The First Henfield Scout Troop was founded during the winter of 1907 after General Baden-Powell’s experimental camp on Brownsea Island.
When General Robert Baden-Powell sailed back home to England after service in Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902), he was accompanied on that trip by an officer from Henfield - Major A.Wade the son of a Henfield solicitor.
During the course of the journey, Baden-Powell explained his plans regarding setting up a training scheme for Britain’s boys, modelled on the training he gave to boys who were scouts at the Siege of Mafeking.
Major Wade was so impressed by these plans, that upon arriving home he related them to his sister Audrey Wade, who organised a Boys’ Hockey Club in Henfield.
Audrey had wanted an all-year activity for the boys to undertake, as hockey is seasonal, so she converted the Hockey Club into a troop of Boy Scouts and started training the boys in scouting activities as planned by Baden-Powell.
This was early in the winter of 1907 and by the time that Scouting was officially formed nationally in 1908, Henfield already had an active and thriving Troop. Soon afterwards, Baden-Powell started a Troop near his home in East Sussex and Major Wade started a Troop in Chichester.
Major Wade, in his book “The History of Scouting in Sussex”, said that he believed First Henfield was the earliest Troop to be founded.
Major Wade enjoyed a long association with Baden-Powell, working to set up the National Association of Boy Scouts and organising the first Jamboree at Crystal Palace in September 1909 and the first International Jamboree in 1920. He later married Baden-Powell’s secretary and Baden-Powell was godfather to their son.
HENFIELD KING’S SCOUT KILLED IN FIRST WORLD WAR
First Henfield Troop continued Scouting and one boy, Jack Alliss, attended Baden-Powell’s second camp at Humshaugh in Northumberland in 1908. He won his place on the camp by selling subscriptions to the magazine “Scouting for Boys”.
Jack later went on to become Henfield’s first King’s Scout, but was killed in 1917 whilst serving as a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Sussex Regiment.
In 1933 a local benefactor, Frank Clarke, donated a piece of land and a building at the end of Craggits Lane to be used for Scouting in Henfield. This land is managed by The Clarke’s Mead Trust.
During 1958, Henfield B-P Guild replaced the old building on the land with the present Scout Hut. This building has served the group well but has now deteriorated to such an extent that it is no longer financially viable to continue repairing it.
In 1996 a fund-raising committee was set up for the purpose of raising funds to build a new Scout Centre, to serve the Scouts of Henfield for another hundred years.
HENFIELD MUST SAVE SCOUTS HQ
Dave Malkin, fundraising chairman, says: “It is vital we preserve a headquarters for the scouts of Henfield, for so long an essential group for young chaps to belong to.
“The danger is that without a good base the Henfield group would go into decline – and we are determined that will not happen.”
He was a former Scout leader himself (and a B-P Guild member), and his son Chris became a Queen’s Scout – together with Henfield boys Dominic Knight and Stephen Denyer.
“We had 10 Queen’s Scouts in Henfield – a remarkable number,” says Dave. “They are the most senior Scouts and give much time to expeditions and service to the community.”
The Henfield B-P Guild members themselves have been influential in fundraising and support for the Scouts. Among other activities they have carried out sponsored bike rides and duck races.
“The most important thing we need now is for the parents of Scouts to come forward and support us with help,” says Dave. “We have all tried to give something back to our youngsters and it is time for the current parents to become helpers.”
Parish councillor Mike Morgan, himself a fundraiser for the new building project, says: “We are very proud of the history of Scouts in Henfield – and being the first group in the world puts us in the unique position of trying the preserve the earliest memories of Scouting in Britain.”
If you can provide help Henfield Scouts, financial or otherwise, please call Dave Malkin on 01273 493843 or 07929 840321.
For more on Henfield Scouts, call 01273 493843 or 01273 857320 or visit www.1sthenfieldscoutgroup.co.uk