The Prince of Wales and the 1937 Coronation
This unique artefact - now in the UK Scout Archive - was made for, and worn only by, HRH Edward, the Prince of Wales
The 1937 Coronation was brought about by the death of King George V. His eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, became King Edward VIII, but he abdicated prior to his planned coronation in order to marry the American divorcée Wallace Simpson. The abdication speech, broadcast over the radio, had a profound effect on the nation and threw the monarchy into a crisis which was not entirely resolved by Edward's abdication. His brother, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, known to his family as Bertie, had not been groomed for Kingship and had himself expressed grave doubts about his ability to fulfil the rôle. Scout Headquarters, like everybody else, had naturally expected Edward to become King and had openly groomed him as the next 'Scouting Monarch'. On the death of the old King the February 1936 edition of The Scouter, published an article entitled Edward the Eighth Our Scout King
The Grooming of the Prince
SHORTLY after Scouting for Boys was published on May 1st 1908, B-P sent specially-bound editions to influential and Royal personages, including President Roosevelt and the Prince of Wales, who was 13 years old at the time and an ideal recruit. The grooming of the Prince as a Scouting Monarch had begun, right at the start of the Scout Movement.
This now-rare Christmas Card was actually sent on December 15th, 1936, four days after the King's abdication
In 1911, Baden-Powell had wanted to create a new sub-section within Scouting, called the "Prince of Wales' Scouts". The new grouping would consist of First Class Scouts born in 1894, the same year as the Prince. The Chief proposed that members of this fortunate group should wear a special badge, and escort the Prince on his official duties. This idea, though perhaps a good piece of public relations, might not have gone down so well with First Class Scouts who were not born in 1894! The plan did not materialise. Perhaps it was overtaken by events, as on July 13th, 1911, the sixteen-year-old Prince was invested as the Prince of Wales at Carnavon Castle (now spelt Caernarfon) and accepted the title of Chief Scout of the Principality of Wales. After the presentation of the official symbols of his Princedom, the Prince, "heralded by the thunder of cannon and the blare of trumpets" was presented with a silver-mounted Scout staff. This was a truly amazing public demonstration that part of the official duties of the Prince of Wales were to be bound up with one particular youth organisation, The Scout Association.
Baden-Powell had of course met the Prince many times at official functions, but he was first able to get to know him as a person during the First World War, when they toured the Western Front together in France in May 1915. The Prince, we are told, had an acute grasp of the military situation and could expound on developments using maps of a very high standard that he had drawn himself. B-P's knowledge of the military matters was not, as some supposed, obsolete and relying on memories of his Mafeking days. He had spent much time in France working in his Scouts' Recreation Huts which were often under fire. The two men, generations apart, were denied the active rôle that they both craved, but they both worked indefatigably to maintain morale of the troops in the field.
When the war ended, the Prince travelled widely and visited many parts of the Empire, including Australia and New Zealand. On the Cigarette Card shown here, the Prince shows his confidence in a trestle-bridge - built in only fifteen minutes by Inglewood Scouts - in New Zealand on his 1920 World Tour. Scouts were there to honour him at official receptions, and he visited them in their camps. There was no doubt that he enjoyed the outdoor life and the company of Scouts. His return this tour was maked by a 'Posse of Welcome', at Alexandra Palace on October 7th 1929 attended by and 16,000 Wolf Cubs 60,000 Scouts. (If you click on the link provided you will see the Official Programme cover which has an images of the Prince of Wales in uniform.)
Baden-Powell writing in the October edition of the 1922 Headquarters Gazette
"I was immensley impressed by the Prince's thoroughness. The inspection took him one hour and he did not miss a section. He was evidentely interested, evidently impressed."
Amongst the presentations the Prince met
Scout Marr of the Quest"
IN January, 1921, Imperial Headquarters was again suffering from one of its regular bouts of chronic shortage of funds. The Prince made a personal donation and spearheaded a national fund-raising campaign which enabled the organisation to maintain its services to the youth of the nation. As a part of this individuals who were thought to be 'predisposed' to Scouting and in a position to make a significant donation were selected to receive a special letter from Prince of Wales, on his St James Palace crested notepaper. The typed message tells the recipient that on his 'recent tours' the Price had had the opportunity to see the strength of the Boy Scout Movement. "... it has spread to every corner of the Empire, and its possibilities for the future, both at home and overseas, are very great."
The Prince comments that there is a popular misconception that Scouting, being voluntary, costs nothing to run. Inevitably the Prince went on to appeal for funds for Scouting "in order to double its numbers this next year?."
One of the most interesting features of this 'personal' appeal was that it appeared to be hand-signed (in was in fact a facsimile) by the Prince of Wales with his 'title', "Chief Scout for Wales.", (See above)
A 'spin-off' from this appeal was a set of 'poster stamps' bearing the head of English music hall comedian, George Robey, who had a long-running career. Robey's first performance was in 1891 and he was knighted in 1954, the year he died. The twelve poster stamps were issued as a sheet in 1921 and showed Robey in different rôles. Each stamp also depicted the Prince of Wales' Feathers, an heraldic device taken from the Prince's coat of arms. The three stamps, from the top row of the sheet, shown opposite, show Robey in a Scout uniform. This must have been how he appeared on stage in one of his comic rôles, similar perhaps to the 'Scout' portrayed by comedian Russ Abbot in the 1980's. The stamps could of course only be used on mail in conjunction with official postage stamps. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there are no examples extant of these poster stamps being used on mail sent from any Scouting event, unless, that is, you know differently!
The gold Thanks Badge current in 1921
LATER that same year Baden-Powell presented the Prince with a gold Thanks Badge for his services to Scouting. In acknowledging the gift, the Prince wrote that he could not have received a nicer present. (Compare this badge with the later version.)
HRH receives his Silver Wolf from his uncle HRH The Duke of Connaught
The Prince returned from his World Tour in 1922 and a of enormous dimensions was mounted in his honour at Alexandra Palace on October 7th. It was at this event that the Prince was invested with his Silver Wolf by his by his uncle, HRH The Duke of Connaught, President of the Scout Association. When 19,000 Wolf Cubs performed the largest Grand Howl in history, the Prince was visibly moved and had special words for the 'Chief Cub', Peter Baden-Powell. Moments later, at a pre-arranged signal, the Prince was charged by 40,000 Scouts who, as if by magic, stopped their headlong rush to stand before him "amidst a deathly silence." The Prince then spoke to those present using the then-modern invention of a public address system, and to the public much further afield by radio broadcast. As the official programme put it; "by means of special apparatus that had been erected and loaned by the Marconi Company."
During the rally, Sea Scouts rowed the Prince across the lake in the grounds of Alexandra Palace to demonstrate aspects of their training and James Marr, who was part of Shackleton's Expedition to the Antarctic in 1921 on board the Quest, was presented to him.
The Prince was also present at the Imperial Jamboree at Wembley in 1924, but not just as a visitor. He was dressed in Scout uniform and spent a night under canvas. He was a popular visitor to every sub-camp, which he visited on foot, despite the mud churned up by the standard atrocious weather that these early jamborees attracted. At least the rain held off whilst he attended the campfire, along with 12,500 other Scouts.
In the photo shown here, Lord Glanusk, one of three Scouting Lords - the other two being the Chief Scout and Lord Hampton - is sitting on the dias with the Chief Scout and the Prince of Wales. As the Prince took his place on the dias "a heap of fresh fuel was thrown on the flames, and a great shower of sparks and a flash of light clearly revealed the heir to the throne to this mass of his future subjects." The Earl of Meath, with his distinctive long white beard, was the oldest person in the camp and is clearly visible on the right of the photograph.
The cult of 'Red Indianism' which was prevalent in Scouting when John Hargrave was Commissioner for Woodcraft pre-1919, had not entirely died out by this time. The Prince officially opened the 'Council Fire' as it was called and then sat on a carved seat engraved in poker-work in the Cree language with his Cree name Chief Morning Star. Dressed in an Red Indian blanket, the future King smoked his pipe, evidently enjoying the proceedings. At one point he spontaneously joined in a Highland Reel being demonstrated by the Aberdeen Contingent, whose Scout District included the Royal Family's Scottish Castle, Balmoral. The Prince kept the dancing going for a full ten minutes, never putting a foot wrong.
There is a wonderful painting of HRH attending this campfire by the artist C E Turner. I have only a poor black and white copy, too large to scan, and so would welcome a colour image to display here.
The following day, HRH addressed 30,000 Scouts at the closing ceremony, including the British Contingent led by C V Swan about to leave for the World Jamboree in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Cigarette Card included here - No. 43 in the Lambert and Butler series The Royal Family at Home and Abroad - shows the Prince inspecting Scouts at the 1924 Jamboree.
The Presentation of the Bison
IN July 4th, 1926, at Gilwell Park and with Baden-Powell present, the Prince of Wales accepted from the American Ambassador a bronze statuette of a bison. Ambassador Houghton represented the Boy Scouts of America and the Prince represented the unknown London Scout who, in 1909, did a good turn for an American gentlemen. Out of thick a 'smog' - a noxious mixture of smoke and fog that, as a 'pea-souper' could last for days (thankfully, due to clean air legislation, they no longer occur in London) - a stranger loomed up to the boy to ask for directions. The Scout took the time to actually take the stranger to his destination. On their arrival, the stranger, American William D Boyce, tried to give the Scout a tip for his trouble, but the boy would have none of it. He was a Scout and this was his 'Good Deed' for the day. Boyce had never heard of Scouting and wanted to know more, so after waiting for the visitor to conclude his business, the boy took him to Scout Headquarters which must have been nearby. As a direct result of this meeting, Scouting was started soon afterwards in America.
The Silver Buffalo is the highest award in U.S. Scouting. The first recipient was B-P and the second would have been the London Scout. However, as the Scout remained unknown, the Silver Buffalo could not be conferred and the gift of the bison, in recognition of his act, was awarded to the Scouts of Great Britain. The statue still has pride of place alongside the old London Bridge balustrade, situated to the rear of the White House at Gilwell Park. There is an inscription which reads, 'To the Unknown Scout Whose Faithfulness in the Performance of the Daily Good turn brought the Scout Movement to the United States of America'.
At the presentation, Scouts behind the U.S Ambassador sang My Country, 'tis of Thee, whilst at the same time, those behind the Prince of Wales sang God save the King. Thankfully both anthems have the same tune! This was followed by wave after wave of cheering. This visit must have stuck in the mind of the Prince as not long after, he sent a trophy lion's head to Gilwell that he been presented to him by the Scouts of the Transvaal on one of his African visits. The lion's head appears on Gilwell Postcard in the CW collection, but there is not record of there now very non PC item ended up.
Just a few days after the presentation of the bison, HRH went off to camp with the Welsh Boy Scouts at Llandrindod. The Chief Scout reported that the Prince had gone off "in Scout Kit, shorts and smile included", whilst at this camp the Prince addressed his fellow campers and told them,
"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. If more people got the habit of unselfishness this world would be a very different place"
On January 5th, 1927, the Prince paid a totally unannounced and informal visit to Roland House
He visited all parts of the house and spent time in the Rovers Scouts' meeting room - the Bears' Den - and in the newly-constructed chapel containing Roland Philipps' battle cross and the memorial light.
World Jamboree, Arrowe Park Birkenhead, 1929
HRH was in camp on Friday 2nd August and for the whole of the following day, camping overnight. For once it was not raining, but the mud created from previous downpours was everywhere. Thirty-five thousand Boy Scouts marched passed the Prince, who responded with the Scout salute. After the march-past the entire camp sang For he's a jolly good fellow and chanted "We want our Prince" until he came forward to speak. The Prince broke the news that his father, King George V, had conferred a peerage on B-P and that he was now Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. You might well imagine the reaction that followed! The Prince then spoke of his delight at being at the Jamboree and urged those present to:
"stick to your Scouting; make yourself as efficient as you can; be good friends with your brother Scouts from other countries and when you are older don't forget the comradeship of your Scouting days."
The Chief Scout then called for three cheers for the Prince of Wales, which was enthusiastically taken up and repeated again and again.
The Prince visited as many sub-camps and met as many people as possible and of course there were a great many photographs taken, some of these can be found in the Daily Arrow, the Camp Newspaper, and also the Official Jamboree Handbook. I have selected the photo here from the handbook, because it contains a rare glimpse of wheelchair-bound Geoffrey 'Uncle' Elwes.
The Prince of Wales had four brothers and one sister. Apart from the unfortunate ailing Prince John who died in 1919, they were all involved in Scouting. We will hear much more about Albert, Duke of York who became King George VI. His sister Mary, the Princess Royal, was President of the Girl Guide Association; Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was the patron of Gloucester and Norfolk Scouts; finally Prince George, Duke of Kent, was Commodore of the Deep Sea Scouts. He had also been invited to attend the Jamboree, "but owing to illness and doctor's orders he has been obliged to remain at home." His Highness, however, sent a message of encouragement to Sea Scouts presented via his brother, saying that he hoped that some of them would go on to become seamen "and join the Brotherhood of the Deep Sea Scouts "
The programme for the visit of HRH Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, gives a brief outline of the involvement of other members of the Royal Family, including George, Duke of York, as I have outlined above, but concludes with a very telling phrase.
"But to return to our Prince" That phrase, "Our Prince" was officially encouraged and shouted amidst the cheers over and over again.
The programme, however, contained one heading, a parody of the Wolf Cub Law, that now has a significance that could not have been dreamed of by its author.
"THE PRINCE DOES NOT GIVE IN TO HIMSELF"
The programme author was not acknowledged, but the sentiment came from Baden-Powell himself, as he had written the words that follow, shortly after the Prince acceded to the throne.
"He gives all his time and energy to doing good work for his country, and only takes his own pleasure when his work his done. He puts duty first, himself second."
THE transition from Scouting Prince to Scouting King seemed certain. After his father, King George V died, King Edward VIII relinquished his title of Chief Scout of Wales to become the official patron of the Scout Movement across the British Empire. The new King addressed his King's Scouts at the 1936 St George's Day service at Windsor. With hindsight, his words now seem to be a marker of his own uncertainty at a time, when he must have been struggling with his conscience in making his decision to abdicate.
"I wish you safe return to wherever your homes may be, and would like you, when you get back, to give my best wishes to all Scouts for the future, what ever it may be."
Ironically this was the first occasion that a monarch had used the St George's Day Parade as an opportunity to speak publicly.
The Chief Scout reported in July edition of The Scouter that on his return from his African tour in 1936, he was summoned by the King who wanted to hear all about the progress of Scouting in Africa. His Royal Highness also asked about the Scout Association's plans for his Coronation. Clearly there was no hint of the storm that was to follow.
The King's desire to marry Mrs Wallace Simpson led to Edward VIII signing the Instrument of Abdication on December 10th, 1936. Parliament passed the Abdication Act the following day and King Edward's short reign was over. The December issue of the Scouter, had already been printed and must have been 'on the streets' on the very day of abdication. It contained a photograph taken of the King at possibly his last public function. There is no text to support the photograph other than its caption. The Llanfrechfa Training Centre was opened in South Wales near Monmouth, Newport, at the request of the Ministry of Labour, following the success of the Mullet Schemes for unemployed Rover Scouts. The main difference between the two schemes was that at Llanfrechfa, young men who were not necessarily Rovers or even ex-Scouts were accommodated. Courses of up to forty unemployed youths, mainly from the North of England and South Wales - the areas of highest unemployment - were being trained in hotel work in an attempt to reduce the appalling unemployment figures of 'The Depression'.
The Coronation of King George VI, 1937
Coronation Pennant as advertised in The Scouter
April 1937 - price 1s. large, 9d. small
SOON after the abdication a decision was made to retain May 12th as Coronation Day, as to prolong matters would not be helpful to the national morale.
It was as if the people of the nation had decided that it was going to use the Coronation to put the past behind them and celebrate a new beginning, for the Royal Family, the nation and themselves. The new King contributed to this 'fresh start' by relinquishing his first name of Albert, becoming King George VI from the moment of his brother's abdication. Albert was thought to be too German a name for an English King, but the choice of George is somewhat confusing. The new King, as we have seen, had a younger brother whose real name was George. (Prince George, Duke of Kent who, as mentioned previously, was Commodore of the Deep Sea Scouts.) This, however, did not seem to cause any problems at the time. It was a matter of national pride that the Coronation celebrations should be so magnificent as to obliterate any lingering disappointment about the 'King that never was'.
It had been agreed that the Boy Scouts Association was to take a key role in several important elements in the festivities: the selling of the official programme; barrier control along the route of the actual procession, and the marshalling of important visitors as they arrived, usually by car, at Westminster Abbey. Of course, the Association also had to cope with the large numbers of Scouts from home and abroad who wanted to see the Coronation merely as visitors.
The Coronation Programme
IN June 1936, it was decided that the official Coronation Programme should be sold in aid of King George V's Jubilee Trust. This trust had benefited from programme sales at the Silver Jubilee in 1935, when 3,500 London Scouts sold an astonishing 120,000 programmes. Fifty three programme depots were planned along the route, each in the charge of a leader who had taken part in the Jubilee Programme scheme. The funds raised from programme sales were to be devoted "to the welfare of Britain's Youth." Sales were not just going to be limited to visitors to the Coronation, but " carried by Land Sea and Air" to British subjects wherever they may be, "in city, waste or wilderness." These phrases were not mere journalism as, in the outposts of Empire, some programmes needed to be delivered by Scouts using dog-teams or boats.
The Scouter of February, 1937, announced that the Coronation Programmes had been printed, and in response to the proposed Scouting 'good turn' of selling an estimated 774,000 programmes, the King George V Jubilee Trust had decided to donate £5,000 to the Movement.
Although there is no mention of Scouting in the programme, there is picture (below) of Baden-Powell with the new King when he was Duke of York. He is pictured saluting Scouts (not visible in the photograph), with a formal open-handed military salute. As the-then Duke was wearing his RAF uniform, this was the correct protocol. The uniform is that of a Group Captain, a rank the Prince actually attained in service with the RAF, though he was also honorary Air Commodore in Chief of the Royal Air Force Regiment. Above his right breast-pocket, the Prince is proudly wearing his pilot's 'wings'. He was fully entitled to this distinction, being the first member of the Royal family to learn to fly. So proud was he of this badge that he authorised all RAF-trained pilots be entitled to continue to wear their 'wings' no matter what future rank or position they attained, flying or not.
The RAF, however, was the second branch of the armed forces in which the Prince had served. During the First World War, he was a serving officer in the Royal Navy and had been involved in the very costly Battle of Jutland in which Scout hero Jack Cornwell was mortally wounded. It was only after the war that the Prince was seconded to the RAF and learnt to fly.
The Coronation Programme also mentions the Duke of York's Camps, which took place at Aldeburgh, in Suffolk, on an annual basis from 1922. Two hundred young men, from industrial firms across the country, camped with 200 boys from public schools, often with the Prince himself in attendance. Although these camps might appear to a Scout-inspired venture, and did have Scouts in attendance, they were not officially organised by the Association. The Prince promoted similar camps elsewhere in the Empire. On a state visit to Australia in 1927, HRH persuaded the Governor of Victoria, the future Chief Scout Lord Somers, to promote the scheme there. The Camp still exists to this day.
The Sea Scout is wearing his Official Programme Seller's Badge pictured opposite
Each of the Scout programme sellers along the route were expected to sell hundreds of programmes, each costing one shilling, so individuals would have to be responsible for quite large sums of money. B-P contributed a special cartoon (shown at the end of this article, alongside the Aknowledgements) to the April edition of the Scouter, the last before the big day, entitled Pip Power's Programme Push, showing a 'shady character' making off with a programme whilst the Scout programme seller had his head turned away from his wares to watch the proceedings. 'Pip' Power was P D Power, HQ Commissioner for the Coronation Programme (surely one of the oddest-sounding 'ranks' in Scouting), he also warned Scout programme sellers to be vigilant and not to fall for the old trick of accepting halfpennies done up in silver paper to look like shillings! A shilling was a pre-decimal (1971) coin, worth one twentieth of a pound, often called a 'bob', as in the Scouts' 'Bob-a-Job' week. The present equivalent is the 5p coin, but in 1937, a 'bob' might have bought a cinema ticket or a pint of good beer and you would still have had change left over for a bag of chips!
The Programme Sellers' Badge, pictured left, has the owner's name and address on the back - "R Mackness, 9 Jarrow Road, Heath, Essex". It would be wonderful if we could locate this person after all these years and hear his Coronation Day memories.
Seven thousand Scouts were required to work in the 53 programme depots. In the event there were 8,500 Scout volunteers, some of whom came from distant counties and were accommodated in local Scout Huts and at Roland House. No less than 598,000 copies were sold by Scouts in the UK alone, including 170,000 along the route of the Coronation. Only 6% of those produced remained unsold and it was felt that those too would have gone, had the weather been better.
The Chief buys a programme
Some 214 King's Scouts were on duty at the specially built stands outside Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Older Scouts were chosen to sell programmes during the evening before Coronation Day, and did very well. Programme sellers' money boxes were collected by trek cart, which proved to be the ideal vehicle in the face of the traffic congestion immediately after the event.
The May edition of The Scouter was entitled 1937 Coronation Issue, though readers had to wait for the June edition for actual reports of the event.
During Coronation Day, the Chief Scout found the time to visit the programme-selling depots and observe a job being well done, and that was not just the Chief's opinion, it was official!
"His Majesty would like to convey to the Boy Scouts Association his full appreciation of the work they are doing"
Along the Route
SOME 1,650 London Rover Scouts lined the route and assisted the police in the erection, manning and dismantling of the 2,400 crush barriers that lined the whole of the Coronation route, 400 barriers were erected the night before, but 2,000 were put up at 4.30 a.m. on the day of the event. Mr Cecil Potter, ACC London Rover Scouts, was in charge of the operation and liaised with the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police who was also very impressed.
"I want to send the most sincere thanks I can for the most efficient, cheerful, and ready help that the London Rovers gave us yesterday. They turned up early in the morning, even before they said they would, did their job splendidly in some places in spite of considerable difficulties, stood by all day, then removed and packed up the barriers in half the time."
Marshaling VIPs at Westminster Abbey
The Earl Marshal, The Duke of Norfolk, requested quite late on in the proceedings that a group of Rovers attend to the very prestigious job of meeting the cars of VIP's as they arrived at the Abbey and to escort the honoured guests to the ushers waiting at the Abbey's various doorways. One hundred and twenty five London Rover Scouts were taken off other duties planed for them and given the task of acting as official messengers. This must have seemed more of an honour than a chore at the time, but it was not quite the 'cushy number' that some of the chosen Rover Scouts might have imagined. The large number of people involved, coupled with the bad weather of the late afternoon and the stress that comes from an imposed rigorous timetable all had their effect, requiring the Rovers to be very diplomatic in the face of adversity! One unnamed "High Official" is quoted as saying,
"I can find no words which can adequately describe my admiration of the manner in which they slaved . . . . Unsparingly of themselves, and soaked to the skin they worked through the afternoon and evening. Hundreds have expressed their admiration and gratitude of these splendid fellows"