I have never been a Sea Scout, so I tread carefully, (or should that be paddle cautiously?) when it comes to making pronouncements about recent developments in Sea Scouting. However, having read much of what there is to read about the life of B-P and the history of our movement, it does seem to me that the history of Sea Scouting is inextricably bound up in that of the Movement as a whole
Baden-Powell's Seafaring Background
BADEN-POWELL grew up being constantly reminded of his family's naval connections. His maternal grandfather was Captain William Smyth who, from a lowly start, became an Admiral in 1863 and was distinguished in many fields. B-P's father died when he was only three, and not unnaturally he used to love visiting his grandfather who would regale him with stories of the sea as they paced an imaginary 'quarterdeck'.
B-P was brought up to believe - though there seems little evidence for it - that he was related to Capt. John Smith, of Pocahontas fame in Virginia USA. (A play based on the story was to feature in the first part of Scouting for Boys published 1908.) There were other family stories concerning their links to Nelson.
True or not, B-P grew up with the romance of the sea in his blood, and it was not surprising that his older brother Warington, ten years B-P's senior, set his sights on a career in the Merchant Marine. Warington was an early pioneer in canoe sailing, and had written a book Canoe travelling: and practical hints on building and fitting canoes. He completed three years in the training establishment HMS Conway before joining the Hotspur on the Smith Line in 1864.
WARINGTON Baden-Powell was to play an important role in Sea Scouting. (His unusually-spelt forename was quite common in the family deriving from a kinship connection in the Shrewsbury, Shropshire, area.)
He joined HMS Conway in August, 1861, aged 14 as entry number 187. HMS Conway was a permanently moored ex-Royal Navy ship 'training establishment' which was used for accommodation and training purposes.
The fees were 35 guineas per annum, with clothing and washing an additional £7 5s. (The full cost of £44 would be more than a workingman's yearly income!) The ship, formerly HMS Winchester, was acquired from the Admiralty in 1861 and served as HMS Conway until 1876. She was launched in 1816 and after a long and eventful career was broken up in 1921 at Plymouth. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any pictures of this HMS Conway. The last HMS Conway ceased to function as a training establishment in 1974. There is an excellent organisation 'Friends of HMS Conway' to whom I am indebted for the all the information relating Warington Baden-Powell's time whilst he was stationed on it. The log of HMS Winchester/HMS Conway 1816-61 is appended to this article as Appendix A.
At the end of Warington's first year his Commander, Capt. Mowll noted that though his conduct was 'Good' he was 'Rather troublesome'. At the end of his three years at Conway he passed out 8th in a class of 25 cadets. His Naval report gave his ability as 'Good', and his conduct as 'Very Good'. However, academically he was only 'Fair' in his ability, application and conduct. Despite this, his overall performance was quite sufficient for him to be awarded what his official record calls a 'Double Extra Certificate'.
Whilst Warington was on HMS Conway, he made a model of the ship. It is currently in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, but is not on display.
Another of Baden-Powell's brothers, George, also became a Merchant Navy Officer on the India service. It would seem likely that he too might have gone to HMSConway, but I have been unable to locate his records
Warington had become an authority on the making and design of collapsible and sailing canoes. He tested his designs in practice with many long distance journeys notably on a tour or the Baltic sea ports. In 1871 he published a book that combined his designs and adventures called Canoe Travelling: Log of a Cruise on the Baltic and Practical Hints on Building and Fitting Canoes.It is not surprising, given the level of fitness the Baltic Cruise must have entailed, that same year W B-P won a 'Paddling Race' on the Thames, the inscribed silver biscuit-barrel trophy is in the author's collection.
The following year, when he was 15, Baden-Powell accompanied his brothers on a cross-country expedition by collapsible canoe. They paddled up the Thames to its source, carried the canoe across the watershed, then journeyed down the river Severn and up the Wye into Wales. They slept in tents and cooked their meals over open fires. The brothers also crossed Scotland from coast to coast using the Crinan Canal. These journeys in collapsible canoes would still make wonderful expeditions today, in 1872, they must have been amazing experiences. Little wonder then that B-P was to write later on in his life that he started his Scouting as a Sea Scout on his family holidays.(The ScoutOctober 2nd 1926).
Warington Baden-Powell resigned from the Merchant Navy aged 26 in 1873 to take up a career in law and became a Q.C. (Queen's Counsel) at the Admiralty. As he left HMS Conway without any legal training whatsoever in 1864, this heady progress seems quite amazing and in its own way, paralleled the meteoric rise of B-P in his army career.
The young officer designed and supervised the building of his own 5-ton yacht the Diamond. The photograph him at the helm at the helm of his yacht,
For the next three years Baden-Powell had many holidays with his brothers cruising the South Coast. He was often to 'yarn' about those days and the 'scrapes' and rough weather encountered. B-P was appointed cook on many of the expeditions and wrote that he owed his later campfire culinary skills to his survival instincts, it was a choice between cooking something edible or going hungry. B-P acknowledged that had Warington acted as a father to him and
"infused so much jollity and romance into that early sea-training that it gripped me from the first..."
The Headquarters Gazette, May 14th, 1921.
THERE were many reasons why B-P chose Brownsea Island for his 'experimental camp', but there was no doubt that the closeness of sea bathing and the opportunity to use boats were very appealing.
The 'Humshaugh' Scout Camp
The 1908 camp near Humshaugh was B-P's first camp for established Scouts. There were no water activities other than a dip in the North Tyne, though the campers did visit the then-famous HMS Calliope at her moorings in Newcastle. There is evidence that it was intended that the campers be provided with 'sea experiences' at Blyth, Northumberland. The visit may have been thwarted, as other undoubtedly were, by the appallingly bad weather.
By the time the camp was over Scouting was widespread throughout Britain. The Hexham Courant, reporting on the Humshaugh camp states that there was a least a patrol in every town through the land. For those established on the coast and by waterways, it was natural that water activities would form a large part of their Scouting.
Scouting for Boys
First published in instalments from 1908 onwards, Boy Scouts reading the very first issue of the series of Scouting for Boys had their thoughts directed from the outset towards the sea and ships as its cover showed a line-drawing of a Scout on a cliff longingly looking at a ship out to sea.
In it, B-P maintained that
"...A scout should be able to manage a boat, to bring it properly alongside a ship or pier..."
This, with other advice on boat handling, was under the heading 'Watermanship'. Not long afterwards in December 1908, the 'Seaman Badge' was amongst the first five 'efficiency' badges ever issued. The 1908 Seaman Badge, is shown alongside.
The Beaulieu River Scout Camp
The 1909 camp based on the Beaulieu River, Buckler's Hard and the TS Mercury was the third and last Boy Scout camp organised and led by Baden-Powell. It included the water-based activities which had been planned for, but could not take place during the 'Humshaugh' Camp.
It is often said the TS Mercury was the genesis of Sea Scouting and in fact there are already plans to celebrate the centennial of Sea Scouting in 2009 using the date of the Beaulieu River camp as its inception. This, however, seems to be yet another 'chicken and egg' situation. There may not have been Sea Scouts with the TS Mercury, but certainly the official scheme came later.
Sea Scouting proper
BADEN-POWELL knew from his own experiences and the work done at the Beaulieu River camp that here was another form of training that would be just as useful to the Country as mainstream Scouting and, in his brother Warington, he had on hand just the man to write the book!
Warington outlined the concept of Sea Scouting on a Scoutmaster's Course in London in January 1911. B-P wrote:
"The general scheme of Sea Scouting for Boy Scouts was outlined by my brother Warington Baden-Powell, who although a King's Counsel in Law, is also an old sailor, and has kept up his interest in the sea by spending most of his time sailing when he is not at work in the Admiralty Court. As he possesses the heart of a boy, he is well fitted to explain the aim of Sea Scouting.
"Sea Scouting is not necessarily a scheme for turning out a boy as a ready-made sailor with a view to his going to sea. But rather to teach him, by means which attracts him, to be handy, quick and disciplined man, able to look after himself and to help others in danger.
"Boat handling, swimming, and saving life in the water can be taught to inland troops just as well as those belonging to the coast...
"When it is possible to get a floating club house ... the sea spirit enters still more into the boy's mind..."
B-P was never a man for letting the grass grow under his feet, so whilst Warington was writing his book B-P was preparing the ground.
On March 25th, 1911, B-P wrote a letter to the Admiralty asking for permission to establish sea scouts as Seamen, and Coast Watchers. Approval was given. Coast Watching was, as far as B-P was concerned, not a 'time-filling' activity, but a real need.
As one might expect of Major-General, B-P had always maintained a 'prepare for war if you wish to maintain peace' stance. He was to go further in 1908 when addressing what he thought to be a private meeting in Newcastle, as identifying the future threat to the country as coming from Germany and identifying the north-east Coastline as a possible invasion route. At the time this was seen as libelling a 'friendly power', questions were asked in the House and B-P was called upon to account for his remarks. He said he knew from first-hand experience the strength and efficiency of the German forces and how the German military mind worked. Although there were no German landings on the north-east coast as such, (though there were naval bombardments) had B-P's predictions been acted on, who is to say that the First World War, if not avoidable, might have been curtailed by better preparedness?
B-P envisaged Coast Watchers operating within Sea Scouting. Coast Watchers however, would be able wear sou'westers instead of sailor's caps.
In advance of his brother's manual, B-P published a 'delightful booklet' on Sea Scouting published in May 1911 by James Brown and Sons, Glasgow, priced 6d. The booklet announces that the Manual is on the way, and 'floats' many ideas such as that a Sea Scout Troop would be styled 'The Ship's Company'.