Dramatic headlines I’m sure you will agree and not one you would expect to see in the peaceful environs of the City of Lincoln’s uphill area. This shocking event did indeed take place one Sunday as the massed bands of the District Scout Groups led a column of well drilled St Georges Day marchers around the Cathedral, across the square and into the castle.
One might associate a Boy Scout, and perhaps the occasional Girl Guide or Brownie with someone who runs amok in the woods, lighting campfires and generally getting dirty in the most ill disciplined of fashions. The modern movement however is one that has benefited from decades of progress in training on “how to handle the yoof”.
In consequence today’s Boy Scout is the model of an obedient teenager. Badges, as you may know, are the life blood of the movement. These days the boys’ work is done one time and to the highest standards. Indeed such is the enthusiasm of the lads for these activities that it is rare for a Scout not to have earned every single badge in the book by the time he reaches the upper age limit and has to leave the Troop.
This he will inevitably do with heavy heart knowing that all that lie ahead for him are the dubious pleasures of night clubs and the opposite sex.
The pinnacle of a Boy Scout’s year is the St Georges Day parade. This event is looked forward to for weeks ahead. In the run up to the day a full turnout at every Scout night is the result of the general desire to be well turned out and to make a good fist of it. A military parade ground will have not seen the like of the dedication of these boys to making the parade a huge success. Many of them will in fact have attended church services on a regular basis in training for the hour and a half of sheer boredom that is the actual St Georges Day service.
So by the time the big day arrives it is not hard to imagine the excitement of the well presented and uniformly disciplined bunch of lads as they line up for the march to the castle.
The parade is also hugely popular with parents and grandparents who turn up in their hundreds to wave at their progeny as the they pass by. Popular vantage points must be occupied from very early on in the day to secure the best view. The lads themselves rarely acknowledge the presence of their parents, clearly the discipline of their training showing through. This does not spoil the enjoyment and little brothers and sisters will continue to shout and wave undeterred.
On the particular occasion described here it was all to go horribly wrong. The aforementioned grannies had turned up shortly after dawn to line the route into the castle which as you probably know starts to narrow considerably as it approaches the entrance. By the time the column arrived the pressure of an unusually large crowd had grown to a bursting point and some of the old dears were thrust into the path of the parade, just after the first band had passed and before the elite troop of marchers that followed.
Had it been one of the ordinary troops the problem might not have been so bad but this was the elite. Being elite to a Scout means total focus on the task in hand. On this occasion it meant keeping in time to the big base drum that was banging out just ahead of them. The old dears didn’t stand a chance. They were trampled underfoot mercilessly, their cries floating unheard beneath the noise of the gazoots, the bugles and the drums.
The problem got worse as each of the subsequent blocks of marchers, eyes fixed on the man in front, saw not the human debris beneath their feet and continued to sally forth. The result was carnage, the noise deafening as relatives in the crowd lunges forward to see what was going on, crying for the parade to halt.
When the parade did eventually stop the scouts training came to the fore. The cry went out for first aid and every man jack with a first aid badge rushed to the scene. Knowing what we know, the reader will understand that this meant at least half of the boys present answered the call.
Organised chaos ensued but those long winter nights in the Scout Hut spent learning to tie a bandage with a necker paid off. It is a testament to the movement that the death toll was restricted to less than ten grannies as long lines of the critically injured were laid out tidily on the lawn inside the castle.
Access for ambulance was impossible due to the crows but gradually, one by one the casualties were lifted using a makeshift pulley system high up to the castle walls where they were lowered by rope to members of the medical profession waiting outside.
Always willing to make the best out of a bad situation the Scouts made good use of their time whilst this was going on and by the end of the day every one of them had qualified for his knot tying badge. Well done those boys. The old dears did not die in vain.
See you next year.