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The History of the 6th Lichfield Scouts

The 6th Lichfield has been in existence since 1961, however as you explore our “Horrible History”, you will discover some strange happenings, some interesting badges that could be worked on which may not be suited to today’s society and how the 6th Lichfield has led the field in several memorable happenings, how a World Cup game against Uruguay affected a building project – oh, and why one of Baden-Powell’s walking sticks hangs proudly in our HQ.

So let's begin.

The 6th Lichfield today.

Today we are a very successful group with two Scout Troops, one Cub pack, a Beaver colony and one Squirrel drey. The 6th Lichfield was the first group in Staffordshire to invest in Squirrels in November 2021, only two months after the national launch of the 4 and 5 year old’s section.

We cater for over 100 young people ranging in age from 4-14 and have experienced leadership teams in all sections. We meet in a purpose-built HQ that features a state-of-the-art kitchen, breakout rooms and an acoustically friendly meeting hall. We have our own field space and are fully equipped to take our young people on adventures as far afield as Switzerland.

But was it always that way? – let's find out.

Scouting in Lichfield

Scouting in Lichfield has been in existence since 1915 when two scout troops were registered locally, the 1st Lichfield and the Lichfield Cathedral Choristers. Many of you will know that scouting was very much in it’s infancy in those days and B-P had only done his first experimental camp on Brownsea Island in 1907 with 14 boys. It was not until January the following year that his booklet “Scouting for Boys- part 1” was published with a further 5 booklets over the next 10 weeks.

There is, however documented evidence of scouting in the city as early as 1908 with pictures of two boys in uniform, although where they did their scouting is unclear, the first local troop being formed in Hednesford in 1909. The Lichfield Mercury also ran a report of a scout camp at Kings Bromley in August 1909.

By the late 1930’s, scout troops – which by now had included those pesky younger brothers in Wolf Cubs since 1916 – had started in only a few places in the locality. Shenstone which also had Wolf cubs started in 1923 and the 3rd Lichfield lasted only 3 years having formed in 1925. There was a scout troop at the residential Beacon Street School, then a school for truants (before it became a special needs school in 1939) ,now the apartment block by Morrisons. Sparse records also indicate a Rover unit named Lichfield Theological College

1938 saw the registration of the Christchurch Boys Club with a gentleman by the name of Harry Cash as Scoutmaster. They met in a wooden hut in Queen Street which belonged to the Gas Board. And so the association with Christ Church begins.

Christchurch Boys Club.

Despite the name and lack of a sequential troop number, the Christchurch boys club was actually a scout troop. Founded on 24th August 1938, the troop soon ran into trouble.

August 1939, just before the outbreak of WW11, the County commissioner held a meeting at Christchurch School at which he stated his intention to ask the Scout HQ to suspend the Lichfield district association, citing poor organisation and poor discipline within the troops. The boys club and 1st Lichfield were duly suspended as “ the name of scouting had been dragged through the mud” according to the local papers!

By December of that year, 1939, Christchurch Boys Club had been reinstated and scouts took a wide range of civic duties including watching for fires, stretcher bearing and jobs allied to food production. Scouts could gain a National Service badge and during the war, some 60,000 scouts earned this award.

 

Badges have always been a part of Scouting and our young people love being awarded badges for their efforts. However some of the badges earned previously were very different – maybe the Stalking proficiency badge being one which we may raise an eyebrow at today, albeit in wartime boys were trained to stalk and report on enemy soldiers in the event of occupation!

 

So, just after the war in 1947, the 4th Lichfield was formed and this group was sponsored for a few years by Christ Church and it seems that this was an amalgamation of the old Boys Club and the original 1st Lichfield – the 4th closed in 1970.

The 6th Lichfield is founded.

Interest in Scouting in the area was kindled by the World Jamboree held in Sutton Park in 1957. 30000 scouts and rover scouts from 82 countries camped in the park and on “Cub day” 30000 cubs arrived in 23 specially commissioned trains and hundreds of coaches.

So much was the interest, that in 1961 the 6th Lichfield was born, followed a couple of months later by the 7th Lichfield in St Michaels and a re-opened 5th Lichfield at Holy Cross.

The Hut.

Meetings were held in the Christ Church parish building which, in those days, was in Sandford Street. This was an old wooden WW1 hut. In December 1964, the Mercury reported the official opening of the Christ Church parish hall (now known as the Martin heath hall) and the sale of the old “parish hut” in Sandford Street to the 6th Lichfield Scout Group for the princely sum of £75 (equivalent of £2000 today)

And so began the process of moving the hut. As the funds stood at £300 after the purchase and the cost of moving and refurbishing was estimated at £1000, some serious fund raising began. The local press reported that a jumble sale in the Guildhall raised £30 and the chairman’s wife made and sold pickled onions to help the cause.

Jumble Sale 1966

Fundraising at the Guildhall in 1966 where the princely sum of £30 was raised

At the AGM in 1966, Mr J Gough was appointed as press officer and his wife was also very active helping with the 6th Lichfield. It was at this time that an agreement had been reached to move the hut from Sandford Street to our current location in Christchurch Lane. The building was moved plank by plank and Michael Gough, son of the aforementioned, has told us very recently that he recalls moving in that year.

“ 1966 fits with my memory of running back from Sandford St with my brother so we wouldn't miss any of England v Uruguay,  first match of the World Cup. I remember the move as we tried to take a whole panel, floor to ceiling in one go. We sat on the top of each wall as we pulled out the nails. Most unsafe said Dad, an engineer .”

Anyway, by mid 1967, the hut had been moved and was ready for occupation and was then home to the 6th Lichfield for the next generations

The old 6th Lichfield cub hut

Our original HQ

Full of rustic charm

(And quite a lot of water when it rained)

Project Hut 90

Jumping ahead 22 years to March 1989, and the WW1 wooden hut is in a sad state of repair. So a project “Hut 90” is born with the ambitious plan of raising enough money to build a new HQ by 1990. The launch of the project attracted then MP John Heddle  and a range of civic dignitaries popping the first tenners into the hat.

But even by Lichfield standards this was a slow and tortuous exercise, the project stalled as rising costs and economic conditions in the 1990’s took their toll and the building did not start construction until 2008. The group moved to share the (now) Explorer HQ in Beacon park for a year before the new build was opened in October 2009, some 30 years after the project inception.

Newspap[er article for scout hut fundraising

The campaign begins for our current HQ in 1989

Nodnol 77

So, you may ask, why does a walking stick which once belonged to Baden-Powell hang in our HQ. the story is recounted verbatim from the Patrol leader, Andy Fletcher and one of the scouts Robert Swinnock.

“In autumn 1977, members of the panther patrol went to a headquarters run activities weekend at BP House in Queen’s gate, London. The patrol consisted of Andy Fletcher (PL), Tony Taylor (APL), Robert Swinnock, David Corrie, Andrew King and Martin Bonel.

We begged lifts from our parents to and from London and eventually set off in Fred Fletcher’s Land Rover on the Friday night after school.

We eventually reached BPO House well into the night with the advice of our Leaders echoing in our heads that we were representing the Group and must consider our conduct, look smart and wear our berets, and not arrive looking like a bunch of Parisian tarts (Fred Aston’s words).

 

Check in was late due to Scouts having to travel from all areas of the county after school. So, for ease, the staff had us all sleep for the first night in a very large refectory on the floor. We thought that this was going to be luxury – no tents to erect, no cooking over an open fire, porridge only if you wanted it, hot water without having to boil it.

Our vision of luxury was short lived, sleep was the last thing on the mind of 200 boisterous scouts. Panther patrol climbed into their sleeping bags and tried to get some sleep.

 

The lights went off and World War 111 broke out. The excitement of the first night proved too much for many of the other scouts. Pillow fights, fist fights, boot throwing and all round bad behaviour went on throughout the night, occasionally interrupted by the exasperated staff of BP House who were endeavouring to keep control.

The morning thankfully came. The carnage of bedding and kit was appalling except for 7 beautifully made beds all ready for morning inspection. The panther patrol had not been tempted to join in the shenanigans of the night before , kept well in check by the PL and APL.

 

The weekend consisted of many activities, Buckingham palace, Sion park, the science museum and a visit to a radio play at the BBC where we formed part of the audience.

The second night was a more relaxed affair. We were all allocated our dormitories and slept well.

 

The good behaviour of our patrol was not missed by the BP staff who, after discussing the general level of behaviour over the weekend with the gathering, announced that the Panther Patrol had won the NODNOL 77 weekend competition. Our prize was one of the Baden Powell walking sticks from the coveted collection held by BP House.

The walking stick is displayed at the 6th HQ. We were somewhat amazed to receive such a valuable prize for just trying to sleep!”

Not just Scouts and Wolf Cubs

In the day, Cub Scouts were called Wolf Cubs, having been founded in 1916 as so many younger brothers wanted to get in on the Scout activities. Leaders names were based on Jungle book characters, Rudyard Kipling reportedly being a friend of the Baden-Powell family. Names such as Akela, Shere Khan and Baloo still are used today, as is the Grand Howl, the greeting to Akela from the wolves around the council rock.

It was not until 1991 that Scouting in UK became available to girls and the 6th Lichfield is proud that around 40-50% of young people in the group are girls. But it was not easy. In the old hut, toilet provision was, “limited” (to put it politely) and the facilities were truly not acceptable. As such, we were late in being able to offer proper provision and only the building of our new HQ enabled us to accept the first girls (into Cubs) in 2010.

 

A bit of a deja-vu moment happened in the movement with younger siblings wanting part of the fun and it was in 1986 that the Beaver Scout section was formed. The 6th was quick to open a colony and one of our claims is that we held the first Beaver sleepover in the UK once Beavers were allowed to back in 1997. This was led by the then Beaver Scout leader Gail Porter. We don’t have any other details of this, so if any reader can provide some more detail, then we would be pleased to hear it.

 

And as we have heard, we were the first drey in Staffordshire to invest Squirrels in November 2021 , yet another proud moment in what has proved to be an amazing first 60+ years.

We want your Stories and Pictures!

Were you part of the 6th Lichfield?

Do you have any stories or photos to share?

If you do, we would love to hear form you and add your experiences to our ever evolving History Page!

Please do get in touch:   6thlichfield@gmail.com

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