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Roland Philipps: Boy Scout

Roland Philipps' coat of arms which hung in the chapel at Roland House. The motto 'Ducit Amor Patriae' means,'The love of my country leads me on'.
             The heaviest blow that our Brotherhood has sustained fell upon it when Roland Philipps was killed in action at Ovillers on July 7th 1916."    Sir Robert Baden-Powell

THE Scout Movement was only eight years old when Roland Philipps, aged twenty-six, was killed. The First World War was in its bloodiest phase, and had taken a terrible toll. Former Scoutmasters and Scouts were of course not exempt. Baden-Powell's tribute to Roland Philipps must have seemed remarkable, in that it ranked this one individual above all the others in the war fallen. B-P and others who knew Philipps remained consistent in their unique praise for this one man, long after the war had finished, by which time many more of the great and good from the early days of the Movement had perished. What then did Roland Philipps achieve in his very short life to earn such pre-eminence?

Early Years

THE Honourable Roland Erasmus Philipps was born into a very wealthy aristocratic family on February 27th, 1890, the second son of the Viscount, Lord St. David. His mother, the Viscount's first wife, Leonora (Nora) Gerstenberg, was German, the younger daughter of J Gerstenberg, of Stockleigh House, Regents Park. (Nora died on March 30th, 1915.) The Philipps family, like Baden-Powell's own predecessors, were also deeply committed to the church.


The Bookplate shown here, from a later period in Roland Philipps' life, shows the full Philipps family crest. The Latin motto translates, appropriately, as 'Love of Country Guides Me'.

Roland grew up with his brother, spending time amongst the coves and headlands around Lydstep, in Pembrokeshire, South Wales and on holidays in Warminster, Wiltshire. He was keenly interested in natural history and devoted to his part of the family garden. As a youngster he came under the influence of a Miss Hewat, who was employed as the boy's governess and tutor. She was a remarkable woman, and was likened to a 'true Akela'. Roland went to Lockers Park, a preparatory school near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, still in existence today, then on to Twyford School , Winchester before going up to New College, Oxford, in 1908. It was here that many of his earlier interests were to blossom. He became a keen a member of the Oxford Union where he had the reputation of being a skilled and fiery orator. He was, by all accounts, a compelling personality with deep and persuasive convictions. This, coupled with his Public School then Oxford education, his affluent and aristocratic family with all their connections, pre-destined him to command attention within any grouping he cared to enter.

In his spare time he worked for the Charity Organisation Society, being aware that his privileged position had spared him from the life of near-poverty that was the plight of many, particularly in the industrial centres. He became aware of 'settlements', charitable foundations working particularly in the East End of London and in 1909 visited the Oxford House, Bethnal Green, in London where much charitable support was given to the local community. This was to have a profound effect upon him.

He became a radical Liberal and could have become a Member of Parliament, being offered vacant Liberal Candidatures in four constituencies. He did become the prospective candidate for South Glamorgan, but as far as I know was not called upon to fight a General Election, as the seat was not contested between his candidature and his death.

Roland Philipps left Oxford in 1911 with a degree in Law and History and went to work at the offices of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company in Liverpool, one of his father's commercial interests, and it was here that he first came into contact with Boy Scouts.

Scouting takes a grip

Roland Philipps: Boy Scout

ON hearing that a local Group at Blundellsands required adult support, he volunteered to help and, characteristically, threw himself body and soul into the Movement and was soon totally committed to the Organisation. He addressed a large public meeting on Scouting in Runcorn and, when he was transferred to the London Office of the Union Castle Steamship Company, he appeared at Imperial Scout Headquarters, London, 'clamouring', as he put it 'for a job'.

Whatever he was given to do, he would do more, and do it well! In July 1912 he was appointed Assistant District Commissioner for East London. He left his well-appointed residence in Westminster to live in rooms at Bethnal Green and consciously tried to adopt a life-style in keeping with the incomes of the majority of the families in that area, in order to share the life experiences of 'his boys'.

There is no doubt that Baden-Powell became aware of young Roland. Lady Olave Baden-Powell describes in her book Window on my Heart how the B-P's spent their first Christmas together, after their marriage in 1912, at Roland Philipps' family home of Roch Castle, Pembrokeshire. The invitation was from Roland's mother, Lady St Davids. B-P painted a watercolour, now owned by the UK Scout Association, of the castle during their stay.

In May 1913 Roland Philipps was appointed Commissioner for North East London and the following November he was made responsible for Scouting throughout the whole of East London. Friends feared that he would not be able to maintain the punishing schedule he set himself, but he was unrelenting, sacrificing all else to the cause. Baden-Powell himself described Philipps as being a "fanatic for Scout ideals"; others were to comment on his "missionary-like zeal".

Scouting is fortunate to have a tradition of people (though, it has to be said, fewer these days) who find it within themselves to respond to local needs and to try to remedy problems that they see on their own doorstep. Roland Philipps did all of that, but had another kind of genius. In the Chief Scout's words, he was able to 'Look Wide'. He saw that the strength and uniqueness in Scouting came, then as now, from the central principals of the 'Law and Promise'. There was no doubt that for Roland Philipps 'duty to God' was central to all things. If Scouters and boys could be helped, then not only would Scouting flourish but also souls would be saved. The practical means by which Scouting could be made to work, he believed, as did B-P, was through the Patrol System.

The work continues

'Patrol System'

IN the winter of 1912-13 Philipps instituted the Hackney Lectures on Scout Law with Stanley Ince, who was then one of his District Scoutmasters. Ince was to become closely associated with Philipps and in 1927 was to broadcast on 'Scouting Matters' from 2L0, the BBC's first radio station. He recalled the time early in 1914, when Philipps had set up an inter-troop Sports Meeting for his District in the East End of London. The event was very closely contested and required a judge's decision. Later on, when the trophy was presented, Scouts from the defeated troop showed their disapproval by hissing. Roland Philipps leapt from the platform, white with indignation, and within twenty-four hours that troop had ceased to be. Ince reported Philipps as saying, "A Troop capable of such behaviour was not Troop. They must start again from scratch and learn what Scouting meant". Ince went on to say: "Roland was a hard taskmaster to himself, and it made him pretty intolerant of any Scout who let down the ideals or reputation of our Brotherhood." An illustration of this was when it was suggested to him that in order to ensure better attendance at meeting he was running, it might be a good idea to provide refreshments. His reply was scathing;

"Chaps who come for coffee and buns can stay away. Scouts will come because they want to be better Scouts."

His confidence was justified. 700 Scouts turned up to hear one of his guest lecturers, Mr Geoffrey Elwes, editor of Headquarters Gazette "...make one of the most magnificent speeches I ever heard." Other guest speakers included the Bishop of Stepney; B-P's brother, Major Baden Baden-Powell and the Headmaster of Harrow Public School. Roland himself gave the lecture on the tenth Scout Law, insisting that boys only came under the supervision of their Patrol Leaders, not only giving status to the position of P.L. but also utilising a 'management structure' that has become standard when trying to effect change within an organisation.

In November 1913, the Hackney P.L. Parliament was started and this led to the publishing of The Tenderfoot Tests, Letters to a Patrol Leader on the Scout Laws and The Patrol System by Roland Philipps. The latter was to become a classic. Its success can be gauged by the fact that the book, illustrated here, was the fourth reprint of the eighth edition published in 1949.

The central wisdom of the book is encapsulated in the following quotation:-

"Make the Patrol Leaders and Seconds responsible entirely for their Patrols in everything, not just one or two things, but everything..."

That was sound advice then, it is sound advice now! And Roland Phillips ensured, in his Scouting area at least, that it was carried out to the letter. He was unstinting in his visits to troops, especially whilst they were in camp. He knew everybody, and everybody knew him. He was the organisation in East London, and he was only twenty-three. He was attracting wider attention with the national movement, and was asked to assist Geoffrey 'Uncle' Elwes in the organisation of the Easter 1914 Conference of Scoutmasters held at Manchester.

Dispatch Card

Also in 1914, Roland Philipps published his second book. In Letters to a Patrol Leader..., the letters are addressed to a nominal Patrol Leader 'Jim'. Patrol Leaders everywhere were able to identify with Jim and take on-board Philipps' central message, that they must be worthy of their key role. There was though a Patrol Leader 'Bob' to whom Philipps dictated his letters. Bob would then try out the suggested activities with his patrol, and report back on the their success. (Bob was also a victim of the First World War, killed in action in Roland's Regiment in France in 1916.)

The rare card shown here carries Roland's signature, authorising the owner as a Boy Scout Dispatch Carrier. This must have been produced in the first days of the war before Philipps enlisted, as he has not signed himself with any army rank. It was presented to the UK Scout Archives by R W 'Skipper' Pinchbeck who knew Roland Philipps personally and was closely connected with the house for over 40 years.


WAR was declared on August 4th, 1914. By the end of the month Philipps had enlisted in the 9th Royal Fusiliers and knew that he was bound for France. He wanted to establish a place in the East End of London where Scouting might flourish, so he bought a run-down but dignified property in Stepney, made his will to the benefit of Scouting and threw himself into the role of an army officer.

He was not 'gung-ho' about the glories of war, just the opposite in fact, and was miserable being away from his Scouts. He wrote a letter to Geoffrey Elwes on February 16th, 1915, where he recollected visiting a preparatory school's chapel. He had started a troop in the school and witnessed thirty-two Scouts taking their Promise for the first time. Back in his own quarters the words of the Promise inspired him and brought him very close to God. He described the incident as being "a supreme divine experience", and cited it as being the source of his strength.Lieut. Philipps

He was promoted Captain in March 1915, and was by chance invited to dine with the King and Queen. Though he was naturally very pleased about this honour, he was far more excited about the fact that he had been able to start yet another Scout Troop in yet another preparatory school. He made this work a special mission, vowing to start a new preparatory school troop on every home leave.

He had a period of leave in 1915 that enabled him to address the London Scoutmaster's Conference where he implored the meeting to have a greater regard for the spiritual welfare of the boys. In May 1915 his only brother Colwyn was killed in action leading his regiment, the 'Blues', in a bayonet charge against the German trenches. This was only shortly after the death of his mother, and a short time after his best friend and fellow Scouter Anthony Slingsby was killed in action. Roland found refuge in his faith and though he did not show despair, like many another in that dreadful conflict, he recognised that the chances of his own survival were not high.

Letters from Roland Philipps to B-P and Lady B-P

March 31st 1915:

"We are leaving England in two hours' time, and I want to write to you before I go to tell you that whether I live or die I mean to do everything possible to uphold the honour of the Scout Movement."

Letter to Lady B-P (who was at the Mercers' Hut in France), October 29th, 1915:

"The great thing out here seems to be to want to live but be absolutely ready to die. Personally it will be the most wildly happy moment of my life, if when the war is over, I can go back with a Scout smile to continue to work amongst the boys of the East End...And it would not make an atom of difference that I happened to be deficit in eyes, or arms, or teeth, or any other of those handy little things that nearly everybody used to have before the war started."

Roland Philipps: Boy Scout, published in 1933 and D H Barber's book, The House on the Green, published in 1960, both by the Roland House Settlement, contain the transcripts of many personal letters he wrote to Baden-Powell and to Olave. They are often of a religious nature, very focused on achieving Scout ideals and always moving. Roland also wrote articles from the front for the Headquarters Gazette that were similar in content.

Roland Philipps' Grave

HE was wounded in the shoulder on March 2nd, 1916, during the 'Big Push' and showed 'conspicuous gallantry' for which he was awarded the Military Cross. Typically, he received his wounds going to the aid of wounded men. He came home for treatment and was decorated by the King himself. Before he returned to the Front, he lunched in London with Baden-Powell and returned with him to the B-P's home at Ewhurst, Kent as a house guest on the 12th and 13th of April.

Among Roland's men was an 'old boy', from his Scout Group in Bethnal Green, from whom the following information was received: On July 3rd Roland's trench received a direct hit and though not killed, Roland's old shoulder wound opened up. Philipps refused to leave the trench. On July 6th orders were received to attack the German lines. Zero hour was fixed for 7.30 p.m. Philipps gathered his men together and told them that were about to undertake a desperate adventure, that there was nothing to fear in death as it was a passing from life on earth to a greater life beyond. Our own artillery, supposedly 'softening up' the enemy, was falling short and onto our own men. Roland and a few of his men were deeply buried by a shell, but miraculously they were dug free. Philipps gave the order to 'go over the top' and, as always, he was first over the trench ladder. He did not get far before he was first struck by shrapnel in the leg, he got up and advanced again, but was shot through the head on the edge of the enemy's trenches.

Only six or seven of the 220 men that Philipps led into action that morning escaped unscathed. The rest were either killed or wounded. This level of carnage, a consequence of trench warfare and perhaps the remoteness of the 'top brass' was by no means unusual in the bloody battles of Flanders and the Somme. His Commanding Officer wrote to his father: "An irreparable loss has been suffered by the battalion in the death of your son. He was the finest natural leader of men that I have ever seen, and his courage, and dash and enthusiasm would have appeared fanatical were it not for the coolness and sane decision he displayed when his objective was obtained."

Baden-Powell must have often thought of Philipps and the other young men of his 'Scouting family' on active service in France, as he was reminded daily of the nearness of the war by the sound of the guns that could distinctly be heard from his home at Ewhurst Place, East Sussex. At last there came the news he must have been dreading. Unfortunately, part of B-P's diary for July 1915 is missing - so we do not have his immediate thoughts on learning of Roland's death. However, the Founder wrote a letter of condolence to Lord St David, Roland's father and one year later in 1916, on the anniversary of Roland's death, B-P sadly reminded himself, "Roland Philipps killed in France in attack on German trenches."

Memorial Window

On July 24th, 1915, three days after the tragic news of Roland's death had arrived from France, there was a great Service of Remembrance, held at the People's Palace, East London. 1,200 local Scouts and Scouters attended as did Geoffrey Elwes, Percy Everett, the Chief Scout and Lady Baden-Powell.

After the war, a party of Rovers from Roland House, under the leadership of P B Nevill, visited the Battlefields of France and Belgium and paid Roland's grave, shown here, a visit in the Military Cemetery at Aveluy. A note from Nevill in Scout Archives records the postition in Military Cemetary, Plot 1, Row H, Grave Number 25. He and his Rovers 'The Bears', decorated it with the Scout badge. The grave was later provided with a War Graves Commission Headstone and the original wooden cross was taken to Roland House.

There is a memorial window at Roland's old Parish church, St Mary's at Roch in Pembrokeshire, shown here. It portrays The Pathfinder, one of two paintings by Ernest Carlos Roland bought for his house. (See image below in The Roland House Settlement Chronology.) The cartouche above the representation of the painting reads "Called to Higher Service", whilst below appears "The Pathfinder. I am The Way. Lift up thine eyes my son, pausing awhile. Rest thou on Me, thy way to see." In the inscription that forms part of the window, there are details of Roland's Scout and Military service and that he had been recommended for the Victoria Cross. The window, the gift of the first Viscount St Davids in the 1920s, is dedicated to his parents and his two sons, Roland and his younger brother Colwyn, both of whom lost their lives in the Great War. It is said to be the work of John Henry Dearle (1860-1932), Artistic Director of the company set up by William Morris and Sir Edward Burne-Jones, founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Sharp-eyed old Scouts will notice not only the Scout fleur-de-lis, but also tracking signs, the arrow indicating 'I have passed this way' and the poignant 'Gone Home'.

There is to be a future Milestone on the paintings of Ernest Carlos featuring Scouts. The Pathfinder is without doubt the most famous and most the religious of them all. I do not know if Philipps had it specially commissioned or not, but it could not better sum up his own feelings. The other painting bought by Philipps for his House is equally inspirational and my favourite, I wish I was a boy again.Both paintings can be found on this page. There will be a full analysis of both these paintings in the forthcoming Milestones article.

'Boy Again'
The Carlos painting 'I wish I was a boy again'

From the letter Roland wrote to B-P before his departure to France:-

"In my Will I have left them" [the Scouts of East London] "the freehold property in Stepney Green...You will use the place in whatever way will best to help the boys, and I know that God will bless the work that is carried on there."

On October 8th, 1916, the trustees of Roland's will met in the back garden shed of the Queen Anne terraced house. Present was Roland's best friend H Geoffrey Elwes, Editor of the Headquarters Gazette and affectionately known to all as 'Uncle'; Miss Ann Hewat, Roland's old Governess and several others. After touring the partially run-down property, the trustees tried to apply their minds to a very urgent problem. The house was subject to a mortgage and although Roland had left a very generous cash settlement, this was from funds that did not pass to his estate until the death of his father. One of the trustees was P B Nevill, who had followed Philipps in his role of Commissioner for East London. He had moved into the property and made it the East London Scout Headquarters. He was to be remain central to its development for the next 40 years. Miss Hewat went on to become the first Wolf Cub Commissioner for East London. She also took over the domestic arrangements for the house and, when she died in 1929, she left a legacy that eventually paid off the outstanding mortgage on the property. The HQ was opened with a house-warming on December 7th with Baden-Powell and Olave present, as was Percy Everett, Geoffrey 'Uncle' Elwes and a Mr Arthur Gaddam. The place immediately became a hostel for ex-Scoutmasters in transit between home and the front.

'Boy Again' in Roland House
The Carlos painting 'I wish I was a boy again', shown in-situ in Roland House.
Postcard courtesy John Ineson collection

There was an annual commemoration service held at the house on the anniversary of the day Roland Philipps died until 1919, when this was merged with the national Armistice Day services.

Naturally, training courses were held at the house and P B Nevill organised a training troop to help service these. When war ended in 1919, this troop became the 31st Stepney Senior Scout Troop (One of the first Senior Scout Groups in the country) and, shortly afterwards, the Bears Rover Crew. Their den was in the old washhouse, and they were named after the bear to be found in the Nevill family coat of arms. (There is a separate Milestones article on the formation of the Senior and Rover Scout Sections.)

Front Door
'The House on the Green'. The front door of Roland House

In October 1919, the trustees were seriously short of funds and could not afford to modernise or repair the property adequately, so were having to contemplate selling off the property in order to pay off the mortgage. Nevill was totally opposed to this and in April 1920 offered to lease the house from the trustees, taking over all financial responsibility for it, and turn it into a Scout Settlement. His offer was accepted. Baden-Powell allowed an appeal for funds in the Headquarters Gazette, which briefly outlined the aims of the new settlement.

Fifteen full-time Scouters would be the housed there, coming from the Scout Troops of East London. The house would be a hostel for orphans needing a non-institutional home, as well as boys just starting to work in London away from home and for boys undertaking scholarship studies who could assist in the staffing of the house. In addition, there would be a meeting place for Scout Officers, a Scout Library, and 'Scouty' accommodation for visitors. This was to be the blueprint for the house right through to the 1960s.

The photograph opposite of the front of the House on Stepney Green, was taken when the premises were in Scout ownership, today much the same photograph could be taken the only major difference being the removal of the Scout Emblem above the door.

The old house, now in private ownership still retains it original name, but money generated by its sale was used to built a Scout Headquarters Building in Tower Hamlets District which has now become part of the N.E. London Scout District. The new H.Q. built in 19?? was also named Roland House, and wonderful to record, the contents and wall panelling of the original chapel, including the carved coat of arms which prefaces this article was transferred to the new premises. The wooden cross from Roland's original grave, his medals and sword, the property of course of his family, were I believe removed to the safety of their private chapel.

The photograph below taken at the new Roland House, shows the sanctuary light burning above a photograph image of Roland in his chapel, surrounded by carved wooden wall panelling recording the lives of many of the former Scouts of N.E. London who knew and came under his influence. I was fortunate enough to visit the chapel in 2009 and meet Colin Devlin, whose Air Scout group use the superb facilities adjacent to the chapel as their headquarters.

The name Roland Philipps then is still very alive in the East end of London.

The alter piece in the present Roland Chapel
The relocated Roland Chapel. Note the Sanctuary Light kept buning as a constant memorial.

The Roland House Settlement Chronology
(With additional images including the original chapel and the Pathfinder painting)
  • August 1920: The first International Jamboree was held at Olympia in London, and Roland House provided facilities for visitors including a rest room for writing letters home
  • 1920: The book Roland Philipps: Boy Scout was published with a forward by B-P. This helped to promote a steady stream of visitors to the house.
  • The cross, taken from Roland's grave, was displayed, together with his Scout badges and military medals, in a shrine in the house before the wine cellar was refurbished as a chapel in 1920
  • November 16th, 1921: B-P paid a visit to the House for the Remembrance Service
  • March 24th, 1924: The financial basis under which the house was managed changed yet again. Next door, No. 31 had come onto the market and, if it could be bought, would extend the facilities that could be offered. Unfortunately income only matched the expenses, so after lengthy negotiation Imperial Headquarters took over the lease. No. 31 was privately purchased by P B Nevill, who became Chairman of the new Board of Management
  • 1924: The wine cellar was converted into a 'quiet room'. A copy of the painting The Pathfinder by Ernest Carlos, shown below, was hung above the mantelpiece between two candlesticks. Some used the space to worship
  • November 13th, 1925: The former wine cellar quiet room was converted into a chapel, which was consecrated by the Bishop of Stepney. Lord St. David (Roland Philipps' father) had given consent for the wooden cross-taken from Roland's grave (when it was replaced by a headstone) to be transferred to the chapel, which was dedicated to St. Francis. Roland's sword was mounted at the West End with his medals. The Chapel became popular for Rover Vigils. Prayers were said twice daily and three times a year. Holy Communion was taken on Roland's birthday, the anniversary of the day he was killed and, of course, on Remembrance Day.

  • An employment bureau for Scouts was started in the house and ran through the recession until 1939
  • May 1925: P B Nevill retired as warden and was replaced by Roy Shapley, but because of the declining financial situation, his salary could not longer be met and in 1926 he departed. One of the resident Scoutmasters, Claude Fisher, took over his duties.
  • Easter 1926: The first Rover Moot was held in London and a conference of Rover Leaders was held in the garden of Roland House. During the proceedings, B-P presented P B Nevill with a Silver Wolf. Besides his connection with the House, Nevill was Acting Commissioner for Rover Scouts and had organised the Moot
    The Pathfinder
    'The Pathfinder' by Ernest Carlos
  • 1927 saw the first of a series of Pantomimes to be held at the House. There were to raise funds and publicity for the House. Cinderella made a profit for the house of £125. A young Ralph Reader was a member of the Company, the Roland House Players, and so the House could be said to be partially responsible for the world famous Gang Shows, which will form a future article on this Site. Don Potter of Gilwell Fame helped to make the scenery
  • January 27th, 1927: The House was visited by the Prince of Wales when he inspected 'The Bears' Den' (Rover Scouts meeting room), Roland Chapel containing his Battle Cross and the Sanctuary Light.
  • 1928: After P B Nevill had stepped down from Chairmanship, there was difficulty in finding a suitable warden, especially as the post was voluntary. A friend of Roland Philipps, Stanley Ince, was interested but had a family to provide for. Imperial Headquarters recognising the exceptional nature of the candidate agreed to pay his salary
  • October 22nd, 1929: Miss Hewat dies and leaves a legacy to the House. B-P writes a tribute to her in Headquarters Gazette
  • November 21st, 1936: The extension of the house at No. 31, made possible by a donation from Sir Jeremiah Colman, was formally opened. It included the 'Elwes' room, a library in memory of 'Uncle' Elwes who had died two months earlier
  • No 33 came onto the market and was privately purchased by P B Nevill
  • September 1940: the whole of the East End was under constant bombing from the Luftwaffe. 1,300 raids were recorded. The psychological effect of being 'blitzed' cannot be over-estimated. The East End of London was the new Front Line. The Roland House garage received a direct hit. One third of the buildings in Stepney were destroyed. Sixteen girls were killed in a daylight raid as they worked in a workshop, only yards from the House
  • November 1940: Stanley Ince, who had been forced by ill health to resign, died, he had long been affected by progressive Parkinson's Disease. Baden-Powell had great regard for Ince and always referred to him as 'Young Stanley'. It was B-P himself who instructed that the criteria for the Cornwell Award be uniquely changed, so that Ince could receive it. He was the only Scouter ever to do so.
  • April 16th, 1941: After a night-time incendiary raid, the house lost two thirds of its roof. Miraculously the chapel was intact, "untouched and at peace"
  • 1946: Leslie Millet, who bad been the house secretary in pre-war days, returned to the House as its warden having earned the DFC and bar as a Pathfinder in the RAF
  • 1946: No. 33 was given to the Settlement by P B Nevill and, thanks to funds from the War damage Commission and King George's Jubilee Trust, the House was then four times the size of the original building
  • 1947: The House Pantomimes recommenced and, as before, substantial profits were donated to the house
  • July 14th, 1950: Sir Percy Everett then Deputy Chief Scout, laid the foundation stone for a new extension called the Garden Hall, and the 'Ince Wing', which was named in memory of 'Young Stanley'. It was opened by Olave, Lady Baden-Powell on November 17th, 1951
    The chapel as it was before closure
  • June 22nd, 1953: After various changes in Wardenship, the rôle of the house continued to expand, not least in providing accommodation for international Scout visitors. Canadian Scouts who took part in the Coronation Parade made the house their HQ.
  • 1970's: During this period the house was once again in financial difficulty. Though owned by the Association, it still required upkeep and faced ever-increasing rates. I have a brochure which describes the House as a Holiday Centre, open to school parties and other youth organisations as well as its more traditional activities, but income did not meet expenditure
  • 1982: The House closed as a hostel to the regret of many, not least it last warden Les Ranson and the ex-resident members of the Bears Rover Crew, who had already had suffer the phasing out of Rovering by the Scout Association in 1964. A former member of The Bears, Derek Boddington, has as a result of these pages corresponded and shared many of his wonderful memories of life a resident in the house which were full to say the lease, all residents were in some way or another attached to local Scout Groups and were involved in manning the Scout Shop inside the house.

    Eric Wilson, contributed the following information to our Visitor's Page: He was resident in the house under wardens Jack Johnson and Dim Dow, "What ever I am now I owe to the guidance I had then." He remembers well the Rowland House Pantomimes, a regular feature of the house which started in the 1928 with (does anyone have a copy of the programme which they could scan please?) and later involved 'Holborn Rover' Ralph Reader). Eric particular remembers the hard-working Mrs Elmitt ..."... who did all the seat bookings with interferrence from people like me , which seemed like helping at the time."

    Though sad, the closure of the house was at least partially due to the success of Baden-Powell House in Central London, which offered many of the same facilities in more modern setting. As one ex-resident of Roland House, Mervyn Douglas MBE, stated, whatever the facilities of the more modern premises it can never compare with the Scouting atmosphere and friendliness that permeated the Roland House establishment.



LIKE many other buildings, the success of Roland House cannot be measured by gazing at its walls, either from the inside or the outside. Roland House was the powerhouse of Scouting in the East End of London throughout the last years of the First World War, the Depression, The Mosley Anti-Semitic riots and the Blitz. It is very hard to project what 'might have been' without its profound influence. Much better to concentrate on that which was achieved. The starting point undoubtedly was due to the inspiration and dedication of one man - Roland Philipps - but many nurtured his legacy.

The influence of Roland Philipps is however alive world-wide, as this contribution from a Mexican Scout troop clearly shows:Mexican Scouts

Since its formation in 1935, the Grupo VII 'Roland Phillips' Scout Group of Mexico City has strongly believed that the Patrol System is the ideal method to practice real Scouting. The Patrol System enables the boy to understand what it is like to be part of a group, taking direction from more experienced boys, before he in his turn becomes a leader himself. No organisation or education system has this unique structure and indeed it seems to be disappearing from World Scouting, as older Scouts are placed in a different section within the group. A Scout must practice Scouting, and Scouting means having a close contact with nature. The 'out' in Scouting is the means by which Scouts, away from parents, learn to be independent in an outdoor environment, preparing themselves for leadership and being able to be of use to anybody who might need help. The Patrol System has proved to be the best way of developing these skills.
Iván Guerra Villasana

Roland Philipps' legacy was not the bricks and mortar of the building that bore his name, but his Scout Spirit, encapsulated in Iván's words, that leaps out at us across the decades.

Roland's grave does not carry an epitaph, but had he lived a longer life and died in more peaceful circumstances it surely would have done. It would be hard to find a more apt sentiment than these words he himself wrote.

"Enthusiasm should roar forth like the north wind, and froth and bubble like Niagara"


Roland House sticker
Roland House sticker. The artist was
Stanley Ince who completed the sketch in 1933
Printed Sources
Roland Philipps' own works
Letters to a Patrol Leader : The Patrol System Capt. the Hon: R E Philipps, 1916
Letters to a Patrol Leader : The Scout Laws Capt. the Hon: R E Philipps, 1916
Letters to a Patrol Leader : The Tenderfoot Tests Capt. the Hon: R E Philipps 1916
The Patrol System Capt. the Hon: R E Philipps, 1917
About Roland Philipps
Headquarters Gazette July 1920
Roland Philipps: Boy Scout E M Gate. Roland House Settlement, 1920
Roland and his House Down East C Fisher (Warden, Roland House 1928) in The Boys own Paper Feb. 1928
The Broken Journey. A Play about the life of Roland Philipps Rev E R Hougham, 1932
Scouting Achievements Beresford Webb, 1937
B-P's Family in Picture and Story. My Record Book The Boy Scout Association, 1938
My Scouting Story P B Nevill, 1960
The House on the Green Barber. Roland House Settlement, 1960
Scouting in London P B Nevill, 1966
Window on my Heart Lady Baden-Powell CBE, Hodder & Stoughton, 1973
Internet Sources
The House of the Green
The Scout Promise
The Roland Philipps WebSite of Espíritu Azul, Grupo VII de Scouts de México. One of many pages
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley

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