AFTER the end of the War, on November 20th, 1918, Mr W F de Bois Maclaren, a District Commissioner for Rosneath in Dumbartonshire, Scotland, dinned with B-P at Roland House, an International Hostel for Scouts, in London. They discussed the need for a permanent camping ground for London Scouts. Maclaren was forthcoming – “You find what you want and I will buy it.”
A small committee was formed, including Percy Everett, and it was decided that the money would be best employed if the camping ground could be combined with a “centre for the training of Scout Officers”. Maclaren agreed and the committee quickly found Gilwell Park, a run-down estate that, at the time, was up for sale on the edge of Epping Forest near Chingford, Essex, which was ideally suited to the purpose. B-P, impressed with their description, agreed to the purchase without a prior visit.
Francis Gidney was appointed Camp Chief in May 1919. “Skipper” Gidney was a young man who had served as a Captain during the First World War and had immense energy and, most important from Baden-Powell’s view, tremendous spirit. His Assistant Scoutmaster was Capt. F S Morgan, District Commissioner for Swansea. In the June issue of The Headquarters’ Gazette there was a short article outlining the twin purposes of the site – Scoutmaster Training and Boy Scout Camping Ground. The section dealing with Scoutmaster Training is quoted in full below.
“An Officers’ Training Centre, where Scoutmasters, or those who wish to become Scoutmasters, will be trained by competent old Scouts in the formation and training of troops, practical woodcraft and camping and the methods of the Boy Scouts generally.”
The opening ceremony took place on Saturday, July 26th, 1919 (not July 25th as quoted in The Gilwell Book!), in perfect weather. Mrs Maclaren cut a ribbon in the Scout Colours of green and yellow. (This is specially remarked on in several sources as though cutting a ribbon was a novel idea never seen before!)