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Scouter Deryck's Scouting Plus Homepage File:

"A Brief History of the Life-Saving Scouts"

(This first appeared in The Canadian Badger, June 1998 Vol. 23 No. 2)

 March 22, 1998

The Canadian Badger
Ray Crowther
11420 - 73rd Avenue
Delta, British Columbia
V4C 1B7

Dear Ray:

After seeing the pages sent in by John (C0944) which he had also sent me, I thought that as a fellow Badger and a member of The Salvation Army, I might send in a brief history of the Life-Saving Scouts and its founder, Col. Rufus T.Spooner. Col. Spooner came to Canada in 1904, at the age of 18, and moved to Manitoba. He became a Salvation Army minister in 1912. In 1914, he was a fortunate survivor of the Empress of Ireland disaster. Using his St. John Ambulance Brigade training, he saved the lives of many of his fellow passengers.

On April 5, 1915, he was given the task of organizing the Life-Saving Scouts in the Canadian Territory. The next year, he aided the launch of the Life-Saving Guards. He was well versed in Scouting, having been a Baden-Powell Scouter in Western Canada. The first location for a Life-Saving Scout Troop was the Yorkville Corps in Toronto. Being close to the Salvation Army Headquarters, this troop became known as the Headquarters' Troop. Twenty boys attended that first meeting in the spring of 1915. The movement spread quickly to other Toronto Corps such as Toronto Temple, Dovercourt, Riverdale, and Lippencott. One member of that first Troop, Carl Richards, eventually went on to become one of the first Salvation Army Scout Organisers for Great Britain.

It was not long before the first camp was held at Clarkson, just west of Toronto. Jackson's Point, on Lake Simcoe, was the next location to play host to the Life-Saving Scouts. Having only been acquired recently, the Scouts helped the early development of this camp by uprooting stumps and pulling weeds. Every year, a brass band was formed by Scouts. To this day, this camp is used by Scouts, Guides, and countless thousands of underprivileged and inner-city children.

The Life-Saving Scouts even had their own song:

"The Song of The Salvation Army Life-Saving Scouts"...

O'er our country, from ocean to ocean,
The Life-Saving Scouts you will see,
Filled with love and unselfish devotion,
Everyone full of life, you'll agree;
But there's one thing we'll always remember,
In sunshine or shadows to observe
That we're banded together with a motto
Our slogan, "To Save and to Serve.


Our slogan, "To Save and to Serve,"
Our slogan, "To Save and to Serve,"
We're banded together with a motto,
Our slogan, "To Save and to Serve."

We'll not shirk any duty or waiver,
We'll be faithful to principle and pledge,
With King Jesus, our mighty Scout Leader,
We'll develop body, soul, as well as head.
We'll fight 'neath the Army's dear old banner,
And be loyal to the Red, White and Blue;
Then at last when all scouting is over,
We'll hear, "Well done, Scout, you were true."

Rufus Spooner met Baden-Powell during the Chief Scout's visit to Canada in 1935. Spooner had also had the privilege of attending the coronation of King George V in 1911, as a representative of Canada, along with his Baden-Powell Scout troop. Col. Spooner's "ceaseless labours" earned him the Order of the Silver Wolf, presented to him by the Earl of Athlone.

Early in 1935, the council the dealt with the Life-Saving Scouts received a letter from England stating that the Life-Saving Scouts there had reached an agreement with the Boy Scouts Association. The General, (international leader of The Salvation Army), decided that the Canadians should approach the Boy Scouts Association of Canada, and try to reach an agreement that would make common the "systems, purpose, and spirit" of the two organizations, while preserving the identity of the Life-Saving Scouts. An "Agreement of Co-operation" was reached on May 23, 1935, but it wasn't until April 24, 1937, that the actual signing of the "Memorandum of Agreement" took place. This agreement stated that the two organizations should work more closely together, but affirmed that the Life-Saving Scouts were "an autonomous body...quite apart from that of the Council."

This Agreement has been resigned numerous times since the inaugural signing back in 1937, with the most recent signing taking place in late 1997, making this affiliation between our two great organizations 60 years old.

More about the Life-Saving Scouts and Col. Rufus T. Spooner can be found in the book by J. Gordon Wilder, Rufus T. Spooner and the Life-Saving Scouts.

Yours in Scouting,

Deryck N. Robertson
Troop Scouter, 15th Peterborough Salvation Army Scout Group
Assistant Rover Advisor, 1st Wooler Rover Crew