The Relief of Mafeking
Night Exercises by the Patrols of Troop 3

The following is a description of an exciting and successful night hike that our troop, Troop 3 (formerly Troop 575) of Cincinnati, Ohio, developed and executed on the night of Friday, February 23, 1996. The idea came from the attached reprint of an article from the magazine THE LEADER, February, 1992 issue. I downloaded this reprint from Compuserve compliments of Raymond Burett/NJ. This material, which described a camporee setting,was adapted and enhanced for our troop's use by Mr. Terry Eby, our outstanding Assistant Scoutmaster. Terry prepared detailed plans and documentation for this event that are contained below.

The main goals of the event was to have fun, learn a little about the origins of Scouting, and to develop patrol spirit while using basic Scoutcraft skills. There were only two patrols in our troop at the time, with 8 members of each in attendance. We used 7 adults to run all the obstacles (events) and to man the cabin in case of emergencies. Each adult (referred to as "advance scouts" ran 1 or 2 obstacles in leapfrog fashion. The obstacle was essentially a camporee style patrol competition conducted at night with each patrol traveling from station to station. The theme was the defense and relief of Mafeking, the pivotal event in the Boer Wars that made Baden-Powell famous and therefore capable of founding the worldwide Scouting movement.

The overall schedule consisted of the following:

Training at troop meeting(s) prior weeks
Site layout and mapping prior weekend
Arrival at cabin and preparations7:30 p.m.
Reading of B-P's Camp Fire Yarn No. 1 and briefing 9:00 p.m.
Final patrol preparations9:15 p.m.
First patrol/personal inspections and orders issued9:20 p.m.
First patrol starts9:30 p.m.
Second patrol/personal inspections and orders issued 9:35 p.m.
Second patrol starts 9:45 p.m.
First patrol arrives at cabin (15 minutes for each of 11 obstacles)12:30 a.m.
Second patrol arrives at cabin (15 minutes for each of 11 obstacles)12:45 a.m.
Soup and hot chocolate served until taps at2:00 a.m.
Reveille and remainder of weekend's program (gourmet cooking) 10:00 a.m.
Award Ceremony at campfire Saturday night
INCIDENT ON A LONDON STREET ­­ 1908 campfire skit Saturday night

Safety Considerations

Our two major concerns with this event were the weather (it was February in Ohio) and the potential of a Scout or Scouts getting lost. As for the weather, the troop was camping that particular weekend at Governor Bebb Park in a cabin that provided warmth before and after the event. Second, detailed patrol and personal inspections were conducted at the start of the event. Third, the Scouts were out of contact with an adult for no more than 10 minutes and the Patrol Leader was required to report the condition of his patrol at each station. The event would have been shortened if weather conditions had required it. Fourth, the Scouts were allowed to stop at each obstacle for no more than 10 minutes and required about 2-3 miles of hiking. Finally, we were lucky with a dry but very windy 50 degree (F) night.

The danger of getting lost was controlled again by the patrol reports at each station, where the "tail end charlie" was required to second the patrol leader's report of "all present." Second, each patrol was provided with three different maps of the park. Third, the park was only 174 acres of woods surrounded by farmland. It would be hard not to notice leaving the park. Fourth, many of the older Scouts were very familiar with the park. Finally, patrol discipline was emphasized and graded. This kept everything working very well. The intense competition caused the one patrol that did take a wrong turn to quickly discover and correct its error.

Advance Patrol Preparations and Training

Each patrol was given the following information at a troop meeting prior to the event:

  • Patrol Breakdown
  • Patrol Equipment Checklist
  • Personal Inspection Checklist

The Patrol Breakdown was given to each patrol about a month before the event. This gave them some good hints as to what skills would be required. It allowed all the patrol members to begin getting involved. The patrol leaders were required submit a duty roster, filling each position.

The only "new skill" that the troop provided training for prior to the event was for Survival Climb obstacle that required the ladder lashing illustrated in the Nov-Dec 1995 edition of BSA's SCOUTING magazine. This skill was taught, practiced, and a patrol competition game was conducted to insure that one or more members of each patrol were able to build the required ladder. Other more standard skills, such as first aid, were also practiced during the preceding weeks.

Each patrol was expected to gather the required equipment prior to the event and to make the assignments described in the Patrol Breakdown listing. The patrols were given a simple listing of all events and each specialist within the patrol was expected Be Prepared!

Staff Preparations

Since all of the troop's youth members were involved in the event (even the SPL who was still considered a member of a patrol), all obstacles were run by adult Scouters who were referred to as "advance scouts." Binders with waterproof sleeves were prepared for each advance scout that contained all the information he required, including maps, trail guide, a listing of all 11 obstacles, and the "field orders" that were to be given to the patrol leader at each obstacle.

The Trail Guide, a simple orienteering course with stops for each obstacle, was prepared the weekend before the event. This required a trip to the site for several hours to map out all the details. Each advance scout was briefed in the weeks prior to the event and was able to prepared as required. On the night of the event, each advance scout was given his binder and final preparations were made just prior to the briefing of the Scouts. While the patrols were being inspected and issued orders, the advance scouts proceeded to their posts on the trail.


Judging was not formally structured prior to the event. Most events were timed to the second and the results were recorded. Quality factors were also recorded for each event. The patrols observed and evaluated on their use of the patrol method. After the event, the results from each station were tabulated and a consensus was reached by all the advance scouts and Terry Eby, who had the final say. A special award ceremony was conducted during the troop campfire the following night.

Briefing and Getting Started

To start the event, the Scoutmaster conducted a relatively serious reading of B-P's Camp Fire Yarn No.1, Mafeking Boy Scouts, around the cabin's large fireplace. This was followed by a briefing by the Terry Eby, the Assistant Scoutmaster. At the end of the briefing, a square knot speed tying contest was designed to determine which patrol goes first. We ended up using the best patrol cheer as the determining factor instead.

After the briefing the first patrol was given a few minutes to get everything together and assemble. At that time the patrol equipment and personal equipment was inspected. The patrol was then issued a packet that contained:

  • Maps of the area
  • General Orders
  • Trail Guide

The patrol then marched off with minimal flashlights and minimal talking and noise (this was a "Scouting" adventure after all). The second patrol followed this sequence 15 minutes later.

The Obstacles

Here are some notes about the trail and each obstacle. Please refer to the Trail Guide and the Field Orders.

1. The "minefield" was about 20 yards of mud. The Scouts were expected to cross while carrying all their equipment using two 8 foot long 2x4's with ropes attached. Two trips were required.
2. The numbered "points" that are referred to on the Trail Guide were markers for a nature trail. The Scouts were allowed to help each other with the knots, but all Scouts were required to lean back on the knots that were tied.
3. Once the ladder was built, all the patrol members had to climb it to get out of a real ditch.
4. The "enemy camp" was an early 19th century log cabin village with about a dozen log cabin and out-buildings. The "spy" was lying in an old wagon in the village when the patrols passed through. A map of the village was drawn from memory by each patrol when they reached the old covered bridge (a real one).
5. This station was a simple Kim's Game - list all the items that you were allowed to look at for only a brief period. Items used included some antique Scouting equipment.
6. The bushwhack (no trail) down the hill to this station was tricky, but everything went well. A flashlight was occasionally turned on by the advance scout to provide some guidance. The victim was carried about 100 feet over moderately rough terrain (off the trail).
7. The "old fort" was a wooden platform with a roof that was used during the summer for band concerts. No adult was present when the Scouts measured the height and width.
8. This was the only event that was planned but was not executed as planned due to a lack of adults. Frankly, we weren't sure how it was going to work anyway. Refer to PROJECT 2 ­ SEARCHLIGHT GAUNTLET in the attached article from THE LEADER for the general idea. What we did instead is evaluate the patrols' ability to minimize noise and flashlight use along the trail.
9. The fire building was going to be a fire by friction contest, but turned out to be a typical burn-the-string fire building contest. One patrol built a nice fire but were unable to burn the string due to the high winds.
10. The compass course only had about 6 points and was laid out in a small field not much over 100 feet across.
11. The night was cloudless, so both patrols easily found north. They ended up making a north arrow with their Scout staves. If it had been cloudy, they should have been able to find north by orienting one of their maps.


Terry Eby was not an "advance scout", but played the role of "spy" throughout the event. He roamed the entire course but never revealed his location to the patrols, even though they walked directly below him one time when he decided to climb a tree along the trail. In this way, he was able to keep an eye on the patrols, evaluate their performance, and coordinate the activities of the adult advance scouts.


This event turned out to be one of the best of the year. When the Scouts returned to the cabin around 1:00 a.m., they were tired and chilly but extremely pumped up. It took more than an hour for them to settle down and go to sleep. The best thing about it from my perspective was the promotion of the patrol method. Both patrols worked very well together. This was the closest that we had come up to that time to the text book patrol method. The ultimate complement that the Scouts paid the event was to schedule it again for the following year.

This web page was written by Bob Myers, Committee Member, Troop 3, Cincinnati, Ohio
with web authoring assistance by Michael F. Bowman, USSSP Web Team

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