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S.S. Calgaric

In 1933, Lord and Lady Baden-Powell led a contingent of 650 Guides and Scouts on an "Argosy of Peace," a cruise to the nations of the Baltic. The cruise carried them from England to the Netherlands, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and home.

The cruise took place at what proved to be a turning point in history. By 1933, the Nazis had come to power in Germany, and in less than ten years all but one of the countries visited would be occupied and the world would be at war. Peace and Brotherhood were cherished goals of the Founders, and the cruise of the "Calgaric" was a special effort towards those goals, reaching out the hand of friendship to the Scouts and Guides of other lands.

Mrs. Rose Kerr, International Commissioner of the Girl Guides Association, related the journey in The Cruise of the "Calgaric" published by the Guides Association in 1934. The book weaves a wonderful tale and is illustrated by over 50 photographs of the Chiefs, Scouts and Guides of the contingent, leaders, Scouts and Guides of the host nations, and many photos of the sights along the way. These scenes of Scouting before the war are all of historical significance. But these particular photos provide a unique and rarely seen look at Scouting in Poland and the Baltic States in the last years before the Movement was suppressed, first by the Nazis and then by the Communists. From 1939, when the war began, until 1989, when Communism collapsed, Scouting was banned. It took over 50 years for it to return. Today the Movement is reborn in all of these countries.

These pages are devoted largely to the photographic record of the cruise with a few bits of the narrative to set the scene.

White Star Liner "Calgaric"
Scouters' and Guiders' Cruise
The Northern European Ports
August 12th-29th, 1933

August 12: Southampton, England
August 13: Rotterdam and The Hague, Netherlands
August 14: At Sea
August 15: At Sea
August 16: Gdynia and Danzig, Poland
August 17: Klaipeda and Palanga, Lithuania
August 18: Riga, Latvia
August 19: Talinn, Estonia
August 20: Helsinki, Finland
August 21: Stockholm, Sweden
August 22: At Sea
August 23: At Sea
August 24: At Sea
August 25: Oslo, Norway
August 26: At Sea
August 27: At Sea
August 28: At Sea
August 29: Liverpool, England

From Rose Kerr, The Cruise of the "Calgaric," London, 1934

THE IDEA like nearly all great ideas, was born casually and in an unexpected place. One day in August 1932, the Chief Guide, Lady Baden-Powell, was bumping along in a bus over a stony road in Poland, in company with a number of other Guiders from different countries, all bound for the seventh World Conference of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Association. They were on their way from the Polish frontier town of Katowice, where they had received a wonderful reception, to Bucze the beautiful house belonging to the Scouts and Guides of Poland, where the Conference was to be held.

Lady Baden-Powell was thrilled by the little she had so far seen of the Polish Guides (her admiration was to grow daily greater during the next fortnight), and she suddenly burst forth to her neighbour in the bus, Miss Mander, Division Commissioner for Wolverhampton: "How I wish the Guide people in England could meet the splendid Guides in other countries! If only I could take a whole shipload of them and bring them over to see and to make friends with them!"

"Why not?" said Miss Mander, who is a person of few words, but much energy. There and then they began to work out the plan which has since been carried into effect with such triumphant success, and which will remain an imperishable memory not only to all those who were passengers in the ship, but also to thousands of Scouts and Guides who welcomed them in such a wonderful manner at their ports of call.

A small meeting was held during the Conference at Bucze so as to consult the representatives of the countries bordering on the Baltic, and which it was therefore possible to visit; they all approved of the idea, and said that their Guides, and probably the Scouts also, would welcome the opportunity of seeing the Chief; they thought, however, that it would not be possible to get great numbers during the summer holidays when all the boys and girls would be dispersed.

Little did they or we guess what dimensions the welcome would attain!

Miss Mander kindly offered to undertake the preliminary work, and soon after her return to England a notice was inserted in The Guider inviting any people who were interested to send in their names: in answer to this she received about 1,000 letters.

It had been decided that the cruise should be open to all members of the Scout and Guide Movements over sixteen years of age, and to their friends and relations.

The difficulty was, however, to secure a ship; the Chief Scout and Chief Guide made it a sine qua non that the ship should be a British one, and there did not appear to be one available at the time required.

The Chief Guide was almost prepared to give up her cherished plan when, about Christmas time, Lord Baden-Powell happened to walk into the office of the White Star Line in Cockspur Street.

Having concluded his other business, he asked casually: "How is it you can't provide a ship for our cruise?"

"What cruise?" said his interlocutor, and at once began to take an interest in the plan.

On January 6th a small preliminary meeting was held at the Company's office, and Lady Baden-Powell was invited to submit her suggestions. This she did rather timidly, fearing lest she should be asked to sign a guarantee as to the number of people who would go on the cruise, and lest she should let down either the Company or the Guide Movement if the numbers failed to materialise. But the representatives of the White Star Line said: "You will incur no obligation whatever. Your name and that of Lord Baden-Powell are sufficient guarantee. We are willing to undertake any risk, and we are quite sure your people will follow you."

The confidence shown was more than justified, and from that moment there was never any doubt as to the success of the undertaking.

The first thing was, however, to find a ship. After some discussion the White Star Line decided to recall the Calgaric, which was at that time in Canada, and to commission her for the cruise.

The White Star Company then took over from Miss Mander the correspondence, and notified the people who had already sent in their names. Almost at once they received 600 definite applications: as the ship could only take 650 passengers, there had to be a long waiting list, of which a certain number were eventually absorbed, as others fell out from unavoidable causes.

Sir Percy Everett (Home Commissioner of the Boy Scouts) was asked by the Chief Scout and Chief Guide to undertake the chairmanship of the Cruise Committee, and he invited to join him General Burt (Assistant Commissioner for International Affairs), who was to be personal assistant to the Chief Scout; Lt.-Col. P. Murray (District Commissioner for N.E. Isle of Wight), who was to be in charge of the Scouters on board; and Mrs. Mark Kerr (International Commissioner of the British Girl Guides and member of the World Committee), who was to be in charge of the Guide contingent.

Lord and Lady Baden-Powell were also members of the committee, and the representatives appointed by the White Star Line were Mr. H. Robbins and Mr. A. E. Humphrey.

From the very beginning Mr. Robbins became our guardian angel; he anticipated every wish of the Chiefs or of the committee; no trouble was too great for him to take, and no detail too small for him to attend to. Besides this, his immense fund of knowledge concerning the countries of North-Eastern Europe was invaluable to us; he went himself in the spring to every one of the countries which we proposed to visit, saw the Scout and Guide authorities in each, and discussed with them the suggested programme. He was most ably assisted by Mr. Humphrey, and we feel that they have both become life-long friends of the Scout and Guide Movements.

The programme of the cruise was most carefully considered by the committee, and it was decided which countries could be visited. It was a great disappointment that a visit to Copenhagen had to be omitted, owing to the political circumstances in Denmark, which had led to the passing of a law prohibiting uniform of any kind being worn by adults.

The International Bureau of the Boy Scouts and the World Bureau of the Girl Guides corresponded with the leaders of the movement in different countries as to the functions to be carried out at each visit, and a booklet was published by the White Star Line giving not only the actual programme but also a great deal of information about the different countries, and about the Scouts and Guides in them.

Several meetings of the committee were held in London during the spring and summer to settle details. The only question which aroused any controversy between the Scout and Guide representatives was that of the dress to be worn in the evening on board ship.

"No Scouters will come, said the Scout representatives firmly, "if they have to bring any other clothes except uniform."

"No Guiders will come, said the Guide representative, with restrained passion, "if they have to wear uniform all the time."

"Very well," said the chairman, hastily, "let each sex do as it wishes."

So the rule was promulgated that, for Scouters, uniform should be worn on all occasions, and Guiders might wear plain clothes except on official occasions; in the end, all were pleased. It was observed later on that the Scouters entertained no objection at all to seeing the Guiders arrayed in diaphanous summer dresses, and in fact sometimes unbent so far as to appear in flannels themselves.

Excitement grew greater and greater as August 12th drew near, and finally the day dawned auspiciously: on a glorious summer morning two special trains started from Waterloo, and many other trains and cars converged upon Southampton, carrying the expectant passengers.

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link-cunard2.jpg (1332 bytes) The Cruise of the "Calgaric"
Forward to first photo
Index pages for the Cruise
link-white-star.jpg (1355 bytes) Southampton, England, to The Netherlands, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia
The Hague, Gdynia, Klaipeda, Palanga, Riga
link-white-star.jpg (1355 bytes) Estonia & Finland
Talinn, Helsinki
link-white-star.jpg (1355 bytes) Sweden
Stockholm, At Sea
link-white-star.jpg (1355 bytes) Norway
link-white-star.jpg (1355 bytes) Homeward Bound to England
At Sea, Oban and Liverpool

Links to Scout Associations visited by Lord and Lady Baden-Powell and the 650 Scouts and Guides on the Cruise of the "Calgaric."

Scouting Nederland
Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego-ZHP (Polish Scouting Association)
Chronicle of Scouting in Eastern Europe: Scouting in Poland
Latvian Scout And Guide Organization (LSGCO)
Chronicle of Scouting in Eastern Europe: Scouting in Latvia
Leituvos Skautija (Lithuanian Scouting)
Chronicle of Scouting in Eastern Europe: Scouting in Lithuania
Eesti Skautide Ühing (Estonian Scout Association)
Chronicle of Scouting in Eastern Europe: Scouting in Estonia
flag-finland.gif (1430 bytes) Finland.
Suomen Partiolaiset (Guides and Scouts of Finland)
flag-sweden.gif (1290 bytes) Sweden.
Svenska Scoutrådet (Swedish Guide and Scout Council)
flag-norway.gif (2529 bytes) Norway.
Norges Speiderforbund (NSF) (Norwegian Scout Association)

link-cunard2.jpg (1332 bytes) R.M.S. Calgaric. A short history at the "Great Ships" website.
link-cunard2.jpg (1332 bytes) Cunard Archives: The White Star Liner "Calgaric" The Cunard Archives are held by the University of Liverpool and include an extensive collection of materials on the Cunard and White Star fleets. This page is devoted to the career of the Calgaric.
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Please write to: Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1998
Last Modified: 12:11 PM on March 7, 1998