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Kent County Cub Scouts Big Day Out

RECORD BREAKING DAY FOR KENT CUB SCOUTS

Almost 1900 Kent Cubs and their Leaders descended on the Historic Dockyard on Saturday 4th October 2003 for a massive day out to see maritime history come alive at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, where ship building dates back over 400 years. Never before have so many Kent Cubs come together for one day.

A years planning came to fruition with the dawn of the day. The team had been weather watching all week - gales, biting wind and a drop in temperature were all forecast that week. Saturday morning came, the sun shone, a few grey clouds quickly passed by, and the streams of cars, coaches and minibuses started to arrive in the car park, and some brave souls were seen in shirt sleeves and shorts - the forecasters had got it wrong!

The dockyard staff provided a huge Slip, previously used for ship repairs and ship building, for registration and emergency use. The Packs swiftly entered the dockyard to visit all the attractions and to complete the treasure hunt. The Cubs had to find the letters which spelled out the name of probably one of the most famous ships of all time, that was built at Chatham, HMS Victory.

Cubs climbed aboard the destroyer, HMS Cavalier, which saw active service in World War 2 and saw the gun turrets, the bridge and below decks to see how the crew lived. Submarine Ocelot, the last warship built at Chatham for the Royal Navy, used to prowl the depths of the oceans; today saw Cubs climbing ladders, descending steps and finding out what is was like to be a submariner.

Packs experienced the sights, sounds and smells of the working 18th century dockyard, when they joined apprentice William Crockwell on his first day at work in 1758 and discovered how the Valiant, a warship of the Age of Sail was built for the Royal Navy at Chatham, during tours of the Wooden Walls exhibition.

The RNLI national collection of lifeboats are stored at Chatham, and the Cubs were able to see how lifeboats have changed during the years by climbing aboard and playing with the interactive exhibits.

Rope has been made on the site since 1618, and the Ropery, where rope is still made in the traditional way, was very popular. Cubs had the chance to work in teams and make their own rope in a traditional way using scaled down machinery. They experienced Victoria working conditions in the hemp houses, spinning rooms and the ¼ mile long ropewalk. Leaders challenged the Cubs to see how long it would take them to walk up and down! The workers at the ropery gave away to the Cubs lots of odd bits of rope - and these were highly prized by the Cubs. One pack was even given some rope that had been made for the re-rigging of HMS Victory, which is now based at Portsmouth.

The River Medway runs through the County of Kent, but many children have never had the opportunity to go on it. The paddlesteamer, Kingswear Castle, is based at the dockyard, and Packs were able to take a short cruise up river to Upnor Castle during the day. The Paddlsteamer dates back to 1924 and has a coal-fired boiler with a steam engine turning the paddles. The sights and sounds of the Medway are varied, even with a short trip, and one Cub when he saw huge mounds of sand at the edge of the river, was heard to remark that he thought he had gone to Egypt! It was a record breaking day for the steamer - never before had they carried so many passengers in one day!

Kent Cubs like to leave their mark wherever they visit. HMS Gannet, a Victorian naval sloop has been at Chatham during the past 10 years, and is shortly due to be re-opened to the public following an extensive programme of restoration. To commemorate the day, Kent Cubs purchased the red ensign for HMS Gannet, and at 3 o clock everyone gathered to see the flag broken on board the ship. The colour party was led by Mike Harding, GSL at 41st Medway, who had trained and lived as a young cadet aboard the Gannet. Six Cubs randomly chosen on the day to break the flag assisted him. They were piped aboard, everyone stood to the alert and the flag flew in the breeze. Everyone had a drink and biscuit to "Splice the mainbrace" and treasure of specially commissioned pencils and miniature ship pencil sharpeners were distributed to all the Cubs who had found the clues. The team breathed a sigh of relief - all had gone well, the hard work and effort had paid off.

The day was coming to an end. Some packs still had their souvenir shopping to do, and some were dashing to finish the many other attractions at the dockyard. 8 hours after the first Cubs had entered the dockyard, the last ones were leaving. A record breaking day for Kent Cubs had come to an end.

Rebecca Martin
Deputy Assistant County Commissioner for Cubs
Kent

 

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