By Adam A., Visitor Host
The week of February 22 is Scout-Guide Week, the celebration of the global Scouting and Guiding movements around the shared birthday of its founder, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, and his wife, Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the former World Chief Guide. These organizations promoting preparedness and community mindedness have long been active in Canada and had an especially notable presence in Oshawa.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s role as the founder of Scouting began as a mere coincidence. He was a career soldier of the British Empire and served in a number of colonial campaigns in Africa. During this time, he penned a guide to living off the land and wilderness survival titled Aid to Scouting, meant to instruct the Army’s non-commissioned officers in the skills needed for reconnaissance. At the same time, a grassroots movement had begun to reconnect the youth with nature and revive the rural character that had been lost through industrialization and urbanization. In lieu of more suitable literature, a number of predecessor organizations had adopted Lord Robert’s book, inadvertently turning a niche military manual into a best seller. Lord Robert took a more active role in the movement upon returning from the Second Boer War, organizing the first scout rally in 1907 and rewriting Aid to Scouting to be more directly applicable to youth wilderness instruction, publishing it in 1908 as Scouting for Boys. In 1910 he formally founded the Boy Scouts Association and, along with his sister Agnes, established the Girl Guides in response to the high amount of female interest in scouting.
Scouts Canada would only be established in June of 1914 as an overseas component of the British Boy Scouts Association, but, as in the UK, a number of predecessor organizations and informal scouting troops already existed by that time. This arrangement gave Canada a national council to organize scouting activities and procure uniforms and other equipment for the troops, but Scouts Canada would continue to be internationally represented by its British parent association until 1946.
Last year the Oshawa Museum received an especially interesting collection of artefacts from this period of Canadian scouting. A collection of Sea Scouts uniform clothes belonging to John Chappell, son of Colonel Frank Chappell, was donated in September. This collection notably contained the uniform John Chappell had worn in 1933, his 6th year with the 8th Oshawa Sea Scouts Troop, and the year in which he was one of eight Canadians to attend the 1933 Scouting Jamboree in Budapest, Hungary. This uniform proudly displayed 20 proficiency badges:
- Ambulance man
- Camp Cook
- Auto Mechanic
He also had badges designating him as a King’s Scout and a First Class Scout. As Scouts Canada was still internationally represented by the British Boy Scouts Association, his 1933 Jamboree patch is accompanied by a Union Jack patch.
Girl Guides of Canada was established in July 1917, though a number of Guide Companies organized under the British Association had been operating since 1910. The Oshawa Girl Guides began as one of these early groups, first organizing in 1911. For many decades they lacked a permanent meeting place. They met at St. George’s Anglican Church as well as the homes of prominent Oshawa women like Adelaide McLaughlin and Verna Conant.
In 1943 Sam McLaughlin donated 150 acres in north Oshawa to Scouts Canada, and three years later it opened as Camp Samac. Camp Samac remains one of Scouts Canada’s largest properties and hosts a number of major scouting events, such as the international Join In Jamboree which has been held there since 2015. In 1947 the McLaughlins would provide the Girl Guides with their Guide House in downtown Oshawa.
Various troops from both organizations frequently visit the Oshawa Museum to learn about the area’s history and to do Victorian/pioneer crafts. The Oshawa Museum is also currently preparing a new exhibit on the history of Scouting and Guiding in Oshawa which is planned to open later this year.