Stuart Clarke
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Stuart Clarke - Devon on Ashburton, 1968

I took away a strong sense of achievement & pride as well as learning principles to live by...

So much has happened in my life since I spent a month at the Ashburton Outward Bound Centre (Mountain School), Devon, when I was 19/20 in '68/'69 ( I think!)

Firstly I got married a year later in 1970, and am still married, with three grown up sons.

Secondly, instead of continuing my career as a carpenter and joiner, I eventually became a Baptist Minister in 1976, and have ministered in East London, Leicestershire, Pennsylvania, St Leonards-on-Sea and Plymouth.

Thirdly, I still wear my OB badge with a strong sense of achievement and pride. I have used the motto 'To serve, to strive and not to yield' on many occasions - in talks to adults and children alike. The crest hangs on the wall in my office this very day, as it has since I returned home with it all those years ago.

Fourthly, I still use many of the principles I learnt on the course, not least the one that taught me to, 'Always look after the person just behind me and ensure their welfare'....

I well remember, whilst on the course, wishing that the chap in front of me had applied it whilst we were experiencing the delights of potholing. I was a member of the Drake Patrol, and we had cycled to a particular place and dismounted; within minutes we were exploring underground, and somehow I ended up as 'last man'.

A few of the lads had lanterns, but it was deemed unnecessary for the last man to need one - apparently, all he had to do was look up the line and observe the lanterns ahead of him. About halfway through the exercise, we appeared to reach a 'wall' of rock, with a small opening about 5-6 feet above ground level. We were ordered through this opening, so number 2 helped number 1 up into the opening, number 3 helped number 2, number 4 helped number 3, etc... I obviously, therefore helped number 11, who, incidentally, had a lantern with him, and once he was up into the opening, he moved ahead to catch up with the rest of the patrol - and left me totally alone and in darkness!

I suspect it was sheer panic that enabled me to hurl myself up, in and through that opening - after a few abortive and scary attempts!

Eventually, I caught up with the patrol, and have to admit, that I gave number 11 a few sharp words of 'advice'!

All told, the four weeks were an incredible experience and privilege and I find that I am grateful on a daily basis, even after all these years, for the life-skills and character-building that I experienced.

And finally.... Another story from those heady days!

True training for leadership, ownership and responsibility...

It concerns the Final Expedition; our team of four were dropped by coach about 70 miles away from the base, in torrential rain. We were given our first map co-ordinates and a 'clue' to guide us, and off we set. Within seconds we were soaked through and cold. The pressure of having to return to base within three days by a certain time in the afternoon was scary, which intensified when our team leader went sick - I think he was suffering with hypothermia - less than 24 hours into the expedition. I broke the rules and telephoned the base, but was basically told to get on with it! So we pooled our very meagre finances and almost carried our leader to a village where we found a small cafe; here we bought him some hot food, which seemed to help him. I then took charge and we tried our best to reach all the map co-ordinates that had been designated to us. When I realised we were running out of time, I decided we'd skip a couple of these references and just try and get back in time....which we did with about an hour and a half to spare. It was a very special moment to be awarded our badges for completing the Final Expedition, something I'll never forget.

(Stuart kindly posted us this story and we have uploaded it to the website with his permission.)
Posted: 24/11/2009