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The Story of Gilcape - Diep River

The story of Gilcape 1926 - 1950

In the early days of scouting in the Cape Province the need of camping ground for Scout camps and for training Scouters was not felt. Even in Cape Town itself there was always plenty of unused land for scouting "at your back door”, and, further away, farm land and public land for annual camps.

Training of Adults

The idea that scoutmasters and cubmasters needed training for their job was gradually forced upon the movement. In London, for instance the need of a boys’ camping ground was so urgent that Mr. du Bois Maclaren, District Commissioner for Rosneath in Scotland offered to find a piece of suitable ground. The Chief Scout, our Founder, B-P, specially requested that part of it should be reserved for training of Scouters. Mr Maclaren headed a Committee to find a ground. In early 1919 they learnt that the estate Gilwell Park was for sale. It was purchased by Mr. Maclaren and given to scouting. It is now the world training centre, and the boys' part is a camping ground for London Scouts. Captain Gidney was appointed Camp Chief, and he ran the first Scoutmasters training course from September 8th to 19th 1919.

Training comes to South Africa

Now and then men holding the Wood Badge – the sign of having passed a Gilwell training course - visited Cape Town and gave us some new ideas. As a result many looked forward to a chance to visit the U.K. and take a course. In 1924 a number of South Africans visiting the Imperial Jamboree at Wembley took the opportunity of taking the course. The 147 candidates on that course represented 97 from the British Empire overseas, 30 from foreign countries, and 20 from the U.K. Two were appointed by the Camp Chief to represent Gilwell and train Scouters in the Cape Province, one being a Deputy Camp chief and the other an Akela Leader.

Borrowed sites

The first course was a cub course in January 1926. The Course was a continuous one, and with equipment scratched together, and a site borrowed from St John’s Hostel in Cape Town it through. It must be mentioned that the Cape Province Headquarters at this time was in financial straits, and this as well as all courses for some years had to be self-supporting.  Under similar conditions the first scout course was run in the grounds of the first Claremont Troop, and the second Cub Course at Bamboo Vlei, Ottery.

The first permanent camp

It was soon found that continuous courses would be rare as it was difficult to get together sufficient candidates who could get leave at the correct time. Week end courses then had to be run. This meant building up and dismantling the camp every week end carrying all the material between camp and storage place. From 1927 Training was handled by the Rayners, Carl and Doris on a plot of land at the back of their private residence. A permanent camp was then built on this private ground at Diep River - only eight building plots but enough for all practical purposes. There are many of our older members who have happy memories of the training camps held there from 1928 to 1945. All training camps are branches of Gilwell but the use of this name for so many camps in many continents becomes confusing, so the Gilwell of the Cape Province Division was called Gilcape. All that is left of the first Gilcape is a post with the municipal nameplate Gilcape Road.

The second Gilcape

In 1940 a sub committee was appointed by the Divisional Scout Council to find a suitable site that could be purchased. There was vacant land between the first Gilcape and the Diep River, and a portion was for sale. This was purchased by Mrs Withinshaw of Wynberg, and given to the Boy Scouts. Shortly after this the adjoining piece was purchased by the Division the two sites giving just under five acres on the Main Road at Diep River with the river as one boundary. There were four cottages on the edge of the ground and their rents brought in the monthly instalments to repay the cost price and interest with enough over for equipment and development for the training courses. For a while the new ground was used in addition to the old camp which was just across the road. Gordons Shield and other events were held on the new ground, but it was not until 1942 that the transfer of the den and campsites was made and the old Gilcape was closed down. This became necessary because of the expropriation of the land by the City Council for a coloured housing scheme. The consequent change of character of the area caused the Division to set up another committee to find another site instead of the new ground.

The Gilcape Diep River site was sold in 1950 and the purchaser built the Three Arts Theatre on the grounds.

Source: Western Cape Scout Headquarters Archives

Author: Unknown

Date: Approximately 1964