It was some time in the year 1908 that a gang of boys saved, up their pennies and managed to purchase two or three copies of the 4d. booklet Scouting for Boys. They met together in an old barn and tried many of the things that B.-P. suggested they should do. They had a lot of fun and learned a great deal and they got into quite a few scrapes.
One day they came across the chapter on Camping, and as they had tried all the things suggested, they were not going to be defeated by one which seemed a little more difficult. Of course, none of them had ever been to camp and they didn’t know the first thing about it, but they had what I hope your Patrol has – a real spirit of adventure. They were prepared to try anything, not only once, but until they got it right, and so they talked it all over and devised all manner of means to get the things they thought would be suitable. Bill, Jack, and Tom were to get the food – just how, nobody told them – Martin, the Leader, was going to get the tent, and Alec, the youngest, said he thought he could get a cart. The Leader also said he would look after the cooking-pots, and each boy was made responsible for getting his own bedding.
So it happened that one Saturday afternoon in early June they duly assembled at their barn and started out on their travels. No questions were asked, although young Alec did indicate that it had been very difficult to get the toy cart away from his baby brother and Jack was not very complimentary about the very old tarpaulin that the Patrol Leader said was to be the tent, but they were all amazed and delighted at the quantity of food that had been produced, which, by present-day standards, would have been enough for a month.
Well, they packed what they could into the cart, and after the food was in there was not really much room for anything else, so the rest was carried. They did not know where they were going; they had no map, and I doubt if they could have read one, in any case. They set off, literally into the blue, out of the village and over the hill and across country, because they were not the sort of fellows who walked on roads if they could avoid them, but all their preparations had taken a long time and it was quite late in the evening when they settled on a place to camp; a pleasant enough site between a by-road and a stream. They decided the stream would do for washing and water for cooking.
It was all very unhygienic, but they did remain alive for many years to tell the tale.
They lit a fire as they had already learned to do, although they used more than two matches, and it was a very large fire, as they had never heard the Red Indian saying – ‘Red man he make little fire and keep close; White man he make big fire and have to keep away.’ They then set to and cooked the food. They mixed some very queer concoctions and they burned quite a lot, but food had never tasted better to those particular boys.
Then, rather late, they tried to put up the tent. The Leader had a knife and cut down two saplings, and somehow, with string and ingenuity, they rigged up the tarpaulin into some sort of tent and, as it became dark, very tired, but very happy, they crept into the tent and got into bed.
Fortunately – as they didn’t know anything about groundsheets – it was very dry. They did not know that cold rises from the ground, and, in fact, they didn’t know very much at all, but they were learning by doing.
They talked in the tent, feeling very much like pioneers, and gradually, one by one, dropped off to sleep, all except the Leader, who felt a special responsibility and, although he had not told the others, he was going to try to keep awake. Suddenly, in what seemed to him to be the middle of the night, but was actually only about ten o’clock, he heard footsteps which stopped outside the tent.
The Leader kept very quiet until the light of a torch shone, and he looked out to see a very large pair of boots. As his eye travelled upwards he saw a pair of dark blue trousers and from somewhere a very long way above a very deep voice said: ‘And what are you supposed to be doing?’
The others awoke, and there, to their dismay, was a policeman.
The Leader said: ‘We are Scouts and we are camping,’ but in 1908 not many policemen had heard about Scouts and certainly this one hadn’t, and his answer was: ‘Well, you are coming home with me.’
Very sorrowfully the Patrol packed up their gear and went with the policeman. They were very surprised to find that they had not far to go. Owing to their having no map and practically no sense of direction, they had almost travelled in a circle and were, in fact, camping quite near home.