3rd Gidea Park Scout Group
web site . . .
HQ. The Rowswell Hall, St Michaels Church, Gidea Park.
 Beavers (6 - 8 years) Tues & Fri | Cubs (8 - 10.5) Tues & Fri | Scouts (10.5 - 14) 7:30 Thur

London > Dover > Calais (Or Ostend?) > Lille > Metz > Strasbourg > Bale (Switserland) Lucerne > St Gotthard Tunnel > Lugano > Chiasso > Como (Italy) Milan > Bologna > Apennine Tunnel > Florence > Rome > Naples > Villa San Giovanni > Train Ferry > Messina > Taormina

3rd Gidea Park were the first UK Scouts ever to camp in Sicily and we were the first that year to camp in Italy.

The Romford Recorder from Friday April 21st 1950 had a detailed report written by F.W. Rowswell running to three and a half columns covering the escapade.

We travelled by train to Dover, boat to Ostend and train via Brussels, Luxembourg, Basle, St Gotthard, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and finally a train ferry to Sicily.  F.W.Rowswell comments that the Italians had done an impressive job of repairing their damaged railways since the war and that the 1000 miles through Switzerland and Italy was all electrified railway. At that time in the UK, only relatively short commuter railways had been electrified.

A group of parents travelled with us staying in hotels. Hotels cost more than camping but they benefitted from group travel rates. The Scouts departed Gidea Park dressed for an April crossing of the North Sea. 56 Hours later the Scouts were hiking from a station to the camp site where the temperature was 30 degrees Celsius in the shade. The Scouts were carrying full kit and still dressed for the North Sea in April.

The Scouts camped on a narrow ledge on top of see cliffs in the garden of a ruined villa that R.W.Rowswell described as once being owned by a Fascist Chieftain.  

Before the war the village had supported a large English population and contained an English Church. This church was opened up for two services for our Scouts for the first time since pre-war days.  The Church of England Chaplain had to travel 150 miles from Palermo to attend  and the church warden (Viscount Bridport, Duke of Bronte, Lord Nelson’s descendant) had to travel 30 miles from his castle on Etna. F.W.Rowswell noted that the Scouts provided the servers, readers and sidesmen. The taking of the collection was an unusual undertaking to English eyes as at the time the coutry had no coinage so the collection was in bank notes.

The local Scouts assisted ours as much as possible and even provided night guards to protect us. This was seen as necessary as goat-herds armed with rifles and the occasional armed policeman would walk past the campsite at night.

At this time the custom when camping in England was to burry any rubbish at the end of camp. This wasn’t possible on this rocky headland so rubbish was just left.  As the 3rd Gidea Park left the site, poor locals arrived to retrieve any cast-off clothes, food scraps and firewood we had left behind.

The Scouts visited Greek open air theatres and Roman temples. The troop returned via Rome where they visited the Vatican. For this trip they were joined by the MP for Southend-on-sea who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get a visitor pass.  That evening the Scouts enjoyed supper arranged by the British Embassy before catching the over night train to Milan.  Here the Church of England Chaplain escorted them to a city restaurant before taking them on a tour of the cathedral.


The Easter Sunday edition of the Sunday Times included a note commenting that Scouts from Brentwood in Essex had arrived in Sicily for an Easter Camp.