Last month, we were sad to hear the news that one of our oldest members had “Gone Home”.
Ken Johnson (KJ) was never a cub or scout but was very active with 5th Letchworth as an adult. Jeff Robson has penned a tribute to KJ and I gladly publish it here, with Jeff’s permission.
A tribute to Ken Johnson
Ben (5th), Alex, Simon (5th) and Bradley (5th)
Hertfordshire Peak Assault (HPA) is the county’s premier competition for Explorers, Scout Network and Leaders. Every October, over 100 teams of four to six compete on a (very large) orienteering style course somewhere in the hills of England or Wales.
This year is the 50th anniversary of HPA and it was held over two days in the Rhinnog Hills of the Snowdonia National Park. Despite appalling weather, the ‘A’ team from BaLiN (Letchworth and Baldock Scout Network) came second!
The notable element for 5th Letchworth was that the team of four included three former scouts: Ben Milligan, Simon Kitching and Bradley Moore. All three previously competed in Green Beret as Scouts and Chiltern Challenge as Explorers.
Last year, BaLiN came first and Ben and Simon were also in that team.
Well done, 5th Letchworth Alumni.
Last week, 5th Letchworth Scout Troop visited the Islamic Mosque in Stevenage as part of our World Challenge Award. There was much excitement in the minibus on the way there. It was the first trip to a mosque for most of us and we were keen to learn more about Islam.
Arriving at the mosque, we all had to remove our shoes and the girls had to cover their heads with scarves. Inside, the mosque felt quiet and respectful, despite the building works going on just metres away. I felt humbled.
First, we spectated a silent prayer in the Prayer Hall – Muslims pray 5 times a day: twice silently and three times out loud. The men and women pray in separate areas, all kneeling facing Mecca. Some were wearing everyday modern clothes, others wore traditional long robes and hats.
Then one of the Imams gave us a presentation on Islam. It covered a smorgasbord of topics such as the Five Pillars of Islam (Shahada: Faith, Salat: Prayer, Zakāt: Charity, Sawm: Fasting, Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca), Islamic Countries and Islamic History. We got to handle some prayer beads, which were beautifully decorated and Muslims use to help them concentrate on God. And we looked at the Qu’ran, learning that each one is the same and must be treated very carefully. We were also treated to an example of a prayer reading by the other Imam, blessing their god, Allah.
After the eye-opening and thought-provoking talk, we were invited to have a look at the various signs which were posted around the hall. I attempted to read some of the Arabic on the Language Tab, but the script is completely different to English.
Overall, I felt that the trip was extremely interesting. I have come out of it with a greater understanding of a religion that while different to my own, also has many parallels. Thank you to Stevenage Mosque for such a good evening.
Every year, along with all the other uniformed youth organisations in the town, the Scouts show their respects by joining in the Remembrance Sunday parade at the War Memorial in Letchworth town centre. This year we had a fantastic turnout from 5th, and didn’t they look smart!
Each summer, we try to give our Scouts a different camping experience. Over the four years they tend to be with us they get the opportunity for: a land activities camp, a water activities camp, an International camp, and Lochearnhead. This year it was land activities and we spent a week camping at Plas Pencelli near Brecon. This is an activity centre owned by Swindon Education Authority, but we only made use of the toilets and showers, plus their excellent instructors.
During the week, the scouts did: two all-day hikes (one in the pouring rain), a day kayaking and canoeing, two days on an expedition including wild country camping at altitude; and a day rock climbing on the Gower Peninsula’s sea cliffs. Add to that basic camping and it’s a pretty full on week.
When we got back I asked them to let me have a paragraph with their thoughts. Here are two of them:
“Our trip to the Brecon Beacons was an action packed, week long adventure. We did many activities including rock-climbing, hiking, kayaking and shooting. My favourite activity was the high camp, where we camped in the hills miles from any sign of human life. At high camp, we had to pitch our tents that we had carried 2km up the mountain! We cooked our own food – soup, couscous, ginger cake and custard for tea; porridge and hot chocolate for breakfast. Waking up in the morning to the sound of the stream was wonderful.
“The week in the Brecon Beacons was an exciting one, and it will certainly be one I’ll never forget.”
“I had a great time at summer camp. I especially enjoyed the bit when we went walked up Pen-y-Fan. It was tiring but I`m happy I did it as it was a big achievement for me because this is the first mountain I have ever walked up! By Friday the week was almost over and all the scouts got to go the seaside for rock climbing which was fun and it was a great end to the week.
“Thank you for everything”
Green Beret is a challenging and exciting camp. You have to be prepared for the mud and tasks as well as the fun.
It’s a competition between Hertfordshire scouts.This year we were at Phasel’s Wood and there were 157 teams of up to 6 scouts.
We had to do several activities that challenged us mentally and physically. We started the morning with orienteering. We had to use a map to find 15 bases in 45 minutes. We only found 5, but that was still more than most. Then it was onto the day bases, where we could choose from 160 activities ranging from climbing over a van to naming all the ordnance survey symbols. My favourite base was where we made a giant marble run out of guttering and bamboo stalks.
We then did a really tough assault course; crawling through tunnels, leaping over high branches and climbing upside down along a rope. It was really muddy. After that, we continued with the day activities until 5:00 pm. Just before we started our night activities, we had some delicious food and a slice of cake covered in custard.
The night activities included pulling a truck and naming country flags. Annoyingly, many of bases had massive queues. When we came back, we were all exhausted.
In the morning we took down our tents and prepared for the awards ceremony. We came 36th, not bad considering we didn’t finish the night activity.
I would definitely recommend Green Beret. But remember it is not a camp for the faint hearted.
Scouts warming up to walk 14 miles
Every year, Letchworth Rotary Club organises a 14 mile walk around the Greenway to raise funds for themselves and for those entering. As a group, we have used this event as our main fund raiser for some years.
This year, we did things differently. We wanted to have a camp, and we also wanted to take delivery of our new Jurte, a large “mess” tent based on a yurt and used widely by scouts in Germany. We had seen these black tents at international events and have wanted one for ages.
We booked to camp at our local District Site at Wymondley Wood. We spent the day doing a tracking hike with patrols taking it in turns to lay trails for the others to follow. It was very hot and we had to curtail it in the afternoon.
After Mark from De Jurte came along and showed us how to erect the new tent (still to be named), we had dinner and then lit a fire in the middle of the tent. It’s OK, that’s part of the design and one of the reasons we really wanted one.
On Sunday, the Scouts joined the Rotary Walk from Wymondley (after competing in the District Archery and Air Rifle competition) and did the whole 14 miles in just five hours (including stops). That’s really good considering the heat.
The new tent is awesome, but it’s going to need a bit of practice before we can get it up really quickly. Mark reckons about 45 minutes once we have the knack of it.
Cubs and Beavers were also walking the Greenway, so hopefully we’ve raised quite a bit of money for the Group.
On the 15th of November I set off to Green Beret and Gilwell Park, (the head of UK scouting), at 6:45 in the evening. We were supposed to arrive by 8pm, but we got stuck in traffic as we tried to enter the campsite along with the other 146 teams arriving at the same time. As we arrived we were given directions to where Letchworth & Baldock were camping.
We quickly found our leaders and sat down around the table to discuss tactics and rules. We went to bed early that night as we had orienteering at 7:30 the next morning. As we woke up to Gareth telling us to get moving, we tried to get some warmth into our toes and go into the mess tent to receive some porridge and information on what to do.
We headed off to the start/finish point and went on our way. By the end of it we thought we’d done really well, but we found out later that that was not the case.
Once we’d gone back to the camp and eaten some eggy and fried bread, we headed to the assault course. We started by doing a six minute run to the first obstacle, which then had a paper trail that you had to follow from one base to another. After doing several bases we went back to the tents for some lunch. My favourite obstacle was when we had to crawl under a cargo net, a tarpaulin with a tunnel in and then another cargo net, which was surprisingly heavy.
After some lunch of hot dogs we went out to do the day activities. I really enjoyed the archery, and also the Network’s activity which was like a big game of Ker-Plunk, just without the marbles. After we had a lovely spaghetti bolognese for dinner and cake with very powdery custard for pudding, we set off on an adventure to our evening activities.
In the evening we had another several hours of fun to enjoy. My favourite activity was probably trying and succeeding to climb over a van, however the Network’s was also quite fun. For the van we had to get our whole team over a standard sized van along with a pioneering pole. This wasn’t too hard as we had watched how previous teams had done it; but had it not been for the wood covering the van, I may have put a rather large dent in the side of the van.
Overall the whole weekend was very fun and a good experience. I’d just like to thank the leaders who were there with us and everyone that arranged it.
Did you know that 5th Letchworth is blessed with having its very own archivist? Ken Johnson, KJ to everybody, has been a 5th Letchworth member for most of its current history: i.e. since soon after it was re-formed in 1957.
Throughout that time, KJ has kept a meticulous diary of just about everything that he did: in Scouting and outside. He also has a trove of treasures and memorabilia from his time in Scouting. He is gradually handing over all of his mementoes to the Group and I thought it would be good to publish some of them as an occasional history of 5th Letchworth Scouts.
Here’s the first: an extract from his diary for the 16th November 1963 – 50 years ago.
. ..I then gathered up a lot more things, changed my neckerchief from red and orange to purple and grey, and went straight back to the School for the 5L open night.
There were about 60 or 70 parents and supporters there, as well as loads of Cubs and a few Scouts. The rest of the Scouts had gone to the First Letchworth Guides party!
It was all quite good fun, but a bit confusing at times. I was given the job, with Mr Lewis, of selling-raffle tickets for the three prizes (torch, shoe-cleaning kit, and compass) and I enjoyed keeping up a barrage of sales talk in direct competition with Nancy Baker who was selling her tickets for the raffle of the chocolates.
I had a go at the Yupopitin, but only got one ball in the jam jar, and that was an empty one. I had a go at the bran tub and got a little plastic tank; and I had a go at the bowling for a pig, and missed every time. Mr Hodge tried that after me and he missed every time, too.
Robert Wilson made 200 and won the pig – a money box with some money in it. We did the first draw when the audience was sitting down in the hall, and John Lewis won the torch and Trevor got the shoe cleaning Kit!
Then we watched “Hurry Hurry”, which a lot of the people had apparently not seen before, for it caused a deal of laughter. They did the chocolate draw next, and then we saw “Accent on Adventure”, the film about Senior Scouting which I had wanted to see for some time. It’s pretty good; my only regret was that the near-Seniors were not there to see it.
After all the clearing up and brlnging things home, there was a quiet couple of hours by the fire, thinking about all the things still to be done in the next few days .
For information: At this time, 5th Letchworth was still meeting at Westbury School. Trevor is Trevor Thorne, Mr Hodge was at that time the District Commissioner and Mr Lewis is the father of David and John Lewis.
Team 77 does its best, but can’t beat the best – yet!
It was cold on Friday night
A very muddy team 77 after the Assault Course
Green Beret is Hertfordshire Scouts’ premier competition for the Scout section. It takes place during one long day and comprises:
- Assault Course
- Orienteering Challenge
- Loads of Day Activity Bases
- Loads more of Night Activity Bases
This year’s Green Beret was held at the home of scouting – Gilwell Park, and 5th entered one non-competing team. We should have entered a full competing team, but unfortunately one member fell ill at the last moment and we couldn’t get a replacement.
A record 150 teams entered this year: that’s nearly 900 Scouts! Our Team 77 finished 86th: pretty good for a reduced team.
The pictures tell some of the tale:
- the sub-zero conditions on Friday night;
- the extreme mud on the Assault Course;
- the mystery of the missing team member 🙂
The team enjoyed themselves and the food, cooked by Nick, was superb. Porridge and Eggy Bread with beans for breakfast in Saturday; Spaghetti Bolognese on Saturday night; Porridge and Egg and Bacon Sandwiches on Sunday morning.
The only sign of dissent was with Nick’s custard. It didn’t stop them eating it though!