An account from a pocket book or diary in my collection of a Chesterfield Scout’s Camp in wartime spent under canvas in Lincoln, September 4th to 11th 1916.
The Battle of the Somme moved into its third month in France whilst these boys camped. The Great War receives little notice in Chesterfield, Derbyshire as some Boy Scouts and scoutmasters plan another week under canvas in Lincoln.
It was the tradition for Patrols and Patrol Leaders to write a weekly log of activities. The unknown SM or Scoutmaster who presumably wrote this diary and account book was working within this tradition.
I have kept their random Capitals when typing this up. Edit notes in square brackets or italics.
SM ScoutMaster the anonymous diarist / writer, Chesterfield Scouts
Sec. [Scout] Jack Chambers, Sec[ond] to Patrol Leader [PL]
Scout J. (Jack) Redfern
See the end section for my ideas or research notes to who these people were.
Monday 14th August 1916
On return of Rear Party from Windy Croft Camp, the idea of having another week under canvas occurred to us.
Friday August 18th 1916
I wrote to Sec. Chambers asking him to come to Camp September 4-11th and also to find out any other Scouts who were doing nothing that week. All those at school or who ought to be at work were barred. I had previously enquired of all PLs and Seconds and found only Sec. Chambers available.
Wednesday August 30th 1916
Sec. Chambers met me at 7.30 at Clergy House and we decided:
1. To Have the Camp.
2. To invite Scouts Hodkin and J. Redfern to join us. More than 4 we thought undesirable.
3. To have the Camp near a river for boating and swimming.
4. To hold the Camp near Lincoln. Nottingham, Newark and Derby were discussed.
Thursday August 31st 1916
[Sec / Scouts] Chambers, Hodkin and Redfern met me at 10am and all detail was fixed up by 12 noon. Later I rode to Eyam.
[Eyam in Derbyshire, famous for its self sacrifice during the Great Plague, is about 14 miles from Chesterfield in Derbyshire.]
Friday September 1st and Saturday September 2nd 1916
I spent considerable time at Eyam sewing up a tent which we were to take with us.
Sunday September 3rd 1916
I returned to Chesterfield in eve[ning] bringing tent and some kit.
List of Equipment Taken
A list of Kit required, taken or borrowed for the four of them is recorded here:
Some of the more unusual camping items include Scout prayer books and Electric flash lamps (for signalling?) alongside a 1916 penny for scale.
Monday September 4th 1916
Chambers, Hodkin and Redfern arrived at my room at 9 am and we got things across to G.C. station and just caught the 10.15, the guard having to hold up the train while we dashed in the biscuit tins etc.
12 noon arrived at Lincoln, Rev Kerr Thompson District Commissioner met us and gave us welcome but no useful suggetsions as to place for camp. Hodkin and Redfern stayed with baggage and I went to Bracebridge Tram Terminus and then walked along Newark Road to where it cuts river.
There we saw some boats at Plough Inn and found Mr. Shearman would let us have one for the week for five shillings. Then we walked up Riverside away from Lincoln about a mile looking for a good site. Sheltered from a heavy storm on the way and ate some food.
Eventually settled on a good place about half a mile from the Plough and obtained leave to use it from a Mr Johnson at a farm near.
Returned to station arriving there at 3pm. There we all had a cup of hot tea and a bun and then put all luggage on a cab and at 3.30 drove off to the Plough Inn, going through heavy rain.
The Plough Inn is still open 2022 on Newark Road at Bracebridge where it crosses the River Wytham. The Plough is in the top middle at Bracebridge, and marked on the map below where the Newark Road crosses the River Wytham.
The Johnson’s Farm is possibly Manor Farm, still a working farm, seen top middle satellite image below of the likely camping spot.
Sheltered at Plough till 4.30 and then set off with all luggage in a big boat and got to Camping place. Heavy rain again and continued all the whole time we were pitching and moving kit.
Borrowed stakes and some extra rope from Mr Johnson’s farm and roped tent in to keep off horses and “beeasts”. Fierce thunder and lightning rage meanwhile.
Hodkin and Redfern returned to Bracebridge on foot, Hodkin to buy provisions, Redfern to go to Lincoln with out PostCards.
Meanwhile Chambers and I dug trench and generally got things ready.
Eventually Hodkin and Redfern returned after a most adventurous journey in the pitch dark along the side of the river and over dikes and barbed wire. They found us by whistle. Then we had supper of bread and cheese and cake and cocoa and got lights out by 11.15.
Accounts for this day:
Tuesday September 5th 1916
Arose 7.20 all having slept well and all feeling A1. It was fine but threatening. We turned out for Physical Exercises and had a great wash by the River. About 9am breakfast was ready. We ate bacon, bread, butter and tea.
Spent the first part of the morning cleaning Camp. Redfern made a fire for drying our things. Some confusion arose through Chambers and Redfern both being Jacks, so the difficulty was solved by nicknames.
The Scouts assumed the following names Chammers, Redders and Hodders.
Hodders and I then rowed down to Plough and went to Bracebridge and bought provisions. Did not have lunch till 3pm. Ate bread, cheese, butter, chips, apples and drank water. Had a rest.
Then bathed to wake ourselves up. All rowed down to Plough and Chammers took letters to post. Hodders rowed us back.
Hodders was a then Cookist and Buyist
Chammers appointed storekeeper and Borrowist from farm,
Self – Cleanist and Lightest of stoves,
[These ‘-ist’ names were changed from the normal ‘Buyer’, ‘Cook‘ etc]
Hodders then got dinner ready while Redders received a lesson in rowing. Had dinner – Mutton chops, Boiled taters, cake, Tea, Bread and Butter
Lights out at 10pm.
Accounts for this day:
Wednesday September 6th 1916
Got up 7.45. Exercises. Wash. Breakfast 8.45 Porridge and Treacle, Bacon, Bread and butter, Bread and Jam, Tea.
Cleaned up Camp and aired everything.
12 noon had a lovely bathe. Chammers and Redders received Swimming Instruction. At 1.15 we set off for Lincoln having closed up the tent. We had this morning put barbed wire round our boundary which Chammers had borrowed. The reason for this was that I had to get up at 5am to remove horses which were using our posts and ropes to rub on.
On the way down on train all received Instruction on styles of architecture and noticed two Saxon windows on three churches.
Walked up steep hill towards [Lincoln Cathedral] Minster meeting a certain ASM [Assistant Scout Master] Pyrah of 1st Lincoln Troop on our way. He accompanied us all afternoon. Went to see Newport Arch built 45 AD, oldest arch in England. Also saw bit of old wall which used to surround town. Then had lunch sitting in Cathedral Yard – Bread, butter and cheese, Cake, Apples.
3.30-3.45 Saw Cathedral Nave
3.45-4.45 Ascended Big Tower, 337 steps. Heard and saw Big Tom strike 4. Fine views from top.
4.45 – 6 Were showing round choir, cloisters, Chapter house by an interesting verger.
Left ASM Pyrah and returned to Camp 6.45. Hodders and Redders got dinner ready. Chammers received Rowing Instruction. Dinner 7.45 – Chips and Fried Eggs and Bread, butter and Jam. Tea.
Spent some considerable time writing diary and got to sleep 10.45.
Accounts for this day:
Thursday September 7th 1916
5.15 Hodders and I were woken up by a tremendous stamping. I looked out and saw crowd of horses. One post of our barrier was down and one horse had got its foot caught. I got feet bare and with useful mallet throwing removed them all and refastened stake.
8 am. Got up. Exercises. Wash. Breakfast 9am – Porridge and Treacle, Bread, Butter and Jam, Tea. Hodders and Chammers went off in boat for Provisions and letters. Redders and I aired Camp.
Mr. Johnson visited us. Then fastened up Camp and got ready for a journey up river.
We set off at 1.30 pm. After rowing 10 minutes up stream we came to our bathing place and bathed. Water lovely. Then rowed on till 3.15 where we got off and had lunch. Saw many people fishing as usual but as usual none had caught anything nor seemed likely to.
Had a rest from 3.55 till 4.25. Just before rest, 4 biplanes passed over. We have seen any amount of the same type. On enquiry we found out that they make them here.
Research Note: Lincoln Biplane – Aircraft manufacture in Lincoln WW1
This in 1916 is likely to be either Ruston, Proctor and Co. Limited or Robey and Sons, North Kesteven, Bracebridge, both aircraft manufacturers. One in 14 of all aircraft flown during the Great War were manufactured in the City [Lincoln].
Ruston, Proctor & Co Ltd
Ruston, Proctor & Co were the largest manufacturers of aero-engines during the Great War. The first contract for the supply of aeroplanes to the War Office was signed on 15 Jan 1915 by Ruston Aircraft Factory. By 15 Jul 1915 the first Ruston Aeroplane had been accepted by the War Office. On 4 Jan 1918 the 1000th airframe was delivered, with a total of 2725 under contract. The firm built in excess of 2 000 aircraft of which 1 600 were Sopwith Camel, 200 were BE2 and 250 Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters … They were based in an expanded facility by the River Witham in Lincoln. Types produced numbered RAE BE2c/e, Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter, Sopwith Camel and Sopwith Snipes. Many of the airframes were flown directly to the Western Front by volunteers.
Robey and Sons was located at the opposite end of Lincoln City to Ruston, Proctor & Co. 30 Robey 806 were built here. They manufactured the Sopwith Gunbus and Short 184 Seaplane. Robey’s facility at Bracebridge Heath was opened in 1916 for the manufacture and flight testing of aircraft. This was taken over by the RFC within two years to become RFC Bracebridge Heath. Source: http://www.raf-lincolnshire.info/aircraft/lincolnmanufacturers.htm
Robey and Sons – “The site of the First World War airfield and aircraft factory and repair site of Bracebridge Heath. The airfield was established in 1916 by the firm Robey and Co Ltd to assemble and carry out flight trials of license-built Longhorn trainers.”
Thursday September 7th 1916 (continued)
At 4.30 we set off again and continued rowing in turns till 6.15 when we could scarcely get further for weeds. All got out and sighted 2 church spires, the furthermost we presumed was Aubourn.
The nearest we walked to across country. We found it open. It was South Hykeham, a very small place. Returned to boat another way to avoid farmers. Try to [illegible …] without avail.
Set off again in boats at 7.15 and had a great row back. We took off the rudder and all except oar used scout poles. Various jobs earned names e.g. Rowist, Bottom Proddist, Deputy Assistant Bottom Proddist, Steerist, Pole catcher, Oar cleanist.
What with losing poles, getting oars caught in weeds, nearly dashing into bank at 15 miles an hour, we had a most exciting time. Although we did not go in, we all got jolly splashed. We arrived in at 8.35 as the moon was rising. Had a good supper – Bacon and Bread, Bread and butter, and jam, Cocoa 4 mugs each. In bed by 11pm, lights out soon after.
Friday September 8th 1916
All slept like logs till 7.30 and then feeling sleepy we dozed till 8.30
Exercises. Wash. Breakfast – Porridge and treacle, Bacon and Bread, Bread, butter and jam, Tea. All overate as usual and had to remain sitting s9me time till the effect wore off. Had a fine bathe at 12.15. Redders and Chammers are progressing fairly well in swimming.
Set off or Lincoln at 1pm. Ate lunch as on Wednesday in Cathedral Yard, sardines and bread, Cake, apples, a soldier walked up and talked to us. He was an ASM from Exeter and had [‘been wounded’ – crossed out] had appendicitis in France and was in hospital. Then looked over Castle till 4.30. Then I called on Sympsons whilst others tried to see the 4th Northern Hospital [Lincoln]. Having failed to get in they returned at 5.30 and we came back to camp, fetching provisions and looking at Bracebridge Church on the way.
Hodders and Chammers got dinner ready while Redders and I crossed the river and found a short cut to the road in case we might want it ever. Had dinner at 8.30 – Steak and boiled potatoes, Bread Butter and Jam, Coffee. Lights out 10. Glorious starlight.
Accounts for this day:
Saturday September 9th 1916
Woke 8.30. Got up 8.50. Exercises. Wash. Chammers and I aired Camp whilst Hodders and Redders went to Bracebridge for letters and provisions.
Glorious bathe at 1.20. Boiling sun. Lunch at 2.5 – Bread, butter, cheese, A1 lemonade, apples.
Set off at 3.20 to row right through to Lincoln. Arrived at Bradford at 4.40.
First we all went to station and found out about our trains for Monday and engaged a cabby to come and fetch us from the Plough Inn. Then Hodders and Redders went off to town and pottered about. They met ASM Pyrah of 1st Lincoln’s. He treated them to some ices.
Chammers and I went to S.Peter at G to find out about services for Sunday. Went to call on Reverend Kerr Thompson the Lincoln District Commissioner. Spent some time there and then returned and met the other two.
Left Brayford at 6.5 and had hardly started when we found we had forgotten to post our letters. Chammers got out and posted them. This took 15 minutes. Redders then pulled us off [away] again in great style. We put down Chammers and Redders at the Plough to go to Bracebridge for letters and paraffin. Hodders and I rowed on to Camp and discovered we had not the store [box] key.
By great skill we started the Optimus with a candle. Soon the others returned and while we were cooking dinner SM Reverend Barrett, Curate of St. Swithins [Lincoln] and SM [Scoutmaster] Of 10th Lincoln’s turned up in uniform. He came to tell us that service at St. Swithins was at 10 not 11 tomorrow. He stayed with us 35 to 40 minutes and talked about the troop. He is a very nice chap.
At 9.15 we had supper dinner – Eggs and chips and bread, Bread Butter, Jam, Coffee. Lights out 11 after as usual removing the “beeasts” from the field.
Sunday September 10th 1916
I woke at 6.50 and put light to Optimus and Primus. Water was soon boiling and then I woke the others and shaved. It was raining a sort of Scotch mist. By 8.40 I was dressed and set off across the river to Holy Communion at Bracebridge church. I left the others at Breakfast – Porridge and treacle, Bread, Butter and Jam, Tea.
Service finished 8.45 and I walked to the Plough and ate my Breakfast rations – Bread and cheese, Cake, 2 Apples and with a lot of luck I got a cup of tea off Mrs. Shearman. The others turned up in their boat at 9 and we all set off to walk to St. Swithins at Lincoln. Got there at 9.50 in nice time. Celebration began at 10 and lasted till 11.15. Mr. Hancock the Vicar, Mr Barrett and Mr Dyson officiated. Very nice service. We all enjoyed it and prefer it to Chesterfield.
Mr. Dyson preached. After service Mr. Hancock, Mr. Barrett and Mr. Dyson all came and talked to us, also several scouts who were servers, choirboys etc. Came and talked to us. Several walked with us a long way back towards Camp. They seemed very decent chaps.
Got to Camp after rowing up from Plough at 12.30. Then came the great event of Camp, our 4 course Sunday dinner. It began at about 1.30 and went on until 3.15. Though it was raining little did it matter to us. Menu as follows, Sausages and potatoes (boiled) Stewed Plums Cold with sugar and milk, the last word in excellence, stewed last night. Bread and Cheese. Apples.
We were so done up after this that we all went to sleep and remained in this state from 3.45 to 5.30. I woke first and could scarcely believe my eyes. However it was true. So I woke the others and we debated what to do. It was now fine but still dull. After some discussion decided to go into Lincoln to church, if possible to St. Swithins. But when we were ready and had rowed down to Plough we were too late to go so far. We got opposite St. Botolphs [Lincoln] at 6.25 so went no further.
We all quite enjoyed the service though the heat and the effects of the dinner made us sleepy. After service we walked back to Plough and rowed up arriving in Camp 8.30. Had Supper – Bread, Butter, Jam, Cake, Tea. We could not eat very much as the dinner had not yet worn off. Lights out about 11pm.
Accounts for this day:
The above cost was defrayed by me. The Scouts paid their own Railway expenses.
Monday September 11th 1916
On waking I was wished Many Happy Returns by Hodders as it was my birthday. Day was cloudy but promising. Got up about 9. Exercise. Wash. Breakfast at 10 – Porridge and Treacle, Bacon and Bread, Bread, Butter and Jam, Apples, Tea.
Sun appeared at 11 am, Hodders and Chammers went to Bracebridge to return some bottles borrowed from the shop and fetch letters. They then changed our light boat for a heavy boat which they brought back to Camp to row our kit down in.
Meanwhile Redders and I gave all cups and kitchen apparatus a good clean. On return of the travellers we all packed our kit, filled in [Tent?] trench etc and then struck tent. Then went to bathe, it being now 2.30 pm. Glorious dip. Swimmers both progressing very well indeed.
While we were there we saw an English Zep [Zeppelin], the first we had seen. We also saw one or two Lincoln biplanes as usual.
We took down our Rope and Barbed Wire barrier and returned same and all spare food to Mrs. Johnson at the farm. Had some food – Bread and Cheese.
Rowed down to Plough and loaded Cab up at 9.50 and went to GC Station, eating cake and apples in cab. Small storm raged. Set off from station at 6.5 and after uneventful journey reached Chesterfield at …
Here ends the diary. At the other end of the book were the week’s accounts.
The English Zep or airship may have been heading to or from Cranwell airship base. One such airship crashlanded on a Lincolnshire town a few months later.
Who were the people in the anonymous diary?
A check in the British Newspaper Archive reveals a few of the people mentioned:
I have a slight feeling that the Scoutmaster diarist (Birthday / born on 11th September) may be a clergyman. They meet to plan Camp at Clergy House. They have not joined up, enlisted or been conscripted, suggesting a reserved occupation or being over military service age.
This increasingly affected maintains Scouting activities and camping as Scoutmasters and increasingly Scouts of military age enlisted or were conscripted. Wartime also gave Scouts and Guides many opportunities for home service.
Little press reports exist of Chesterfield Scout activity in 1916 – was it one of these Scoutmasters who wrote the diary?
District Scoutmaster W.H. Alliban of Tupton Hall in the absence of Col. Seely. Alliban was to lose his son in action in 1917.
Chesterfield 2nd and Holymoorside 1st SM O’Farrell or O’Farrall or O’Ferrall
Chesterfield 8th SM Jennings
GrassMoor? SM Evans
Derbyshire Courier, Chesterfield, 1st January 1916
Scout J ‘Jack’ Redfern of Chesterfield – still no mention in the press
Scout Hodkin of Chesterfield may be related to a W. Hodkin, butcher of Chesterfield mentioned leading a 1914 tribute to a local Alderman. They may be either Joe Hodkin or Frank Hodkin, successful Sunday School scholars in 1912. About the right age to be Scouts in 1916 but not yet called up?
Scout J. ‘Jack’ Chambers may be the same as a Scout Rover J. Chambers in 1918. A Second mate called J. Hodkin is also mentioned.
21 December 1918 – Derbyshire Courier
18 December 1918 – Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Revd F. Kerr Thompson, Lincoln District Commisioner features several times in the Lincoln local Press such as the Lincolnshire Echo, March 22 1917. Here less than a year after meeting our diarists at Sandy Camp, his Lincoln Scouts are active in wartime, including on coastwatch. He stepped down from this role in 1918, moving to Immingham.
Assistant Schoolmaster ASM Pyrah was busy a few weeks before the Camp in August 1916.
However in 1919 someone of that Pyrah name and from that address had a problem with the law, a problem for the Pyrah family:
23 July 1919 – Nottingham Journal
I hope that the Scout campers and Scoutmasters survived the First World War, these Scouts being on the edge of military age by 1918. I checked the lengthy Scouts Roll Of Honour WW1 as best I could and found no Chesterfield Scout casualties listed after 1916 https://prod-cms.scouts.org.uk/media/16815/first-world-war-roll-of-honour.pdf
Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 1970s Cob Scout (Bronze Arrow, retired) April 2022