1st Chantilly Scout Group: the first few years

The first meeting

Autumn came early to the Chantilly area in 1988 as, on 8th October, 14 eager boys and their 2 leaders, Sabine Burton Page and Geoffrey Aucklan, crowded into a small room in a building called La Ruche (the Hive) under a disused private cinema in the village of Coye La Forêt. A smoky paraffin heater had been lit to provide some respite to the chill but being rather smoky, it dictated the afternoon’s programme as it was necessary to get out into the fresh air as often as possible. Explanation of what Scouting was about plus some instruction on use of a map and compass and an introduction to knotting were interspersed with ball games in the Cinema garden flanking the river Thève. This first meeting of the 1st Chantilly Scout Group was also built around the only equipment available before any funds were created: two tennis balls, a hank of rope, a map and a compass.

But why start a Scout Group in Chantilly? It had become clear that there were enough the children in the APARC classes and amongst the congregation at St Peter’s to make the attempt. There was considerable enthusiasm among the parents of these children for a Scout Group. However, as with all ideas, the move to implementation proved the real challenge as potential leaders were not offering their services. Several meetings with the parents did not provide the answer. Enter Sabine Burton-Page, who revealed previous Guiding experience. She became the Group’s first Cub Scout Leader and 1st Chantilly Scout Group became a reality. After a few meetings to ensure that the Group was going to work, its existence was declared under the Association Law of 1901 and the ”Journal Official” published this declaration on 3rd December 1988.

24 years later, 1st Chantilly is one of the most thriving Groups in British Scouts Western Europe (BSWE).

The team grows

Apart from Sabine and Geoffry as leaders, the Group had as its first Chairman Paddy Leniston, the Secretary was Khadija Poonawalla and the Treasurer, John Souter.

On 15th and 16th April 1989, 10 boys and Geoffrey held the Group’s first ever camp in the Chairman’s back garden at Pont Saint Maxence. During this year, the Group moved its meetings to a more central location in the old Post office next to the Espace Bouteiller in Chantilly.

At the APARC Guy Fawkes bonfire in November 1989, the Scouts made and lit the fire. We met Anna Murray who recently arrived from England and foolishly admitted that she had Cub Leader experience. Anna quickly became 1st Chantilly’s second Group Scout Leader and Geoffrey moved on to take on the role of District Commissioner for British Scouts in France.

During 1989, the Group membership increased from the original 14 to 21 boys being 8 Cubs and 13 Scouts. Also this year saw an equipment fund being created and the first camp with our own tents (and not those borrowed from parents and oither Scout Groups) was held during the summer at Fontenettes, the Scouts de France Campsite near Fontainbleau. November 1989 also heralded the first participation of the group at the Armistice-day service at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris where the new entrants were invested into the Group and thereby into the worldwide brotherhood of Scouts.

1990 saw Milos Jovic join the Leader Team initially as Scout Leader then, a year later, he took over the Group Scout Leader role from Anna. But 1990 was also a momentous year in so much as girls officially joined the Group for the first time! Up to then, the U.K. Scout Association, to which the Group belonged, had resolutely refused girls in order not to compete with the Girl Guide Association. However, under pressure from the children themselves and with acquiescence of the Guides, girls were allowed in.

A royal visit and a new home

In 1991, the group had a membership of 19 Scouts, 18 Cubs and 4 leaders. The Armistice day Service that year was attended by HRH the Prince of Wales and (a rather emaciated) Lady Diana Spencer. His Highness came to talk to the Cubs and Scouts after the service with his wife hovering wistfully in the background.

Every year was bringing its milestones and 1992 was no exception. 1st Chantilly had its own hall courtesy of the Group’s Sponsor, St Peter’s Church and the basement of the newly-built Church centre became our home in October of that year. The Group’s structure was reinforced by the arrival of Dominic Blair as Chairman, the Secretary was Diana Creswell and the Treasurer’s role was shared by John Souter and Richard Coulton. Susie Rakatomalala was Cub Scout Leader and her husband Roland became Scout Leader. Tina Atkinson was an assistant Cub Scout leader. Françoise Roman joined the leader team as a Scout Helper. For the first time, the Group had a Beaver section, run by Magali Courtiol. Scout section numbers were up to 27! The Patrol Leader’s attended the first ever Patrol Leader’s training course run by France District.

On 28th to 31st May 1993, 1st Chantilly took part in the first District Cub Camp at the Thoiry Safari Park. The Scouts meanwhile were attending their 2nd British Scout Western Europe (BSWE) Intercamp involving Scouts from Germany Belgium, France as well as those, like the British, who were American and Canadian but living in Europe. A celebration of the Group’s five-year existence was held in Anna Murray’s garden. Royalty came back to see us; this time it was the Queen herself and she talked to our Cubs as they formed a guard of honour when she visited the Grande Arche de la Défense with Président François Mitterand. When she knew we were from Chantilly she exclaimed “Oh, the horses!” (Keep it simple your majesty, keep it simple…)

A Venture Unit was created in 1994 and the Chief Scout of the United Kingdom, Sir Garth Morrison, visited 1st Chantilly where he enjoyed a game of volley ball in our hall. A Venture Scout Unit was formed within the Group6 and the Group’s numbers reached 59 making it already one of the largest in Europe. Johanna Sabarly came onto the management team as Secretary and Ian Atkinson became the Group Treasurer.