Did you know that two Scouts sailed with Sir Ernest Shackleton to Antarctica in 1921? Personally, I first heard the story of Shackleton’s Scouts back in 2013 when I stumbled upon it on “Johnny” Walker’s Scouting Milestones website by chance and was inspired to buy a copy of James Marr’s book – ‘Into The Frozen South’. (Is anything ever really by chance? My personal radar was already firmly scanning for all things Scouting and Antarctica related. This story firmly ticked both boxes.) Anyhow I was fascinated to find out that James Marr and Norman Mooney were selected from around 1,700 other Scouts to represent Scouting, King and Country on Shackleton’s 1921 expedition.
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final Shackleton-Rowett expedition (1921-22), also known by many as the ‘Quest’ expedition, marked the end of what has now become known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. In 1921 King George V was on the throne and David Lloyd George was prime minister, World War One was recently over and The Scout Movement – a mere teenager itself – was only fourteen years old.
Imagine at that time when relatively few people travelled to Europe, let alone to the ends of the earth, being selected to represent Scouting on an expedition of a lifetime to Antarctica. What an honour! What a responsibility! So, with the centenary of the original expedition rapidly approaching I set myself the task of finding different ways to celebrate and raise public awareness of this important historic link between Scouting and Antarctica.
One early idea I had was to raise money for some memorials to Shackleton’s Scouts – one at Gilwell Park (UK Scout Headquarters) and one at Fordell Firs (Scottish Scout Headquarters). At the time of writing the plaques have now been beautifully carved and are ready for unveiling. (See page 132.)
My second idea was somewhat more ambitious and grandiose in scale – to create a Kent Scouts Research Project to Antarctica and where possible recreate the ethos of the original Shackleton-Rowett ‘Quest’ expedition. It was clear from the outset that to achieve this objective we were going to have to raise over one hundred thousand pounds. I now know how Sir Ernest Shackleton must have felt when seeking funding for his grand schemes. You will find a summary of the ReQuest2021 project in Appendix A.