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My Family History

Leonard Ball and the Scout Movement

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Dad - rover scout

Joining up

Dad first joined the Boy Scouts as a Scout Master in 1916, when he was 19 years old. He was issued with his first warrant, dated 6th June 1916, and signed by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.
Dad's scout troop was attached to Villa Road Methodist Church in Handsworth, not far from where he lived.

Left: Dad in Scout uniform circa 1935.


No sooner had Dad been given the authority to act as Scout Master, than he was conscripted into the Army to fight in the Great War. His scouting career was put on hold. However, even when he was posted overseas, his interest in scouting continued. A several-week stop-over at Durban, South Africa, en route to India, gave him the opportunity to meet Robert Pinkney, Assistant Scout Master of a local scout troop.

Scout Troop, Durban
Above: The 1st St Paul's scout troop in Durban, South Africa, 1917.
Alice Ball - scout mistress

After Dad joined the army, his 16-year-old sister Alice took over the running of the Villa Road scout troop and remained in charge until his return home in 1919.

Right: Alice Ball in her scout mistress uniform. The
picture was taken in 1919 when she was 19 years old.

After the War

When Dad returned from the war, he threw himself wholeheartedly into his work for the Boy Scouts. He enjoyed the cameraderie and was an inspirational leader. He organised many scout camps, one of the first being a trip to Llandudno in North Wales in 1919.

Llandudno 1919

Left: The scout camp at Llandudno in 1919.
Dad is second from the leftt on the back row, apparently smoking a cigarette!! Twelve-year-old Wilf Neale, Dad's future brother-in-law, is second from the left on the front row.

Dad, 1940

Right: Dad in Rover Scout uniform. The photograph is signed "Skipper" and dated 1940.

Dad's friendship with Mona Neale, the girl who was to become his wife (and my mother), developed partly through their common interest in the Scout movement. Mom was a Cub Mistress at Villa Road Church. Later they held joint camps involving cubs as well as scouts.
Dad's King Scout badge, 1920s
Some time in the 1920s, Dad was awarded the prestigious King's Scout badge (left). In 1909, King Edward VII approved Robert Baden-Powell's request that boys who passed special tests for efficiency be ranked as "King's Scouts". A badge with a crown signified the award as a "King's Scout". The award required demonstrated proficiency in standardised Scoutcraft and skills useful for service to others and the nation. The design of the badge Dad was awarded was in use from 1909 to 1928.

Dad was awarded his warrant as Group Scoutmaster in 1932, and as District Rover Scout Leader in 1933.

One of Dad's proudest moments was in 1937, when he received a personal letter from the Chief Scout, Lord Baden-Powell. "BP" wrote to thank him for producing the illuminated testimonial with which he had been presented to commemorate his visit to the Boy Scouts Association of Birmingham.Medal of Merit scroll Then in 1939, Dad was made Assistant District Commissioner for the Handsworth District of Birmingham.

After the Second World War, although he no longer went on scout camps, Dad remained an active member of the Scout Movement until his resignation in 1951. In 1948 he was awarded the Boy Scouts Association Medal of Merit " recognition of his good services to the Scout Movement". The document that accompanied the medal has recently [2011] come to light (see right), but unfor-tunately there is no trace of the medal itself.
Well into the 1950s, Dad regularly attended the annual Scout Rally at Handsworth Park and until the final years of his life he continued to support the scout movement in Birmingham e.g. by assessing boys who were going for their Scout Badges.

Why not check out the websites of the Scout Association, the Baden-Powell Scouts Association, and the Scout Association Archive?
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