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By CHRIS HILL
Monday, December 10, 2012
A historic Norwich scout group’s forthcoming centenary has reunited former members, mostly aged in their 70s – prompting reminiscences about their boyhood adventures.
It was a shared boyhood adventure which forged a lasting bond of brotherhood – for some, lasting more than 60 years.
And although the faces are older, the camaraderie remains undimmed among those whose lifelong friendships began when they first wore the red and yellow neckerchief of the 11th Norwich Sea Scout Group.
Now, as the historic troop nears its 100th anniversary, many former scouts and leaders have been reunited to share the memories of parades, camps and jamborees which have stayed with them for a lifetime.
Since it was founded in 1913, it is estimated that more than 30,000 youngsters could have passed through the 11th Norwich’s hierarchy of beavers, cubs, scouts and venture scouts.
Following an appeal for former members to help celebrate the centenary in 2013, the older generation stepped forward to meet at the group’s riverside headquarters on Helford Street, off Heigham Street. Some had not seen each other since the 1940s.
In honour of the occasion, a scrap-book has been produced detailing the history of the 11th Norwich through photographs, certificates, bob-a-job week receipts and historical documents.
It includes the letter which confirmed the group’s status as a Royal Naval recognised outfit in 1963 following an inspection by Lt Commander P Cane – an honour only bestowed on 100 other UK scout groups, and a standard which the 11th Norwich still holds.
Among those who revelled in finding faded black-and-white photos of his younger self was 71-year-old Jimmy Coleman, from Bunwell, near Atlleborough. He joined in 1948 as a cub scout and eventually became leader of the group’s Venture Scout Unit.
“With the 11th, all of us blokes have always been friends and always been in touch,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s peculiar to this outfit, but we have always stayed involved.
“Once a year we all come back here for a troop night like we used to. We throw the rule book out the window and play British Bulldogs and all the things we’re not supposed to do these days.
“It is all about camaraderie and fun and friends. That is why we joined in the first place.
“I found a picture which is the one I always remember. It brings back memories when you see yourself at a camp. There’s another one where I won ‘best kit’ at inspection in about 1956.”
Most of those attending Saturday’s get-together were in their 70s, but two of the oldest were Colin Sillars and Peter Barber, both 80, who met for the first time since 1946.
Mr Barber said: “I’m not so different. I was 15 stone then, and I’m 15 stone now. It is good to see Colin again, but there is no-one else here I know - they are all too young!”
Mr Sillars, of Lindsay Road in Norwich, remembers camping at Holkham for the Norfolk jamboree in 1945. “While we were at the camp they declared VJ Day,” he said. “When I joined in 1939 the Akela (leader) of the cub pack was CJ Leeds, who everybody knew as “Snip”. She did such a good job and as the leaders went off to war the older boys went pack to help with the cubs. That’s how we got through the war.”
Bert Hume, 74, from Caister, joined the group in 1949 and was a leader between 1956 and 1980. “Just being here today is fantastic,” He said. “I have seen people I have not seen since they were knee-high.”
Former scout Mike Woodhouse, 70, from Marston Lane in Eaton, now a champion model aircraft pilot with the British Model Flying Association (BMFA), enjoyed the chance to catch up with Mr Hume and another former leader, Bruno Browne.
“I have not seen Bert for ages,” he said. “We used to live opposite each other on Magdalen Street. I finished in the early 1960s; occasionally we have a get-together and I will turn up. It is nice to see so many faces. And I’ve not seen Bruno for 40 years. It started by saying: ‘Bloody hell, are you still alive?’
The reunion was orchestrated by long-serving former chairman Paul Varvel, who joined as a cub scout in 1949 and whose family’s long association with the 11th Norwich has continued with the investiture of his grand-daughter Anoushka, 12, into the sea scout troop.
“The 11th has always had this family feeling,” he said. “The bond is really quite incredible, and they are people you can rely on.
“I think scouty people always make the best of a situation. You will come up with a completely crazy idea and then have a good time making it work. What I am hoping to achieve here is that there are going to be others out there of similar age groups who might recognise some of these old faces and get in touch to help us celebrate the centenary next year.”
To get involved in the centenary celebrations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Paul Varvel on 01603 455685.