BP, Tramping, Spies and Steam: Steam and Countryside Fair 2019


A clever way to display your Britain’s vintage lead farm, which I spotted  at a recent West Country steam and countryside fair, full of steam traction, threshing machines and vintage tractors.

Rain flap on the gazebo at the front, anti-pilfer netting, caravan at the back.


A  relaxing way to show your treasures.

I was flagging by the time I found this display to chat to the owner (who was no doubt having a cuppa in the back). I was also fending off roving Mad Hatters and White Rabbits on stilts at the time.  Theatricals! But that’s another story …

Here is my Steam Fair Haul 2019: https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/08/21/steam-fair-haul-2019/

Close up – The non-PC rare Village Idiot and the colourful tramp with spotty bundle.

This week I was presented with a little gift from my family who spotted him on  a market stall in town. It was this lovely John Hill / Johillco tramp with red and white spotty  handkerchief.

What could the tramp be in a gaming scenario?


Maybe the tramp is  good cover for a spy, someone from out of town who can come and go, chat to all whilst begging a little bit of  bread and some cheese and slowly gather information without being noticed.

This photo story is inspired by the tiny ‘photo drama’ blog posts of Alan the Tradgardmastre, https://tradgardland.blogspot.com
Allan Tidmarsh at http://dorset1940.blogspot.com/2019/07/something-in-woods.html (Scouts!)
and Tony Kitchen at Tin Soldiering On http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-cunning-plan.html

The tramp is spotted by a passing Boy Scout.  The Boy Scout has noticed this tramp before hanging around near the local aerodrome and army camp.
The scout reports his suspicions to a passing Scoutmaster, who just happens to be Baden Powell. Coincidence?
Hopefully the tramp doesn’t spot Baden Powell or the Boy Scout. Have you spotted them?
Master of self defence, BP is already prepared to tackle this character and will send the Boy Scout for reinforcements as needed.
Before they can arrest him, the tramp rushes into the bushes and with a quick turn of the coat, transforms himself with a quick change into … master of disguise and retired sleuth Sherlock Holmes. He had been testing the security of local defence establishments.

The characters: BP Scoutmaster by Dorset Soldiers, Sherlock Holmes by Tradition and Boy Scout Vintage Britain’s 54mm hollowcast.

I was reminded of the tramp story mentioned in Scouting for Boys Part 1 and also by the final Sherlock Holmes story set in WW1,  His Last Bow.


I was also reminded of Baden Powell’s book My Life As as Spy (1915) published during WW1 where he showed how he concealed maps within nature drawings of leaves, butterflies  and moths when scouting the Balkans in the late Nineteenth Century. Download the book at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15715



Scouting Wide games posts: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/wide-games-scouting-games-page/
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, August 2019.

BP BPS Blog Post Script
Maudlin Jack Tar and Ian Joppy Jopson commented on the tramp espionage angle and tramp signs: here is the tramp signs published in the 1908 Scouting for Boys and 1912 Girl Guide handbook How Girls Can Help to Build Up The Empire.

The Girl Guide version 1912 has the added safety warning for unchaperoned young lady Scouts: “Be cautious in asking the way. Passers-by will often tell you wrong, and if an enemy, they would purposefully mislead you.”

Designed as a universal language of scouting, mention is made of hostile and ‘Foreign Scouts’ or Guides were presumably other patrols from out of area rather than overseas ones.

The “I have gone home sign” (circle with a central dot) is touchingly inscribed or carved on the gravestone of Baden Powell (d.1941) and his wife Olave (died 1977/78) in Kenya.


Excellent article mentioned by Alan Gruber on the Spycyclist stories and rumours of the late 1930s attached to wandervogeling Hitler Youth (which took over ‘officially’ from prewar German scouting) visiting Britain on supposedly friendly visits to British scout groups. Surely some game scenarios there!


10 thoughts on “BP, Tramping, Spies and Steam: Steam and Countryside Fair 2019”

  1. Lovely tramp figure, a most kind gift. I have a very battered and broken version of him minus his handkerchief filled with all his worldly goods and with a hole in the side. Awaiting tlc as I type. The garden photos are very effective and the tale is told well with an ending l certainly did not expect. I feel this figure will be most useful in all sorts of games.


    1. Thanks Alan. Your tramp figure should be a relatively easy repair using green stuff or other filling stuff – I fill up body cavity holes with hot glue gun but mind your fingers, the figures heats up fast! You can then cover with masking tape sealed in place with (super) glue over the hole then repaint.

      Drill and insert wire or pin to fit the sticks then polymer clay or tissue paper round a small sphere or bead for the tramp bag. It is an absurdly big spotty parcel, almost a stolen Christmas pudding or hidden cartoon comic big black ‘Bomb’ from Road Runner, Inspector Clouseau (in which case, a “berm”) or The Goon Show.

      Alternatively he would also make a good trapper, scout in overcoat etc if you repaired the swag bag as a rifle?


    1. I thought the gentleman or lady behind this Vintage farm Toys display had a really good idea for a simple display, well themed to the country fair / vintage / nostalgia and hopefully easy set up and strike at the end of the day. I wonder if it is slightly different each day? Hopefully next year I might get a chance to chat to them.


  2. Found this on the web today,Guardian l think,most interesting.
    Second world war
    Spyclists: how Hitler Youth’s cycling tours caused panic in prewar Britain
    Nazis’ bid to forge ties with Lord Baden-Powell and boy scouts rang government alarm bells
    Owen Bowcott
    Mon 8 Mar 2010 01.11 GMT First published on Mon 8 Mar 2010 01.11 GMT

    Cycling tours by Hitler Youth groups and Nazi attempts to establish close links with the Boy Scout movement caused a security panic in prewar Britain, according to MI5 files released today.

    Police officers were alerted to monitor German students on bicycle holidays in the late 1930s as they stopped at schools, Rotary clubs, factories and church services.

    An effusively amicable meeting between Lord Baden-Powell, head of the Scout movement, and Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador, rang even louder alarm bells in Whitehall.

    Fears that these “spyclists” were on clandestine reconnaissance rides first emerged in spring 1937, triggering concern at the highest levels of the security service as the arms race with Nazi Germany intensified.

    Many of the letters requesting surveillance that have now been released to the National Archives at Kew are by Sir Vernon Kell, who was director-general of MI5 at the time.

    Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
    Read more
    Anxiety about the activities of the Hitler Youth movement coincided with the appearance in Britain of one of its most senior figures, Jochen Benemann, who had been sent to London in 1937, ostensibly to study English. His post was routinely opened and copied by British intelligence officers.


    The term “spyclists” was initially coined in an excitable Daily Herald article. Delving into its source, intelligence officers discovered it came from an anti-fascist freelance writer in Prague who based his story on an item in the German Cyclist magazine.

    “Impress on your memory the roads and paths, villages and towns, outstanding church towers and other landmarks so that you will not forget them,” the magazine item suggested. “Make a note of the names of places, rivers, seas and mountains. Perhaps you should be able to utilise these sometime for the benefit of the Fatherland … Wade through fords so that you will be able to find them in the dark.”

    An MI5 officer described these as “alleged instructions to Nazi parties cycling in foreign countries”. Requests went out to chief constables asking police officers to report on any German cycling parties.

    One of Kell’s letters, sent to Grimsby, said: “We have received information that a party of young Germans [are] due to arrive [and] are intending to bicycle to London by easy stages. Should they pass through your area we should be interested in any details you can let us have about the route they follow.”

    Police superintendent T Dawson informed the security service from Spalding, Lincolnshire, that: “At about 4pm on Friday the 16th July, I saw a party of seven young men cycling along the Boston to Spalding main road … These young men were dressed in shorts with jackets, each off them had what appeared to be a food can strapped on the carriers at the rear of their cycles. I feel confident they were German subjects. I did not speak to any of them.”

    A newspaper story from the Boston and Spalding Free Press, included in the MI5 files, recorded the party’s reception at a Rotary club dinner. Other cycling parties were monitored.

    The Home Office also informed MI5 it was worried about “Nazi youths foregathering with Boy Scouts”. Kell wrote back that he had learned that “the Tamworth Boy Scout troup is to take part in a Hitler Jugend [Youth] camp near Hamburg”.

    There were reports of German students carrying cameras on visits to steelworks in Sheffield and singing German songs in a church in Dalston.

    The arrival of Hartmann Lauterbacher, deputy leader of the Hitler Youth movement, in November 1937 raised the level of anxiety. Lauterbacher and Benemann were present when Baden-Powell was invited to the German embassy. The chief scout’s gushing letter of thanks and a report to the Scout movement were handed to MI5 – presumably by another Scouting official – and are preserved in the files. Baden-Powell’s letter to Ribbentrop said: “I sincerely hope that we shall be able to give expression to [co-operation] through the youth on both sides.”

    In his letter to Scouting colleagues, Baden-Powell revealed he had been invited to visit Hitler in Germany and added: “Both Lauterbacher and Benemann are most anxious that the Scouts should come into closer touch with the youth movement in Germany.

    “I had a long talk with the ambassador who was very insistent that the true peace between the two nations will depend on the youth being brought up on friendly terms together in forgetfulness of past differences … Ribbentrop seemed very much in earnest and was a charming man to talk to. I knew his uncle in India who was head of the woods and forests there.”

    A ban on Scouts wearing uniforms on visits to Germany would be lifted, the chief scout added. It had been imposed because the “Socialist press” made difficulties about a scout troop being present at “a fascist demonstration in Germany”.

    Shortly afterwards Baden-Powell left to visit South Africa and an MI5 officer went to talk to the Scouting movement. He advised that they might want to “discuss the issues with someone in the government”. Lord Cranborne, then a Dominions Office minister, subsequently discouraged the idea of closer links between the Hitler Youth and Boy Scout movements.

    While in Britain Lauterbacher also toured Eton and the army school of physical training in Aldershot. Lieutenant Colonel TH Wand-Tetley, its commander, submitted a report to “Box 500”, the old term for MI5.

    “I piloted the party around the school myself and showed them our normal work and later gave them lunch at the officers’ club,” Wand‑Tetley said.

    “They expressed no opinions in regard to youth movements but seemed very interested in the technique of our training. I noted that their party smoked and drank double whiskies and I wondered whether they did this with the Hitler Youth.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This subject (spyclists) was mentioned on a recent TV series about (I think) appeasement and the rise of Hitler. I can’t for the life of me remember the title.
      Didn’t proper tramps (gentlemen of the road) have a series of signs they could chalk onto gateposts leaving messages for others? I.E., keep away,large dog – will give food but make you work – soft touch – etc. Easy to make these into ‘dead drop’ signs.


      1. Interesting game hidden events or aims. Tramp signs were I think part of the inspiration for some of the Patrol signs chalked up by Scouts and guides, along with blazing trees with a bark cut, tying grass, pointing arrows with stones and sticks etc. I shall add the Scouting for Boys illustration at the bottom of the original post.


    2. Fabulous – I love the send to MI5 via “Box 500” bit.
      There must be some (Wide) game scenarios here.
      These friendly visits by Ribbentrop and other high and low ranking Germans happened in my part of the West Country including navy cadet training visits to ports and harbours such as Falmouth (including the Shleschwig Holstein) . In hindsight they were a perfect opportunity for gathering information as well as forging international contacts and friendships.
      I’m sure British intelligence had the same idea of surveillance in late 1930s Germany. Recent book out in paperback on the British travellers, tourists and social and educational exchange visits to Germany in the run up to 1939.


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