Friday, 28 August 2015


During the Great War, if you were a Boy Scout and over fourteen you could be employed as a coast watcher.  The boys worked a twelve-hour shift, six hours walking the coast and six hours in the post. They were seen to be valuable to the war effort, joining with the Coastguard in watching out for Zeppelins, submarines, spies and invaders.  Most of the time none of these came along to be spotted from the East Devon cliffs but Mr Hastings of Sidmouth felt that there were not enough Boy Scout coast watchers and wrote to the  Devon Education Committee asking them to withdraw their prohibition on boys under the age of fourteen being employed in coast watching.

The Education Committee met at the beginning of May 1916 and discussed Mr Hasting's letter and his request.  Mr Hurrell said he was sure it was a bad thing for boys to be engaged in this work.  It was bringing them up to be idlers and loafers.   Mr Morshead assured Mr Hurrell that there was no loafing where the East Devon boys were concerned.  They did not loaf;  they did not smoke and they certainly looked better than they would poring over miserable books.

Mr Vickery was of the opinion that coast watching had a tendency to make boys idle and he did not think it desirable.  Mr Young said the Boy Scouts of Teignmouth took their duties seriously and coast watching did them any amount of good.

By a majority the Committee decided to keep the age limit at fourteen.

Only a few days before, on Easter Saturday 1916 one of the coast watchers between Teighnmouth and Maidencombe had looked down from the cliffs and seen two young ladies perched on a rock surrounded by the sea and with waves breaking over the rock upon which they sat, or perhaps stood.  They had been on the beach all night having set off from Teignmouth in the afternoon of Good Friday.  They had at first been cut off by the tide and had sheltered in a sea cave overnight.   The next morning they tried to reach Maidencombe but ended up marooned on the rocks.   The coast watcher ran to his post and used the field telephone to alert Teignmouth and a motor boat was despatched to rescue the young ladies who, so the newspaper reported, "bore traces of the trying ordeal through which they had passed."

Source:  The Western Times,  April 24th. and May 5th.  1916

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