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Scouting during the world wars

By the Gibraltar Scouts Association

As Britain entered the First World War on 4 August 1914 Robert Baden –Powell founder of the Scout Movement, volunteered Scouts to support the war effort, they weren’t to have a military role but could undertake work which released men from service in the Armed Forces.

The skills the boys had learned through Scouting proved very useful in carrying out a range of jobs. It is important to remember that in 1914 the age range for Scouts was 11 to 18 years. The majority of scouts undertaking war work would have been aged 14 to 18 years old as the school leaving age was 14 and Scouts were discouraged from missing school.

In August 1914 Gibraltar Scouts enrolled for War service. They worked in the fortress as messengers at the naval, military and civil works. The Naval Dockyard, Regiments, Army Service Corp, Ordinance, Press Censors Office and the Captain of the Port employed Scouts. Scouting mobilized before the military.

Further reports confirm that Gibraltar Scouts were used as messengers, signallers and ambulance men assisting in the landing of casualties at Gibraltar and their conveyance to hospitals during the First World War.

In July 1918 Patrol Leader Andrew Pereira of the 5th Gibraltar Sea Scouts was awarded the Boy Scout’s Gilt Cross for Gallantry for capturing a German spy on the Detached Mole when on coast watching duties.

A good number of the Gibraltar Scouts received a special ‘War Service Badge’ from the authorities at the conclusion of the First World War for their valued contribution during the period of the war.

With the break of the Second World War the Admiralty requested Scouts to volunteer for Convoy Signaller and other war duties.

Scouts and Scouters were busy with National Service in Gibraltar. They worked in sections in the Gibraltar Defence Force, in the St John’s Ambulance, in the Auxiliary Fire Service and other Civil Defence schemes. Sea Scouts were responsible for the Dockyard Special Messenger Service and maintained a day and night rota for duties as messengers at the Admiralty. Other Gibraltar Scouts temporarily suspended their Scouting activities to serve in the Anti-Aircraft Section of the Gibraltar Defence Force, the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Corps of Signals and with Coastal Defence work. Scouts provided the whole of the messenger service, as well as serving with rescue parties and decontamination squads.

It is estimated that 250,000 members of the Movement in Britain went to fight in the World Wars. It is also estimated that 10,000 did not return and now lie in war graves across western Europe. During the First World War fifteen members were decorated with the Victoria Cross for their great courage and acts of bravery.

We will remember them. Members who have given service to Scouting and their community, especially those who have suffered through conflict.