Croydon Scouting to remember war service at the Minster

Scout buglers performed a vital public duty in Croydon during WWI

Croydon Scouting is holding a special Memorial Service at Croydon Minster, to be attended by the Mayor of Croydon, Bernadette Khan, to remember the 66 Scouts who gave their lives in World War I.

While many commemoration events were staged in the past four years, and especially in 2018, being the centenary of the end of “the war to end all wars”, Croydon Scouts have chosen January 26 in 2019 because it will be exactly 100 years since they held a previous Memorial Service at the former St Matthew’s Church, College Road.

In 2016, as part of their own act of reflection, Croydon Scouting pledged to hold a special service 100 years to the day, to remember those Scouts who died in the Great War, and all conflicts since.

As well as (at least) 66 Scouts who lost their lives in WWI, between 1914 and 1918, Scouts from five troops in Croydon provided Coastal Patrol service in Kent from Pegwell Bay to Dungeness, a distance of some 45 miles. Another party of Scouts from Croydon assisted the military transport authorities in Newhaven and another party from Croydon were stationed at Littlehampton.

In addition to this, 21 Scouts from Croydon were seen piqueting railway stations and guarding bridges in South Croydon under the supervision of the military officer in charge, and locally many more Boy Scouts provided service for the Croydon War Supplies Clearing House by collecting parcels and acting as messengers.

The Scouts service plaque at Mayday Hospital

Troops and Scouts were also regularly seen assisting at soldiers’ canteens and recreation rooms, as well as providing orderly and fatigue work at War Hospitals.

There were other vital duties, too: 17 Scouts from South Norwood and Thornton Heath were retained as “All Clear” buglers.

They would be seen cycling around the area sounding the all clear signal after air raids, which were a particular feature of the home front in World War I in south London, where the first Zeppelin raids took place in 1915.

Following the war, a special presentation bugle was given to each of the 17 Scouts – 12 from South Norwood and five from Thornton Heath: Frank Alldridge, Walter Church, Charles Davison, Eric Edwards, Charles Epps, George Gilbertson, Herbert Hooker, Leonard Horscroft, Reginald Johnstone, Gerald Murray, Charles Noble, Robert Page, Fredrick Pugh, Herbert Rust, Robert Smith, John Stevens and James Williamson.

One bugle, that which was presented to Charles Epps, can be seen in the Museum of Croydon.

The bugle, presented to Charles Epps after WWI, which is now in the Museum of Croydon

During World War II, Croydon Scouts also helped at Mayday Hospital working as messengers, look-outs, stretcher-bearers and various other duties, even assisting in operations and carrying out the dead.

A service of commemoration was held at St Barnabas Chapel at Croydon University Hospital in 2015, when a plaque was unveiled to recognise this war service.

Steve French, until recently the Croydon District Commissioner, told Inside Croydon, “As a Scout District we have much to be proud of with the history of past effort and contribution from Scouts in Croydon, and we would welcome contact from members of the public with past association to Scouting or past family members associated to Scouting in Croydon to join us for this service at Croydon Minster on January 26.”

The service begins at 2pm and will last about an hour.

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