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Scouting in adversity
thesisposted on 2017-02-17, 00:05 authored by Steel, John D.
Some 70,000 Allied military personnel, captured by the Imperial Japanese Army at the conclusion ofthe disastrous Malayan campaign initiating Japan's entry into the Second World War in Asia, were incarcerated in the Changi prisoner of war camp on Singapore Island from the fall of Singapore on the 15th February 1942 to the surrender of Japan on the 15th August 1945. During that time a small group of Allied prisoners formed a Rover Scout Crew and met clandestinely from June 1943 to August 1945. This dissertation provides a very brief outline of the Malaysian military campaign, the reason why elements of the Australian army were in Malaysia, and some detail of the meetings of the Rover Crew(s) taken from a copy of the minutes of the Rover Crew meetings and the Court of Honour minute books. The original documents were brought back to Australia by the Chaplain of the 2/29 Battalion A.I.F. and the inspirational initiator of the Changi District Rover Scout Group, Reverend (Padre) Alexander Rowan Macneil. Quite by chance I discovered the original log books in the Victorian Scout Association Heritage Centre archives in Melbourne and was given a facsimile copy of the documents by the Scout Association for this project. I discuss some aspects of the life of a prisoner of war POW, the attitude of the prisoners to hardship and the impact the experience could have on the maturation of young men. Despite the fact that there was no direct evidence that I could find in the records of the Rover Scout meetings to suggest that membership of the Rover Scout Crews provided a positive experience for the members, I do believe that it contributed to maintaining the morale of the members, I also believe, from the tenor of those records, that the regular meetings, the camaraderie engendered and the training members undertook for Stage One of the Adult Scout Leader's Wood Badge Certificate was all of benefit for the members of the Rover Crew in their preparation for life after the war.