The scouts weren't just about fun. They instilled the values of friendship, disciplne, responsibility and Leadership. They helped make me the man I am today.
Everyone knows leadership is the ability to take charge and encourage others to get the job done. You get power, you make decisions and instruct others. Aged 8, I had a grasp on how it worked. Teachers, parents, etc. had the power and if you disobeyed your arse was kicked. Simples, as a furry Meer cat once said.
In the cubs I learned a new kind of leadership where my peers got power too. Sixers got some authority under the supervision of Akela. The scouts were different. You started as fourth scout. Everyone in the patrol bossed you about. There was a pecking order based on service. The Patrol Leader always seemed bigger and stronger than the rest. I found myself in awe of big guys like Paul Gilgallon, Don Noble, Gordon McKellar, Andy (big crazy guy) or Russell (Might have become a doctor) Below them were their enforcers. High jinks, mischief and general disorder were always part of the proceedings but a sense of purpose was maintained and objectives were achieved.
In time, like most, I progressed through the ranks and I got my chance at the top. Transferred from the Stag Patrol, who were monthly patrol shield contenders, I got command of the Peewit's, who weren’t. Simples as a Meer cat would say.
Then came the District Flag. It was overwhelming. Seemingly millions of scouts were camped across thousands of miles. Patrol leaders briefings were complex. I was out my depth. My lack of direction affected the patrol and things became chaotic. By early Saturday it was clear we had little chance of competing never mind winning. Bickering began and my leadership was questioned. Mutiny was pending. I had to act fast to regain control. Meer cats were unheard of then and it was not simples. It was rubix cube, complex but that wasn’t around yet either.
I abandoned the camp tasks and devised unifying objectives. The weather was glorious and on Sunday morning we had our main meal for breakfast and struck camp. We got stuck into the chores everyone had been avoiding. Dishes were done, equipment was stowed and the site was tidied. By midday we had finished our cereal and were lying around sun bathing whilst everyone else was looking for firewood, preparing hot meals and working like Trojans to strike camp by the three o’clock deadline. We were a scouting disaster but we felt superior to everyone and my bunch of misfits had finally bonded as a patrol. My leadership skills improved after that and we even won the monthly patrol shield.
As a detective. I went on to lead men and women on operations across Britain, Europe and beyond. I took part in some of Scotland’s most high profile manhunts. I helped make legal history in Islamabad, I led successful teams in Madrid, Malta and countless locations across Britain and Ireland. My professional training helped but I believe the knowledge of command, group dynamics and man management I acquired as a PL was the foundation for everything else that followed. To quote that Meer cat, “Simples”.