn out but never discouraged, long after the war was over. Two special events stand out in my memory. The first was a visit to the House of Commons (then in the House of Lords) when Jack Taylor had the privilege of sitting in Mr. Churchill's seat. The second when John Sweet arranged for us to represent the Movement in a direct broadcast to the United States by Mrs. Risby on behalf of the parents and myself for the Troop.

For outdoor scouting we were fortunate in getting the use of a large gravel pit at West Mill and a camp site and place for swimming on the Rib below it. This was the scene of many camps and, during the war, it always felt safer to have a tent there than a roof in Ware. These activities later continued at Thundridge near Poles. Summer camps were a regular feature of the training programme and included Barkway, during the war, the Isle of Wight, Dunwich, Frome, Brecon and on several occasions Boscastle. The Troop also played its part in District and County events, entering for the County Marathon most years. In one of these our junior team came first and we were often well placed."

There are many other recollections associated with the wartime period when meetings were adjourned at the sound of the air-raid siren and scouts dashed home with bombs whistling overhead. John Hession, a scout at that time, recalls a particular contribution to the war effort: "We attended at the Council's yard to flatten tins which had been collected for re-use as munitions. We discovered that if the lid of a treacle tin is hammered home hard and the tin is struck violently on the side with a mallet, the resulting compression will send the lid quite a distance-unless it hits a colleague which scores a round of applause."

Between 1942 and 1955 the Cub Pack was run by Beryl Suckling. Before that the Pack closed down for about six months because of the lack of leaders. However with meetings on Saturday afternoons and after much hard work the numbers began to build up substantially and this enabled a varied and active programme to be maintained.

The Post-War Years

In 1944 the Group recognised that its formal links with Christ Church had become rather tenuous and the Group became open. A further significant development of that time was the emergence of a Parents' Association. The Mission Hall was rented at 44 p.a. and although the majority of that expense was recouped by sub-letting one room to the Food Office, for the issue of ration books, there were visions of a 'Headquarters of our own' and this needed a substantial income. Not only did the P.A. collect amongst themselves but with their help concerts, fetes, socials, raffles and rummage sales were organised regularly. This continued up to 1959 by which time they were securing an annual income of at least 150. It was only as a result of these efforts that the Bluecoat Yard Headquarters was purchased (for 174) and completly refurbished before the grand opening on 26th May 1956. Although money is a perenial problem, there is always a lighter side, for example, Vie Hards remembers the concerts as "providing one of the highlights each year-for ourselves and (I like to think) the public. On these occasions it was hard work but fun, teaching and rehearsing, and there was always a large number of group supporters doing the backing and behind-the-scenes work. Always despair till the show started, hectic but relaxed once we were running."

County Marathon Team, 1950
County Marathon Team, 1950

One further development during this period was the growth of a Senior Scout Troop. There had always been a number of older boys in the Troop who had formed themselves into a senior patrol or turned their hand to helping run things, but in 1948 a separate section was formed with its own meetings, training programme and leader. In 1954 the second milestone was passed when the numbers in the Senior Troop rose to 18 and they attended a camp at Kandestag in Switzerland. This was not only the result of much hard work in building up the Cub Pack and Troop in earlier years but also the foundation of the many extremely successful Senior and Rover Scout expeditions of the next decade.

The following year two Seniors represented the District at the World Jamboree in Canada and in 1956 the Senior Troop as a whole again went abroad, this time to Trogoss in Austria. It was a trip which really brought home the world-wide character of scouting. Harold Warren recalls the long outward journey when we were still some way from our destination and waiting for a connection. When the train arrived it was packed and people were even standing on the outside platforms. It seemed impossible for 24 people, with kit, to find room. Fortunately the guard came to our rescue and bundled us into his van (a very 3rd Class cattle truck) saying "I was a scout myself". I also remember the long last mile walking to the camp site in the pitch dark, pitching camp by feel and somehow getting to bed. The next morning, however, we were all thankful to the Austrian Scouter who had arranged the site when we awoke to find ourselves next to a translucent green lake amongst pine woods and surrounded by mountains - a sight never to be forgotten.

Starting in the mid 1950's there were a series of changes in both the leadership and activities of the Group. This is particularly true of the Rover Crew which sprang to life again in 1958 when the Senior Troop of 1954 'graduated'. Adventurous expeditions to Lundy Island, S.W. Ireland, Norway and the Pyrenees were the highlights of the period but the Crew also began to repay the Group for past help by taking a leading part in money raising activities and in running camps and special activities. The Cub Pack was as successful as ever and in fact had to start a waiting list because of a growing demand which could not be matched by adequate space in the Headquarters or sufficient leaders. The scout section too kept up a healthy programme of camps and participation in District and County events as well as basic scout training, although dogged to a certain extent by the now familiar problem of losing many scouts in the 13 to 14 age group.

1967 - 1973

The reorganisation of Scouting in 1967 designed to solve problems which had evolved and to put us on the path to success in the future also brought changes. Some were rather obvious, like the new uniforms or the fact that "Masters" became "Leaders". Others were more fundamental, like the new training programme, the new Group and Section organisation and the exhortation to broaden the scope of activities. Two particular repercussions were that the Group absorbed 1st Ware, who were particularly low in numbers, and that the newly formed Venture Scout Unit, after a year attached to the Group, merged with Venture Scouts from other Groups to become the District's Lygean V.S.U. As such the Unit is independent but strong links remain in that the Leader, Rob Wilkinson, previously led the 3rd Ware Senior Troop and V.S.U. and many of its members are ex-3rd Ware.

Perowne Cup Winners, 1970
Perowne Cup Winners, 1970

Still on the theme of change, fund raising and Group support now takes a rather different form. Gone are the days of concerts and socials: fetes and rummage sales feature only occasionally. These labour intensive activities have given way to more commercial enterprises like sponsored canoe events or the sale of our own printed notelets. There was one bright idea which didn't come off, however: the Ware U.D.C. having the problem of disposing of grass cuttings from verges and greens offered the Group the franchise of collecting the cuttings and selling them to gardeners. We had to reply saying that we were grateful for the offer but having experimented with some of our own grass cuttings we couldn't give them away, let along sell them!

So in 1973 the Group contained two sections. The Cub Scouts, under the leadership of Connie Tapper, and then Keith Davies, did exceptionally well. In 1967 we won all three trophies in the District competitions and since then have carried off many other trophies, including numerous firsts in the annual Go-Kart races. The programmes, now with less emphasis on the jungle book, are attracting more and more boys but prior to the opening of the new H.Q. it was not possible to accommodate a second pack.

The Troop too has accepted the challenge to 'do rather than talk'. More importance is attached to the Scouts, particularly patrol leaders, running their own show; activities like canoeing and sailing have been introduced and at camp there is less emphasis on the traditional aspects of camping and more on hiking, climbing, canoeing and pony treking: in fact, the Troop are now doing much that the Senior Troop of l0 years ago were doing. Two other majoy events are now an established part of the programme, firstly the Great Patrol Hunt-a running competition organised at County level in which scout and guide patrols take part in monthly tests of scouting skill, endurance, intelligence and even the social graces. We are proud that the Troop's Wood pigeon patrol were judged the "Greatest Patrol" in 1971. The other event, a 3rd Ware idea now called the Raft Race, between Hertford and Ware, has produced some spectacular sinkings but little other success!

The New HQ

The "glorious twelfth" has more than one association, for us 12th. August, 1970 was the date when a most important decision was taken-to enable growth in both numbers of boys in the Group and their activities it would be necessary to move to new premises.

The New HQ

After many years in Bluecoat Yard the old headquarters was reviewed with some affection however the first task was agreed to be the sale of the building. This was partly to realise its capital value but was also intended as an incentive to those concerned to "get a move on" once the Group became headquarterless. Little did we know that this first task was a major one. The fact that the Scout Association is a charitable organisation meant following strict procedures. The need for this was accepted by the Group but it resulted in the sale not being completed until April, 1972. In the intervening period negotiations had been going on with Ware U.D.C. regarding a suitable site. We had made a list of "preferred facilities" for a site and the one finally agreed met all but one of these. We had also designed, within the limits laid down by the planning requirements, our ideal H.Q. This also took account of a proposal to use the building during the day as a pre-school nursery arising from a desire to maximise the use of the building for the benefit of the community besides appreciation of the assistance that the income would afford.

Having "burned our boats" the boys were kept together by meeting at other premises, the cubs at the Methodist Church Hall and the scouts at the Lygean Venture Scout H.Q. and for both we are extremely thankful. It also became necessary to raise a considerable sum of money over that realised by the sale of the Bluecoat Yard H.Q. Grants were available from the Hertfordshire C.C. and the Department of Education and Science. These again were bound by procedual requirements and were also limited in amount. Again Ware U.D.C. came to our rescue with a loan of ready money and a further grant.

Meanwhile we had decided upon, and negotiated with, the building suppliers, and others providing works and services. Finally all our efforts came together and work actually started on site in October, 1972. There were a few unexpected delays but on 13th May 1973, 2 years 9 months after making that original decision we had our new Headquarters.

1973 - the present

Since 1973 the group has continued from strength to strength. At one point there were three Cub Packs: Jaguar Pack, Panther Pack and Heron Pack. In 1985 Jaguar and Panther Packs were merged to form what is now Falcon Pack.

In 1991 the group opened a Beaver Scout Colony completing the four sections that we currently have today.

over our 90+ years of history much has been achieved and without exception the many people who have contributed to this all too brief account have recorded their happy association with 3rd Ware.