Baden-Powell and the Winton Boys

Baden-Powell and the Winton Boys

Seven members of the Winton Boys Brigade played a key role in founding the Scout movement.In the summer of 1907, Robert Baden-Powell decided to test the principles laid out in his book “Aids to Scouting”. It was to be a secret experiment and he chose Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour as the location.

badenpowell-1R. Baden-Powell
Baden-Powell shares his scouting knowledge

Around twenty boys took part – with a variety of backgrounds and ages. Half were public school boys, three were from Poole Boys Brigade and the remaining seven were from the 1st Bournemouth Boys Brigade, in Winton. Their ages ranged from thirteen to seventeen and they were to take part in the first ever Scout camp.

Here are the names and ages of the Winton boys. Their addresses, where available, are taken from census data.

Albert Blandford (13) – 2 Wycliffe Road, Winton
Herbert Watts (17) – 32 Alma Road, Winton
James Tarrant (16) – 29 Cardigan Road, Winton
Arthur Vivian (15) – 41 Alma Road, Winton
Terence Bonfield (13)
Herbert Collingbourne (15)
Richard Grant (?)

Speaking to the Evening Echo in 1989 the late Terry Bonfield gave this description of the experience:
“I was one of seven boys picked from the Winton Boys Brigade. There were also three from the Poole Brigade and 10 boys who were the sons of Baden-Powell’s friends. The Bournemouth boys were taken to Sandbanks on a lorry by Henry Robson, who had a big grocery business at The Triangle.

We went to the island on a boat belonging to Harvey’s which I think was called the Hyacinth. The other boys
went in a bigger boat from Poole Quay. The boys were deliberately chosen from different backgrounds because Baden-Powell wanted to see how they would mix. We didn’t know where we were going or what it was all about. It was all very secret because Baden-Powell didn’t know whether it would be a success.

His idea was to bring youngsters of different nationalities together so that they would learn one another’s customs and ways and then there would be no wars. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone that far.

Equipment at the first camp -which went on for more than a week – included six bell tents, a marquee and the flag – which had flown over Mafeking. Activities included first aid, life-saving, knot-tying, tracking, and observation skills. In the evening, Baden-Powell told the boys Boer War stories around the camp fire.”

badenpowell-2Boarding the Hyacinth for Brownsea Island
Herbert Watts (left) and Herbert Collingbourne (right)

Here is Baden-Powell’s outline programme for the week July 29 – August 8, 1907:

  • Day 1 Preliminary – After settling into camp, formation of patrols and distribution of duties, orders etc each subject of the camp was explained with demonstrations. Patrol Leaders received a special course of instruction in he field for them to impart subsequently to their Patrols.
  • Day 2 Camping -Camp resourcefulness. Hut and mat making. Knots, Fire-lighting, cooking, health and sanitation. Endurance. Finding way in strange country. Boat management
  • Day 3 Observation – Noting and memorising details near and far. Landmarks etc. Tracking. Deducing meaning from tracks and signs. Training eyesight, etc
  • Day 4 Woodcraft – Study of animals and birds, plants, stars, etc, stalking animals. Noticing details of people. Reading their character and condition, thereby gaining sympathy, etc
  • Day 5 Chivalry – Honour, code of the knights. Unselfishness. Courage. Charity and Thrift. Loyal to King and to Employers or Officers. Practical chivalry to women. Obligation to do a “Good Turn” daily and how to do it
  • Day 6 Saving a Life – From fire, drowning, sewer, gas, runaway horses, panic, street accidents etc. Improvised apparatus. First Aid etc
  • Day 7 Patriotism – Colonial Geography. History and deeds that won the empire. Our Navy and Army. Flags, medals. Duties as citizens. Marksmanship. Helping Police etc.
  • Day 8 Games – Sports comprising games or competitive practices in all subjects of the camp

The experiment was a success and Scouting spread rapidly around the world. But it took only seven years for the hope of ending wars to be proved futile.

Three of the Winton boys died as a result of the First World War. Albert Blandford and Richard Grant were killed at Flanders. Herbert Collingbourne died in 1926 from the effects of poison gas.

Like the other Winton boys – they are not forgotten.

About the author

Mel Bray

Our history contributions were all written and researched by Mel Bray who set up the original Winton Community Forum website in 2006.

Mel's career has been largely founded on local, national and international broadcast journalism and his name may be familiar from the days when 2CR ruled the local radio airwaves. During his time at 2CR he won a national Sony broadcasting award for outstanding service to the community. This came in recognition of two unique series of programmes he devised and produced to tackle the major problems of economic recession and family breakdown. One of them was even praised by the Prime Minister in House of Commons question time. Both were copied by radio stations all around the country.

"Trying to create a history of Winton in words and pictures is a typically journalistic endeavour", says Mel. "But there is a deeper motive behind it. I got involved with Winton Forum from the start because I believed it had a role, in its small way, of making a better world.

"We have lost much of the trust, neighbourly interaction and mutual support that existed years ago and I believe that things like carnivals and local history knowledge give a sense of place, pride and belonging that create social cohesion. That in turn leads to a happier healthier community. It is all summed up in the slogan I created for the Winton Carnival: A day to make you happy - isn't that what the world needs a bit more of?"