Tales of Derring Do: Tabletop Scouting Wide Games Christmas Presents 2019

Christmas 2019 saw, amongst other toy soldier and gaming presents, a couple of gifts towards my ongoing Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop project. This will be one of my ongoing 2020 gaming projects, working with Alan “Duchy of Tradgardland” Gruber.

Finished Boy and Girl scouts from earlier this year and 12 shiny new recruits

I also picked up a further Patrol and a half of STS Little Britons 42mm range Boy Scout figures, via Peter Johnstone at Spencer Smith Miniatures, so that I can complete my Girl Scout Patrol and create a third Boy Scout Patrol for future games, maybe an overseas or European Patrol to take part in Wide Games.

The Shire book on The Scouts by Susan Cohen is a small, light and inexpensive paperback, and as you would expect from Shire, beautifully illustrated with photographs covering over a century of scouting, including two chapters on scouting in WW1 and WW2.

The Shire range stretches back five decades and includes early Wargames titles, recently reprinted by John Curry http://www.wargaming.co/recreation/details/ewvol5.htm

“To the Boys of Britain, come and join the nearest [Scout] troops in your district and do your duty like a man”, Baden Powell, August 1914

There are some interesting scenario ideas in the WW1 section, including coast watch and beach patrols by scouts and sea scouts for the Admiralty and Coast Guard along the East Coast. They watched for submarines, noted the movements of fishing vessels. Scout buglers sounded the All Clear after WW1 air raids.

Some of the images in the Shire book are from the IWM Imperial War Museum collection

© IWM (Q 19992) Horace Nicholls: Sea Scout observing passing vessels, WW1

This Coast watch activity continued on a limited basis in WW2 in areas like Teeside.

WW2: “On one occasion members of the 85th Renfrew and Inverclyde troop, camping at Everton, had three boys pretend to be escaped German prisoners of war on the run. The rest of the troop hunted them out, which they did with much hilarity, belying the seriousness of the situation.” (Shire)

This sounds like another Wide Game scenario.

The Big Book of Scouting Stories (OUP) 1930s

Eagle eyed readers may have seen the cover of this 1930s Big Book of Scouting Stories as it featured in my trek cart blog post a few months back. I liked the cover and contents page so much, I bought the whole book and it was put away for Christmas.

Dutch East Indies Sea Scouts encounter Malay Natives in the first story

The book is full of typical Boy’s Own Paper type “Ripping Yarns”, short stories of “derring do” with some lively colour and mostly black and white line illustrations.

Some of these stories may prove interesting ideas material for Scouting Wide Games.

Several stories are written by authors with military rank, possibly retained after WW1. Captain Oswald Dallas (South African Scout story ), Major J.T. Gorman and Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Lloyd-Owen Royal Engineers WW1 MC OBE (Dutch East Indies Scout story).

There are stories of Dutch and British colonial Sea Scouts in the Dutch East Indies discovering illegal native loggers in the teak forests of Palembang (Malaya / Southeast Asia), shown in the colour illustration and here:

This story is set in the 1930s interwar days of Colonial Police, Menangkaban Malays, Forestry officials and Planters “Up River” where the Sea Scouts in their white tropical naval uniforms, “for the troop was fifty-fifty British and Dutch, like so many others in the Dutch East Indies.” 20 years later the Dutch and British authorities would be struggling to maintain control in places like Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.

The “Inland Sea Scouting” article about canoeing on British Inland Waterways by Alec Ellis has illustrations by Phil W. Smith that look like the Airfix Commandos in their canoes, collapsible canoes etc. All good training and kit development no doubt for the commandos in a few year’s time.

There are many stories to look forward to, with dramatic looking pictures like these, out with the Fire Rangers:

There are stories of native scouts in South Africa dressed in loincloth and scout hat. A challenge for conversion! Maybe one to search for and make up in the Irregular Miniatures Deutsche Hommage 42mm range? Other image sources such as cigarette cards show East African scouts in the usual scout hat, shirt and shorts.

“Flat-Face” and “Big Nose” isn’t the most flattering of names for a Cub Scout, but maybe no worse than “Carrots”, “Chalky” or “Ginger”.

Illustration to Captain Oswald Dallas’ South African scout adventure.

Colonial war and scouting, tracking and tribal ritual in Africa is part of the life story of BP which fed into the creation of the Boy Scout movement.

Alongside these Empire / Colonial era yarns and attitudes are British natural history articles on shrews and adders.

There is also an interesting article by an Indian writer on “Scouting in India and Ceylon”. I shall reprint this in another occasion. Baden Powell (BP) would have known India from his military career. BP’s friend Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book proved the background to the Wolf Cub Scout yarns from WW1 onwards – Akela, Baloo, the Wolf pack and the Law of the Jungle.

J. Vijaya-Tunga’s article conclusion on the Indian Scout movement.

In many colonial parts of the world, early Scouting developed and survived through being run initially on segregated lines, “separate but equal”.

Integrating Hindu and Moslem scouts and scouts of different Brahmin and non-Brahmin castes, especially at meal times, was an issue for scouting in India, according to the prolific Indian writer J. Vijaya-Tunga (probably writer and journalist Jinadasa Vijayatunga, b.1902?) Obviously this was written in the decade before the turbulent times of Independence in 1947 and Partition.


Maybe my spare third new Patrol of shiny figures should be some early Indian or Native scouts? Essentially the same uniform or different head gear such as a turban? Pinterest picture research needed.

I look forward to reading the rest of these Ripping Yarns.

Another fascinating part of old musty books is any inscription:

The Big Book of Scouting Stories is from this era of 1930s scouting, inscribed as a present by Auntie Edna to Philip John Cecil of 27 Stratford Road, Buckingham (1931-1982?). Philip turns up in the national 1939 Register as an 8 year old schoolboy, old enough for Wolf Cubs but not yet Scouts.

A quick check on the family history suggests that Philip’s father Julius Bernard Schmit and Philip’s aunt Edna (who gave him the book) were born Schmitz or Schmit in the U.K. but changed their Germanic name to Cecil (Philip’s grandfather’s first name Cecil Schmit or Schmitz) between 1911 / 1915 and 1939.

This may have been during the First World War when many Germanic names of German and naturalised British subjects were replaced for more English ones, the Royal family included.

Aunt Edna amongst the Schmit or Schmitz family of builders in Buckingham 1911 Census

In 1915 the Kelly’s Directory for Buckingham still listed Cecil, Philip’s grandfather as Schmitz, below an equally Germanic sounding townsman called Fritz Saxby.

The family German connections go back to Philip’s great grandfather Julius Schmitz, sergeant major of the Royal Bucks Yeomanry in 1881, Prussian born in 1842 but a British subject. One of the oldest children, Philip’s Great Uncle also called Philip was born in Umballa, India – obviously a barracks town!

1881 Census for Buckingham – Schmitz family

I wonder how WW1 and WW2 affected the Schmit(z) / Cecil family’s sense of nationality, especially when Boy Scouts were sent out in WW1 to guard the coast, telegraph wires and railway bridges, against enemy aliens and foreign spies (Germans). Similar spy hysteria existed in WW2 with fears of Fifth Columnists.

The Big Book of Scouting Stories – a fascinating little bit of social history and many good ideas for Wide Games and tabletop gaming scenarios.

I hope that Philip and his Aunt Edna would be pleased to know that this book is in good hands and still providing inspiration for Scouting Wide Games, albeit on the Tabletop.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 27 December 2019

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