Patrol Camping




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By Gilcraft 

An  American Scouter wrote: "To my mind the essence of the patrol system is the development of character by putting the responsibility on the Patrol and its Scouts to set their own standards and to make and keep their own rules, and not putting any authority over them that they can hide behind."

It was another American Scouter working, then, in Germany who wrote: "From a `semi- dead' Troop we constructed a 'go-getter.' They just will not be stopped now, for the Troop is really their Troop and the Patrol is the unit upon which the entire system is built. I say 'Amen' to the statement that the Patrol System is the basis of the Scout Method of Training."

Similarly every Scoutmaster should aim at the Patrol as the unit upon which the camping done by his Troop is built in order that both character and responsibility may be developed. A Patrol camping independently and under its own leadership is the full and logical development of the Patrol System. So far as the Patrol is concerned this should be regarded as the culmination of Troop and Patrol training, as it is the culmination in the training of a Scout. A boy passes his Tenderfoot tests and is invested as a Scout; in course of time he becomes a Patrol leader; later his character has developed and his sense of responsibility becomes strong enough for him to be trusted to take his Patrol away to camp on its own, to run a successful and useful camp, and to bring his Patrol safe home again - and all without the need for any adult help or supervision.

Not only the Patrol Leader but the whole Patrol gain a sense of achievement and a feeling of true independence which is of more value than almost anything else in giving them a continued and lasting interest in their Scouting. The joys and possibilities of the Patrol System and of Scouting have not been realized by the Scoutmaster and his Scouts until Patrol Camping has been practiced and mastered. But "softlee, softlee catchee monkey"; this mastery can only be obtained after the Scouts have served their apprenticeship. It is no good expecting them or their Patrol Leaders to run before they can crawl. On the other hand it is infinitely worse to keep them clothed in their "crawlers" all their Scout lives because their Scoutmaster prefers an apron to the more usual Scouter's uniform of shirt and shorts. On the one hand a system of progressive training is essential, on the other such training must not deprive a single one of the Scouts of the spirit of adventure. As others have told us, too many Scoutmasters sell the male birthright of adventure for a mess of rules and regulations and restrictions.

Proper preparations, however, are a necessary prelude to any adventure. Gino Watkins' preparations of food and gear contributed to the success of his Greenland adventures, and he - only a few years older than the average P.L. - was the leader of two expeditions in the frozen north. On a much smaller scale the P.L. makes preparations for the food and gear his Patrol will require to make their camp a success. He seeks the advice of older explorers - Scouters, Rovers and others; and he makes his own experiments, although he may not, as Watkins did, live for a week in the summer in London on fatty foods in order to find out what calorific value they would have in the Arctic Circle. He will pay careful attention to, and try out if he is wise, tents and cooking gear and other necessaries - not forgetting his Scouts' blankets and groundsheets. He will divide up the responsibility for looking after, and perhaps transporting, the Patrol gear between the different members of the Patrol. He will see that each member of the Patrol has his particular job and knows what it is and something about it beforehand.

Obviously each member of the Patrol requires training in camping, and that of a progressive nature. I can only speak in general terms, but I would put the various stages of training in camping something like this for all Scouts:

  1. Participation in Troop camps of both long and short duration, and more especially in Troops camps run under a decentralized plan so far as the Patrols are concerned, the Scouters of the Troop being there to advise, supervise, arrange a program of activities in consultation with the Court of Honor, and to see that camp training is being received by all the Scouts in the Troops and that they are enjoying themselves as well as becoming more reliable and knowledgeable Scouts.
  2. Participation in one or more Patrol Camps with a Scouter present in a supervisory and advisory capacity, but not usurping the place or position of the Patrol Leader.
  3. Patrol Camps on a permanent or near-by site with a visit by a Scouter, perhaps, for an hour or two, and an opportunity to watch how Scouts of other Troops set about things, program being worked out by P.L. or Patrol in Council.
  4. Completely independent Patrol camps on near-by, but not permanent, site, with no supervisory visit and no Scout neighbors.
  5. Practice First Class Journey camp - with Patrol, with a pal, alone.
  6. Patrol Leaders' training camp under the Scoutmaster as P.L.
  7. Patrol camps further afield with special activities of a more advanced nature, such as, Exploring, Pioneering, Tracking.

There are obviously other stages and other means of training in camping, but I will leave it at the lucky number of seven. It will be found as progress is made and as imagination is brought into play that the smaller number in the Patrol permits of endless variety in the treatment and activities of camp as against a Troop camp when numbers can be a hindrance both to enjoyment and to the development of initiative and self-reliance Further development is obtained by pair and solo camps, but that is outside my present reference. Yet, in both Troop and Patrol camps more might be done to emphasize the pair as the desirable unit of active Scouting and the individual Scout as the boy who is learning to stand on his own feet and fend for himself. This applies to other activities than cooking, although in cooking the pair and backwoods system is coming much more into practice.

Patrol camping comes more completely into its own when camps of short duration are arranged, over a long week-end say, in order that the Patrol as a unit can pursue some particular activity, and still more so when a Patrol goes off for a week or more on its own. Here is where the Backwoods campsites come right into the picture. For instance the grounds at Great Tower and at Broadstone Warren have not been given us in order that meadow camping may be practiced in them. There are no meadows for the purpose. Their particular attraction - as in the more local ground near Manchester - is that they are suited to what we might term he-man camping." They are available to be used by older and more experienced Scouts who want to complete their First Class training or to develop into Backwoods Scouts and Pioneers. They are available for those who have more or less completed their apprenticeship in ordinary camping and who desire to prove their mastery of the subject and to use camp solely as a base from which or at which to carry out Scouting activities and adventures. They offer facilities for the Backwoodsman and the Pioneer; they provide opportunities to the Scout to demonstrate his ability with the axe, the pick and the shovel, to clear ground, to dig ditches, to make shelters, to remove trees, to doctor trees, to plant trees. In fact, as I have said, to do the real, he-man stuff that we are apt to talk about and leave at that. In these places a Troop camp of the average pattern would be completely out of place and impossible. That is right and proper because the summer camp is not the be-all and end- all of a Troop's existence. In Great Tower and Broadstone Warren and elsewhere Patrol camping can come really into its own.

Once upon a time, when I was young, my father conceived the curious idea - curious in these days - that boys enjoyed a spot of good hard work during their holidays so long as it was out-doors and appealed to their adventurous and pioneering instincts. So it was that he hired himself a shooting lodge in the Highlands of Scotland so that his six sons could have something with which to occupy themselves with their arms and their legs. He taught us to walk the moors and climb the hills, so that we thought nothing of a thirty mile walk across country, finishing off the last few miles at a good four miles an hour pace, even if it meant coming down to the road to measure our speed against the milestones. He himself had walked back from school more than once across the Grampians from Central Perthshire to Northern Aberdeenshire. His desirable shooting lodge was one which had not been inhabited for over twenty years. The buildings were sound and watertight, but the surrounding ground had gone back to primitive jungle and he was a keen gardener. Every summer holidays, and sometimes at Easter, and even Christmas, we dug and delved and picked and axed, trimmed trees, tore up heather and gorse, made ditches, diverted the burn, laid paths, threw up banks until the garden was a show place and not one hour of hired labor had gone to the making of it. Then it was all too good for him and he moved elsewhere after some of us had found time hang on our hands so that we could only imitate the mole and tunnel out a model railroad on the hill-side.

We loved it because it was ours and because it gave us our health and our strength. Scoutmasters will I hope forgive me this personal illustration, but I use it to show that I am not talking hot-air theory, Boys like this kind of thing once they are given the inspiration for it, and that is why the Scoutmaster is there - to give them the inspiration, to get them going, to provide the opportunity for them to realize the joys and possibilities of doing things for themselves, of copying "the work and attributes of backwoodsmen, explorers and frontiersmen."

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Object of Camping ] [ Patrol Camping ] Patrol Hikes ] Gilcraft Patrol System ] The Patrol System ] Court of Honor (PLC) ] Gilwell PL Training ] Philipps' Patrol System ] Golden Arrow PL Training ] Patrol Leader's Creed ] PL's Promise Ceremony ] Patrol Competition Awards ] Informal Scout Signals ] Ten Essentials ] Story Telling ] JLT Skits: Leadership ] Master & Commander ] Patrol Activities ] Patrol Motivation ] Troop Meeting Hints ] Troop Meetings ] Patrol Leader Training ] Essays ] Patrol Flags ] Training Patrol Leaders ] Troop Brainstorming ] Menus ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.