Patrol Names in Cambridge

Cambridge District Scout Archive

District Archives

Patrol names have gently altered through the years.  No local rules have been located although the patterns may be stronger than just trends.  The clear influences are BPs original sketches, the badges available and the 1949 book on Senior Patrol names.

The first four patrol names on Brownsea Island were: Bull, Curlew, Raven, Wolf.

No District wide list of patrol names has been found. Much of the following observations are taken from the lists of Guides, Rangers, Scouts and Senior Scout patrols competing in the ‘??? Query’ trophy and other Patrol competitions.   (This is the title of the competition not a residual note to the compiler.)  The patrols quoted in the body of the work are examples of the range. A full list of badges available can be found at the bottom of the page and this is being updated as new sources name patrols. Many of the names used in Cambridge without official badges are also recorded. When patrols were designated by shoulder ribbons the creation of new patrols was easier than later badges.

From the 1911 Scouting for Boys BP wrote ‘It is a good plan to choose only birds and animals in your district’.  Thus we find in 1911

  • Kangaroo patrol in the 1st and 13th Cambridge, which did appear in the emblems (below)
From Scouting for Boys

Moorhen, Crow and Jackdaw were in use in 1913

C. 1920  ‘Then as woodcraft ideas spread we gave up exotic patrol names and used those of native birds and spread whose calls would be “natural”, we thought, so Lions became Owls; Wolves became Pewits and the rattlesnake call (“rattle a pebble in a potted meat tin”) vanished in-to history.’  WTT Archaeology  1978

Those not yet recorded in Cambridge from the emblems sketched by BP include Merlin, Tiger (which are still available as patrol badges) and Mongoose, Cat, Jackal, Bear, Hyena and Rattlesnake.

A list of all the flashes and badges depicted by are at the bottom of the page.  It is not clear if this is a full list badges available in each era.

The Badger was added in May 1912; Kangaroo is seen again in the 7th Cambridge in the late 1920s.

Juniors and Seniors

A 1912 Troop Register for the 13th Cambridge lists a ‘Junior’ patrol. It does not appear to have been very long lasting and the members were either moved to other patrols (Otters and Seals). The patrol was a temporary innovation in the face of an influx of new members. At the advent of Senior Scouts the core Boy Scouts section was sometimes refered to as the Juniors, as seen in the Senior Scout Log book of the 7th.

The 60th Cambridge (Leys) only permitted boys over the age of 12 to join for its first three years. In 1936, still a year before registering with District, they opened a junior patrol. The two parts were known as Junior and Senior, split for some activities but often united.

 Scouts                                    1940’s, 1950’s

In 1941 The Scouter announced new patrol names; Kestrel, Merlin, Skua and Snipe, of ‘particular interest to (the newly formed) Air scouts’.   Other, intermittent , additions are listed below.

In 1942 on the formation of War Service Scouts patrol names such as ‘Edwards VC’ and ‘Tobruk Patrol’ were floated in The Scouter.  We have no records from Cambridge of the War Service Patrol names used here. 

The Evercircular letters, that ran between members of the 23rd Cambridge Rover Crew dispersed by war, were divided into two patrols called Narvik and Dunkirk. Also later Crete and/ or Cats were proposed. Probably initiated by W T Thurbon who coordinated the letters the question ‘Why Narvik?’ was answered ‘Well Rover Crews take their names from famous men or famous deeds so for that is why Narvik.’ ‘Crete’ would fit into this line of names. A thin hypothesis but ‘Cats’ may be a reference to Kipling’s Just So Stories (‘I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me’) which would fit with WTT’s pleasure in quotes.

In the 13th Cambridge, which absorbed a large number, a separate patrol of evacuees was created. A large number of the evacuees returned to London as the phoney war continued and we may assume a number were new to Scouting and as such a separate training schedule may have been useful.

Cambridge Scout patrols in 1945 – 1955 were largely birds, but the lists show increasing numbers of British animals, particularly in the large troops at the 5th & 60th.  The 7th had 8 patrols all bird names in 1950.  Names used in the District include

  • Seagull
  • Chough
  • Owl
  • Swift
  • Peewit
  • Pheasant
  • Falcon
  • Eagle
  • Kestrel
  • Woodpigeon
  • Badger
  • Otter
  • Hound
  • Squirrel

And by 1955   

  • Bulldog            1st
  • Lions                5th
  • Panther          26th
  • Wildcats

The 1st Cambridge Sea Scouts had a Patrol ‘Sea Dogs’.  It is not known why birds were favoured at this time when of over 50 badges half were animals, half birds.

A number of names not on the original list were adopted; Chough, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Cygnet, and by 1955 Penguin of the 42nd/29th, Flamingo and Martlet of the 12th.  Gannet has rarely been used as a patrol name.

1960’s, 1970’s

Cheetah and Moby have been identified, the later from a Wisbech Troop, ‘Monkeys’ was used in a Patrol competition.

Pre 1967 1967 – 1981 1981 – 2001 2001 –

Conflated names

Occasionally names such as Liger or Tigon have been used where two Patrols have temporarily merged for a camp.  These have not been identified in Patrols.  ‘Made’ patrols are sometimes specifically excluded from competitions. Some ‘patrols’ for competitions were limited by rules, such as a total cummulative age, and a mixed patrol might be assumed.

1966    Advance Report

It is of note that the 1966 Advance Report, recommendation No. 75, stated

  • ‘That the present system of Patrol names be continued but that the inappropriate be avoided’

suggesting that an element of foolishness had crept into selecting names.  Records of such inappropriate names have not yet been located in Cambridge unless ‘Monkeys’ was deemed so.

Rovers                         1930

Cambridge Rovers (30th) Patrol/ Crew names – 1930

  • Wolves
  • Wakes             presumably as in ‘Hereward the’

The Emmanuel College Rover patrols (c late 1920’s as recalled 1953) were Lions and Rams and some College Patrols existed up to c. 1952/53.   Records exist for Swallow Patrol (Pembroke Patrol) and Dove Patrol (Gonvile and Caius), but College based patrols are not generally detailed in the University scout periodicals. Doves was also quoted as a University College (Rover) Patrol name, possibly the G&C patrol named above, and Wild Boars (Queens) 1920. An large, un named Cheshunt College Crew existed around 1928 – not fully part of the University of Cambridge, the Crew may have been attached to the University Rovers. It does not appear to have been directly part of Cambridge District.

Hereward the Wake (usually just Hereward) was also used by the Rover Crew of the 23rd from 1923 onward. The 12th were named ‘Wood Smoke Rover Crew ‘. See General History/ Equipment/ Flags…

Senior Patrols                        1949

The Senior Scout Patrols, which were formed in 1946, originally had names from the existing patrol list.  They used Seagull and Beaver and if they occasionally wandered as far as Albatross were not very different.

Discussed in August 1946 the Boy Scout association published two books of Patrol names for Senior Scouts in 1949.  Each listed six names of Pioneers; five added later but not in a separate book. Fourteen have been identified in Cambridge.  The only alternative names observed alongside these seventeen are quoted below.  Original names appear to have been completely replaced.

  • Francis Drake              12th 5th 19th 7th
  • David Livingstone        26th 12th
  • Charles Darwin           5th
  • Orde Wingate     26th 13th 5th 60th 11th
  • Gino Watkins      54th 5th  1st Histon
  • George Mallory          60th 7th
  • Walter Raleigh              5th 12th
  • James Cook                 √
  • George Stevenson 7th
  • Wilfred Grenfell          5th 12th  60th 7th
  • Robert Falcon Scott     1st Histon
  • R J Mitchell                 7th   23rd

Note – 5th Cambridge Drake Patrol were Sea Scouts

A further five names added later,

  • Eric Liddel,
  • Guy Gibson,                 54th
  • Lord Somers,
  • Edward Wilson            54th
  • Hon Roland Philipps

The Patrols had square colours halved diagonally.  The books provide both a patrol symbol and a reason for the colours. The colours are often chosen based on a less than fundamental connection. See at 

The books can be read at  Some names are more settled in the collective memory than others and collectively they robustly reflect the times.

1949 60th Cambridge ‘Senior Scouts This term the Senior Section has been extended by two more patrols, named after Sir Ernest Shakleton and Dr. Somervell, the Everest climber.’ From the Leys school magazine Dec 1949 There is no evidence for permission being sought for these new names.


A revised set of Patrol names were issued in 1967. Specific permission to use other names is given. The new rectangular two colour badges (above) were to be worn with the first named colour facing forward.  Eight colours were identified that could be reversed so that Patrol names not on the list could be used.

Rangers and Guides

The following Guide names come from combined Scout/ Guide competition in Cambridge. In comparison the Rangers elected to use ‘tribe’ names e.g.

  • Cherokee
  • Mohican
  • Mohawk
  • Maori

and also in 1949 ‘Explorers’ a Patrol name in a competition rather than a section.

 The Guides used flowers and like the Scouts used birds.

  • Little Owl
  • Blue Tit
  • Robin
  • Nightingale
  • Chaffinch
  • Robin
  • Swallow
  • Heather
  • Thistle
  • Cornflower
  • Gorse
  • Pimpernel

And also from the ??? Query competition

  • Bunnies.

Tammy Proctor in her book ‘On my honour; Guides and Scouts in Interwar Britain’ wrote ‘To stem criticism … and to combat perceived threats to womanliness, Guide patrols used feminine symbols such as flowers for patrol names badges.  Many wanted to be Ravens and Wildcats, not daisies and violets.’  

The selection of birds is gently different, the Guides selecting birds that are generally smaller and with the exception of the Little Owl, which is a round bundle of feathers, not raptors.  Even the swallow, often confused with the Scout choice swift, would lose out in most ‘Top Trumps’ categories.  Some of the plants were at least prickly.

Change and tradition

It is not known from Cambridge history to what extent patrol names persisted beyond the badge availability or if they were resurrected in new or revived troops. Names other than those supported by Scout shop badges have all remained well within the traditional field suggested by the original silhouettes.   

I have come across one occasion when patrol names were changed across the whole troop. Following a very low point a revitalized troop (13th Cambridge, 1936) dropped Seagulls and Bulldog for Owls and Peewits. This is recorded as a bare fact.

It is of interest that the 13th had a history of altering patrol names. From 1925 – 1931 we have a patrol moving from Peacock – Owls – Bulldog. As with the later switch (above) no reason is given.

 There are no references to the use of the abstract option of 1981 badges and the colour option of the 2001 badges, these coming into being after the core records held locally.  The abstract options were specifically included ‘so that existing patrol names not included in the list given can be retained or so that new names may be used.’ An example of an abstract badge is given above. A number of abstract badges remain in the 28th Cambridge stores but it is not known if they were used for one patrol with a name dropped from those offered, or for all patrols in a uniform step.


Patrol names generally change slowly with the growth of a troop or at a point of major change.   Troop history and iconography are not lightly altered.  BP’s original selection did pretty well.


Shoulder flashes and badges: list from  The gaps such as buffalo 1967 – 1981 suggest that the collection is not complete.  The 1984 POR confirms the 1981 – 2001 list.

The list will be periodically updated – some of the red patrol names have now been located and are discussed above or elsewhere on the site. (Updated May 2020)

Patrol names were approved at intervals by HQ and noted in The Scouter. Some but not all are listed above. Those I have picked up are

Jan 1934Stormy PetrelKekerekeeDark blue & Grey
June 1935GannetAARRRYellow & Dark blue
Jan 1936PuffinUgh – UghYellow & Grey
July 1937CormorantCr waarBlack & Grey
Penguin(Whistle) See- seeWhite & orange
Walrus(Deep) OuffWhite & Khaki
June 1941KestrelKee KeeDark blue & Green X
MerlinKik Kik KikDark blue & Maroon
SkuaMee auhDark blue & Khaki X
SnipeTjich TjichDark blue & Scarlet

Hippo and Fox patrols have been located in Harston at or shortly after the move to South Cambridgeshire – perhaps not part of Cambridge District at that time.

‘So Lions became Owls, Wolves became pewits and the rattlesnake call (rattle a pebble in a potted meat tin) vanished into history’    Archaeology  – Not clearly names used in Cambridge but alluded to.

Other – non standard – names          Peregrine, Chough, Wildcats, Moorhen, Kittiwake, Cygnet, Swallow, Rams, Magpie, Owl, Wasps, Aardvarks, Fireflys, Tornado, Golden Plover, Mustangs. A number of these are from camp records and may be one off camp patrol names.

The Stork can be assumed from the name of the 17th Cambridge Magazine which was called, after the cries of the Stork and the Eagle, ‘Koorr Kree’.

The 5th Cambridge Perse School, which became a very large Troop, expanded some standard patrol names into Black Bear and Grizzly Bear.

The 12th Cambridge have two troops, one of standard names the second using Black Panther, Cheetah, Jaguar and Puma; all non standard names. The Troop is Wildcats.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019