Scouting movement got early start in Esquimalt

In March 1910, the first badges were issued and six troops organized, with the Esquimalt troop assigned 1st Arbutus

Esquimalt has a long association with Boy Scouts.

On Dec. 11, 1909, Esquimalt resident Lt.-Col. John A. Hall, former commanding officer of the 5th Regiment Canadian Army, initiated a meeting held in the Menzies Street Drill Hall in James Bay to see if there was sufficient interest in the area to form a Boy Scout troop. Seventy-two boys attended.

On Jan. 11, 1910 the next step was taken at Hall’s home on Old Esquimalt Road to establish the first council of the Victoria Boy Scouts Association.

Hall, instrumental in the organization of the 88th Victoria Fusiliers, was a natural choice to chair the council. In March 1910, the first badges were issued by the council and six troops organized, with the Esquimalt troop assigned 1st Arbutus,’ the name still in use today.

In June, the first parade with all scouts in uniform was held at the drill hall after which Edgar Fawcett presented a Union Jack with the letters “V.B.S.” (Victoria Boy Scouts) in the centre. This brigade flag as it was known was presented to the troop with the largest number of scouts on parade. 

A site on Old Esquimalt Road was chosen for the first annual Brigade Camp, opening July 2, 1910 and lasting two weeks. Another highlight followed on Aug. 11 when Lt.-Gen. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the scouting movement, visited Victoria and inspected local Scouts. Two years later he visited again addressing local scouts in front of the Parliament Buildings “in his usual inspiring manner.”

Subsequent years saw public exhibitions of scouting skills, such as wireless operation, log hut construction and model building. In December 1911, Victoria scouts even tried their hand at theatrics, presenting a musical, The Cruise of the Bilge-Bucket, at the Ancient Order of United Workmen Hall on Yates Street. In the spirit of the scouting movement, funds raised from admissions were passed along to a charity aiding crippled children. Four years later, in July 1915, the first Girl Guide unit was formed in Victoria.

Today the spirit of good citizenship is still evident in the scouting and guiding movement in Esquimalt. Whether it be cubs, scouts, brownies or girl guides, local members can be seen participating in the God’s Acre Candle Light Ceremony, organizing bottle drives, assisting the Esquimalt Lions (the troop’s sponsor) at Buccaneer Days  and generally helping those in need.

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Greg Evans is head archivist of Esquimalt Municipal Archives.

Did you know?

• The 2015 Scouts Provincial Jamboree will be held at Camp Barnard in July. Over 3,000 Scouts have already registered.

 

 

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