Sethna's 18th West Bombay Scout Group

India's Oldest Scout Group

Continuously Running since August 14, 1914

Group History

In cases where the history of an Institution is written it is always entwined and forged together with the history of its Founder. For example, in the case of Tata Group – Mr. J.N. Tata, in the case of Central Bank of India – Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawalla, and in the case of the Birla Group – Mr. G.D. Birla, similar is the case with this Society and Group which was formed by late Mr. Rustomji Eduljee Sethna, way back in the year 1914. He (Sethna Sir) served and nurtured these Institutions till his death in November 1954 during which time he laid down well established principles, guidelines and policies which are still being followed.

The Scouting Movement was started by Lord Baden Powell in 1907 in the U.K. and he meant it to be a movement for the boys, to teach them truth, discipline, loyalty, honour, honesty and hard work.

At about the same time Sethna Sir joined the St. Johns Ambulance Brigade (Parsi Division) to fulfill his desire to be of service to the society. During his tenure with the Ambulance Division he found that the cadets were interested in Ambulance and First Aid work but were not fully occupied and thus lost interest quite early. Further, he also noticed that the cadets brought their younger brothers along with them who would sit aside and look at their older brothers while they were being taught about First Aid, etc.

Sethna Sir wanted to do something or start some activity whereby the interest of the cadets as well as the interest of their younger brothers was channelised towards making them learn about how to be a good citizen and a good fellow being. This spirit is amplified from the writings of Sethna Sir in the Silver Jubilee Brochure “Today when we celebrate the Silver Jubilee I thank Providence with all my heart for affording me the opportunity to serve and Sacrifice.”

One day in 1914, while on his way to office he saw in a Book Store, a book titled “Scouting for Boys” by Lord Baden Powell. He immediately bought the book and studied it and saw that he had found the basis of an activity that he was searching for the cadets as well as their brothers. He discussed this matter of starting a Scout Troop with his colleagues of the Ambulance Brigade, but many were hesitant to start such a new project. Sethna Sir wrote “thanks to HIM, I chanced to lay my eyes on “Scouting for Boys” which led me to direct in proper channels my ideals of Service and Sacrifice; ideals which were handed down to me by personal examples of my Dear Late Father Eduljee Sethna and my Revered Late Mother Avabai.”

However, with the help of a few of his colleagues he started to teach the cadets about Scouting as he had learnt from the Book “Scouting for Boys”
and thus he started a Scout Troop in the year 1914, which in the years to come would

grow to a full fledged Scout Group and become one of the best Groups in Bombay City and State under his benign tutelage and guidance.

At that time due to the British Rule there were two types of Associations viz. one for the Europeans and Anglo Indians and the other for locals. Based on this principle, Scouting also had two Associations, one for the Europeans and Anglo Indians and the other for locals.

This distinction between two classes of boys was not acceptable to Sethna Sir especially as Scout Movement advocated brotherhood, friendship and equality as FOUNDING Principles. He insisted that there be only one Association for all types of boys. As such he did not register his Troop with the Local Association. He carried on a long correspondence with the Imperial Head Quarters of the Scout Movement in England, as his Nationalist and Patriotic soul would not accept a lower position for his boys. His final approach was to the Founder himself viz. Lord Baden Powell and as a result of which the Imperial Head Quarters finally decided to have one Association only for all the boys who joined the Scout Movement.

When Sethna Sir applied for registration of his Troop with the Association several Troops that had earlier registered were already on the roles and as such the registration number given to his Troop was 18/19 by which number the Troop became famous. Two numbers were granted since by the time the registration was affected in 1921 the strength of the boys in the troop had increased to 45. As per the rules each troop could only have 24 boys hence the Troop was given two registration numbers viz. 18/19.

During this time the other colleagues and helpers of Sethna Sir retired from the Scouting activities one after the other and by 1921 Sethna Sir was in sole charge of the 18/19.

He formed a society called the Parsee Scouting Society to run the affairs of the Scout Group. In fact he and his wife Najamai were both running the Scout Group under the auspices of this Society.

During the formative stages Sethna Sir was largely helped by his mother Avabai, lovingly called ‘Maiji’ by all the boys and after his marriage in 1921 his wife Najamai also gave him full support to run the Society and the Troop. These facts are to be seen in the light of the fact that. Sethna Sir came from a very humble origin and he met all the expenses of the Troop from out of his own pocket having kept the fees for the Cubs at Rs.1.50 a year and for the Scouts and Rovers at Rs.3/- per year. Thus all the excess expenditure was borne by Sethna Sir from out of his own earnings with the complete consent of his mother and wife, from the very beginning till his death in 1954. Whenever Sethna Sir would agree for a large expenditure for buying equipment and accessories for the Troop, dear Najamai would try and control him at which time he would say “God is great, the expenditure is for a good cause.”

The Group adopted a Badge which depicts the Rising Sun and Bond of Union and Unison in which were mentioned ‘Humata, Hukhta and Huvarasta’ meaning Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.

The Society’s Badge depicts the Rising Sun and Band of Union and Unison. The three mighty principles of Lord Zoroaster viz. Humata, Hukhata and Huvarasta ( meaning good thoughts, good words and good deeds ) which are adopted as the Society’s motto is inscribed inside the Band in the Badge. The Motto epitomizes the basic principles on which the training is imparted to the boys while the Society’s Badge like the “Be Prepared” Badge of the Scouting Service reminds its owner of his obligations of the Ever Rising Emblem of Purity and Source of Light, Honour, Glory of the message of the Prophet to be Good in Thoughts, Words and Deeds and in the solidarity of themselves and their fellow beings.

Sethna Sir also formulated a Troop Yell
Parsee Scouting Society
Motto of 18-19 is in three
Purity of Thoughts, Words and Deeds
Ahura, Ahura, Ahura Mazda.

The Cub Section ( from the age of 6 years to 11 years ) was started in 1923 since Sethna Sir found that the Scouts ( from the age of 11 to 18 years ) were also bringing their younger brothers. As such the Scout Group actually started in 1923, although the troop was originally started in 1914, (a Group consists of any two Sections of Scouting viz. Cubs, Scouts and Rovers).

Sethna Sir saw to it that the Group took part in all the activities of the Association so that the Scouts could meet other Scouts and compete with them.
In 1927 our Scouts participated in the All India Scout Jamboree and since then our Group has participated in Local Rallies and Jamboree both in India as also outside India. At each of these Jamborees some of our Scouts were selected to be Troop Leaders and Patrol Leaders of the local contingent. At many of these Rallies and Jamborees our Scouts showed their skill and ability especially in Pioneering (rope craft) Signaling by various methods ( Semaphore and Morse by flags, madman acting, bound prisoner, drum, bagpipe, etc.).

Besides these our Scouts also demonstrated their skills in First Aid, Fire Fighting and Rescue. The achievements of our Cubs, Scouts and Rovers have been mentioned chronologically in the next few pages. During the concerts and variety entertainment programs put up by the Group, items like skits, self-defense, sword fighting, pyramids and different types of Musical Bands were performed by our Cubs, Scouts and Rovers and at such times NO OUTSIDE HELP was taken.

Sethna Sir was designated District Scout Master of the Association which post he held from 1925-32. This was in recognition of his sound Scouting knowledge so that the other groups of the Association could also benefit from his abilities.

The Society and the Group celebrated their Silver Jubilee in 1939 and a Souvenir was taken out at that time giving the history as well as photographs of those boys of the group who had achieved eminence in the Society or in their profession or vocation. At the same time a Delhi-Agra trip was organized for a small sum of Rs.25/- per head. Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1964, Diamond Jubilee in 1974, Platinum Jubilee in 1989 and at which time tours were organized and mementos were presented to the members and workers of the group. Iridium Jubilee was celebrated in 1994.

In 1999, it was decided to honour long serving members of the Society and the Group with Mementos. At this time a special Silver Coin with the Bust of Sethna Sir imprinted on it, as also Shawls were presented in appreciation of the sterling services to the boys.

The following Old Scouts who had completed Fifty Years of continuous association with our Group on this occasion were felicitated.

1. Mr. H.P.Bilimoria.
2. Mr. N.M.Mistry.
3. Mr. D.M.Mistry.
4. Mr. T.R.Munsiff.
5. Mr. K.F.Tata.
6. Mr. P.P.Damkevala.
7. Mr. S.R.Daroona.
8. Mr. S.B.Master

The following Scouters who had completed Twenty Five Years of continuous association with our Group in present capacity of Scouters on this occasion were felicitated.

1. Mr. F.B.Chhapgar.
2. Mr. Neville M. Mistry.
3. Mr. M.B.Shroff.

The following old stalwarts on this occasion were felicitated.

1. Mr. V.F.Maloo.
2. Mr. D.M.Patel.
3. Mr. K.P.Mistry.

The following well wishers of our Group on this occasion were also felicitated.

1. Mr. Aspandiar Dadachanjee.
2. Mr. E.P.Palamkote.
3. Mrs. S.E.Palamkote.
4. Mr. D.R.Patel.

The group also holds pleasure-cum-training camps annually at Diwali or at Christmas vacations and exclusive Training Camps during the May vacation At times educational tours and hikes are also organized to bring the Scouts closer to nature and to teach them Scout Craft.

At these camps and outings a very nominal charge is levied on individuals and over and above that concessions are also granted to deserving boys or for families who send more than one of their children to the Camps. At all these annual camps Sethna Sir was present along with his wife Najamai and her sister Khorshed Aunty.

It is a matter of pride that during all these camps and excursions all the work is done by the Rovers and the Scouts FREE OF CHARGE and no outside help is taken. Of late we are taking professional cooks for our annual camps but earlier even the cooking for the whole camp of 6-7 days was done by our Rovers. Our group makes all efforts to make the Scouts and Cubs pass Proficiency Badges for which special classes are held during the vacations. Again care is taken that Proficiency Badges are not passed only to accumulate the same but to gather knowledge out of it which is useful in later life, e.g. Cooks Badge, Cyclist, Swimmer, Rescuers, Handyman, Pioneer, Fireman, etc..

Sethna Sir firmly believed that a good Scout Master must always be a Master Scout, that he should have a good basic knowledge of scouting, he must be a good Leader as also a good member of the team. The result was that all the Scouters of the group in various sections like Cubs, Scouts and Rovers have risen from the rank and file and have given long service to the group as Scout Masters, Cub Masters, etc… Many of them have also gone through the highest training in scouting and have been awarded Himalayan Wood Badge. The outcome of this is that the group has retained its efficiency and is being run on the same sound lines keeping in mind the lofty ideals of Sethna Sir, and it is to the credit of the Scouters concerned that even after nearly five decades of the death of Sethna Sir the proficiency, efficiency and spirit is still maintained. It is also creditable that many Rovers of our Group have branched out and have formed their own Scout Troops some of which are still functioning, the result being that the Family of Scouting which was started by Sethna Sir continues to flourish and expand even today.

Taking into account the caliber of the Rovers and Scouters of our Group the Local Association and the State Association have commandeered many of our Scouters and Rovers and who have been given high position of District Commissioner, Additional District Commissioner, District Scouters, Vice Presidents, Hon. Treasurer, Hon. Secretary, etc. Quite a few members of our group have also been awarded various medals, Silver Elephant, highest award in Scouting, Silver Star Medal of Merit, Long Service Medal, etc. Sethna Sir was one of the recipients of the award viz. Medal of Merit in 1940 and Long Service Medal in 1948

Sethna Sir started the Troop in 1914 for Parsi boys only and after Independence he made the Group Cosmopolitan on 4th June, 1950. Even then the Group still maintains its culture and primary position even after absorbing boys from various castes and religions. His love for the boys was immense and so was his care and anxiety for their future careers. Sethna Sir has mentioned “I have always followed the careers of my old Scouts with a just anxiety and joy. They are our pride and the present positions they occupy in life give a direct lie to the unfounded statement one sometimes hears that Scouting and ordinary education cannot go hand in hand.”

On 21st November, 1954, Sethna Sir expired after a short illness which was a shattering blow to the other workers of the Group and the Society. Sethna Sir started his final journey from Cusrow Baug at Colaba (where he stayed) to the Tower of Silence the distance of more than three miles, where the Scouts, Rovers and Scouters marched behind his Cortège and the Cubs were brought to the final place to give their last salute to their beloved Sethna Sir. His firm training and the loyalty of the boys came to the rescue and the Group and the Society started functioning without Sethna Sir. At that time Mr. R.M. Cooper was designated as Group Leader Scout to take charge of the Group and the name of the Society viz. Parsee Scouting Society was changed to Sethna Scouting Society in his honour and his wife Najamai was elected its first President. Similarly, the Group name was also changed to ‘Sethna’s 18th – West Bombay’. The Troop Yell was also modified as under:


In keeping with the forward looking aims and objects of the group a new Troop viz. The Sea Scout Troop was started in 1962 under the Scout Mastership of Scouter S.R. Daroona. He had taken special training in Sea Scouting at Training Course held at Khadakvasla run by Cdr. K.B. Godrej and Scouter Keki A. Gilder both of whom were our old Scouters. This Sea Scout Troop is still continuing and winning laurels at various competitions, etc., in fact ours is the only active Sea Scout Troop in Mumbai. The Sea Scout Troop celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1987.

Handicapped boys were also enrolled in our Group and an opportunity was given for them to work, play, mix, and live with the normal boys. It is really heartening to note that the whole Patrol (Scouts) or the whole Six (Cubs) looked after the handicapped member and which really made the handicapped boy come out of his handicap and forget about it. One of the handicapped boys really took to Scouting and became a President Scout gained a Gold Cord and at present has risen to the rank of Scout Master in our group as well as Assistant District Commissioner in the West Mumbai District Association.

Since the beginning, the Group observes the Founder’s Day around the 28th February each year (Sethna Sir’s birthday). At that time prizes are distributed and Going Up Ceremony is also performed for the Cubs to go up as Scouts, and for the Scouts to go up as Rovers. This tradition is still continuing.

During the 90 years of existence of the Group, thousands of boys have passed through the portals and have imbibed in them the lofty principles laid down by late Sethna Sir. Many of them have achieved high positions in their field of work not only in India but many parts of the world. Our boys have served in UNESCO, ILO, have become Judges, Magistrates, SEM, JP, Barrister and Advocates, Physicians and Surgeons, Architects, Town Planners, service in the Army, Navy and Air force, service in the Merchant Navy, in Civil Aviation, Engineering, Meteorology, Manning of Ships, Accountancy and Auditing, Banking, Civil Defense, Home Guard, etc..

Today 50 years after passing away of Sethna Sir the Group is still running on sound lines and principles as laid down by Sethna Sir and is never short of Scouters and Helpers. We have already started receiving boys of the third generation as entrants to our Group.

We are the oldest Group in continuous existence not only in Maharashtra but also in India and we would not be surprised if we are one of the oldest continuous running Scout Group in the World also. All this is due to the efforts of Sethna Sir and his Lieutenants who have given their time, money, energy and help to this Group and to the Society not as an obligation but as a service of love.

Page last updated on November 23, 2005