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The Left Hanshake -- Scouting/WWII history

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Reading the topic about WWII scout uniforms reminded me of website I read about Scouting world wide during WWII. It is really a book length site called The Left Handshake, The Boy Scout Movement during the War, 1939-1945 by Hilary St. George Saunders. http://pinetreeweb.com/left-handshake.htm .

It is fascinating full of stories of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in the ruble of the Warsaw uprising, working with the Dutch underground. I only found one factual error dealing with Norway, the author said the invasion of Norway followed the Danish by 24 hours; they were all part of the same operation on the morning of April 9, 1940. Personal with me, my mother, brother and many of my relatives were under occupation there.


Here is the forward:



byThe Chief Scout of the British Commonwealth and Empire

WHEN COLONEL BADEN-POWELL entered the capital city of the Ashanti people in 1890 he was met by one of the Chiefs who came to him holding out his left hand. B.-P. held out his right in return but the Chief said: "No, in my country the bravest of the brave shake with the left hand." So began the "left handshake" of the world-wide brotherhood of Scouts. In this book are told some of the stories of courage and endurance shown by Scouts in many different countries during the war of 1939-45. There would not be room even in many books to tell them all. Many, indeed, can never be told; some for political reasons, some because the actors died unknown. They remembered their Promise, to do their best to do their duty to God, and their Country; to think of other people and not themselves. So, when the time came, they were prepared in body and in spirit to render their service.Their record is unsurpassed; they were "the bravest of the brave."

Lord Rowallan

Chief Scout


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That sounds like a very interesting book. I have some Scout books I picked up in South Africa, and they tell a slightly different story of the left-hand shake:


"Many years ago, Lord Baden-Powell met an African chief who held out his left hand in greeting. The chief explained to B-P that warriors fought with spears and carried shields in their left hand for protection. If a warrior met a friend, however, he would not need his shield, and his left hand would be free. So if a man held out his left hand to you it showed that he trusted you and wanted to be friendly. This impressed B-P so much that he chose the special handshake for Cubs and Scouts."


Who knows which version is absolutely correct, if either one is. B-P may have told different versions, depending on his audience. Either way, I like it.

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The books I used as a Scout in the UK told this the way that Brent has it.

Lord Rowallan was from what I know a nice guy.

He was born not far from where I was born.

Strange thing is that the house he was born in now has a blue plaque, where I was born is now a family planning clinic.

Rowallan seen the need for Scouting in the East End of London. Which was at the time a very rough area. So he bought a very large house which was used to house students attending schools and universities in London on condition that they help out with Scout Troops in the East End.

Sadly the upkeep of the house was more than the Scout Association was willing to put up with and the house closed sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's.

A lot of people at the time were very upset at the closing.

Today while parts of the East End are still a little rough, for the most part it has become a very trendy area.



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