On the 17th of May 1915, George Greenacre formed a Scout Troop called the 1st Chirton with the help of his younger brother, Fred Greenacre.
The Troop was one of the few “open” Troops in Tynemouth District, which meant that it was not attached to a church or the YMCA. Many of it’s members were “home boys”, which was the name given to boys who lived in the local children’s homes.
On the 13th of October 1915 a Troop Registration form was filled out, with final approval being given by the District Commissioner on the 25th of October 1915. The Troop was officially registered at a local level on the 25th of November 1915. The form gives the address of the headquarters as being St. Luke’s Mission, Front Street, Chirton and lists the strength of the Troop as being 24. St. Luke’s Mission was a tin building at Chirton green, between the top of St. Georges Crescent and Carlton Terrace, there is a Chinese takeaway there now.
Although this was the first official residence of the Troop it was by no means the first place the Troop met. The earliest meetings were held on the recreation field on Howden Road and when it rained too heavily, the meetings were cancelled. Eventually they were given the use of the St. Luke’s mission, where George Greenacre was a warden and Mrs Greenacre was the organist (and had been since the age of 13), but were only there for a few weeks.
The next move was to an old stable in Chirton, heated by a fire in a bucket and light supplied by two hurricane lamps. The roof was in very bad condition and several meetings were brought to a premature end when torrents of rain poured through. One of the first jobs the Scouts did was to put the place in order and make it habitable and there were a number of stories in the local press at the time about a Troop being born in a stable.
In 1917 Col Ritson of Preston Colliery, a keen worker for youth organisations started to take an interest in the Troop. At the time, many of the Scouts worked at Preston Colliery and so he offered them the use of the colliery’s ambulance room which was near the pay office. When the Troop moved into the new building they changed the name to Preston Colliery (Col Ritson’s Own) as a way to say thank you. The Troop also gained a second Assistant Scout Master, Richard Trewhitt at the same time, followed a year later by a third Assistant Scout Master when Joseph Knox began to help.
Fred Greenacre had joined the 5th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders in November 1915, just six months after helping form the Troop. He served in many of the major battles of the First World War and in some cases he and Colonel Ritson would have been almost side by side.
Nine months before the end of the First World War, on the 21st of March 1918, Fred Greenacre, who was now a Lance Corporal, was taken prisoner at Fresnoy in France during the first day of the Spring Offensive, one of the largest battles in the First World War.
He was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Stendal, Germany where he was held for almost four months. On Tuesday the 2nd of July 1918 he died. We can not be sure of how he died, it may have been the result of a wound sustained in the battle or it may have been from the influenza virus that was sweeping the trenches.
1919 saw three new Assistant Scout Masters start at the Troop, Thomas Chapman, T William Younger and Leslie Smith all started helping, possibly having been discharged at the end of the war, although that is just a guess. It is not known how long they stayed at the Troop.
In 1920 George Greenacre became the District Scout Master, a job he did for six years, but the Troop itself carried on unchanged until 1929.
In 1923 Col Ritson was so delighted at the progress the Troop was making that he presented them with an old army hut. It was erected in the quarry behind the old Cannon inn and close to the now demolished Billy Mill.
The new hut saw the Troop change into a Group as we formed our first Wolf Cub Pack in 1929. David P Graham was the Cub Master with the former Assistant Scout Master Richard Trewhitt, as his assistant (Richard had left the Troop in 1922). We also formed a Rover section and the hut saw many a young man take his first hesitant dance steps on it’s creaky floor.
As we now had a Scout Group, George Greenacre took on the role of Group Scout Master, handing the Troop over to the new Scout Master, Edward Davis in 1930.
In December 1932, as the colliery buildings began to disappear, the Group submitted a form to change the name to 3rd Tynemouth (Ritson’s Own), this was initially turned down as the national headquarters were against having the name of any person in the registered title of a Group unless there are very special and strong reasons.
In a letter dated the 6th of January 1933 to the secretary of the Boy Scouts Association, the District secretary explained the donation of the numerous headquarters and said that “The Group wished to adopt the new title so that future Scouts may know and remember who made it possible to build up the group to it’s present strength”. Permission was given and on the 19th of January 1933 the Group took on it’s present title.
In 1933 Stanley Trewhitt became the Cub Master, followed a year later by Sidney Short when he started as a new Assistant Scout Master. George Greenacre was made District Scout Master for a second time in 1934, this time doing the job until 1941.
In a letter dated the 13th of February 1936, Col Ritson formally presented the Scouts with the ambulance hut as a free gift for use as a headquarters.
In 1939 Stanley Trewhitt left the Cub Pack and George Greenacre took over as a temporary Cub Master. As this was the start of the Second World War the day to day running of the Troop was largely left up to the Patrol Leaders.