Memories as a Boy Scout - Alan Keighley

These memories are from days before Political Correctness, ‘Elf & Safety‘, and the ‘Compensayshun’ Culture were the norm. The events simply could not happen today.


113th North London Scout Troop - St. Philip’s Church, Philip Lane, Tottenham.

The Scout Hut was a wooden building alongside the Church Hall facing Spur Road. It was slightly off the ground on brick piles so there were three or four wooden steps upto the front door. After you entered the front door the hallway went straight ahead and there were one or two rooms on the right hand side. At the end of the hallway was a large room the total width of the building. In the rear wall was a window and back door. 

The first house next door in Philip Lane was a Dr.’s surgery and when occasionally we lit fires in the piece of waste ground behind the hut and the smoke blew in the direction of the surgery we got complaints.

Meetings were held in the Church Hall on a Friday night, Wolf Cubs first about six o’clock and Boy Scouts about seven o’clock.

When I first joined the cubs they were run by….. Southgate and his sister. I never knew his Christian name. In those days many people were always referred to by their nicknames. His nickname was ‘Nugget’ . They lived in Alton Road, in a house that almost backed onto ours at 14 Lismore Road.

I went up into the Scouts in 1947 after I was eleven. My brother was four years older so was already in the Scouts.

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  St Phillips Church Hall


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Exactly when the 113th was founded I don’t know, but we had a black scarf with a one inch white trim, and on the back a diamond shaped badge with the sword ‘Excaliber’ embroidered in it. Again I don’t know why that emblem was chosen. The boys were in patrols of six/eight lads, named after birds. When I joined I was put in the ‘Ravens’ whose patrol leader was Derek Woolhead. He was always known as ‘Dekker’. Other patrol names that I am sure of were Pigeons and Blackbirds.

On a Friday night there was a mixture of games and the patrols competed against each other and points were tallied in chalk on a blackboard. At the year end the patrol with the most points won the ‘Hill’ trophy. This was a silver cup with an inscription on it.

Pictured left is the presentation of the 'Hill' trophy in at the church hall in 1955. China (Centre Back Row) has awarded trophies to the winners. The only one I can still recognise is Michael Robinson holding the silver cup.

 Once a month we had Church Parade, when we would meet at the Scout Hut and march along Philip Lane to St. Philip's Church, the Colour Party carrying the Troop flag. Once inside the church the Colour Party would take the flag up to the altar before the service commenced and collect it after. 

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The Scoutmaster was Sidney Forty, but always called ‘China’. He had been in the Army but demobbed by 1947/1948. He worked for the Transport and General Workers Union, and had a twin brother - I think Reg, who was not involved at all with the scouts. China got married at St. Philips and I have a photo. Here is the photo of China' wedding at St Philips on 22nd July 1950. I am the the first lad on the right with the white patrol leaders stripes on my shirt pocket. The twin brother of 'China' (Sidney Forty) can  be seen behind him  standing on the steps

Assistant Scout Masters were Brian Tanner and Derek Martin.

Other Scouts I remember and have in some photos were:

Alan Lockwood (Dumbo) who died January 2009, John Langford, Raymond Neilsen, George Killingback, Terry Lockyer, Roger Ward, Philip Whitehead (his father Tom Whitehead was the Rover Scout Leader), Michael Newmarch, the Hazel brothers (Spud and Spiv), Michael Robinson, John Coote, Paul Godfrey, John Cooper, Michael Shelley, Mickey Abbott,  …. Stephens      

We would go camping at Easter and Whitsun to Debden, in Essex. The other side of the field fence was the Epping Forest. We only cooked on wood fires so wood collection parties went out every day and came back carrying stretchers, one boy at each corner, with a pile of wood of all sizes. The thin sticks we would chop up with hand axes and the thicker ones with felling axes. Towards the end of my time Primus Stoves were starting to be used for cooking but us ’old timers’ didn’t really approve.

The kitchen area would be roped off. Cooking was done in large metal containers known as ’Dixies’, stirring a large Dixie of porridge for breakfast was not only tiring on the arms, but if you left any lumps in it you were in for a torrent of complaints from the other boys. We slept in Niger tents which held at least ten, always remembering to slacken the guy ropes at night so that they didn’t contract too much with the dew.

The greatest embarrassment was to have you parents come down on Sunday afternoon to visit the camp. Ours never did. The Mum always wanted to see where her little lad was sleeping.

One of the highlights of camping at Debden was the Midnight Hike, which as the name suggests began at midnight. We would set off into Epping Forest with a torch and compass and hike in the dark for a hour or more. In the forest was the ‘tank trap’ a ditch several yards wide and several feet deep, presumably for the purpose its name suggests. However, crossing it could be hazardous since in parts the bottom was wet and boggy, and you could suddenly be up to your knees in mud.


Summer camps with the Scouts were held at:

1950 at Kilve, in North Somerset.

1951 at Shalfleet on the Isle of Wight

1953 at Coombe Valley, Cornwall, together with members of the 106th Group and Sea Scouts. See photograph (Right)

1954 in the New Forest, nr. Brockenhurst


I think 1952 was Dorset, but I didn't go for some reason or other.

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Back Row starting on the right with the Sea Scout Skipper in the cap - he was John Styles, then working towards the left across the back row, R. Gray, J. Piert, Michael Newmarch, three sea scouts, the Vicar of Morwenstow, two unknowns, Roger Ward, Myself, Terry Lockyer, George Killingback, K. Williams, C. Lucas, H. Oliver


Middle Row seated extreme left Derek Martin


On the ground extreme left 'Spud' Hazel in the beret, then Michael Robinson


That is all I can identify


I was in the Rover Scouts when I went into the RAF to do my National Service in 1954.


Alan Keighley - April 2009


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