THE venue was chosen much sooner in the year than B-P chose his 'Humshaugh' site for the 1908 camp. In a letter to Percy Everett dated February 18th, 1909, B-P wrote:
"I have been over the ship (TS Mercury) and the whole place is an ideal one for our camp: and the authorities are most willing for us to come...
"C B Fry, the director, is most keen to help. They have lots of boats available. Also a hospital for the sick. We can get motor boats on loan. They have a splendid museum of naval models etc., and a first rate theatre for the boys to act in"
I think we can fairly say that B-P was impressed!
The famous cricketer C B Fry was the director of a sea training school which included the Training Ship Mercury - he was a larger-than-life character and, like that other legendary cricketer, W G Grace, Charles Burgess Fry preferred to be known by his initials. Regarded as a great English hero in his sport-playing days, he was a great batsman at a time when English cricket was at its zenith, an international soccer player, the co-holder of the world long-jump record while still at university, and an outstanding amateur all-rounder. He was a renowned Oxford scholar and at one stage was offered the crown of Albania! He met Hitler in the 1930's and tried to convince him that Germans should take up cricket. Boys of the Hitler Youth Movement joined training courses on the Mercury. Fry died in 1956 after becoming one the first amateur sports personalities to make a living through advertising and endorsements.
However, only 50 lads could be accommodated on the Mercury and the camp had already been advertised as prize to the 'best 100'. Percy Everett wrote to B-P on May 28th, 1909, suggesting that, as Fry could only offer the Mercury for two weeks, B-P could write to Lord Montague of Beaulieu for permission to camp in his grounds adjacent to the Hamble where the Mercury was moored. The suggestion was acceptable to all parties and was stroke of very good fortune as the Buckler's Hard site is steeped in naval history. 50 boys camped on land and changed places with the boys on the Mercury at the weekend.
WHILST the venue was fixed, the leadership was not. As late as July 5th Everett wrote to B-P asking if he had 'discovered a commandant'. Typically, B-P returned Everett's letter with a reply in the margin 'Still searching ... if Booth not available.'
Fortunately, John L C Booth, who had been a Scoutmaster at 'Humshaugh', was available and he was, despite the short notice, determined to do a good job. There is a series of letters to Everett in the UK Scout Archive detailing outstanding needs, such as a bugle, and pointing out that parents' consent forms still needed to be signed (for Davidson and Lewis)
Other members of staff included: Eric Walker; H Geoffrey 'Uncle' Elwes; Carleton Stiff; Haydn Dimmock and W Curtis-Major.
Carleton Stiff was the Scoutmaster in charge of the Mercury. He was a Yorkshireman and seen by some as being a touch 'aristocratic'. Perhaps for that reason he was less regarded by B-P than other members of his staff. (The Scouter p.346 September, 1928.)
The quartermaster was W Curtis-Major - who wrote a hand-written report shortly after the event, now in the UK Scout Archives. He names the tenant farmer at Buckler's Hard, Mr Paisrus [sic] as being 'very obliging supplying transport whenever required.' The cook and his assistant were also commended.
Only days before the camp was due to commence on August 7th, Everett had to ask B-P on which days he intended to attend the camp. His Territorial Army duties would allow only two days at the start of the camp and the final week. The Founder was, however, still very much at the centre of the planning. He requested from Everett that, when on-board the Mercury, the boys be fitted out with sailor's caps with Sea Scout emblazoned on the tally bands. This would appear to be a close description of the tally band pictured at the start of this article, attributed to a Coast-Watching Warden. As you will see from diary extracts later on this page, hats (or caps as they are more correctly called) were issued - is there one still in existence?
AMONG the lucky Scouts to win a place at the camp was Godfrey W Himus who kept a diary, part of which was later published in The Scout. The original is held in the UK Scout Archive and is summarised below.
Godfrey Himus was in Cuckoo's Patrol, which comprised:
Patrol Leader, A W Horne; Corporal, G W Himus; Number 3, Frank W Cook; Number 4, Chisiam; Number 5, Coates (Great); Number 6, Coates (Little). (The Coates brothers were from Scotland, who both took ill by end of the camp.)
"Two brothers are being left behind sick and Dimmock hopes to send them to their homes later ..."
GODFREY Himus's diary is physically identical to that of Humshaugh participant Henry Thompson. This leads me to surmise that these diaries were standard issue to the participants of both camps. Certainly in the case of Beaulieu camp, there was a prize for 'Best Diary'. This was won by Himus - the inscription in his prize copy of Scouting for Boys alongside his diary and the letter telling him he had won the competition, are illustrated below.
Godfrey Himus's Diary, the letter telling him he had won
the 'Best Diary' competition and the flyleaf of Scouting for Boys
Detail of Baden-Powell's inscription on the Flyleaf
Godfrey Himus maintained that Scouts in the two camps were called 'Wet Bobs' and 'Dry Bobs'. This language stems from an Etonian tradition to differentiate between rowers and field game players and could indicate perhaps that some Etonians were present. Etonians George Rodney (later Lord Rodney) and Humphrey Noble had attended both Brownsea and Humshaugh and it is likely that at least one of these was present, as guests of B-P. Fellow Etonian Edmund H J Wynne, who had attended Humshaugh was definitely there, as B-P mentions the fact in his obituary on him.
B-P's nephew, Donald Baden-Powell, who had attended all three camps, and Rudyard Kipling's son John were invited as guests of B-P rather than winners of The Scout magazine competition. Then aged 12, John Kipling was to die in the first battle of the Somme in 1916. His body was not recovered and to this day he has no marked grave, a fact that deeply affected his father, who, ironically, had been a mainstay of the National Recruiting Campaign. Rudyard Kipling was an old friend of B-P and was to have a long association with Scouting, notably providing the 'theme story' Jungle Book used by B-P for Cub Scouting.
Other 'guest' campers included: Everett's son Varley and his friend; Pearson's son; Balfour (was this the son of the famous politician?) and a Crobbe. B-P wrote to Everett to ensure that 'my boys' were all in the group to stay on land at Buckler's Hard first.
In a letter to B-P on June 8th, 1909, Everett gave the final number of 'winners' from The Scout competition as 92, so with the 'guests' the total was around 100 boys.
The camp was a great success and though most of the lads had never been on a ship before, they acquitted themselves excellently. C B Fry was full of praise for them. He told Percy Everett that he was most impressed with their boatwork, seamanship and enthusiasm, and that they never broke anything!
A direct result of this camp was the founding of the Sea Scouts as a separate division of the Boy Scout Movement and its formation is another of the Scouting Milestones.
THERE are several Websites associated with sea-training establishment TS Mercury, despite that fact that it finally closed down in 1968. (See Web-based Sources below) Charles Hoare was a wealthy sportsman banker when he founded his training school in 1885 to enable poor boys to gain entrance the Royal and Merchant Navies. When he died in 1908 his friend, the famous scholar and cricketer Charles Burgess Fry took over the project. Beatrice Holme Sumner had helped Charles Hoare found the school and had worked alongside him. She had married C B Fry in 1898. As a result, C B and Beatrice Fry ran the school together from Hoare's death, with Beatrice taking a prominent role until her death in 1946.
Tradition at the Sea Training School was to name whatever vessel was currently in use, 'TS Mercury', the name of the school. The school was initially housed in the barque Illova which had been renamed Mercury. It was aboard this ship that the school went on its one and only cruise to the Mediterranean in 1888 and wintered in Villefranche on the Côte D'Azur, returning safely in March 1889 from when it moored, as it was during the time it was occupied by Scouts.
Thanks to a reader of these Pages we are, in late 2002, able show the good quality photograph of T.S. Mercury that you see below. When this article was written, almost a year previously, the only image available was of poor quality taken from the very thin paper of a 1915 copy of Headquarters Gazette. The reason for its inclusion in that publication was that a Scoutmaster had written to say that he had taken a group of Sea Scouts to camp on the ship and had been surprised to find that Percy Everett and Baden-Powell had also slept onboard. This could well be true, but it would only have been for one night, possibly two, as B-P was not at the camp for more than two consecutive days. However, what the letter does indicate that only 6 years after the Beaulieu camp took place, it had sunk into the depths of historical obscurity. It was not even rescued by the editor of the Gazette who ought to have been in a position to confirm his correspondent's statement and give the reasons for B-P's and Everett's presence of the ship. After an interval of nearly 100 years, I am pleased to have been able to 're-float' this 'Scouting Milestone'!
Image courtesy of Sally Jones