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August 2-15, 1933: 4th World Jamboree in Gödöllő

Map of the Jamboree site at Gödöllő

August 2-15, 1933: 4th World Jamboree in Gödöllő

Erika Papp Faber 

In order to popularize Scouting, the leaders decided, in 1913, on a momentous undertaking:  105 Scouts would make a river expedition on the Vág River, from Kralován to Komárom (both in Slovakia since the Treaty of Trianon, 1920), a distance of over 300 kilometers, on a group of six rafts.  The trip took 17 days, and included Scouts from Budapest and a dozen other cities. It was a feat that demanded know-how and perseverance, especially since it  rained for the first 10 days of the trip, causing the river to overflow its banks in many places.

The expedition achieved its purpose: Scouting became popular and accepted.  During World War I, Scout leaders – as thousands of others – were drafted into military service, many  of them giving their lives, while the young members volunteered their services at hospitals and railway stations, collected funds for the wounded and helped in the resettlement of refugees from the areas cut off by the Treaty of Trianon.  By accepting boys of every level of society, the Scouting movement broke down social barriers and religious and class distinctions. 

Hungarian Scouts took part in the 1924 Copenhagen Jamboree, patterned after the Olympic Games,  where they acquitted themselves admirably.  In 1926, the first national Hungarian Jamboree was held at Megyer, a site that was flooded by the Danube 10 days before the opening.  The organizers had to scramble to plan and install new water supply lines, and other essential services.

The Third World Jamboree was held at Birkenhead near Liverpool, England, in 1929, where the contingent of 852 Hungarian Scouts won the admiration and respect of the British public and of Scouts around the  world. When the time came for the Fourth World Jamboree, this is the way Scouting in Hungary by Gábor Bodnár describes it:

”The conference in Baden, Austria, awarded the privilege of organizing the Fourth World Jamboree to Hungary.  The Hungarian Scouts were pleased and proud to have been chosen.  Hurdles were overcome despite the world economic depression because of the expertise of Antal Papp, the new president of the Association, and former Secretary of Financial Affairs of Hungary, who directed fiscal planning and management...

”The preparatory work spanned two years and involved many of the most experienced leaders of the Association... All basic requisites for a good site existed near Gödöllő, 20 miles from the capital, where the park and gardens of the government-owned castle were made available to the Scouts.  Facilities consisted of a large, shaded, level area that could accommodate 30,000 campers, with provisions for drinking water, transportation, and nearby food supplies... Building and construction work at the site included the drilling of wells, the building of roads, and the training of the service troop that would be responsible for camp security and fire and water safety.  

“Information of potential foreign visitors began early, in order to assure the representation of as many nations as possible.  Public relations in Hungary made people aware of the extent and importance of the camp.  Each foreign Scout delegation would be invited to visit a Hungarian Scout troop of its choice in its home environment, in order to provide further opportunities for making friends.  Thus, visitors could meet the ‘average’ Hungarian Scouts and see that the Scouts at Gödöllő were not showpiece participants.

“As the Jamboree was about to start, Scout delegations from abroad were met at the border and escorted by Scouts to the camp.  Twenty-six thousand Scouts from 54 nations assembled at the opening pageant of the Jamboree on August 3, 1933...

“The success of the Jamboree, praised widely in the press abroad, attested to the thoroughness of preparation by Hungarian leaders and Scouts and to the support of the Hungarian public.  Favorable weather also helped.

“The Jamboree newspaper called the chief of staff, Ferenc Farkas, the invisible power plant of the camp.  He indeed played this role.  He was responsible for food, lodging, entertainment, and generally the well-being of 30,000 people. The service troop under his supervision consisted of 485 Scoutmasters, 499 Rover Scouts, and 1,265 Scouts.  Special dietary needs of various foreign groups, such as the Muslims and Hindus, were considered. 

“The Jamboree was subdivided into 10 sub-camps, in addition to several special sub-camps accommodating visiting Scouts, Cub Scouts, Air Scouts, foreign Scout leader delegations, and Sea and River Scouts.  There was even a sub-camp for deaf-mute Scouts.

“A committee, composed of 38 Budapest Girl Guides who spoke altogether 17 languages, was of assistance, visiting participants who fell ill during the Jamboree and had to be taken to clinics in Budapest; fortunately, only 14 Scouts needed such services.

“The Hungarian postal services issued a series of special stamps in honor of the Jamboree, among them the first air-mail Scout stamps ever issued.  The Jamboree mail service handled almost half a million letters.  Hungarian radio broadcast 80 programs relating to the Jamboree and forwarded thousands of personal messages.  Railway transportation was efficient.  During the 10 days of the Jamboree, 844 special trains passed through the station at Gödöllő.

”The press ervice published 20,000 daily copies of the 24-page Magyar Cserkész (Hungarian Scout).  Every page carried articles and captions in English, French, German, Polish and Hungarian.  The paper contained, in addition to the articles published simultaneously in several languages, a ’national corner’ in which each national delegation, regardless of its size, could communicate in its own language.  Some of these articles had to be prepared as plates, because the printer was not equipped with Arabic or Sanskrit  type. The goal of the paper was to appeal to everybody.  It was a success, albeit costly in terms of man-hours of the editorial staff...

”The shopping district of the camp (Scout exhibitions, theater, bank) was designed to serve 30,000 inhabitants and 40,000-50,000 daily visitors... The exhibition was housed in three sizable halls. The displays were handled by a special section of the service troop, who spent five days setting up the exhibition.  Two of the halls were filled with Hungarian materials, while the third contained exhibits from about 20 foreign countries.

”In accordance with the Scout laws, religious observances constituted an important part of the camp.  Christian church services were led by bishops, and senior ministers of the various denominations were represented.  Jewish services were held. The Muslim rites were led by their high priest.  The Muslim participants initially wanted to hold their services in a secluded clearing in the woods. They objected to photography; two films had to be destroyed to comply with their request."

William Hillcourt, training leader of the US contingent, wrote in The 1933 Scout Jamboree Book: ”But it is impossible to describe all the beautiful work of the Hungarian Scouts. Suffice it to say that they had done their best – and that their best was excellent.”

”Colonel John S. Wilson, former Director of the Boy Scouts International Bureau, also recounted several episodes of the Jamboree in Scouting Round the World: ’The language of our hosts, Magyar, is known to very few outside Hungary, with the possible exception of Estonia and Finland.  Language difficulties were overcome by ’Jamborese’, by a Scout dictionary in English, French, German and Hungarian, and by an interpreters’ corps of ’Cousins’ attached to each contingent and available day and night’”...

”In addition to its importance for Hungary, the Jamboree was a cross section of world Scouting.  The 30,000 participants represented 5 continents, 14 religions, 30 languages and 54 nationalities..."

We close this remembrance with a quote from Chief Scout Baden-Powell’s farewell speech:

“’Each one of you wears the badge of the White Stag of Hungary... The Hungarian hunters of old pursued this miraculous Stag, not because they expected to kill it, but because it led them on in the joy of the chase to new trails and fresh adventures and so to capture happiness.  You can look at that White  Stag as the pure spirit of Scouting, springing forward and upward, ever leading you onward and upward to leap over difficulties, to face new adventures in your active pursuit of the higher aims of Scouting – aims which bring you happiness.

“’Those aims are to do your duty wholeheartedly to God, to your country, and to your fellow men by carrying out the Scout Law.  In that way you will, each one of you, be helping to bring about God’s kingdom upon earth – the reign of peace and goodwill...’”

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