joined the cubs when I was old enough, and later went on to the Scouts and Senior Scouts. We were the 1st Chiddingstone troop and then rules changed and we became the 13th Tonbridge Chiddingstone troop and changed to Air Scouts. The District held a camp at Beltring near Paddock Wood at Whitsun every year and we had an enormous campfire at which we had to do our sketches. One of our Scoutmasters was an ex pilot from the first world war and had a false leg – at one of these campfires we did a sketch where one person was laying on a table whilst another acted as a doctor and using the normal carpenters tools – saw, hammer, chisels etc. cut off his leg. He then produced the leg and put it in the dustbin. This appeared to be quite dramatic in the firelight and otherwise practically dark, and at the end of the sketch the patient turned round to the doctor and thanked him for his help and got up and walked away. We also had a marathon run and I was district champion one year. Very chuffed I was too!
We also used to go swimming in the local river as a troop using an area where a bomb had dropped on a bend making a large hole in the river bed over which we built a diving board, the water being about fifteen feet at that point.
I remember one occasion when some of the evacuees were with us, both boys and girls, and one of the scouts got into trouble and on the third time down Maureen Gay jumped off the diving board and saved him. We were not concerned about pollution in the river at that time.
One of the scout camps that the troop went to was at Midhurst close to Tangmere airfield. One of the scoutmasters was a Flight Lieutenant who had been a pilot at Tangmere during the Second World War and still knew the adjutant and we were able to all go for a flight in a Tiger Moth, one by one, over Chichester.
The District used to have a big carnival in Tonbridge every year and each one of the troops had to put on a show for the spectators. We made an aeroplane out of a motor bike engine, pram wheels etc. and brought in on to the Tonbridge Castle lawn.
As mentioned previously we had three sections to the scout troop and Bill and I used to travel to Chiddingstone Hoath in his Austin Seven about twice a week. When we were returning home about midnight travelling down the hill from Chiddingstone towards Vexour bridge which was a very sharp left turn over the river, there was a dry storm and lighting was hitting the road in front of us all the way down and we were very lucky not to be struck and even more lucky that we managed to negotiate the corner over the bridge. Somebody previously had not done so and the car was in the field very close to the river.
Mr Smythe, the man with the false leg, known as Hawkeye, owned a very large car, an Austin I think, and a trailer which we used to take the kit when going camping. In those days if for instance we were to go to a church parade and needed to travel then about ten scouts would sit in the trailer as well as about eight in the car. Now it would be illegal to carry persons in the trailer.
Close to the scout hut, situated at White Post where Hawkeye lived was a reform school known as Knotley Hall. There were a lot of boys there who had been in trouble with the police etc. and had been sent there as a punishment. About half a dozen of these also belonged to the scouts.