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How the First Hospital Group Started
Great Ormond Street Badge

Great Ormond Street Badge

How the Great Ormond Street Scout Troop Began

On the 28th February 2007, the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group was 50 years old. It was started in the mid 1950’s, when two long term patients – David Mitchell and Billy Harwood wished to continue their Scouting whilst being in hospital. In order for this to occur, their Group Scout Leader contacted a local Scouter, Alf Porter, who was not only a leader in St Pancras, but who was also interested in furthering Scouting for the disabled.

Alf and a small team of fellow Scouters made weekly visits to the hospital, and helped both boys pass various Scouting tests and proficiency badges. Unfortunately Billy died whilst in hospital, but it was thought that Scouting had made such a difference to his stay in hospital, that Alf liaised with the various authorities at Great Ormond Street and Scout Headquarters, and a permanent Scout group was started, with Alf as Group Scout Leader.

Billy was posthumously awarded the Cornwell Badge, which was presented to his parents in their home town of Benington, in 1958, by Felix Bedford (District Commissioner for Holborn) accompanied by Alf Porter and the Ward Sister, Sister Barnsworth, also a leader of the 17th Holborn Scout Troop. Meetings were, and still are held on a Tuesday evening in the hospital playcentre. The Leaders, would visit the wards, in much the same way as we do today, but would invite only boys of eight years and upwards to go to Scouts. It did not matter whether they were already Scouts or not, and the boys attending were normally long stay patients, who often spent weeks or even months in hospital. Forty years ago, patients were in hospital far longer than they are today and therefore it would have been rare for boys to have attended for only a couple of weeks.

The meetings were run, as far as possible, like a normal Troop with time being set aside each week for Scout badge work as well as games. This led to several boys being invested as Scouts during their stay in hospital.

In 1965, Alf Porter’s job took him to Crawley, and he unfortunately had to relinquish his job of Group Scout Leader, but he still kept in touch with the group. This role was taken over by Hugh Bedford (the son of Felix Bedford) who continued in this post for over 15 years.

The Guide Company

In 1966, Guide/Brownie meetings were started to cater for the girls in the hospital. However, these meetings unfortunately floundered and as a result the Company was shut. But in the mid 1980’s three siblings – a Cub Scout, a Scout and a Guide – were admitted, simultaneously, into the hospital all suffering from a rare genetic disorder. Their Ward Sister felt that the recovery of the children would be aided if they could all attend the meetings and have some time away from the ward environment.

Naturally the two boys quickly joined the hospital’s all-age Scout group, which left one rather unhappy Guide back on the ward. The Group applied for special dispensation from the Scout Headquarters, enabling them to accept girls, as clearly something had to be done for the Guides and Brownies who wished to carry on with their Guiding activities. This was the first group in the country to allow both boys and girls to attend the same meeting.

On 23th September 1987, having recruited some Guiders, a Guide Company was also registered under the same name as the Scout Group, and the group officially gained its current title of the 17th Holborn Scout and Guide Group.

For more information about how the Group run


John Stevens

Hampshire Scouts in Hospitals Coordinator

Contact me at


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