Cambridge District Scout Archive
60th Cambridge (Leys) in Scotland 1940 – 1945
The Leys is an Independent school in Cambridge with day and boarding students. At this date it was boys only. The principal aim of the Scout Troop, founded in 1933, was ‘the extension of this world friendship and the supply of Scoutmasters to all classes of the community’.
Highland Exile is a booklet about the 60th during the war time evacuation to Pitlochry.
In the 1939 Log of the Summer Activities of the 60th Cambridge Rover Crew four German refugees were ‘welcomed into the fellowship of the Crew, bandages rolled for the war areas in China, Swedish Scouts were guests for the weekend and the new Rover Den opened.
The Second World War was declared on 3rd September, coinciding with the last day of the Troop stay at Kandersteg Scout Chalet in Switzerland.
The phoney war, during which there were no major military land actions on the western front, came to an end in May 1940. In June 1940 Vicarage Terrace in Cambridge was bombed and 10 people killed. This was a period of significant uncertainty about how the war would develop. Children were re-evacuated from London and other major cities and coastal areas and plans were made for the Leys to move to Scotland.
The first Troop meeting in Scotland, on October 11th 1940, took advantage of the hotel grounds and thick undergrowth. The Troop had no hut and little equipment but this forced them to adapt to outdoor scouting and the scouting became ‘predominately practical’. The countryside invited hiking, Cambridge by contrast having ‘little inducement to walk for walking sake’.
The weather is often mentioned, the rain, the frozen rivers and ‘exceeding Scout pace’ to get down to the warmer valley on a bitter day in the hills. The countryside provided many opportunities for pioneering work and wide games. Comment is also made on the strongly seasonal nature of scouting at these latitudes.
The collecting of sphagnum moss is recorded, presumably as organised war work. The moss was used for wound dressing in both wars. Elsewhere the harvesting of potatoes is listed as war work.
An Air Scouts Patrol was initiated and a War Service Patrol whose members trained in Civil Defence, communications and pioneering to meet the needs of those days. However, the Troop found that potential recruits preferred to join schemes of a direct military nature. Troop numbers grew again in 1944.
In 1945 they returned; to school buildings and both junior and senior headquarters which had been requisitioned. Pitlochry and the Cairngorms were replaced by the Cam and wide games in Grantchester.
Many of the boys had never seen Cambridge.
In the Leys history ‘The Leys in the Era of World War’ an extra detail omitted from ‘Highland Exile’ is revealed. After describing the quiet and beauty of the district is the sentence ‘However, the dangers of the area were soon apparent in the most tragic way when two six formers were killed when they slipped and fell into a gorge of the River Braur in the lent term of 1941 whilst on a scouting exercise.’
The Scouts were Stanley Fitch of Sudbury and Donald Simms of Cornwell.
JWR Archivist Jan 2019