History of the 8th
The 8th Portsmouth came into being in 1909, two years after Robert Baden-Powell’s first Scout Camp on Brownsea Island. Originally a youth group operated out of St Matthew’s Church called The Guild of St George, it was ‘converted’ into a Scout Troop by the man we identify today as our group’s original founder, Wilfred Pollard-Wellison. Pollard-Wellison was not officially Group Scout Master, but saw the Troop develop and eventually handed over to our first official GSM, Henry Bartlett in 1913. At this point, the 8th Portsmouth was the largest single Troop in the city with nearly 100 Scouts.
The 8th Portsmouth suffered a devastating loss on the 10th of January 1940 when, during a normal Scout meeting the air raid sirens began howling. Henry who was now the regular Scoutmaster guided his Scouts into a shelter which then took a direct hit, sadly killing five of the Scouts in the shelter. Every year, with few exceptions, we at the 8th forego attending the city’s Remembrance Day parade in Guildhall Square to hold our own service in memory of those five boys who have a memorial plaque in the main church building. The 8th Portsmouth continued on under Henry Bartlett for many years until shortly before his death in 1947. The church building as it then was also suffered greatly during the bombing, being more or less completely destroyed along with a large amount of the group’s equipment. The church was later rebuilt and reopened as The Church of the Holy Spirit which it remains to be today.
Handing over the reins
Shortly after Henry Bartlett’s death, the position of Group Scout Master (later Group Scout Leader) passed over to Leslie Robinson. He handed the position over to Michael Bourner in 1968 but continued his association with the group. In 1991, Michael handed over to Ken Snell who remains our GSL today and first became a member of the group in the 1950s.
A complete history of the group, as written by the late Leslie Robinson for the group’s 85th anniversary commemorations in 1984 can be found here. Work is ongoing to write more of the 8th Portsmouth’s story with the (re)discovery of a large collection of archive material from as early as 1941.