BP's visit to South Africa 1926

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The Chief Scout's report on his visit to South Africa in 1926/7

as reported in the Scouter

In 1926 BP together with Lady BP spent seven months touring SA. They travelled 9,498 miles (13,598Km) inspecting Scouts and Guides and promoting the movement, but also had some time to relax over Christmas holiday in a bungalow at Gordon's Bay. Their two daughters Heather and Betty went to school at St Cyprians and son Peter to Bishops in Cape Town.

Heather, Olave, BP, Betty and Peter

The Chief received a rousing welcome from several hundred Scouts and Girl Guides, when he arrived at the Cape on September 20th 1926 in the Arundel Castle. Many of the Scouts had camped the previous night in a drill hall, and they were down at the docks with the first signs of daylight. After inspecting the posse on the wharf, the Chief returned to the ship for a small reception, meeting g amongst others Mr. Lewis Mansergh, the Provincial Commissioner, Mr. E. H. Clemmans, Assistant Commissioner for Natal, who had journeyed especially from Durban and our old friend the Rev. E. Y. Tilley. There were also Officers of the Army and, Police, men from the C.I. D., troopers and policemen who had known .the Chief in less peaceful days.

The Chief made his first public appearance the same afternoon at a reception given in the City Hall by the Mayor to the Wolf Cubs of the Peninsular, and this was followed in the evening by a civic reception in the City Hall, when the Scouts had their turn. "Monday, the wonder night! Who will forget it? The thrill of anticipation. The sight of Troop after Troop marching down Darling Street. The hundreds of brother Scouts rallying outside the City Hall and the wonder scene inside. The entrance of our beloved Chief heralded by the 1,000 voiced salute-nay, more than a salute - a 14-year pent-up feeling of exultation.

File:BPVisit1926Cape Town2LunchClub.jpg
Chief visits the Scout Lunch Club 23 Sept 1926

Other engagements in Cape Town included luncheons given by the Executive Council of the Province and the Scouty Lunch Club, which is described as " the hub, spokes, wheel, outer rim, and spare parts of Scout leg-pulling in the Peninsula."

The biggest Scout camp yet held in South Africa took place in honour of the Chief in the Rosebank Show Grounds, Cape Town, from September 24th to 27th.

On the Saturday there was a fine Wolf Cub Rally and in the evening a most impressive Camp Fire concert when the opportunity was taken for the presentation of a Thrift Trophy to the 3rd Sea Point Troop - the Troop which had obtained the largest number of Union Loan Certificates during the year.

The Chief also read out messages of greetings and good wishes from the Duke of Connaught and the Prince of Wales.

On the Sunday it Scouts' Own was held, conducted by the Rev. E. Y. Tilley, at which the Chief spoke on brotherhood among Scouts as a preparation for comradeship when grown up. Nine hundred Scouts were present and a good attendance of the general public. Further engagements in Cape Town included meetings of Rover Scouts; Scouters, the University Club and the Rotary Club.

The Chief arrived in Kimberley on October 2nd and received a Civic welcome. A Camp of about 150 Scouts was visited and a joint Camp Fire of 200 Scouts and 150 Guides was a great success, and attended by a very large public.

Mafeking was reached on October 5th and a very smart lot of Scouts turned out. Owing to the weather, the joint gathering of Scouts and Guides had to be held in the Town Hall, and this was followed by a Mayoral at-home. During this visit it was proposed that a memorial stone be erected for Warner Goodyear who was the 13 year old leader of the Mafeking Cadet Corps which are sometimes seen as the forerunner of the Scouts.

The Chief arrived at Livingstone on the 8th and started his tour of Northern Rhodesia. Our Branch here is more or less at the beginning of its history and has its own especial difficulties. As soon as boys are of good Scout age, they are sent down country to High Schools and Colleges also, men are constantly being shifted from post to post. In spite of ·this there is already a number of excellent Troops and a Rally in Livingstone was attended by about 300 Scouts' and Guides. Some of these had travelled 600 miles to be present.

A fleeting visit was paid to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia on the 11th. There was an afternoon Rally of Girl Guides and later a Scout Camp Fire. In his address the Chief spoke of the energy, discipline and self-sacrifice of ·the pioneers who fought the 'Matabele and started Rhodesia, urging the same qualities among the Scouts for the future building up of the country.

Christmas in Gordons Bay

BP spent Christmas 1926 at Gordons Bay and had this to say: In the early, early dawn I woke with a feeling of 'Where am I?'

The sea was swashing among the rocks just below my window, a pink glow was in the sky, and Joyous voices were shouting to each other in a strange tongue.

The voices were those of a passing party of Dutch young men and maidens, rucksack on back, going out camping.

From my bed I look out over an expanse of calm sea under a cloudless sky to the distant outline of Table Mountain, twenty miles across the bay. His upper heights are glowing red in the rising sunlight, while his base is still in the violet shadows of night.

My first step is to make a hurried sketch to catch the quickly changing hues of dawn. My second to grab a peach from the basket, feeling it almost a sin to break into that lovely bloom and to exchange the delightful scent for the luscious flavour. But the deed is done all the same.

Peter and I have had an argument, as to whether, in dealing with these peaches you eat them or drink them, but we agreed that in any case you need a basin of water-and a towel handy!

Peter in the Kitchen at Gordons Bay

Presently the bumping of feet and the hushed chatter of small voices in the neighbouring room of our shack shows that the youngsters are awake, in fact very wide awake, to the fact that it is Christmas morn. And though there are only sprigs of sugar-bush in place of holly on the walls, and though there are no chimneys for Father Christmas to enter by, still, stockings have been hung up in all good faith - and the presents are there. In a few minutes we are all assembled on one broad bed In a state of tense excitement and feverish unpacking of many parcels.

Later in the day, cooking the Christmas dinner absorbs the time and inspires the ingenuities of each of us. Apart from Peter, who fancies himself as chef in the department of fried eggs, Heather and Betty also do their share, even though it involves standing on a chair in order to reach up to the kitchen range (for fortunately our bungalow is sufficiently civilised to be thus endowed).

The state in which I have sketched one of them is the state in which all three of the youngsters are living, not entirely owing to the 96 degrees (36oC) of heat of Christmas time, nor to the hot work of cooking, but rather to the fact that they are continually bathing with the occasional dry intervals for cooking and housework.

On the 22nd February BP celebrated his 70th birthday at the St George's Hotel with Cape Scouters and sailed for England on the 1st April 1927 onboard the Union Castle liner Carnarvon Castle.

See also

Baden-Powell's visits to South Africa