I read Mihir Bose’s article in the Independent on the 26th inst. I read this in the BBC news on the 30th. I just could not resist the temptation to ask my brother Barath who is a naturalized Brit as to what is going on!
Barath being the only Duke of Edinburgh Medal winner that I have ever known, I thought that his views on the subject should be worth a read. What I did not realize was the depth of emotions that the subject would evoke.
He has written a guest post on the subject, which I find fascinating and am sure that my readers would do too. So, without further ado, here is his response.
“I first participated in the DOE award scheme back in the early sixties after my arrival from India as a callow 16 year old youth. I was befriended by an engaging Scot called Fred with whom I commenced a five year apprenticeship in Edinburgh.
Being befriended by that worthy has taught me a lot about how the Scots are a misrepresented race not only as being represented by the English as carrying a chip on each shoulder, and being mean. Without any reservations, let me first of all state that the Scots as a race are not at all mean in the sense of being stingy with their money, they are what I would call as being “careful” with their money which means that they spend it on important issues , not frivolously. Secondly, a more welcoming race who befriended an alien and made him feel at home tells me that they have no chip on any shoulder, and it is entirely due to that friend that I joined the Boys Brigade which was a competitor for the Scouts organisation, but more orientated to promoting the life of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.
It is under the banner of the Boys Brigade that I was made aware of the Duke of Edinburgh award system, and I first participated in the Silver section of the award (I was too old by then to have participated in the Bronze) in 1968, this is important in the context of the furore currently surrounding the Prince’s comments, on the excitement of the danger of death associated with the 3 day hike which forms part of the gold award.
The Duke of Edinburgh scheme covers many aspects, Life Saving, Fire Brigade education, a hobby of some note (mine was to collect stamps in a formal manner), physical excellence which covers 100m race where a minimum time is required to be met, throwing a ball a minimum distance, Long jump of a minimum distance etc . The main part of the scheme is to make the participant proficient in map reading and becoming self reliant, which means participating in following a pre-determined route, AGREED with a parent body , to hike 15 miles for the bronze with friends in a day, 30 miles for the silver with a fellow award participant for an overnight stay, and finally a hike over 50 miles and over a Munro (a mountain greater than 3000 feet in height) and two overnight stays on your own.
The Bronze award requires, obviously, a less stringent standard, and as the award increases in colour, the standard required becomes more stringent. For instance, I was actually timed in my 100 m race at 10.8 seconds for the gold award in 1969 but the standard required was under 11 seconds. Hence, the hike is quite a high standard to be met, and there are clear dangers present in Scotland if you carry a back pack with a tent and spend two nights in the open in mountainous territory. Bad weather and mist and fog can disorientate a person never mind an 18 year old. This is the danger spoken of by Prince Harry and I have no problem with this view. However, what the Prince failed to outline was the training given to the individual, before he takes on such a task. Clearly, the representative bodies under whose auspices these awards are entered by a participant, spend a lot of time and effort training the worthy in being able to map read, carry the necessary equipment to survive a three day hike, and to recognise where one is and in the old days, we had no GPS system to let us know where we were, we had to rely on reading a 1” map of the area accurately including the contour lines.
However, notwithstanding all the training there is no doubt that this is not a walk in the park, and that there could well be weather related hazards which in the extreme can be fatal. People who underestimate such a hazard would be well advised to stay away from entering such a programme.
Suffice it to say that I was the second Boy in Leith ever to win the Duke of Edinburgh Gold award, and Fred’s parents accompanied me to Hollyrood Palace where I was presented with the Gold award by Prince Phillip and I still have the photograph with my “in loco parentis”. He kindly spent a few minutes chatting to me and asking me if I had enjoyed the programme and I outlined to him the joy I had in participating in the scheme.
It is amusing to read Mihir-Bhose’s version of a party at the Palace where the Duke informed a Gent by the name of Patel that there were several of his relations present there that day, which caused the Gent some concern. I am sure that the Duke has come across many Indians (Rajgopaul must have been a difficult name for him to get to pronounce correctly all those years ago), but as in India, there is an undercurrent of Humour in the UK where all Englishmen are called Smith and a lot of Indians are called Patel, there would be no undercurrent of racial tone in a remark which I am sure the Duke would have made in jest, but in today’s world of political correctness, saying to one’s friends that “the wife is in the kitchen” (which may well be true) is seen a s a Chauvinistic statement. Mr. Bhose, get a life and stick to cricket, you are good at it!!!”
Thank you Barath.