Stewart Cousins first joined the Scouting Movement in 1954, as part of the 18th Beckenham Scout Troop in Kent, where he ultimately became a Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Troop Leader and Rover Scout.
Awarded the Queen's Scout Award in 1962, Stewart ran a Cub Pack at Roxwell Essex for about a year in 1962/1963. He then became the Fressingfield Scout Leader in 1967.
Stewart later joined 1st Saxmundham as Treasurer for approaching 10 years in the 1990s.
My family moved to Horham in 1966. Sometime later Charlie Vincent turned up and said “I’ve heard you have been involved with Scouting, can you help us?”
I started running the scouts in late 1967. At the time Charlie was running Cubs, Scouts and was GSL at Fressingfield.
For several years we met at Sancroft Hall but with no storage everything had to be carried to and from by car.
I ran the Troop single handed for the first four years, I did have a young assistant for a short while, but his family left the village. Later on Michael Knights an ex Eye Scout came to help as ASL.
Initially there were about 6 Scouts but this grew to around 18. Most were local lads from the village but later we had lads from Weybread, Wingfield and Worlingworth.
Camping wise we were fairly well equipped with ex army type heavy Patrol Tents, a store tent and extensive sets of Billies etc. I stored all this in a loft space at my parent’s house in Horham. I also had a lot of help during camps and other activities from my sister Alison (an ex Sea Ranger Guide). She acted as Quarter Master and First Aider.
We always adopted an economical method of running a Troop. Apart from Subs we held 2 Jumble Sales in Sancroft Hall each year which kept the Troop afloat.
We aimed to do a lot of practical activities when possible. We had weekend Camps throughout the year at places such as:
- Horham Hall (Peter Hankin),
- Mrs Sills at Brundish,
- The Goodwins at Syleham Hall
We also did a number of short hikes instead of evening meetings.
We always had wood fires, sometimes Patrol cooking and introduced the boys to cooking a range of foods.
At that time map-reading, compass use, knots and first aid were the key winter activities as well as active games.
British Bulldog was favourite but was difficult when youngsters (often small and shy) came up from Cubs.
At the time I started, Thorndon Scouts had just closed leaving Eye and Fressingfield as the only Groups in the Mid-Suffolk District, as a result we often joined up with Saxmundham and Aldeburgh Groups sometime before officially becoming part of the Leiston District, Leiston Scouts were already part of the Leiston District. Why we didn’t link up with Framlingham I don’t know.
There was some talk of Eye joining Mendlesham Group in Stowmarket District but they choose to join Leiston District instead.
The District Commissioner for Mid-Suffolk was the Reverend E H O Bennett of Stuston group of Churches. He was a keen Scouter but was always busy with his parishes and the East Suffolk Blind Association. He joined us when we joined the Leiston District, though I don’t remember his role, however he was not with us long as he died from overwork and exhaustion.
Although only a small Troop with 15-18 boys we tried to get involved with County activities. We entered a made up Patrol in the County Camping Competition on several occasions coming 3rd one year.
We aimed to have a weeks camping adventure every summer, I remember we went to
- Newbiggen in Scotland
- A scout camp in North Wales
- Aysgarth in Yorkshire
- Matlaske in Norfolk (twice) with Eye, Saxmundham, Aldeburgh Scouts.
We often hired a crew bus from a garage in Eye. The gear was packed in soft bags so could be stacked under the seats.
One of the most memorable trips was to North Wales. We borrowed the Aldeburgh Scouts crew bus, fitted a tow bar, borrowed a trailer and drove overnight. The vehicle was somewhat underpowered and the speed dropped dramatically in hilly country. On the motorway the lorries passed us on all the hills and we overtook them downhill much to the delight of the boys and lorry drivers alike.
The final lanes near the North Wales site were quite steep- too steep for the bus and trailer so we stopped, the boys and my assistant got out, disconnected the trailer and I drove the bus up the hill without passengers and trailer. The Scouts then pushed the trailer up the hill! Among the other adventures on this camp was breaking the handbrake so in future whenever we stopped, as in the carpark at the base of Snowden, one of the Scouts got out and put blocks either side of one of the rear wheels. On the return journey we travelled via Snake Pass. By the top there were more than 100 vehicles behind us. All in all quite an adventure!
At some point in the early seventies some boys went on an Euro camp though I don’t remember the details.
The highlight of my time as SL was to send a Scout to the World Jamboree in Japan. The Troop did some fundraising but most came from the boy’s grandparents. He enjoyed himself but sadly left shortly after the trip.
The Group used to take part in Fressingfield Annual Fete and for several years we built an aerial runway for anyone to use. There was no Health and Safety focus or qualifications issues in those days.
When we had to move from the Sancroft Hall after it was renovated there was doubt where we could meet. Fortunately we were offered the Methodist Chapel Hall, also known as The Goodwin Hall. It was rather small, never very warm and had flaky wooden floors. At the time the Cubs were meeting in the school. However I was glad to be offered it and it has been “base” since then.
I had to spend the odd Saturday morning repairing broken windows because of ball games and sorting out the door.
I left the Group when I got married and moved to Debenham in Spring 1978.
Matlaske Camp 1976(1) Stewart having an afternoon snooze; (2) Van hired by Fressingfield Scouts; (3) Steph walking on tins; (4) Stewart teaching Scout to walk on tins; (5) John "Jacko" Jackson talking to boys with the famous pink van; (6) Pink van. (7) John Jackson Jr on tins; (8-10) Jockey and Horses competition; (11) Scouters team playing Jockey and Horses with Philip Cutting as the Jockey and Kevin Knights as one of the horses; (12) Saxmundham Scout team with Tim Laine on Paul Groomes shoulders and Julian King (left).(13) Mess tent near lake; (14) Scouts watching Horses and Jockeys competition; (15) Scouts having a fight!; (16-17) Stewart having a wash!