1st RAMSDEN (St Mary’s Own) BOY SCOUTS

Just when Scouting began in Ramsden seems to he open to question, but I understand it must have been very soon after the end of the Great War in November, 1918.    The printed letter headings in use in the 1920s bear the state­ment "Founded in 1918" and I feel it may be a safe assumption to say it was in the November of that year as I remember we always held our Annual Church Parade towards the end of November.   Perhaps the Church Register of Services for that period might confirm this.I understand that the persons who first started the Group was a Mrs. Charlotte Dovey who lived at "The Grange", Church Road and was the Cubmistress. (Mrs. Dovey later became a Justice of the Peace) and Mr. Horace Abbott living at "Eversley", Orchard Avenue, who had charge of the boys of Scout age, My brother Henry who was a Cub at the time, tells the story of the Cubs being taken for a week-end camp on Kent Hill (presumably this was early in 1919) when it rained so heavily the first night and the next day that everyone got so wet they all had to come home.    Apparently in those days it was not considered seemly for a female to go to camp with boys so her husband, Mr. Frederick Dovey, was persuaded to do so and he had to walk back to the village to ask my Dad, who was the Village Grocer and Postmaster, for the loan of his horse and cart to bring the boys home.   Henry recalls that the first Cub meetings were held at "The Grange" that it was not long before Aubrey Taylor took over and meetings were transferred to a shed at "Eversley"

He believes the Scouts first met at the Old Barn and then transferred to the shed at "Eversley" as well.   He remembers that Mr. Abbott kept chickens and pigs at the time and that he had a large shed used for the storage of animal food.   This was partitioned to enable the boys to use one part while the wheat, bran and middlings etc. were stored in the other.   Boys will be boys and I gather that one Cub night some of the Scouts, arriving early for their meeting, climbed over the partition and started to pelt the Cubs with handfuls of the feeding stuffs.   Needless to say that was the end of Scout meetings at "Eversley" and he thinks activities were then transferred to the Church Hall.   However, there are photographs of Aubrey Taylor with the Scouts outside the Old Barn and I am wondering if perhaps, as Mr. Abbott started the Troop, the Scouts first met at "Eversley", that the Cubs moved there when Aubrey took over, and after the meal pelting episode the Group moved to the Old Barn then up to the Church "all, On the other hand it appears that the photographs could have been taken of Scout activities at a fete held at the Old Barn.   The photo of the Cub and Scout pyramid appears to he dated about 1920.   I say this as my brother Eric was a Sixer and Herbert a Scout.   Herbert was then about 13 and Eric 11.    Henry would have been 9 in that year and has two service stars clearly showing.   This suggests a time towards the end of the year - perhaps a fete in August.    The photo of the boys with their decorated cycles outside the Old Barn certainly suggests a fete occasion.

Whether the move from the shed meant an end of active Scouting by Mr. Abbott I do not know, hut his interest in the movement must have remained, even if in the background and subject to occasional urging.    This could explain the way he came to the Group's aid in 1941, and I wonder if perhaps he was also in­volved subsequent to the death of Aubrey Taylor in 1930.

It seems we were first registered at Imperial Headquarters as an Group as from 1st January, 1922, that is some three years after the stated founding date.    The Old Barn mentioned earlier, was originally part of the farm build­ings belonging to the manorial lands of Ramsden Hall.   When an Estate Development Company known as Homesteads Ltd, acquired the land and also that of the manor of Ramsden Barrington, or Ramsden Park as we knew it, the farm buildings became used as workshops and stores in connection with the development of what was to become the village of Ramsden Bellhouse in the years immediately before and after the 1914 - 1918 War.   There is a reference to this barn in the Annals of Ramsden Bellhouse edited by the Reverend F,{9, Austen, M.A,, and published in 1927; On page 33 an Extract from the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (Essex) South East, Vol, iv, 1923) states the "Barn is timber framed and weatherboarded with a thatched roof and was probably built in the 17th century.   The Barn has two porches on the South side.   Condition Poor".

I remember that all village social activities, other than those organised by the Church, took place in the Barn which formed the main structure of the buildings, and Homesteads used the ancillary buildings as stores and workshops.   The Barn continued to he used for village functions until the new Village Hall was built in 1936 on land opposite my home, "The Stores and Post Office" standing at the junction of Glebe Road with Church Road, Until the new hall was built the boys and girls of the village used the land as a playing field.

After the War surplus army huts were available for sale at reasonable prices and I understand that my Dad and a Mr. Percy Jackson who owned "Woolshots Farm" went to a sale and bought one each, Mr. Jackson for use as accommodation on the farm, and Dad buying one for the Church to use as a Church Hall.   This one was erected by voluntary labour on land just north of the railway line and north of the footpath leading over Pump Hill, and in a field containing two ponds.   A narrow area of land surrounding the Hall was fenced off with barbed wire. I wonder if this land was given to, or bought by, the Church.    This was about the year 1920 and presumably it was about this time that the Group moved its headquarters into the new Church Hall.   The Church Hall was eventually sold and consverted into living accommodation about 1956 - perhaps the new owners, or diocesan authorities might have further details on the deeds etc..   The Cubs and Church were still using the Hail when I left Ramsden in 1953.

It was sometime after the move to the Church hail that the Group added the words "St Mary's Own" to its registered designation.   Once again it seems official recognition took some time to catch up with accented practice for it was not until 26th January, 1928, that the Group became registered as a Sponsored Group and the words "St Mary's Own" officially added to the Group title.    The Sponsoring Authority was the Ramsden Bellhouse Parochial Church Council.   It will he appreciated that Parochial Church Councils only came into being in 1921 with Open the introduction of the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1921.

That the title 1st Ramsden (St Mary's Own) was fully in use before 1928 is evidenced by the record shown on my Cub Enrolment Card which indicated that I was enrolled on 5th November, 1927, after joining the Pack on 8th August even though I was not eight years old until 24th December that year.   On enrolment I received not only the official Cub Badges but also the special Group Badge of a gold embroidered cross on a green cloth background.   It should be remembered that the Cubs wore a yellow scarf and the Scouts a green scarf and this tradition continued when I eventually became a Scouter.    As Cubmaster, of course, I wore the yellow scarf.   In later years I became aware that this special badge was the envy of some groups and of considerable interest to many others al­though it may not have been officially sanctioned by Headquarters.   I can now wonder where Aubrey Taylor had them made and what would have happened when the supply ran out. I suppose now they must be very much a collector's item and as such of some value.

I understand the first warranted Scouter was Aubrey Taylor who ran both the Scout Troop and the Cub Pack, as far as I can remember on his own.

In addition to his Scouting activities Aubrey was also dedicated to Church work being Choirmaster and Sunday School Teacher, I have a small hymn book dated Advent 1927 and inscribed "To Stanley Harvey With Best Wishes from his Cubmaster and Sunday School Teacher" and signed with the familiar "A,N, Taylor".   A book well worn and greatly treasured still.

When I was born in 1919 Aubrey worked in my Dad's shop, but by 1927 he had left the shop and was travelling to work in London each day.   Pack meetings were held on Saturday afternoons and many a time we were going to the Hall, in fact on occasion had arrived there before he reached home.   I can still remember how he would take two or three of us up to the hall on his motor cycle, taking one at a time about half way on the pillion and then going back for a second and so on in relay, we being expected to keep walking to help reduce journey time.

We loved having the ride and I'm afraid were not averse to cheating on the walking.   Then it was a case of home and changed into uniform and out again to take the Pack meeting, I am sure without anything to Pat or drink in between except for a quick bite and drink perhaps. No wonder we thought the world of Akela;

He used to travel to Wickford station on his motor bicycle and the times of his regular passage through the village was well known, so that in our household there would he the comment "There goes Aub" or "Aub's late this morning", until one day there was "Haven't heard Aub, go this morning".   We were soon to know why.   It was a motor cycle accident with another motor cyclist which occur­red just as he left his home north of the railway bridge which was to result in his tragic death in 1930.   It was an event which stunned and shocked the whole Village in disbelief, especially when it was said that had there been someone knowledgeable in first aid available at the time his life might have been saved.   Rather ironic really bearing in mind that he had taught many Scouts the rudi­ments of first aid.    It was then a very sorrowful Group which followed the horse drawn hearse to the Church for his funeral.   The night before his body lay in state in the Church Hall while some of the Senior Scouts or Rovers had stood guard with staves reversed.   There was many a tear in many an eye as Scouts and Cubs gave their beloved leader a last salute at the graveside.    Later a Memorial Plague was placed on the north wall of the choir stalls nearest to where Aubrey used to sit.

Before his death Aubrey had fully equipped the Scout, Troop with a brass band and every November Groups from neighbouring villages were invited to join us in our Annual Church Parade.    As mentioned earlier this was an event I feel sure was to commemorate the Group's founding.   We used to meet at the Church Hall on the Sunday afternoon, and then led by the band and with colours flying we would proudly march (as Scouts do march) to Church for a Special Service conducted by the Rector, the Rev, F,19, Austen, M.A. I still remember how the walls on either side of the altar would be fully covered with the flags from all the Troops and Packs in attendance, and the Church itself packed to overflowing.   On arrival at the Church gate the parade was halted, the colour bearers fallen out and then marched up to the Church door, standing on either side of the path for the remainder of the parade to pass through and take their places in the Church.    Those of us who were also in the choir were also dismissed from the parade and hurried to the vestry to change into choir robes so that we could be ready for the service to start when we would lead the colours to the chancel.   We would take off our scarves before putting on the celluloid collars and black bowties which choirboys in those days wore over their cassocks.    What a problem we had sometimes putting our scarves on properly afterwards, before we rejoined the parade for the march back to the Church Hall, I can hear too, what must have been the favourite hymn perhaps I should say the Group's hymn for the occasion.   Number 274 in Hymns Ancient and Modern, "Through the night of doubt and sorrow onward goes the pilgrim band, singing songs of expectation, marching to the promised land".   Do You wonder that I never sing that hymn to-day without re­membering those Church Parades.

I also remember that at Christmas time the band would go round the village playing carols, and I shall never forget them coming to our house one Christmas Day in the afternoon and playing carols outside our front door.    Perhaps that was because Henry was playing the cornet in the band at the time; I am sure they were well rewarded.

AFTER 1930
Who took over the care of the Group in 1930 I do net recall, after all I was barely 10 years old, but I should not he surprised if our friend Horace Abbott was involved.    I have a vague recollection of someone from the Brentwood area being involved, presumably a District or County Commissioner (the name Brigadier de Rougemont seems familiar) but he must have relied on the help of someone in the village.   In any event, by 1931 records show that Robert Sexton who lived at "Fernshaw", Church Road, was Scoutmaster and my brother Henry Harvey was Cubmaster.

Henry was Cubmaster for less than three years as he had left the village to go into partnership with my brother Eric in a greengrocery business in Southend-on-Sea by 1933.    In 1935 he married Irene Logan who had been Akela of the Ramsden Crays Pack and they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1985.

I do not recall who took over the Cub "Pack when Henry left.   Perhaps it was a case of a temporary dearth of boys of the right age.   There was always a tendency for this to happen in a smail village in those days.   I had been enrolled as a Scout by "R. Sexton" on 31st 'December, 1931, and I think for a very short that by 1935 only the Scout Troop was operating.

Robert Sexton, generously supported by his wife Ella, a School teacher, kept the Scout Troop going until he had to Join up as a reservist for the Second World war which commenced in September, 1939.    He had served in the Royal Artillery in the first war and had many a story to tell of his experiences.   In these tales he would refer to the Germans as "The Boche" or "Old Fritz", and this so took our fancy it is not surprising that the Scouts of the time affectionately nicknamed him "Fritz" rather than the more conventional "Skip".

During his leadership, prompted I expect by his wife, we had a number of social events gang shows was the term to be used in Scouting in later years. I also recall a grand Sale of 'York to augment Group funds.    For about a year Cubs and Scouts spent their spare time making items for sale, such as raffia place mats, wicker baskets and small items of furniture etc..   I still have a small raffia topped stool (now minus part of a leg support) which my parents bought at the time.   This must have been soon after he took over because I was still a Cub.

We also held Cub and Scout's Own Services at "Fernshaw", when Mrs. Sexton would play the piano and talk to us, and the Cubs and Scouts take turns to read a story from the bible and to say prayers.    Afterwards there was always orangeade or tea and cakes, and we would often stay talking until it was time to go the evening service at Church, rushing in home to change out of our uniforms on the way.

I think it must have been soon after the sale of work that the Group made a trek cart.   Perhaps it would be more truthful to say Fritz made a trek cart with the help of a number of scouts.    Certainly by the time I was a Scout time the Pack was kept going by older Scouts and then eventually closed down, so and ready to go to camp it was in use.   We used it to take our kit to camps at Ramsay Tyrell at Stock, or to any other venue within walking distance -,yes we used to walk to Stock in those days.   It was made with two large wheels about 4 feet in diameter and had a single shaft in front with handles for two people to support the weight.   Ropes were attached on either side of the cart to enable other Scouts to produce the "pulling power" - rather like the way the Navy pull their gun carriages at Tattoos.   It will be appreciated that packing the cart to get the right balance was most important.

On one occasion on the last day at a camp at Stock we decided to have a spotted dick for pudding - a suet pudding with currants for those who do not know the term.    George Thrower was the cook and although we thought it was made and nut on to boil early, (by breakfast time as I recall) by lunch time >it was nowhere near ready and so we decided to leave it on the boil until we struck camp in the afternoon.   Even then it was not done so we left it in the hot water in a billy hooked on the axle under the cart intending to eat it as a treat on the way home.    As I remember we stopped for a rest at the end of Potash Road near Forty Acres and there did full justice to the pudding.   It was rather heavy as the saving is, but we were so hungry we would have eaten anything, cooked, un­cooked, or even smoked:

Fritz believed in walking for fitness.   What a blessing it was a case of up the hill to start our Journey while we were still fresh and then down the hill when we were tired and weary on our journey back.    To reach the top of the hill on the way home was a real ,joy.   It was downhill all the way then and this brought fresh spirit and invariably a fresh outburst of singing so that we would arrive home in good fettle.

At the outbreak of the war we were able to use the trek cart for the collection of waste, paper needed to help the war effort.   Then as we lost the Scout Troop for a time - that is until Ron Pruce from West Ham was evacuated to the village - we passed it on to 1st Downham under the care of George Padwick.   There are further details about Ron Pruce in "The War Years" in Akela's Log Book.

The other noteworthy event I remember was the County Scout Marathon held in the early summer, when teams of three Scouts on bicycles spent a week-end covering a given route, camped overnight, and wrote a log of the journey and the adventures encountered.   We were then required to arrive at the appointed destination within a set time and were faced with an inspection for cleanliness of person and equipment, safety of bicycles, and distribution of equipment among the team.   This was followed by a number of Scout tests.   I recall on one occasion we were asked to tie a "bullon knot".   The expression on our faces must have been one of shock or horror for no one had heard of such a knot, least of all me who was a patrol leader at the time: It turned out to be the examiner's way of saying "bow­line".   I dare not say what we said to that:    At the conclusion of the tests came the highlight of the week-end for three weary travellers - tea and buns and a general get together with the other teams from the Group and from all over the County.

The Group regularly entered teams in the senior and junior section of the Marathon with quite successful results, so much so that we were eventually awarded the special Marathon Flag because our name appeared on it more times than any other Group.    Previously the Flag was held by the winning Group each year.   I still have a dictionary bought with a gift voucher and a small hand axe, prizes for third place in the 1934 and 1935 Marathons.    I still wonder who chose the place names to be visited when I led a team whose distance should have been less than 30 miles but which necessitated us riding for over 50 miles, which was 10 miles more than the distance set for a senior team.    No one was able to show we had not chosen the shortest route - except as the crow flies, but then we weren't crows, we had bikes;

In Aubrey Taylor's time I feel sure a Rover Crew had also been formed and the names Norman Astell and Norman Currell come to mind.   I am almost certain that it was as a Rover that Henry Harvey had been encouraged to take over the Cub Pack as Cubmaster, he would have been 19 by then.

When by 1938 most of the Scouts of the 1930s had grown through their teens and become Old Scouts or were ready to do so, this presented an ideal oppor­tunity to restart the Rover Crew.    A meeting was duly convened at "Fernshaw" on 5th September, 1938, when I was appointed Rover Scribe and Lawrence Brown the Treasurer.   Subscriptions were fixed at 6d, a meeting - that at a time when 1d. was the normal subscription for Scouts and Cubs.   The offices of Rover Leader and Rover Mate were not filled that evening as it was agreed an approach should be made to some of the older "Old Scouts" who still lived in the village.   As will be seen the names of George Brown, George Thrower, Charlie Voyce, Peter Plowman, Jack Payne and Charlie Bone as well as those of Norman Astell and Norman Currell appear in my notes made on that evening.   I do not recall now who came forward or what happened subsequently, though such information would be included in the Rover Log which was kept at the time and which recorded our activities for very short time we were able to operate before the approaching war brought them to an end.

It was of course the fulfilment of Robert Sexton's ambition for the Group to have all three sections operating, for as he said it was the aim of the Association that boys should be trained to "Do Your Best" to "Be Prepared" for "Service".   Unfortunately the war of 1939 - 1945 was to claim us for service of a very different kind and for Norman Astell and Charlie Voyce, it was the service of their lives.

However, it was as part of my "Service" that I was to restart the Cub Pack and subsequently to spend so many happy, and I hope fruitful, years in the Scout Movement.    It is perhaps of interest to mention that the Terry Voyce referred to in the years from 1949 was Charlie's son, and several boys who joined the Pack during the period after the war were sons of old scouts of the Group.

Over the years there are many memories which come to mind, some of a serious nature, some frivolous, most very enjoyable, but all indicative of the happiness which Scouting is bound to encourage.    Some I have already quoted, but I could go on at length to tell of the fun we had at our Pack and Troop meetings, of the paper chases and the flag raiding up on Pump Hill, over at Kent Hill, or down De Beavoir Chase as we knew it in those days.

I remember especially the observation walks we had when I was a Cub.   We were awarded points for being the first to see a six-barred gate (5 was the usual number), or two magpies together, or five oak trees in a row, or a piebald horse in a field, and so on.   Such walks I was to repeat quite successfully with my own Pack later on, following fairly precisely the route taken when I was a Cub.    I also recall one Saturday afternoon when we went looking for chalked num­bers in sequence from 1- 50.   We were given one point for each number found but ten points for the last number.    How dejected we were on nearing headquarters and no one had found the 50.   Akela kept very quiet about where to look and we were so surprised to find it on the very door of the Church Hall we had left at the start of our quest.    There it was plainly marked for all to see.   It was the Cubs who had given up looking and run for home who were to find it, though as I recall several missed it even then.    Aubrey had written it there when he had locked the door as we left, making sure that we were all up the road and out of sight first.

Years later, as Scouts, how boisterous we were with some of the Scout games and especially when we played handball with a football in the Hall.   Though we were penalised if the ball was played above shoulder level.    Dear Old Fritz had to replace quite a number of window panes.   Then there was the night I ran a splinter from the wood floor into the nail of my middle finger.    Because the wood was rotten Fritz was unable to remove it properly.   Scouts came to a premature end so that he could take me, on our bicycles, to Doctor Campbell at Wickford, to have it removed quite painfully and then bandaged properly.   We seldom played again after that and when we did we were rather more careful and always wore gloves.

Then came the war and my enlistment into the Royal Air Force.   As a very new intake a trainload of us left Cardington Reception Centre for our initial training (square bashing to those who know) at Redcar.    We were all crowded into the carriages early that morning in October, 1941, resplendent in our new uniforms but wondering what was in store for us, and all generally pretty miserable at having left home.    As it was not possible to wear a Scout badge in uniform I was wearing my Cub buttonhole badge on a wrist strap.    (The Association had produced a badge specifically for the purpose and I was given one as a present before I went overseas)   We had not been on the train very long, and the atmosphere was still very tense with a carriageful of rather bored people all complete strangers to one another, when some one noticed the badge and mistaking it for a watch, asked the time.   I had to explain I hadn't got a watch, that it was a Scout badge, and instantly the frozen atmosphere in the carriage thawed and came to life, "I was a Scout" said one, "So was I" exclaimed another, and one by one nearly all those men claimed some connection with Scouting in one way or another, even as I recall one saying "My boy is in the Cubs".   The ice was broken as we say and the chatter incessant from then on. The change in that carriage compartment can only be described as miraculous, but indicates most clearly the influence that Scouting was already having on the lives of people in the period between the two World Wars.

On my first permanent station at No. 2 Signals School, Yatesbury, I was to find and join an Old Scouts' Unit.   I believe it was quite common for such units to be found on the larger permanent stations.    Unfortunately I was at Yateshury for less than six months and then was posted to No, 2 Group Headquart­ers, Bomber Command, where my duties meant visiting stations under the control of the Group.    While I did not have the privilege of sharing Scouting fellowship on any other occasion I did make contact with several serving Scouters through wearing the Scout wrist badge.

Any account of Scouting activities would he incomplete without some reference to that unique occasion for which the movement is perhaps best known the joy of the camp fire.   'Who has not been moved by the scent of wood smoke, the rising tongues of fire, the glow of the red embers, the tranquility which descends on a camp as the sounds of day give way to the quiet stillness of the nocturnal sounds of night.    What happiness I have experience at such times in the fellowship of kind friends.   How real our prayers together as we come into the presence of the Father and Creator of all, He who spreadest out the heavens as a tent for us to dwell in.   Thanks be to God our Father for such wonderful moments.   My final story provides an appropriate end to these memoirs and is one I have treasured through the years.    One evening we were acting the Jungle Dance of Kaa the snake.   In this, the leader acts as the head of Kaa who is hunting for food.   As the Cubs play around aimlessly, pretending to be Bandalog (the mon­keys) Kaa points to one to eat and the Cub passes between Kaa's legs to form up behind to make the long body of the snake.   This means the last Cubs to be "swal­lowed" have to crawl through all the legs of the boys who form the snake.    That evening the last Cub to be "swallowed" was a rather small boy, John Burt.   I was acting as Kaa's head.   My outstretched arms (Kaa's tongue) pointed at John who instantly "froze", and then on hands and knees began to crawl forward to be eaten.   As he was about to pass through my legs to enter the chain of legs behind, he suddenly stopped, turned his head to look up at me with a cheeky grin, waved one hand and calmly said "Cheerio Akela" before moving through my legs.   He did not get any further for Kaa the Snake just about collapsed with laughter.   How realistically do children enter into the spirit of the games they play.   What a responsibility we adults have.

Cheerio All

Stanley Harvey was born in Ramsden Bellhouse in 1919 and spent time as a Wolf Cub, Scout and Rover Scout becoming Cub Scout Master from 1938 until 1953. He served with the RAF during World War II.    In 1994, he was guest of honour at the Church Service to celebrate 1st Ramsden and Downham's 75th Anniversary.   This article was written in 1991.   Sadly Stanley Harvey passed away recently.