Boy scouts reunite 65 years after World Jamboree trip for possibly the last time

They’ve traded tents for hotels and boats for trams, but the memories of a six-month expedition to the other side of the world 65 years ago remain constant.

It was a different era when 140 Kiwi Scouts left our shores by boat in 1957 to take part in the World Scout Jamboree in England. The event marked 50 years of Scouting and 100 years since the birth of founder Lord Baden Powell.

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The youngest Scout on the trip, Ian Godall, was just 14 years old.

He and three of his friends from the small community of Ngāruawāhia on the North Island said goodbye to their parents for six months and boarded a ship that sailed Australia through the Suez Canal and landed in Naples.

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From there they traveled overland through Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, eventually ending up near London where they slept in tents for three months.

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Godall met 22 of those who had left in Christchurch on Tuesday. Although time has altered her appearance, it hasn’t erased the kinship that roughened her up.

For Godall, 79, the trip was “a wonderful start in life,” although he couldn’t understand his parents’ decision to let him go without them.

“You wouldn’t do that now.”

Former Scouts and their partners ride the tram in Christchurch for what is likely to be their last reunion.

KAI SCHWÖRER/Stuff

Former Scouts and their partners ride the tram in Christchurch for what is likely to be their last reunion.

Organizer Bruce Dunstan, 81, recalled that raising funds for the trip was a family affair. His older sister donated her savings, his mother got a job in an airport shop and he and his father picked potatoes on a scoutmaster’s property near Christchurch.

Dunstan himself got up at 2 a.m. every day to bring milk. When he left in May 1957, aged just 15, he and the other boys were given the opportunity to attend school classes on the ship.

Initially seasick, Dunstan soon settled down and slept on a mattress on the floor.

While the anniversary itself only lasted 12 days, the boys had a home camp near London to return to. They were also billeted by Scout families in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The 1957 Scout contingent on the steps of Parliament with then Prime Minister Sidney Holland prior to their departure on the passenger liner SS Monowai.

DELIVERED

The 1957 Scout contingent on the steps of Parliament with then Prime Minister Sidney Holland prior to their departure on the passenger liner SS Monowai.

Around 35,000 participants from 85 countries and 17,000 British Scouts camped within a 15 mile radius. A further 7000 Scouts traveled from across England for day visits to the mammoth event.

The jamboree was officially opened by Prince Philip and then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and even had its own commemorative postage stamp.

The weather ranged from a sweltering summer heatwave to two days of torrential rain that turned many trails into morass. It was so wet that the US Air Force brought cots so American Boy Scouts could avoid sleeping in the water, which flooded many campgrounds.

But the weather didn’t bother Dunstan.

“Scouts are raised to handle anything. It takes a good scout to camp in bad weather,” he laughs.

For 33 years, Dunstan steadfastly sent and even revisited Christmas cards to the families he stayed with. In return, these families would send children, and later grandchildren, to New Zealand, where they always had a welcoming bed to sleep in.

Ian Rodgers believed the journey was a precursor to today’s OE and said it instilled the travel bug in him.

Originally from Howick in Auckland, Rodgers went to Fiji four years later. Scouting gave him incredible opportunities, including forming an honor guard in Wellington to commemorate the Queen’s accession.

Scout organizer Bruce Dunstan chats with Neil Franks from South Australia.

KAI SCHWÖRER/Stuff

Scout organizer Bruce Dunstan chats with Neil Franks from South Australia.

“It was the most incredible OE.”

Dunstan said their 10th reunion could be their last.

“We’re all over 80 and some aren’t good enough to be here and some are sadly no longer with us… but those of us who are still on top of our ground are happy to seize any opportunity.” ”

During the two-day reunion, the former Boy Scouts will ride the streetcar, dabble on the Avon River and be greeted by The Wizard.

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