Scouts in the Great War

As part of the District’s St. George’s Day Parade, service of celebration and Promise renewals, the District asked that we give a short talk about remembering Scouts in the First World War.

Our Group Scout Leader, Nick, said the following – 

On 11th November this year we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the 1st World War. On that day, there will be many events to commemorate the end of that war and to remember those who were killed in that and subsequent wars.

A lot of you may be thinking “why and so what?”, as these were events that happened a century ago.

Let me take you back to 1918. In that year we know there are Scouts in Audley, Basford, Porthill, in Newcastle Town Centre and there are Scouts, Guides, Brownies and Cubs all over Newcastle and North Staffordshire (sorry Beavers and Rainbows, you will have to wait around 60 – 70 years before your sections start) and they did what you all do today. They did activities that were challenging, exciting, fun and adventurous, but without social media, mobile phones and computers! But as well, they helped with the war effort at home. The Scouts of North Staffordshire raised money to buy an ambulance and some local Scoutmasters became Police Special Constables. Scouts and Guides even worked for MI5 in London!

But what of the people? I want to introduce you to John Tomlinson. We don’t know a great deal about him and this rather poor photo is the only one we have of him. John was born in Hanley in January or February 1898. He probably joined the Scout Troop at Porthill in 1909 when he was 11 years old. In 1911, when he was 13 years old, John and his family lived in Catherine Street, May Bank (his house is still there today by the way) and he worked as an apprentice at Twyfords pottery in Cliffe Vale.

In September 1914, a month after the start of the Great War, John went to volunteer to join the army in the North Staffordshire Regiment. He shouldn’t have been able to join the army as he was 16 years old, but the recruiting sergeant probably told him to go away, have a quick walk around the block and think about his age again. When he returned to the recruitment centre, he would have been 19 years old and then a private in the army. He was quickly transferred into the 20th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). John was sent to France in August 1915 and that September and October he fought in the famous Battle of Loos and during this battle he was wounded by an exploding artillery shell.
He recovered from his wounds, fought on and the following year he was fighting in the Battle of the Somme. Sadly, on 6th November 1916, he died of the wounds he received. He is buried in the Grove Town Cemetery in France. John was just 18 years old.

John is one of the 18 men who died during the First World War who had been Scouts at Porthill. There were 2 men killed during the war who had been Scouts at the 2nd St. Pauls Troop in Newcastle. It is highly likely that some of the men from Audley who were killed in the war were Audley Scouts, but unfortunately records do not survive. There were many men from across the whole of North Staffordshire killed in the First World War who had been Scouts.
Basford, Porthill & Silverdale Scout Groups have their own Memorials to remember Scouts like John and do so each year on Remembrance Day.

On Remembrance Day every year, we pay special homage to those who died, like John, in service to their country. We remember these brave men and women for their courage and their devotion to ideals. We wear poppies, attend ceremonies, and visit memorials. For one brief moment of our life, we remember why we must work for peace every day of the year.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


This was followed by members of the Drum Corps playing the Last Post followed by Reveille.

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