A NIGHT EXERCISE
BY FRED FISHELL AND LINDA FLORENCE
What could be more exciting to a boy than skulking through the
dark doing daring deeds. At the Woodbine Area Camporee last spring,
six 8man patrols made up of patrol leaders and assistant
patrol leaders skulked and dared through a challenging night exercise
to bring relief to Mafeking.
Preparation for the ordeal began with distribution of rules and
equipment lists. Each member of a patrol was assigned a number
from 1 to 8 which he had to pin firmly to his beret so that it
could be easily seen. Nine projects awaited them, and each patrol
member was to assume command of the project corresponding to his
number, while the next man in the numbering system became his
second. On project eight, man #1 was second. For project nine,
worth triple the points of the other projects, the patrol was
directed to elect a leader just before they tackled the task.
Required personal equipment for each boy consisted of a Scout
stave, 25 ft. of rope for lashings, a flashlight, compass, pencil
or pen and paper, and his beret with his number (at least 3"
high) pinned to it. Required patrol equipment was a pocket knife,
wind and waterproof matches, fishline or twine, bandaids,
adhesive tape, electrical tape, a water bottle, a small covered
pot, and an accurate watch or stopwatch capable of timing
up to 30 minutes.
A draw determined the patrols starting order, one by one at intervals
of 2025 minutes (determined through walkie talkie contact
with project leaders on the course), they gathered for a stirring
Your destination is Mafeking. The heroic defenders of this important
outpost of the Empire have their backs to the wall. Unless a flying
column can reach them with ammunition, medical supplies and military
intelligence obtained en route, the garrison is doomed!
"For this hazardous mission, each member of every patrol
has been selected from among the volunteers for his enterprise,
leadership ability and useful skills. To be successful, each patrol
will have to mould itself into an efficient fighting machine which
can operate as a unit and the best use the collective skills of
As soon as the rousing challenge faded into silence, the patrols
submitted to the first inspection, a tally of all personal and
patrol equipment worth 10 points, one of which was deducted for
each missing or unsatisfactory item.
Then they were told to gather a portable bundle of firewood, kindling
and tinder which they believed would provide enough fuel to bring
water to a boil.
And finally. they were issued a detailed map of the route, including
magnetic North and event locations. a block of ice (25 or 50 lbs)
one raw egg: a score card to present at the start and finish of
each project (except project 8). Projects 18 were worth
a maximum of 10 Points. Project 9 could add 30 points to the score.
As the patrols signed in at each project they received another
briefing. This one to prepare them for the immediate task at hand.
The routine changed slightly for project 8 where the necessary
detail was passed along by the leader who signed their project
PROJECT I OBSTACLE COURSE
Patrols had to cross a swamp filled with dangerous quicksand in
order to bypass Boer pickets. The 37th Rover Crew set up a safe
route of balance beams, rubber tires, a rope landing net, etc.
Patrols lost a point for each piece of equipment lost to the quicksand.
PROJECT 2 SEARCHLIGHT GAUNTLET
The Boers, low on troops, had a break in their besieging cordon
at this point but had covered the gap with three searchlights
(powerful flashlights or carbide lamps focused through cardboard
tubes). Two of the lights made a fixed pattern sweeps at regular
intervals. The third was aimed at one spot (where the Boers detected
noise) and came on for five seconds at regular intervals. The
terrain was relatively open, but offered intermittent cover, and
patrols had five minutes to observe and establish the searchlight
pattern before they attempted the crossing. They had to cross
in 15 minutes.
A point was deducted for every man or piece of equipment caught
in the open, and no points were awarded if the crossing took longer
than the time allowed.
PROJECT 3 PASS THE MESSAGE
Two patrol members were established at each of four posts set
at 10 to 15 yard intervals around a circle with a diameter of
approximately 5 yards. No man could leave the circle, and no man
was allowed to shout a message between posts.
The men at Post A learned that trackers discovered traces of a
Boer commando moving towards Mafeking, and established its strength
on the basis of 220 individual pairs of feet (440 feet). Their
duty was to pass the message (By Morse Code or semaphore if they
knew it, or by handwritten note tossed in a shoe or taped to a
pot lid and thrown as a frisbee) to Post B.
The men at the second post, after receiving the message, learned
that twothirds of the enemy force were on horseback. They
had to pass to Post C the strength of the commando in terms of
mounted men and men on foot (88 cavalry, 44 foot).
The men at Post C, after receiving the message, learned that a
quarter of the men on foot were unarmed officer's servants, medics
and kaffir trackers. They passed to Post D message giving the
armed strength of the commando (88 cavalry, 33 infantry).
When the patrol members at Post received this message, they learned
that there was one Corporal, one Sergeant and one Lieutenant for
each 30 foot soldiers, and two Corporals. one Sergeant and one
Lieutenant for each 40 cavalrymen They also learned that every
armed man had a carbine, except for the Lieutenants, who carried
only sabres. Within a time limit of 25 Minutes for the total exercise,
they had to determine the commando's total firepower (the number
of carbines) and report to the intelligence officer at their post
(118 carbines). The paper and pencil certainly came in handy!
PROJECT 4 LEAVE NO TRACE
Here the patrols met another gap in the Boer line which, although
undefended at night, was thoroughly patrolled at daybreak by a
commando with highly experienced Zulu trackers. Any trace left
by the passage of a the patrol meant that they would be overtaken
by a mounted enemy force before they reached Mafeking. Using flashlights,
the patrol tried to make a 10 minute crossing that avoided traps
like unraked patches of sand, piles of stones set in distinct
patterns, and trip wires attached to knockdown stacks. They
lost a point for each mark they left, and a point for each minute
over 10 they used to cross the gap.
PROJECT 5 SPIKE THE GUN
This time it was necessary for patrols to put out of action a
field gun trained on a mountain pass they had to cross. They'd
been given the gun location, and an idea of the perimeter beyond
which they'd be safe from defenders of the gun. To spike the gun,
a patrol member had to reach the gun circle without losing his
beret to a defender.
The attacking patrol lost points for each beret snatched by defenders.
No points were awarded after 20 minutes or if an attacker removed
his own beret to avoid capture.
PROJECT 6 MANEATING TORTOISES
Patrols crossed a part of the veldt notorious for dangerous maneating
tortoises. Fortunately the maneaters were slow movers so
that the men had two minutes warning of their approach. Fortunately
also, the miserable creatures couldn't climb, could reach no further
than two feet above the ground with his beak. Unfortunately, once
the maneaters treed a victim, the only way to drive them
off was with boiling water.
When the patrol heard the warning rattle they had to move all
members least two feet off the ground and start to boil water.
Project leaders (tortoises in disguise) verified the safety of
the patrol members, deducting a point for each dead man. Two points
were deducted if the patrol didn't manage to boil water within
20 minutes of hearing the rattle.
PROJECT 7 FIRST AID
Patrols were surprised by Boer howitzer fire and man #6 was hit.
The other men administered first aid for a gaping wound on the
calf of his right leg, and for shrapnel he caught in his stomach.
Then, because he was in very bad shape, they had to improvise
a stretcher and VERY GENTLY transport the casualty to a nearby
British Forces Hospital (pointed out by staff). To verify
the gentleness of handling during transfer, they placed a raw
egg under the head of the casualty.
Patrols paid penalties of:
3 points for a broken egg (even if the disaster occurred before
they reached this project);
4 points for a stretcher collapse;
6 points for no stretcher;
2 points for failure to apply pressure to the wound;
1 point for giving water to a casualty with an abdominal wound.
(At one point in the game, a project leader whispered to the casualty
to ask a patrol member for water).
Then, before moving on, the patrol received the following instructions
PROJECT 8 OBSERVATION
"This is an enemy project. You will observe a table with
a Coleman lantern on it. One of the patrol members must elude
the defenders and reach the circle without losing his beret. As
soon as one member has safely reached the circle, you'll hear
a whistle. At this point all your casualties will revive and you'll
all approach the table. On it you will find a display of toy soldiers
or a picture representing the Boer field force. You'll also be
shown the location of the nearest British telegraph office (5075
yards away) where you will file your intelligence report.
"You'll have three minutes to observe the display and get
safely to the telegraph office. After three minutes a whistle
will sound and the defenders may once again kill you by snatching
your beret, even if you are within the circle. A man who's killed
cannot make a report. Reports shouted with one's dying breath
will lose all points! "This is considered a desperate sortie.
Casualties are expected and will not count against your patrol
unless all are killed in the attempt. Points are awarded for information
retrieved. There will be 10 items on the table. You'll receive
half a point for naming each item, and another half point for
a correct answer to a question about each item. The PL must decide
how many should take a quick peek and hightail it safely to the
telegraph office, and who, if anyone, should stay for a longer
look and then run the gauntlet to report.
PROJECT 9 PIONEERING
In order that the garrison at Mafeking would know help was on
its way, patrols had to fire a beacon to a height of at least
3 yards above grade. They had 30 minutes to erect a beacon and
devise a remote firing method that allowed them to light the thing
within 10 or 20 seconds of the firing signal. They used the equipment
they'd brought with them, and a tin of sand and gasoline provided
to them on site. They gained a maximum of 15 points for the structure,
5 points for the firing device, and 10 points for organization,
ingenuity and spirit.
And so they relieved Mafeking, but the total success of the venture
had yet to be determined. Back again at the starting line, ice
blocks were either weighed or melted down in a bucket and the
volume of water judged. The biggest block took 15 points, the
second 10 points, and the third five.
Eggs were examined. A perfect raw earned egg (cracked after inspection
to ensure it hadn't been blown or boiled) earned 15 points; a
cracked but unbroken egg took 10; and a broken egg or piece thereof
took 5 points or fewer.
From 9:30 pm Saturday to 3:30 am Sunday makes quite a night's
adventure, but he boys met the challenge and the leaders who made
it possible found even further reward later that morning. They
stayed bunked down while someone else cooked the breakfast.
Contributor's Note: This is a reprint of an article from the February,
1992 magazine THE LEADER. I picked it up at Philmont where I was
teaching a class "Working with Junior Leaders". This
Camporee was also run by the York, PA Council. They did a great
patch.. All black with a moon and flashlight, etc. very
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