Wisbech scout leader receives Queen's honour for 60 years of dedication to scouting
Saturday was a right royal occasion for a Wisbech Scout Leader who has dedicated over 75 years to the scouting movement.
Eighty-six-year-old Brian Sleight finally received the British Empire Medal he was awarded by the Queen in her birthday honours in 2019 at a presentation attended by over 80 scouts past and present, as well as his two sons and daughter-in-law.
Brian, a former geography teacher at both Wisbech Grammar and Spalding Grammar Schools,was presented with his long awaited medal by Toby Dennis, the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, who handed it over on behalf of the Queen.
The ceremony was aptly held in a marquee in the grounds of the Robert Hall Centre in St Augustine’s Road, Wisbech, where Brian has been in charge of the 3rd Wisbech Scouts for 60 years, only handing over the mantel of Scout Leader in August this year.
His scouting days started at the age of eight when he was a member of Holbeach scouts. He started his time leading scout groups when he was doing his National Service, helping out with Grantham scouts,
He later went on to run the Fleet Scout Troop, which is now defunct.
Brian, whose late wife Diana ran the Broad Street Methodist Brownies group in Spalding, where the couple lived with their two sons Simon and Stephen, was thrilled to receive the honour and commented: “I can’t believe how heavy the medal is.”
He said Saturday was a day full of familiar faces with past scouts attending, including some of the original scouts from his first days as the 3rd Wisbech Scout leader.
Brian explained he fell into being the troop’s leader when a group of his pupils at the Wisbech Grammar School approached him to take on the role telling him that otherwise the group would close.
He said: “They knew I was a Scout leader at Fleet and approached me about taking on the 3rd Wisbech Scouts on a temporary basis. I agreed and ended up being there for 60 years. At one time I was running both the Fleet and the Wisbech groups, but it became a bit too much, so I gave up the Fleet group and stuck with Wisbech scouts.”
Brian said he loved every minute of his time with the scouts, leading annual camping trips to places across the country where the scouts could not only enjoy the experience of life under canvas, but also take on challenges like mountaineering. He even took his scouts to Norway where they could tackle the highest mountain in Northern Europe - Galdhoopiggen.
Bicycle raft building, gardening and camp fires were all part of the fun enjoyed by Brian’s scouts and it was for his total dedication to the movement that saw a number of his former scouts, including Chris Farr, Chris Clarke and John Greenhall, nominate him for the honour.
Chris Farr and John were among those who attended the ceremony, with John travelling all the way from Bournemouth to be present.
Also at the ceremony was the Cambridgeshire Commissioner for Scouts Chris Ward.
Linda Wales, the assistant scout leader for the 3rd Wisbech Scouts who helped organise Saturday’s event, which also included the presentation of Scouting’s top honour - the Queen’s Scout Award - to Richard Noot-Davies, said the day was perfect.
She said: “The weather was perfect for us to hold the ceremony outdoors in a marquee. We felt it was quite apt to have it in a marquee, which is essentially a big tent, because of how much Brian loved camping trips.
“I know Brian really enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces although I think it was also quite overwhelming for him. He has led the 3rd Wisbech Scouts for over 60 years and even led a camping trip before lockdown.
“This summer saw him handover the running of the group to one of our scouts Alex Payne. But that did not stop Brian from joining us on this year’s summer camp at Wolverton. It was a five day camp in August and Brian came along for one of the days insisting on enjoying the full experience including singing round the camp fire in the evening - it is mark of his dedication to scouting and he is very worthy of the honour he has been given.”