In the early days, the Troop comprised four Patrols each of six boys making a total of 24, which, apart from being a very comfortable number to manage, was about all that could be accommodated in the early headquarters including the World War II Motor Torpedo Boat. The four Patrols were Gannets, Herons, Kingfishers and Swans.
However, by the 1970s the Troop had a long waiting list and once the ‘Doug Fenner’ building was fully in use, Ajax was able to reduce the waiting list by expanding into two ‘watches’ each of three Patrols, with the Port Watch meeting on Tuesday evenings and the Starboard Watch on Thursdays and both watches meeting together on Saturday afternoons. It was at this time that the Seagull and Skua patrols came into being. George barber led the Port Watch and Mark Marriott the Starboard Watch, each helping the other and both ably assisted by a number of young Leaders who had progressed from the Venture Sea Scout Unit. One of these, Tony Forbat who sadly died in 2018, took over and led the Starboard Watch until he moved out of the area.
Today the Troop is operated as a very successful single unit, still with six Patrols, under the leadership of Diane Davison and a strong team of Assistant Leaders and Instructors.
Throughout the 1950s, the annual summer camps were land-based and the programme comprised traditional outdoor Scouting activities such as hiking, backwoods cooking, pioneering etc. Around 1960, the camps started to take place on tidal waters. One of the first was at Burnham on Crouch. For this camp Ajax borrowed from another Sea Scout Group a 50ft motorboat, the ‘Minotaur’. They set off from Thames Ditton for a cruise down the Thames, past Southend, around the Foulness Sands and into the River Crouch where the camp was set up at Creeksea, near Burnham on Crouch. On tow were the two new 20ft gigs and a couple of wooden dinghies.
This was the first camp at which each Sea Scout Patrol took its turn to go on a ‘Coxswain’s Cruise’. This involves planning the journey using charts and taking account of tides and weather; loading a gig correctly with camp gear, provisions and personal gear; and camping out overnight. These coxswain’s cruises help the development of leadership skills and resourcefulness and have been a feature of Ajax Troop camps ever since, except for those years when the Group has attended overseas jamborees such as the Nawaka camp this year.
Over the years summer camps have been held at various locations including Northey Island and Maylandsea on the River Blackwater in Essex; Cobnor near Bosham on Chichester Harbour; Kirton Creek, Felixstowe Ferry and Waldringfield on the River Deben in Suffolk; Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight; Mersea Island in Essex; and Lake Bala in North Wales. Perhaps our favourite campsite is at Cleavel Point on Poole Harbour where we have camped many times over the decades.
Over the years, as well as water activities, members of the Troop have taken part in diverse activities including winter camps, weekend camps, and District Scout events such as swimming galas, day hikes, night hikes and camping competitions. It is great that, as a Sea Scout Group, our team has recently won the District Scouting Skills and First Aid competition.
This is an edited excerpt of George Barber’s “70 Years of Ajax and 65 Years an Ajaccio”, first published in the 2018 Ajax Group Annual Report