Whilst driving through the Northamptonshire countryside early in 2015, making our way from the maginificent Saxon churches of Brixworth and Earls Barton, we happened upon the village of Creaton and found the church. Happily it was an open one.
Creaton Church, Northamptonshire
My eyes were immediately drawn by a beautiful marble war memorial tablet on the wall which bore the words of Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier in a shield at the top, `If I should die, think only this of me; that there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.’ We had seen the same words a fortnight ago on the magnificent public war memorial in Clifton Park, Rotherham.
Bob Wroughton’s Marble Plaque, paid for by his sisters
A bronze plaque commemorating the death of the same man, the wonderfully named Musgrave Cazanove Wroughton (known affectionately as `Bob’) was found further along the wall. The plaque had been given by Bob’s parents, whilst the tablet had been donated by his sisters. It was one of the thousands of personal and parish memorials one finds lovingly placed in churches up and down the country, a painful story behind each one.
Bob’s Bronze Plaque, paid for by his parents
On this occasion, the story behind the double memorial was readily accessible.
At the age of 15, Bob had become the world’s first Boy Scout.
Musgrave Cazenove Wroughton came from a well-to-do Northamptonshire family. His father was master of the Pytchley Hunt and they lived in a mansion in the country.
A close family friend was Sir Robert Baden-Powell, hero of the Siege of Mafeking during the Boer War, and when ‘BP’ came up with the idea of organising a camp for boys to teach them the principles of leadership and teamwork, he immediately turned to ‘Bob’ Wroughton to join him in his venture.
The camp was held on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, in August 1907 – and became an historic event. For it was that beginning that the World Wide Boy Scout Movement was to emerge. The centenary camp for the global movement was also held on Brownsea.
After the Camp, Baden Powell heaped praise on Bob’s leadership : “…he was a great help to me & quite set the example to other Patrol Leaders,” he wrote in a remarkable letter to Bob’s mother, which formed part of the archive and in which he also asked her for Bob’s suggestions as to how the whole Scouting movement could be established.
Bob had a glittering career ahead of him. He was from a landed, moneyed family, receiving high praise from a national hero and probably destined for great things
Bob had been educated at Harrow, and on leaving school he received a commission in the Northampton Yeomanry. When he was 20 years old, in 1912, Bob Wroughton accompanied Baden-Powell as his ADC on a world tour in connection with the Boy Scouts‘ movement. With Noel van Raalte and others he sailed on the SS Arcadian to the USA.
After Christ Church College, having served four years with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, Bob transferred to (Special Reserve) 12th Lancers in 1913 and accompanied his Regiment to the front in August 1914. He saw action at Mons, the Marne and the Aisne. He was mentioned in Sir John French’s Despatch of 14 January 1913 for gallant and distinguished service in the field.
While out on patrol on the Ypres salient in Belgium in October – just eight weeks after the war began – he was shot by a German sniper, and on the 30th of that month, he died from his injuries. He was 23 years old.
His Major wrote of him that he was an “excellent soldier and can turn his hand to anything”.
A distraught Baden Powell wrote to his parents soon after the event: “I have felt as nearly as possible like a second father to him, and to read the little testimonies to Bob’s character after all the hopes that I had formed of him, is the greatest possible comfort. I am so glad that he had made his mark already before he died.”
His parents also received letters from some of Bob’s men. His Sergeant Major, sending a photograph of his makeshift grave, said: “He was such a brave young officer and loved by the whole of his Troop & Squadron. Sgt Stone & I carried him to a place of cover, his last words to me were ‘never mind me Sgt Major, look after yourself’.”
A private named Haselin, who was also a servant at the Wroughton household, wrote, sending his ‘dog-tag’ and mentioned how he was protected by Bob on the day he was wounded: “I have his horses with me, he told me yesterday to look after the horses and not go into the trenches so was not in the thick of it, but I wish I had been with him all the same…”
An interesting and thought-provoking story that I am glad to have come across courtesy of a drive through the countryside and a thankfully open church.
John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War and Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, both available online, or directly from the author personally signed and inscribed for just £18 each including p+p or £30 for the pair. A lovely gift for someone, or just to treat yourself. Email firstname.lastname@example.org