Roy Bisson and Scouting in Jersey

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Roy Bisson and

Scouting in Jersey


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Roy Bisson


This article by Julien Morel was first published in the Jersey Evening Post in April 2007


For 72 of Scouting's 100 years, Roy Bisson has been involved with the movement in Jersey. He remained a loyal member even when all clubs and associations were banned during the Occupation.

Despite the threat of being discovered and punished by the German authorities, he and his peers met in secret and continued their badge work and other activities under the noses of the enemy.

Scouts parade in the Royal Square in 1910

Scout leader

Adulthood failed to dampen Roy's enthusiasm for Scouting. After the Occupation he moved into leadership, rising to become an Assistant Island Commissioner. Today, having recently celebrated his 80th birthday, he remains a member of the Scout Fellowship, which supports the movement whenever it can.

'Scouting is great fun. It was then and it is now', said Roy, reflecting on his years with the movement, which began when its founder Robert Baden-Powell was still Chief Scout.

'But in having fun you also learn to be self-confident and to have discipline, which is so important in life. And you will make friends for life.'

To prove that point, Roy tries to meet his friend Vernon Cavey at St Helier Yacht Club every Friday. The two first met at Victoria College in the mid-30s, when they both joined the school's Scout Group, the 11th. Like Roy, Vernon remained faithful to the movement, returning to the island after a military career to become Island Commissioner.

Occupation

As boys during the Occupation, Roy, Vernon, Brian Tiffin, Arthur Le Ruez and others kept Scouting alive, despite its being banned. They were one of a number of Scout and Guide units that met secretly in Jersey under the Jackboot.

'We would meet in the pavilion on College Field, out of uniform, obviously, but we had a Uninn Jack hanging in the room', said Roy. The windows were boarded up, so we could hide, but could still look out between the gaps, as one of the German headquarters was just across the field at College House.

'I remember one of us raising the alarm that a German was approaching. We used home-made periscopes to have a look, and then someone said anxiously: "Did we lock the door?", and no one could remember. We crawled on our stomachs and got to within a foot of the door before thehandle slowly turned. Thank goodness it was locked.'

It was not the only close shave for the rebellious Scouts.

'We couldn't put up any tents, but the owner of Dielament Manor would allow us to stay in thehayloft', Roy recalled. 'We used to cycle as a group to Trinity, which involved passing the German Commandant's house. He pulled out in his car and stopped right in front of us. He asked us where we were going and how old we were. That prompted Brian to start adding up our ages to work out the average. This infuriated the officer, who sharply sent us on our way. If he had looked in our bags he would have found semaphore flags, maps, notebooks and other equipment that would got us into a lot of trouble.

The subversive Scouts had another lucky escape when the left a notebook under a cushion in the home of patrol leader John Painter. Shortly after they left, forgetting the book, the Gestapo arrived to search the house.

The searchers did not find the book, which logged their activities, but they did find a radio and maps belonging to John's Father, Clarence. He and John's elder brother Peter were deported to Germany and were never seen again.

Baden Powell in Jersey in 1934

Quarry hut

After the war Roy joined the 5th St Lawrence Scout Troup as an assistant leader, alongside other stalwarts of island Scouting, including Guy Dunell and Len Cristin. The troop met in two German huts at La Qualite Farm, which belonged to A P Le Sueur, who had two sons in the troop. The group soon needed a bigger home, so they enlarged a quarry on the firm, shifting the rocks themselves, and built a new hut.

Mr Le Sueur's daughter Doreen was a Guide leader, and she and Roy would marry. The couple have two daughters, Marion and Pamela, who have both been Scout and Guide leaders. Marion took over from her father's friend Vernon to become Island Commissioner.

Roy was a warranted leader until 1972, rising to become Assistant Island Commissioner for Leader Training. He returned on occasions to run troops short of leaders, including the 3rd - which moved to St Aubin in 1965 to become Sea Scouts - and the 14th (St Mark's).

Roy was bestowed the rare honour of Honorary Scouter in 1982 and he also holds the Medal of Merit for his long service to the movement.

'I guess you could say that Scouting flows in our blood. It has been a keen interest for most of our lives, and it remains very close to our hearts. We still go for rambles with the Fellowship from time to time, although we are slowing down a bit now. But I'll be there on Wednesday to celebrate with everyone in the Royal Square.

'A hundred years of Scouting is definitely something to shout about - and I've no doubt it'll be here in another hundred.
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