GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — One particular feature of the 2023 National Boy Scout Jamboree currently underway at the Summit Bechtel Reserve is introducing them to the history of Scouting’s birthplace.
When the scouts make their way over to the East end of Goodrich Lake in Scott Summit Center at the camp, they come to Brownsea Island, Boy Scout of America’s tribute to the first ever boy scout camp.
They get to explore a complete re-creation of Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell’s 1907 inaugural camp for boys held on Brownsea Island in Pool Harbour, Southern England.
“In the early 1900s he realized that the young boys were not strong enough, or fit enough or healthy enough to fight in the wars that were happening,” a lead facilitator of the simulation camp, Rose Mary Ghosh said about Baden-Powell and his initiative.
“There was a bit of a crisis going on and citizenship had gone down, so he decided he wanted to create some sort of youth movement,” Ghosh added.
Baden-Powell formed the Brownsea Island Scout Camp as a trial, a precursor to what eventually would become the boy scouts.
After gathering a host of young boys from public school and those from more deprived areas, he placed them in patrols on the island and did many activities with them to strengthen their coordination, memory, and aim, and to teach them about citizenship and military exercises.
In 1908, Baden-Powell published ‘Scouting for Boys,’ which became immensely popular and has sold over 100 million copies since. Ghosh said the re-creation of the camp is a hands-on way of teaching the modern scouts of how it all got started.
“They get to find out how the first camp was, what was different about camping then as opposed to now, and a little bit of history of the movement, how its changed, how it started, why it started,” she said.
Ghosh said they also get to learn about some of the cultural differences between the scouting birthplace in England before it was adopted over to America around 1910.
Within the simulation camp, scouts are able to try Baden-Powell’s version of basketball, which was played with the hoop being hung horizontally rather than vertically. A traditional football was also used– or what is considered to be a soccer ball in the U.S.– instead of a basketball as they did not exist in the U.K. at the time, and the shots were thrown under the arm.
Other activities within the camp included additional games such as Tug-of-War and the memory skill building exercise known as Kim’s Game, lifesaving skill training and staves skill training, which is a military exercise.
Ghosh said they try and keep the camp as close to tradition as possible.
“We begin and end each day with a flag ceremony where we hoist the flag of the United Kingdom, because of course Brownsea Island was in the U.K., and we also have a Baden-Powell actor who does a speech every hour and will also be involved with the flag raising ceremony,” said Ghosh.
The Baden-Powell actor and Ghosh herself were among many of the facilitators within the Brownsea Island imitation camp that were dressed in authentic clothing of the early 20th century helping to set the scene.