Thursday, October 7, 2010

The First World Boy Scouts Jamboree - 1920

While spending hours searching through passport records, I noted that several of them were for a few preteen boys, and a scoutmaster, who were attending a Boy Scouts Jamboree in England in 1920.  I figured this jamboree must have been a big deal with 8 boys and 2 scout leaders attending (according to a letter attached to one application, though I can only find evidence of 1 scout master and  5 boys.) So, with my mind gone off on a tangent, as it usually does, I decided to see if there was any information on the gathering.

As it turns out, the boys were participating in the very first ever "World Boy Scouts Jamboree," which was held at Kensington Olympia in London.  8,000 scouts from 34 countries were in attendance, and the event took place from July 30, 1920 through August 8, 1920. 

I was able to find passenger records indicating that the boys traveled to England on the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic of the White Star Line.  The Olympic had, just that year, returned to civilian service after serving as a military transport during WWI, and held the title of being the only merchant ship to attack and destroy an enemy submarine when it shot missiles at, rammed, and sunk a German U-boat in 1918.

The Olympic in her "dazzle camoflauge" during wartime service

Traveling aboard the Olympic with Scoutmaster James Bennett, 31, were: 

Ray Curtiss, 13, of 248 Washington Ave
Frank Scanlon, 14, of 136 State St
Howard Broad, 15, of 712 4th St
Archie Goodburne, 15, address Lockbox 123
Eldred Hall, 17, of 411 Tawas? St

(For photos of the fine young lads, please see "Passport Photos from the Past" a few posts down)

The ship arrived in the port of Southhampton, England on July 15, 1920.  From there, they would have spent two weeks sightseeing until the jamboree began two weeks later.

The jamboree was held at the Kensington Olympia, in a glass-domed arena that had been filled with a foot of dirt and turfed over to allow the boys to pitch tents and camp.  Another camping spot along the Thames River, where a few thousand of the boys were stationed, was flooded and evacuated in the middle of the night.  The two-week event was filled with activities, flag salutes, and speeches from world scout leaders.

 For excerpts from the 1920 Jamboree book, including the day-by-day itinerary, click here

After the jamboree, the boys toured France and Belgium before returning to America aboard the Haverford, which sailed from Liverpool on August 15 and arrived in Philadelphia on August 26.  The Haverford, another White Star Line vessel, had also served as a military transport during WWI and was attacked by German U-boats twice before being purchased by White Star in 1920.

It is really neat to see how a few young scouts from Alpena were able to participate in such a huge world event - I'm sure it was quite the ordeal and source of pride for the town back in 1920.