John Hicks, who first camped as a Crusader at Studland in 1945, sharing memories at its 90th anniversary this summer.

Studland was my 'Holy ground' - an interview with John Hicks

5th Dec 2023

As 2023 comes to a close we look back on some of the incredible highlights of the past year - none more marked than the 90th anniversary of camping at Studland, Dorset. We spoke to John Hicks who was one of the very first to camp at Studland in 1945 and has been involved with Crusaders (later Urban Saints) for eight decades.


John, how and when did you join Crusaders? 

On a Saturday in March 1942 a classmate asked me to go with him to Dulwich Crusader hall to play with the model railway there – real steam trains powered by methylated spirit!  I learned about the Crusader class held there on Sunday afternoons and the next day I cycled 6 miles from Addiscombe (in Croydon) over Crystal Palace Hill to be there. I really enjoyed that occasion and cycled to and from almost every Sunday until I left school in 1947 to be called up for National Service.


Was that the end of your Crusader journey? 

No. On being demobbed I joined my nearest class in Shirley, Croydon, and was a leader from 1950 to 1959 when work moved me to Crawley in West Sussex.


What has been your involvement with Studland? 

Along with other Dulwich Crusaders I went to Studland 1 camp in July 1945. Studland became Holy ground to me for it was there that I really began to grow as a young Christian. Looking back, that camp set the direction of my life.


More about that camp is included in the book “90 Years of Memories” – the history of Studland camps from 1933 to 2023. I camped at Studland for a number of years after that as well as other sites at Polzeath, St Davids, Stoke Fleming and Westbrook, being privileged to serve in different capacities.  But Studland was like a magnet and after I retired from work I camped there four more times - in 1995, 2003, 2014 and 2015.


What does Crusaders/Urban Saints mean to you?

It is the organization within which I was taught so much from the Bible about becoming a Christian and living a life that follows that life changing decision; for which I am eternally grateful.  I thank the Lord so much for all the leaders at class and camps who have had an input into my life.


What would you like to say to today’s Urban Saints leaders? 

Just this. The fruit of the leaders who taught, befriended and helped me in the 1940s is still there in my life today, 80 years later. I hope that what I have told you of my Crusader history will encourage you to keep at it, for the fruit of your prayer and all you do can/will last into eternity. I wish you a happy Christmas as we rejoice together at the coming to earth of our Saviour, the knowledge of whom we seek to pass on to today’s young people.