These days Scouts are likely to be found kayaking, Hill walking and Pioneering but go back 100 years and they were more than likely assisting in hospitals, guarding phone lines and railway bridges and even acting as coast guards who’d gone off to fight on the front line. This was very much the case for scouting across Britain in the war years. The British Scouts having played an integral part in the war effort on the home front during WW1, the scouts today in Britain and Ireland still pride themselves on developing skills for the 6 to 25 years old’s and making a positive impact on their communities.
Last weekend for the first time in over fifty years members of Scouting Ireland from various parts of the country participated in the ceremonies marking the end of WW1 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. They also participated in the ceremonies at Grangegorman Cemetery in the afternoon. Another small step in reconciliation on the island of Ireland.
The Boy Scouts as they were known back in the war years were founded by Robert Baden-Powell an officer in the British Army as a Boys only movement to encourage discipline, good citizenship and to use their initiative. Scouting has always been an all inclusive movement, regardless of a scouts education or social background and just as it is today a scout troop consisted of a number of patrols normally four.
It is of interest to note that Baden Powell encouraged the scouts to look for opportunities to help aid the war effort and to support relief organisations. Here in Ireland many of the Scout Leaders were seen as ideal and semi trained to join the war effort. With the result that many of the Scout Troops at the time ceased to function because of the absence of leaders. As the plaque showed many did not make it home. Little or nothing has been said or indeed commemorated over the years in Scouting here and for those who did return after the war found that Ireland was very much a changed place with our own rising in 1916 and many felt they were indeed looked down upon for joining the British army. Recent years has shown a major change in attitude and the wearing of the poppy has become more acceptable.