Leslie's Guiding History Site


International Camps

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The Boy Scouts had held their first 'Jamboree' in 1920.  It wasn't an International Camp as we would recognise it - more an event to advertise Scouting to the public.  Each day the Scouts arrived at an exhibition hall and demonstrated Scout activities to the public.  As Olave Baden-Powell wrote in 1923: "Some two years ago it was suggested that the Girl Guides Association should hold a big gathering similar in character to the great International Jamboree held by the Boy Scouts in 1920.  This plan did not materialise owing to the undesirability of having great numbers of girls brought together en masse before the public eye"  So instead of an event for the public, the proposal was that "Guides and Guiders from all parts of the world will like to meet together for a friendly gathering, to get to know one another and to see and to learn how the work of the great sisterhood is progressing in different lands."  

According to the official camp book, it came about during a visit to Pax Hill, the home of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, by Miss Olivia Burges, an Assistant County Commissioner.  Discussion started during a walk through the gardens, and was concluded in the evening with the notion of an international camp to be held alongside the World Conference, due to be held at Foxlease in 10 months' time - and an assumption that, due to distance and expense, there might be around 500 campers.  Miss Burges found herself appointed Camp Secretary, and the experienced Mrs Janson Potts was appointed Camp Chief.  Within 5 weeks the invitations were being issued to Chief Commissioners around the Commonwealth and the Chief Guides or Leaders of the Guiding movements around the world.  Letters then issued to County Commissioners, to arrange home hospitality and supply the necessary equipment for the various sub-camps.

This early International Camp essentialy set the template for those to come, right up to the present day - ideas from it's organisation are still used.  As such, it's worth looking at it in detail.

The daily programme for the World Camp was: 

0730 - Reveille

0830 - Breakfast

0900 - Orderly Duties

0945 - Commandant Meeting

1015 - Prayers and Colours

1035 - General Group work, Instruction, etc.

1300 - Dinner

1400 - Canteen

1430 - Rest Hour

1530 - Conference, Open Sessions, or Excursions

1630 - Tea

1730 - International Displays

1930 - Supper

2000 - Camp Fires in each camp, or central Camp Fire for whole camp.

2130 - To bed.

2200 - Taps.  Lights Out.

The planning for the catering, organised by Mrs Grindrod, began in the autumn of 1923, with menus first issued in January 1924 along with preliminary instructions for the Quartermasters on each sub-camp.  Plenty of suggestions resulted, but the menus remained broadly unaltered.  Numbers continued to fluctuate in the run-up to the event and there were extras and early arrivals to be provided for.  The system set up was that the Quartermasters would arrive at the central stores in batches each morning to collect their daily stores, and give in a list of what would be required for collection in the afternoon.  Dry goods and groceries were restocked as required when the sub-camp's initial stock was used.  The quantities were large - as much as 116 gallons of milk per day, 200 quartern loaves, seventy joints of meat.  

The transport corps utilised three farm carts, 28 car drivers and a motor-bike messenger, the drivers all being Guiders.  It began with collecting and delivering camp equipment, followed by meeting contingents arriving by boat at Southampton or train at Brockenhurst to transport luggage and people.  During the camp there were excursions to different locations in the area, collecting stores, transporting the delegates from hotels in Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst to and from the camp daily, and dealing with problems - scouring the countryside to source blankets for campers who lacked them, being one!

The post office and canteens, too, were a major operation.  The post office dealt not only with outgoing postcards, but also with sending telegrams via the runner or despatch riders- 260 incoming and 300 outgoing during the week.  Water, too, was transported in a wooden barrel loaded onto a horse-drawn cart.  Each day a mail van arrived with sacks of parcels and letters - sometimes 1-2000 letters in each delivery.  Four Guiders served as postmen to distribute and deliver letters and parcels, while registered letters had to be signed for.  Foreign money exchange was arranged with the local bank branch, and stamps sold - £26 worth!  The 'canteen' was a horse and cart which travelled around the site selling biscuits, lemonade, fruit, chocolate, buttons, pins and many more useful oddments.  

The camp hospital consisted of 10 beds (or sufficient for 1% of the campers), in two-bedded tents so isolation cases could be managed.  Ex-service beds were used, with orange-box lockers.  A small marquee served as the casualty and receiving department, to screen incoming cases and deal with minor cases during morning and evening sessions.  The staff were a doctor, two nurses and a quartermaster, aided by orderlies with first aid or nursing experience.  In total there were just over 100 casualties, including minor injuries.

In terms of being an International Camp, it certainly qualified for the name, as there were delegations or delegates from a number of countries.  It is worth noting, though, that many of those representing Commonwealth countries would have been people of British origin, often based in the British embassy or whose husbands were working for British companies or organisations - not people native to the country.  The delegations listed as represented at the camp were: South Africa, Australia, Bermuda, British West Indies (Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad), Canada, Ceylon, Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey), Hong-Kong, India, Malaya, Malta, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Belgium, Chile, China, British Guides in Cologne, Constantinople, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Esthonia, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, USA.  In additions there were Patrol Leaders from England, Scotland, Wales, Irish Free State, and Ulster.  

Camp Edith Macy 11 May -  1926  

Pax Ting, Gödöllő, Hungary 25 July - 7 August 1939

Camp Barree 26 June 1947

35th Anniversary encampment hosted by Girl Scouts of the USA at their campsite in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.  Present were 73 Girl Scouts representing all the states, Canal Zone, Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands.  They were joined by Guides and Scouts from 21 European Countries, and others from Central and South America, Canada and Newfoundland.  As the first post-war camp there was considerable press interest.  The camp theme was "Friendship Builds a Better World", based on the fourth Girl Scout Law.  The delegates discussed youth's part in world affairs, the effectiveness of the United Nations, and how economic, racial and religious prejudices can be combatted.

Camp Barree closed in c1977.

The next UK-based World Camp was held in 1957, in Windsor Great Park, by gratious permission of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was held to mark the centenary of the birth of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting and Guiding.

Foxlease 1999

In addition to these mass World Camps, smaller and more localised International Camps started to be held before, and especially after, World War 2.  In Guiding's early years, the barrier to holding international camps was both the cost and the time required to travel internationally - where a voyage of several weeks by sea might be required to travel internationally.  The arrival of affordable air travel made international camps more feasible.  

Some national camps would invite parties from particular countries to join them, and later, County International Camps developed, most of these being held every four or so years, due to the workload required to organise them.