Camp Medicine

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The medications named below were those available for home use. Few more advanced medications would have been available in a hospital.

The 1918 District Flax picking camp at Fortherinhay was struck by influensa. The ‘flu’ pandemic following the Great War killed as many as 3% of the world population; more than the recent war. 228000 died in Britain and 25% of the population were affected. The very real risk of the death of a Scout at the camp would have been evident to all.

Not all ailments were as dangerous. Sensible Scout Masters built preventative measures in to their plans ensuring that campers did not become costive. Some of those measures are recorded below.

Modern medication is wonderful.

Cambridge Archive

1918    C T Wood        9th Cambridge             ‘In 1918 about eighty of us went to Fotheringhay for about six weeks to pick flax for the Government. I shall never forget it, for it was the year of the new and terrifying sort of influenza,-and, in spite of our open-air camp life, we had as many as forty ill-very ill-at the same time, and could scarcely get hold of a Doctor. Mr. G. W. MARTIN came to help and did valiant things.’

A bribe of saccharin in their tea for the healthy suggests that it was used to make the medicine or gargling tolerable.  The ill slept outside on fine nights to get them out of a stuffy, crowded tent: which aided a quick recovery for some although others relapsed.

1920    The message to be carried from the Rifle Range to the top of Coton Hill was, “We have here 436 wounded and 330 sick: send Ambulances at 6.6.” The answer to be brought back was, “Ambulances shall be there at 6.6; but they must first call at Coton, Barton, and Madingley for iodine and Condy’s fluid.”           A test message sent on an exercise. Reveille

1920    A BOYS REMARKS TO HIS STOMACH. Reveille 1920 (final verse)

  • I’ve been a friend to you, I have; why ain’t you a friend of mine?         
  • They gave me castor oil last night because you made me whine.            
  • I’m awful sick this morning, and I’m feeling mighty blue           
  • Becoz you don’t appreciate the things I do for you.       W. J. BROWN
9th Cambridge 1927  Ammoniated Quinine

The regular doses were known as ‘Poison Parade’. The notion that medication had to taste nasty to be ‘good for you’ was regularly quoted. It may have been no more than a reflection of the fact that most medication was unpleasant in taste. But there were no ‘child proof caps’ and labelling was less clear – maybe it was deliberate.

1927 7th Cambridge accounts book registers several purchases from Boots (presumably the Chemist) and separately items of Cascara and Quinine alongside general first aid equipment such as triangular bandages, medicine glass and clinical thermometer. The generalised ‘Boots (drugs)’ for 1/10 can also be found.

1928 23rd Cub Camp – On the day the tuck shop was opened at camp (maximum 3d.) they had a quinine free day.

1932    Ken North        Calamine lotion          ‘it was a very hot fortnight and many boys went about bareback, I used many pints of calamine lotion treating for sunburn.  I was able to borrow the cycle of ‘Jimmy’ James of the 12th Scouts who was in camp with his family nearby when I needed to cycle to ‘Boots’ at the other end of Lowestoft to get supplies of Calamine.’  Ken North 55 years spent in Scouting   (The campers were the 5th Cambridge Boys Brigade)

Undated          ‘Mid camp we always had a prune eating contest’                 recalled in 2018

1951    Cruise of the Adventurer 12th Cambridge      ‘…large quantities of what they said was lemonade.’  ‘It tasted most peculiar at first sip after half a mug full was quite indescribable.’  ‘There was a general run on the magnesia bottle.’                         Plums frequently appeared on the menu.

1982 – 1999 A medicine chest record book records the use of Calomine, for sunburn and insect bites, Anthisan for bites, Dettol and Savlon for cleaning wounds and a plaster for a cut on the DC’s thumb. Milk of magnesia is recorded once. During this time only two trips to hospital were recorded, one a strained ankle (caused, as eventually owned up to, by jumping out of a tree) and a broken little finger (fighting another Scout).

Undated          ‘Mid camp the tuck shop would sell half price liquorish’        recalled in 2018

  • Calamine lotion          used to treat mild itchiness. This includes from sunburn, insect bites or other mild skin conditions. 
  • Milk of Magnesia        used to relieve indigestion, excess acid and wind, heartburn and stomach discomfort.
  • Plums, prunes and liquorice are all natural laxatives.
  • Condy’s Fluid               Condy’s fluid was a disinfectant solution of alkaline manganates and permanganates that could be taken internally or used externally. It had various indications including the treatment and prevention of scarlet fever
  • Ammoniated Quinine thought to be better than quinine and used in the treatment of fevers
  • Iodine                          As an antiseptic it may be used on wounds that are wet or to disinfect the skin before surgery.
  • Castor Oil                    Castor oil is used to treat constipation. 

Costive = Constipated

This motorist first aid kit predates packing or use by dates

Careful recording and careful reading are needed when looking at ‘notes’. Many are lacking detail, some are added in odd corners of fuller reports. The Visitors book for the 12th Cambridge’s boat ‘Adventurer’ record a phosphorus accident. A study of the headings gives, instead, visitors from M B (Motor boat) Phosphorus who were ‘Introduced by’ accident.

JWR Archivist 2019