The Way We Were: Bob a Job saved war time lives

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WELL, dib dib dob, and may the gingle gangles never grab your goolies.

For it seems that the Scouts may be re-introducing Bob a Job Week.

And with the garden chalet in need of a couple of coats of weatherproofing, there could be no better way to expend five pence.

But on the downside I suppose I’ll have to supply the preservative. Bob a Job Week used to be a regular feature of the Scouting year, usually mundane tasks, but during World War Two there was nothing mundane about the tasks they performed in the defence of the nation, not least at Bletchley.

In fact with the imminence of war the Scoutmaster had organised messengers for immediate service, and so it was just as well that the Bletchley Scouts would, in view of the worsening situation, stay within their district instead of going to camp at Salcombe, Devon as throughout the country schoolchildren were being evacuated from London to safer places. And at Bletchley in early December 1939 the Bletchley Girl Guides provided a room on Sundays in St. Martin’s Hall, sometimes known as the Social Centre, for mothers visiting their evacuated children.

As for one mother she could feel especially proud of her son Maurice. An 11 year old evacuee from Islington, he was now living at Water Eaton, and having saved his five year old companion from drowning while fishing in the canal, received the Gilt Cross for Gallantry from the Boy Scouts’ Association.

The end of January 1940 witnessed a meeting to organise a Group Committee for the newly formed 1st Fenny Stratford (St Martin’s) Scout Troop, which a while later held a camp at Great Brickhill in camouflaged tents.

As for other measures, by early 1940 many Rover Scouts (an advanced form of Scouting, ‘enabling young men to obtain the benefit of Scout training’) were providing much useful service as Wardens, First Aid Workers and Messengers.

Yet there was also entertainment to lighten the tension, and in aid of the Scout funds a ‘tanner hop’ took place at St. Martin’s Hall on Friday, January 26, 1940. This had been organised by the Bletchley Fire Brigade Social Club, and there was a certain irony when a call was received to attend a fire at the Observer Corps post.

With the need to accommodate more evacuees in the town, in September 1940 temporary sleeping quarters were prepared at the Bletchley Road Schools. And with Mr Sherwood, the clerk of the council, having managed to obtain 600 empty palliasses, members of the Boy Scouts and Boys’ Brigade swiftly filled these with straw, assisted by the Guides. Later in the year another good deed was recognised when Thomas Allen, of 10, Saffron Street, a Patrol Leader in the 1st Fenny Stratford (St Martin’s) Boy Scouts, was awarded the Parchment of the Royal Humane Society.

This was for having in August saved nine year old Cyril Ellis, of 31, Saffron Street, from drowning, when he got into difficulties while bathing in the Mill Pond at Water Eaton.

Concluding 1940, with the Guides and Brownies as their guests on Saturday, December 30 the 1st Fenny Stratford (St. Martin’s) Boy Scouts Troop held their first annual party in St Martin’s Hall, at which Private Douglas Cliffe, ‘an old Scout,’ entertained the audience with various impressions.

The members of the Troop then made their own impression in September 1941 when, by working in squads of four, they began assembling the recently arrived Morrison indoor air raid shelters in the town.

In fact despite weighing more than 7 cwt., and with over 200 parts, three Scouts would construct one table in the record time of 25 minutes. With the blackout now in force there could be no outdoor campfires, but on November 12, 1941 as a substitute the members of the Troop held a ‘Radio Campfire’ in St. Martin’s Vicarage Room, with each patrol giving a number of skits on popular radio features.

Today, in our soft society in some quarters there has been a perception that Scouting is perhaps not ‘cool.’

However, in time of peace or war their standards have always been of the highest. And with the Chief Scout being an SAS veteran, who’s going to argue.