The oldest Group within the District is 1st Chesham Bois, founded in 1908 only a year after the experimental camp on Brownsea Island; the Group still retains the original Scout green scarves in recognition of this.
In 1908, the Woodcock brothers and their friends, met under a tree known as the Punch Tree at the end of South Road, Chesham Bois. This tree was well known locally by that name because of its definite shape in the form of Punch’s head, but sadly was controversially cut down in 2004. The friends discussed the latest craze “Scouting” as promoted by Sir Robert Baden Powell and so the Group was formed. One of these brothers A.N.Woodcock became the first Scoutmaster holding a warrant from September 1910.
After meeting in several venues kindly lent by the locals of Chesham Bois, the Pioneer Hall in Bois Lane was officially opened as the headquarters of the 1 Chesham Bois Scout Group on 11 June 1921.
During the First World War many of the Group were sent to fight and eight lost their lives. The memorial plaque to their honour still hangs in the Hall today having survived a later fire. This plaque has been recorded by the Imperial War Museum for inclusion in the register of War Memorials.
The driving force of the Group was the King family, who for many years filled many of the Leadership roles and encouraged others to join them as their assistants. Further members of the family became Leaders in local Troops. The names of Rex, George, Len, Ron and Peter are still recalled within the District, recognizing the service that they individually gave to the District. In 1922 the Troop camped in Ostend, which must have been one of the very earliest Scout camps held abroad.
On 19th December 1931 fire destroyed the Pioneer Hall. The remaining wooden structure was quickly demolished, members of the Troop spending their weekends salvaging a few items and then clearing the site for a new Hall. The Mission Rooms on Bois Moor were to become the Group’s Headquarters whilst the new Hall was planned and erected. A few months later, on 4th June 1932 the County Commissioner was able to open the new Pioneer Hall. There was a formal ceremony followed by an informal Social with dancing and a Campfire concluded the programme.
The Group continued to expand until the Second World War, when again many were called upon to fight. At home the Scouts joined the War Effort, gardening, chopping wood, collecting waste paper and raising money for boxes of goodies to be sent to those at war. Their Leader, “Skip”, George King, decided to keep the “boys” in touch with home and produced a magazine nearly every month entitled “The Trail” which was sent to each Scout fighting abroad. Only a handful were ever returned “undelivered” and the boys looked forward to receiving their news from home and regularly sent back letters to Skip to have put into print, censorship allowing. Virtually all have been saved.
On the return from the war the Group continued with all their Scouting activities, camping, often with other Groups from the District and participating in the annual fairs, resulting in the Scouts being a driving force within the village community.
For many years one of the highlights of the winter months was the Gang Show, following shortly after the London Gang Show, written and produced by Ralph Reader. The Chesham Bois Gang Show was reckoned to be one of the first shows performed after the London event and was always a sell out. Ralph Reader himself often attended. “Skip” always produced almost miracles in spite of the small stage, and the characters who performed year after year, ensured the shows would be well remembered, as this writer can confirm.
A record of all the camps and other events in which 1st Chesham Bois took part, remains on panels in the Pioneer Hall, and demonstrates the wide variety of activities in which the Group was involved.
It was on 10th April 1978 that George King “Skip” died. The inspiration for so many Scouts had passed away. John Read took over the helm as Scout Leader and later as Group Scout Leader. His quiet leadership filled the void left and the reawakening of Scouting in Chesham Bois had begun.
Extract from “A History of Misbourne Valley District Scouts” written and researched by John F Harley 2007
Further information about 1st. Chesham Bois Scouts during the wars can be found in the following two documents: