VE Day Memories of War Time Scouting in Settle

3 June 2020


Brothers Tony, John and Ben Ovington were brought up, as were their Father and Grandfather, in Langcliffe and joined “Boy Scouts” in Settle. When the time came, Tony and John signed up to service during WW2, but Ben was too young.
Unfortunately, Tony and John were killed: one shot by a sniper and the other bayonetted. The boys had always called Langcliffe “home” but after the war the Parish Council refused to put Tony and John’s names on the Langcliffe War Memorial as they had lived in Giggleswick for a short time when their parents separated. This infuriated the Scout Master, Jim Nelson. He organised a brass plaque with the names of all the Settle Scouts who had lost their lives in the war to be put up in the then Scout Hall on the second floor of unused stables in Chapel Street.
Very importantly for the Ovington family was the inclusion of their two sons so Ben, now age 14, was chosen to unveil the plaque. It was a terrified but proud Ben that unveiled the plaque at a service led by the Vicar and attended by Boy Scouts in uniform, a large number of the public and a Craven Herald reporter. Later the plaque was transferred to the Settle Scout headquarters, the Drill Hall, and is still there today.


The VE Day celebrations motivated Dan Nelson, the present Settle Scout leader and Jim’s son, to tell his Scouts about the history of the Group around the time of WW2. He recounted how his dad, a Rover Scout, was called up to the army in 1939, aged 20, but after 6 years of soldiering, he returned home hoping to pick up his life as before. However, Settle and the world had changed. As well as post-traumatic stress, there was rationing and shortages of everything from food to leather, but worse than that, Scouting had stopped. The Scouts had been forced to move all their equipment as war began, dividing it up between themselves for safe keeping. As a result, the kit got scattered to lofts and sheds with nobody knowing who had what! All the leaders had been away fighting or redeployed, and the ARP wardens, who had commandeered the Group HQ, were still using it.
Sadly, former Scouts Arthur Wilson, Bryan West, Tony and John Ovington, Bernard Ralph and Richard Marshall had been killed in the war. Scouting slowly resumed but having no headquarters or kit, camping equipment had to be improvised from tin cans and tatty wagon sheets!
Even now Dan often gets elderly men coming to his shop saying, “I was one of your Dad’s Scouts” and recounting their great adventures with Jim.