On Saturday the 3rd August 1912, the 2nd Walworth Troop of five adults and twenty-four young scouts sailed from Waterloo Bridge for Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey. They moored at Erith for the night and set off again early the next morning. The scouts were in sight of their camp, when, two miles off the coast, a sudden squall, caught and capsized them. Because of several acts of selfless heroism, (especially by their scoutmaster, Sydney Marsh), many lives were saved, but eight scouts and Frank Masters from the training ship Arethusa were drowned. The tragic loss of such young lives struck a chord with the nation and Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, arranged for a destroyer to transport the bodies back to London. 100,000 people were reputed to have attended the lying in state of the boys. Photographs of the mass funeral, show the streets lined with crowds eight deep.
A strange footnote to the incident, is that one of England's most successful footballers, David Beckham, would not have been born if Edward Beckham, who was to become his great-grandfather, had not been rescued from the waves.
Sadly this disaster was not unique. There is a memorial in Brussels to a very similar event in 1906. A training ship went down and over 30 young lives were lost.
Credit for this entry to: Alan Patient of www.plaquesoflondon.co.uk