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Our History


Early Days (1907-1930)

In 1907 Sir Robert Baden-Powell came to Swansea and delivered at lecture on “Scouting for Boys‟. A contemporary post card picture dated November 1907 shows him with the Honourable and Mrs Vivien at Gelrafon. As a result of the interest stimulated by this lecture, several Troops were in existence before the end of 1908, although the earliest recorded warrants relate to the years following. Swansea was warranted in 1909; Neath, Port Talbot, Aberavon, Clydach and Ystalfera in 1910; Mumbles in 1911; Morriston, Seven Sisters, Crynant, Resolven and Reynoldston in 1912; and Cwmtwrch, Skewen, Loughor, Pontadawe, Briton Ferry and Trebanos in 1913. Counties and Districts were established, and the first Commissioners appointed in 1912. By 1914 there were seven Troops in Swansea District and twenty in West Glamorgan County, with a total number of 525 persons. Scouting flourished in West Glamorgan during the First World War. There was no shortage of leaders, and the Scouts were active in various patriotic causes – assisting the police, the hospital services and the local farmers.

In 1919 Captain F.S. Morgan was appointed District Commissioners for Swansea, thus inaugurating over fifty years of distinguished service. In the same year the Chief Scout (as he had then become) returned to Swansea and inspected a parade of 250 Scouts from Swansea and Carmarthen, when the first recorded good service awards were also presented. New troops were established steadily throughout the 1920s, and the Mumbles District was created in 1922. Also in 1922 a number of Scouts from Swansea also took part in a pilgrimage to Rome, and in 1923 the first of a number of major camps was hosted by the county at Margam Park.

The 1920 Jamboree at Olympia saw an active participation from Wales, with about 400 Scouts taking part. One of the star attractions was the “colliery smash‟ display in the main arena by 37 boys from the 24th Swansea (Wesley) Troop, which involved erecting a “pit head‟ and a 40 foot derrick crane, simulating an explosion, and staging the resulting rescue – including a stretcher case. The whole display lasted fourteen minutes, and was much admired. Various Welsh teams took part in tug-of-war, obstacle race, trek cart race and boxing competitions. One obstacle race team was drawn from West Glamorgan, and got to the final, and in the trek cart race a team from 3rd Swansea Valley did the same, losing eventually to the Danes. Cecil Mason of the 3rd Swansea Valley recorded six individual victories in the obstacle race, and R. Harry won the heavyweight boxing. The 8th Swansea, which put on a display of wood carving, also claimed to be the first Troop in Wales to have been involved in war service, having been employed in calling up reservists in August 1914.

The 1930s

In 1930 the Scouts (probably for the first time) distributed Christmas toys, and in the same year the first County Scouters‟ Conference was held. By 1931 there were 32 Scout Groups registered in Swansea. [see Appendix 1] In 1931 also the first Wood Badge training course in South Wales was held at the Dyffryn Estate, Neath, run by a team consisting of Clifford Davies, Jack Mill and Frank Croft. These were Training Commissioners, known at that time as Deputy Camp Chiefs. In 1932 Sir Charles Venables Llewellyn gave the County permission, to use for weekend camps, a portion of his estate near the Home Farm, Penllergaer‟. Two huts were erected on the site, and Clifford Davies and Jack Mill then ran a second Wood Badge course in the same year. By the end of 1932 the South West Wales Training Team had been formed to run similar courses for West Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Brecknock and Radnor on an annual basis. This team and its campsite continued to render yeoman service until the site was requisitioned for military purposes in 1942. 1932 also saw a County Rally to meet the Prince of Wales (Wales’s first – and only- Chief Scout). This was held at Singleton Park, by arrangement with the recently created University College. By this time a number of Groups were building their own headquarters, and several were opened in the early 1930s.

There were some memorable characters around in those days. Arthur Jones, supported by his wife and family, ran the 32nd Swansea (Rhyddings Park) Group for many years, and these were the flourishing days of Clifford Davies. He is remembered as “the first Scout in Swansea‟, having joined as a small boy in 1908. Thereafter he was successively Patrol Leader, Assistant Scoutmaster, District Scoutmaster, Assistant District Commissioner and District Commissioner. He was also the first Town Commissioner for Swansea and the first Deputy Camp Chief – a position in which he was succeeded by Frank Thomas. During the six years in which he served as District Commissioner, the number of Scouts and Leaders increased from 350 to over 1200 – a remarkable achievement. Clifford Davies was awarded the Silver Wolf in 1932. These years also saw the beginnings of other notable Scout careers. Alf Masen served throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s. He was Quartermaster in 1935, and thereafter ran the Scout Shop for a number of years, latterly becoming an Assistant District Commissioner. Also on the scene was Frank (Daddy) Boon, notable for his boots and short trousers, at this time a Leader with the 25th Swansea (St.Georges) Group, although his career belongs mainly to the 1940s.

In 1936 an important (or at least well documented) County Rally and pageant was held on the 11th July at Cae-Coed Field, Pentwern Corner, Neath. Seven Local Associations (or Districts) took part; Swansea Valley, Neath, Swansea (still under the redoubtable Clifford Davies), Port Talbot, Mumbles, North Gower and Gower Peninsula. The events included bridge building (Mumbles Scouts), jungle games (Mumbles cubs), and “Physical fitness through the ages‟. This last seems to have been a massive affair, with Cubs as ancient Greeks, Scouts as Red Indians and Ancient Britons, and some helpful hints from “Scouting Today‟. The day culminated with a great effort from Swansea, in which the Cubs presented the Mayor‟s Procession, and the Scouts “men from Mars‟. After that the tumbling, tilting “uses of the Scout stave‟ (Scouts) and “pyramids‟ (Rovers) must have come as something of a relief!

Numbers fluctuated a little at this time. In 1934 there were six Districts and sixty six Groups, as against seven Districts two years later. The total number of Scouts in West Glamorgan in 1934 was 2,577 (260 Group leaders and officers, 925 Wolf Cubs, 1095 Scouts, 150 Rovers, 128 District and County officers and 19 Commissioners). This was down from 2,739 in the previous year, which took the officers by surprise as the number of Groups was still increasing. It was noted that 52 Scouts held the First Class award.

The 1940s

Few records survive from the days of the Second World War, relating to the County as a whole, although there are suggestions from the Groups and Districts that the movement was adversely affected by a shortage of leaders. There was a Rover Crew at R.A.F. St Athan which provided a lot of help with training, but the active role which Scouts had played in Civil Defence in the First World War was not repeated. They “helped out‟ with things like fundraising and paper collection, but there was less call for amateur involvement in such activities as fire watching, rescue and ambulance work.

After the war, in 1946, the old training campsite had to be vacated. It had been held only on an understanding, not on a lease, and the land was required for building development. Partly as a consequence, in 1948 a twenty one year lease on the Silver Cross site was purchased by the Welsh Scout Council. It was refurbished by local Scouters and Rovers, and was to be run by the South Wales Training Team until 1971. The 1949 census (the first after the war) showed 64 Groups in the County, with a total membership of 2,745. This was the first year of Senior Scouting, but there were only 185 Senior Scouts – as against 222 Leaders and 153 Local Association Officers!

The only “character‟ noted from the period is a Mr. Albert Short, Scoutmaster of the 8th Swansea (Mount Zion) troop, who was apparently famous for wearing Sam Brown belt with his shorts!

The 1950s

Again the records are to be found mostly at a more local level, but this was a period of confidence in spite of the problems posed for many leaders by the demands of National Service The census figures show a modest expansion from 2544 in 1950 to 2800 in 1955, but there was a dramatic decline in the number of Local Association Officers, from 134 in 1950 to 5 in 1953 which must be explained by changes in the methods of counting. No LA complained of being suddenly bereft of secretaries or treasurers!

In 1956 a Rover/Ranger Conference was held at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, attended by Lady Baden Powell, the World Chief Guide, which heralded a period of improved collaboration between the two movements, and in 1958 a large conference of Patrol Leaders and Senior Scouts, aimed at easing the transition from Troop to Senior Troop, which was causing problems in some places. In 1954, when there had been 876 Scouts under 15 in the County, there were only 59 over 15, and the main “leakage point‟ was at what should have been the transition.

In 1959 a unique, and short lived, experiment was tried with the County organisation, when Swansea was elevated to the status of sub-county, containing five districts. This did not lead to the expected improvements in communication, and was discontinued in 1971.

The 1960s

By this time conferences had become a regular feature of scouting in the County, Section Leaders, Patrol Leaders and Local Association officers all meeting from time to time. This proved a more satisfactory method of improving communications than administrative re-organisation.

The Swansea sub-county Annual Report for 1964-5 shows that in the latter year there were no fewer than 42 Groups in the sub-county, divided between the 5 Districts, North District being the largest with 11. There were also 2 District Rover Crews. In that year also no fewer than 18 Queen‟s Scout awards were earned, the 11th Swansea clocking up 4, and several other groups 2 each.[for details, see Appendix]

The decade also saw the building of the Scout and Guide Headquarters at Bryn Road. Sir Charles Maclean, the Chief Scout, cut the first turf in 1966, and Lady Olave Baden Powell opened the completed building on the 18th July 1968. In June1969 there was a massive rally at the Pontardulais Showground, when 1200 West Glamorgan Cubs and Scouts welcomed the Chief Scout, the Chief Commissioner for Wales (Christopher Cory), the Commissioner for South Wales (Gerald Bellingham), and their own County Commissioner (John Aeron Thomas). The events included the building of a large catapult by the Pennard Scouts, a demonstration of knotting by Pontardulais, and (apparently) a Hot Dog Snack by Llwchwr! Scout David Thomas received the Chief Scouts Award from the Chief himself, and Mr. Aeron Thomas the Silver Wolf

The 1970s

This decade is chiefly remembered for the Swansea Gang Shows at the Grand Theatre. These were combined Scout and Guide productions. Rehearsals were conducted by John Childers, Hywel Weaver and Margaret Grey, and all the costumes were made by the parents. The youngsters were brilliant; the audiences loved them, and the shows provided colourful highlights for the many Cubs, Brownies, Scouts and Guides who took part.

The Chief Scout was a regular visitor to West Glamorgan rallies during this period, and in 1978 the Queen came to one such at Margam Park. In the same year a new Group headquarters was opened at Mansel Road, Gowerton, by Christopher Cory and Mrs Kwantes, the Chief Commissioners for Scouts and Guides respectively. In 1972 the County President – the veteran Col. F. S. Morgan – initiated a new challenge competition which was an immediate success, and 1977 was “a year of public service‟. This involved a Scout report which gained ministerial recognition and praise in London, and (more locally) a very thorough litter sweep on Swansea beach. More prosaically, piped water was installed at Silver Cross in 1971.

It was also at this time that Mrs Betty Sivertsen was Mayoress of Swansea (1976). Mrs Sivertsen had been an Assistant Cub Scout leader with the 5th Mumbles, and later CSL and Assistant County Commissioner (Cub Scouts). As Mayoress she organised many events to which Cubs and Scouts were invited, and received the Silver Acorn in the year of her mayoralty.

Since 1980

Over the last twenty five years the number of Scouts in West Glamorgan has fluctuated, but the general trend has been downwards. In 1985 there were 75 Groups, in 2006, 39. Beaver Scouts numbered 126 in 1985 (when they were a new section), and after peaking at 689 ten years later, have now dropped back to 338. Cub Scouts and Scouts have both more than halved, the former from 1373 to 519, and the latter from 801 to 299. Venture and Explorer Scout numbers have fluctuated even more than the others, peaking in 1989 at 156, and collapsing to 40 ten years later. Here there has been a partial recovery, and the 2006 number was 67. Similar fluctuations have occurred in the past, and the main problem now, as always, is the recruitment and retention of Leaders. In spite of what is sometimes said, young people‟s attitudes do not change dramatically, but whereas in 1985 there were 388 Leaders, in 2006 there were 250 – and that represented a recovery from the low point of 2003, when there were just 203.

This problem has led to a certain amount of rationalisation. The fewer groups are also somewhat larger, reducing the need for Leaders (although not by much!) Also, as late as 2000 there were 7 Districts in the County, but as a result of various mergers, there are now only 4. Swansea Central and Swansea North amalgamated to form Swansea District, while Port Talbot and Neath came together to form Afan Nedd District. The 2006 census showed 7 active groups in Swansea District, 10 in Swansea Gower, 11 in Cwm Newydd and 14 in Afan Nedd.

Notable Volunteers

This time has also seen the recognition of some long and exceptional service.
Charles Harding started as a scout with the 8th Swansea (Zion/Alexander) in 1936, becoming Troop Leader and King‟s Scout. Thereafter he became District Cub Scout Leader, District Scout Leader, Assistant Rover Scout Leader. More recently he was CSL of the 3rd Swansea (Rhyddings Park) and Assistant County Commissioner (Cub Scouts). Since 1968 he has been warden of the Bryn Road Headquarters, and he received the Silver Wolf in 1989.

Bill (Ian) Greatrix began his Scouting as a Rover with the 44th Swansea (St Pauls Sketty) in 1957, becoming ARSL in 1964. After the Rover Section was abolished in 1967 he became Group Scout Leader in 1972, and two years later transferred as Scout Leader to the 47th Swansea (Killay) Group. Since 1977 he has been Assistant County (Area) Commissioner for Scouts, and received a bar to his Silver Acorn in 2004. Among his other achievements have been the successful introduction of Scout car racing and rifle shooting. The 47th Swansea have been National Scout Shooting Champions on many occasions.

Ann Gratrix began as a Ranger Guide helper with the 32nd Swansea in 1961, becoming Assistant Cub Scout Leader with the same group in 1974, and ADC (Cubs) for Swansea Central District later in the same year. She was later Assistant County Commissioner, a position which she held until 2000, when she became District Commissioner of the new Cwm Newydd District. She has been a Leader Trainer since 1992, and received the Silver Wolf in 2004.

Dr. Elwyn Davies, similarly a long term servant of Scouting in West Glamorgan, also received a well merited Silver Wolf in 2004 at the hands of the Deputy Chief Commissioner for Wales, Alan Clewett. The presentation was made at the 5th Mumbles headquarters. For many years Elwyn was Assistant Group Scout Leader with the 5th Mumbles, and his lengthy Scouting career included being Secretary of Glamorgan West County/Area Scout Council between 1971 and 2003, and Registrar of the County/Area Training Team from 1981 to 2003. He retired in 2003, following a serious spinal operation and is presently a Skills Instructor (and your chronicler).

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls