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Fred Heather of the 8th,Wimpson, West District
Posted on Sunday, July 20th, 2014
On the eve of our very successful District Camp in May I received the news that Fred had died. I was able to say a few words in his memory at the Campfire. Some of the older members of the District would have known him and many of his old scouts and scouting friends were at the funeral. I should, before now, have put something in the Left Handshake. Some of you might have seen the two items in the Echo: one about his Scouting career and the other about his extraordinary wartime experience when his minesweeper was sandwiched between the British invasion fleet and the German defences on D Day. All these things are in the past like the” 8th” and “West District” but we do need to remember them as they have influenced our lives.
In 1970 I moved into my present house and so into West District. Meeting a fellow Scouter at work I revealed that I had no post in Scouting at that time. He must have put the word around because several days later there was a knock on my door. The guy standing there was middle aged, my height and quite a stocky build, he was wearing a khaki shirt, navy blue breeches and a silly grin. “You Geoff Johnson?” he said, “I hears you’ve been in Scouting and you aren’t doing anything moment at.”
10 years later I certainly knew that I’d been in Scouting, Fred was a human dynamo and made sure that the 8th Scouts did everything they possibly could. I became Scout Leader while Fred was GSL. Fred worked in British Telecom and I don’t know if he had a special concession but my phone never stopped ringing. Ideas and schemes came shooting down the Line. The 8th prospered building up to 40 scouts at one time and with two Cub Packs.
He promoted Canoeing in the Troop also Climbing, Mountaineering and Caving. From his enthusiasm came the District Canoe Club and Summit Weekends.
One year three scouts from the 8th were chosen to represent Hampshire in the National Scout Regatta. They had never been in racing canoes before and for the two weeks beforehand Fred took them canoeing every night until they learnt to handle them. They didn’t win but they did well in the heats and got through to the finals where they competed with the National Youth Champions.
The 8th owned a wartime building on the old Beaulieu Airfield known as “Chorley Lodge” which at that time was one of the few places where Scouts could stay in the Forest. Fred’s wife Dorrie controlled the bookings and, as GSL Fred, made sure the hut was maintained and improved. It was a great venue and used by Groups from far and wide.
Throughout this time the 8th was his real love and he and Dorrie nursed it through so many years. Came the time when he had to stand down. Fred was made an Honorary Scouter in 1986. After that the 8th unfortunately went downhill. The hut was set on fire by vandals and while it was under repair they struck again and it was burnt to the ground. It must have hurt them both when this happened
Chorley Lodge was on the edge of what is now the Round Hill Campsite which the Council wanted to develop and it was in the way. When the Hampshire Scouting managed to acquire Fern Crofts and, at the same time, West District took Wilverley something had to go. It was Chorley Lodge and the old hut was removed.
Dorrie and Fred carried on in the Scout Fellowship for many years until Life and their age caught up with them. What they gave still lives on in many good things in our District and they should not be forgotten.
Memories from Geoff Johnson, May 2014
You can find a copy of the Daily Echo cover on this story at www.dailyecho.co.uk