Signs and Wonders 24: The Scouts' sacrifice

Evening Post, 23 Feb 2006

WHERE: Hucknall Road, opposite HM Prison Nottingham

WHAT: The first Boy Scouts were reaching military age as the First World War broke out.

Boer War hero Robert Baden-Powell ran what is now thought of as the first Scout camp in 1907. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, of the 22 boys with him on Brownsea Island in Dorset that summer, six died on the Western Front. Many others - the movement had over 100,000 members by 1910 - will have joined them.

That is the story behind one of the most surprising and touching war memorials in Notts, which reader Peter Turner of Sherwood first drew to my attention and R. Nelson, also from Sherwood, has supplied further details of.

It takes the form of black wooden gates in a brick arch at the entrance to "Blackwoods", the home of the 24th Nottingham Cavendish Scout Troop, and it is a relative latecomer among memorials to the First World War - it was dedicated with full civic and Scouting ceremony in 1927.

The Duke of Newcastle, who gave "Blackwoods" to the Scouts on a 99-year lease, was there to speak. So was P. B. Nevill, head of the Rover Scouts in England - "Rover" then being the name for older Scouts, and Rover Scouts having helped build the gate. It's said the wood came from the old Trent Bridge, and the bricks from a derelict house in Friar Lane.

"Countless memorials have been erected to those who died in the Great War," Mr Nevill told the troops, "but few can be more appropriate or better placed".

And few inscriptions could be more appropriate than the one over the gates, now on a functional-looking white replacement plaque: "Scouts of this place, let this of you be said, That you who live, are worthy of your dead, These gave their lives that you who live may reap, A richer harvest, ere you fall asleep."