BE PREPARED is the Scouting movement’s famous motto.

But Southampton Scout George Perman could never have imagined the horrors that would face him when he joined the hospital ship Britannic for First World War duties.

George, who was one of 16 Scouts on board, nearly died in the jaws of the ship’s propellers as the vessel, rocked by an explosion, ended in a watery grave.

He was the youngest of the 1,036 survivors – 30 died – and went on to become a vicar, living to just shy of his 100th birthday.

Recollections of that fateful morning of November 21, 1916 aboard the Britannic probably left him with unseen emotional scars.

Although he escaped with a few rope burns to his hands, he never forgot clinging on for dear life in the blood red waters and seeing the ship’s white flanks splattered with blood.

In a graphic account George, who was then 15, told how the ship was suddenly rocked by an explosion caused by an underwater mine off the Greek island of Kea.

George was handed a spare life belt by a passing member of the ship’s crew after his own life belt, which was still in his quarters near the bow of the ship, had been obliterated in the blast.

But the Southampton Scout had the misfortune of being in one of the lifeboats which was pulled into the turning point propeller.

Luckily he was able to grab hold of a hanging davit line and hold on until the propellers had stopped before lowering himself into the water.

George was one of four Scouts from the 2nd Freemantle Scout Troop – later it became the 2nd Southampton – who worked as orderlies and messengers on the Britannic. The others were Assistant Scout Master Herbert Cooke, who before the war worked at the Echo office, Patrol Leader V Bowles and Patrol Leader James Vickers.

They were later each presented with an engraved pocket compass from the White Star Line owners of the Britannic. Scouting supremo Robert Baden Powell also sent a letter to the district congratulating the Southampton Scouts for “their splendid behaviour.”

Now the Shirley based 2nd Southampton is planning to commemorate next year’s sinking of the Britannic and the role that their brave Scouts played in the war effort.

Scout leader Luke Hall says: “This was a major part of our history and we are very proud of our heritage. Hopefully the kids of today are never going to be in a position where they are going to be sent to war.

“We want to keep the memories alive of those who helped with the war effort 100 years ago and they all survived.”

Luke added: “We are in a fortunate position that we already have got a lot of information about this.”

The Southampton group, which is collaborating with the BBC on a project about the Britannic, are is already in contact with the Reverend George Perman’s niece.

But They would like to hear from anyone else who might have had family links with the 2nd Freemantle Scouts who served on the hospital ship.

The Britannic was the last built and largest in the White Star Line’s Olympic class of vessels. She was also the sister ship of the ill fated Titanic which lost more than 1,500 passengers and crew. Lessons learned from that tragedy prevented the Britannic from suffering a similar huge loss of life.

As well as improvements to the ship’s design more lifeboats were available. The survival rate was also boosted with help being closer at hand and the temperature was higher.

Built at Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, Britannic was launched just before the start of the First World War and had been destined for service as a transatlantic passenger liner.

The war scuppered those plans and the Britannic was laid up at Belfast for many months before being requisitioned by the British government as a hospital ship.

The liner completed five successful voyages to the Middle Eastern theatre and back to the United Kingdom, transporting the sick and wounded.

Sadly it turned out to be her final voyage when she departed Southampton for Lemmos at 2.23 pm on November 12, 1916.

And it was 8.12 am on November 21, 1916 when it is believed that the ship came under attack from a U-Boat off the coast of Greece.

The Britannic sank to the bottom of the ocean where despite various explorations of its wreckage it has remained.

But George Pearman and his fellow Scouts eventually returned to Southampton to tell the tale which has become a major part of Scouting history.

l If anyone has any more details about the Southampton Scouts who served on the Britannic they can contact 2nd Southampton Scout leader Luke Hall on