#SkillsForLife - Malcom Chatten's Memories (1950s and 1960s)

Written by: Malcolm Chatten
Published: 1955-01-01

I was in the Boy Scouts and before that the Wolf Cubs in Fressingfield in the 1950's and 60's, in the Boy Scouts I eventually became a patrol leader of Woodpigeon patrol. Scouts would met every Thursday night in the Sancroft hall at 7.00 until 9 which meant of course I never got to see “Top of the Pops” or “The Man from Uncle” which would be the topic of conversation on the cycle ride to school the next day. I can remember several exciting things which happened at Scouts on those Thursday nights but, I think I would fail to remember any episodes of TV shows after 55 years.

One particular evening we had all arrived at the Sancroft Hall before the Skipper or “Skip” who was the local doctor (Dr Chase) and the Scout Master of the troop. We were all messing about in a side room to the main hall, where there was a full size billiard table and on the wall of said room was a fire extinguisher. This extinguisher had always fascinated me, it was shaped like a pistol with a large red cylinder for the barrel it had two spare cylinders all held by a frame on the wall. Printed on the cylinders were the characteristic of the device, it was a dry chalk powder extinguisher type. It had a safety pin and a large cocking lever on the black handle which I had always thought that you could take out the safety pin, pull back the cocking lever, replace the safety pin and you could play a funny joke, where you could pull the trigger and the gun wouldn't fire. With a huge bang and a cloud of grey dust I found out that this was not the case. The whole scout troop had to spend the rest of the evening cleaning my mess.

On the plus side, the 1st Fressingfield Scout Troup attended a couple of scout jamborees one at Gilwell Park Essex, this was a huge adventure for me. The park is on high ground in Epping Forest and at night we would see from our high vantage point the glowing mass of Chingford and London stretching away into the distance. I recall meeting scouts from several different countries, the boys from Germany were much older than most of us and they were incredibly smart in their uniforms. On this trip we also stayed overnight at the Scout Headquarters in Gloucester road, London next to the Natural History Museum. I can see on the Group archive page my signature on a certificate of attendance at Gilwell Park.

Over a weekend in the summer holidays, another local jamboree was held at Shrublands park just outside Ipswich. My later life was primed at this time when I was commended for leadership and an understanding of first aid when we were given medical scenarios to deal with, the most serious of these exercises was a casualty who had fallen out of a tree and was unresponsive. This "priming" resulted in me working as an Operating Dept Assistant, then training as a Psychiatric nurse and I eventually become a Paramedic in the Cornwall Ambulance service spending 9 years on the Air Ambulance.

I no longer play tricks with fire extinguishers, I repeat the mantra "left over right, then right over left"* and I still think the triangular bandage (the scout scarf) is an underrated piece of ambulance equipment.

Malcolm Chatten, 2021.

*this is how to tie a reef knot!