17th Cambridge (Catholic): A Short History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Much of the following History comes from The Catholics in Cambridge by Nicholas Rogers.  It is corroborated by many small details elsewhere.  As yet his source documents have not been reviewed.  Few stories concerning the Troop and Pack have been passed down in District Archives.

The Catholic Troop was first formed as the 4th Cambridge, not as Nicholas Rogers numbered it, the 14th.   A start date of 1910 is given.  It is likely to have been either preceded by another but unknown troop or, perhaps more likely, to have been started in 1908.  1910 was the date of the formation of Cambridge District, the giving of numbers and precedence of groups.  The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cambridge and the 5th and 6th were known to have been formed in 1908.

Mgr. Barnes and Baron von Hugel were members of the District Association in 1910.  They were named as early enthusiasts for Scouting within the Catholic community.

4th Cambridge (Catholic) Scout Troop

1908/10

  • G Roe                                      SM
  • F W P Kingdon                         ASM 18/3/1910            SM 24/4/1910

G Roe is recorded as leaving Cambridge and the first Troop closed in 1911. 

17th Cambridge (Catholic) Scout Troop

1913 – 1916

  • E Cutting                                 ASM 1/11/1912           SM 6/6/1913              
  • C L H Duchemin  (a student)   SM 6/6/1913  (the same date as Cutting)
  • E Rogers                                  CM

The Troop picked up under these leaders, and the Troop is recorded as parading in October 1913 and acting as Guard of Honour to the Princes of Uganda in1914.  With the coming of the Great War two leaders and two Patrol Leaders enlisted.  This tells of a number of older boys who had joined the Troop.   In March 1914 they gave a display and concert, the scouts providing most of the items.  They also printed the tickets and programmes.

The numbers in the Troop initially rose from 12 to 24, aided at some point by a Wolf Cub pack.  The first pack is recorded in 1921, but many packs and troops were not registered during the war.  Wolf Cubs officially started in 1916, but some were active in late 1914.  The Troop was given significant support, a HQ at 6 Parkside provided and a Trek cart was donated by the Catholic Women’s League.  The Trek cart was used to collect gifts to support the Belgium refugees.  In 1914 the Troop had a quarterly magazine, Koorr Kree, (the cries of the Eagle and Stork) which was much praised as ‘very scouty, with an attractive stencilled cover.

Duchemin left for Rome in early 1915 and with the loss of leaders the numbers diminished and the Troop closed in 1916.

Eventually ten members saw active service – from a small troop, and four members are known to have died in the war.  They were

  • Stephen Ryan
  • Ernest L B Cutting

And with somewhat less certainty

  • Alec Edward Boucher  MC     known to be a SM in Halesowen
  • E Rogers (Bert)                       an E Rogers is listed as a CM 

1919 – 1930

  • Fr. Charles Davidson               New Chaplain

From Reveille!, the single issue magazine of January 1919, we have

17th (Roman Catholics) This Troop has been revived since the war, and made a good beginning, under Father Davidson’s auspices. We are glad to see them turning up well at Association events.

This entry is less informative than many, but suggests that the Troop had at least a small head-start on the date of publication.

1921    (from the photograph published in the local press 16/2/1921)

  • Markham                                SM
  • Hubbard                                 ASM
  • Wilson                                    ASM

A re-registration occurred in 1922.  It is not clear if another hiatus occurred or a simple lapse in the yearly registration.  No significant details of the registration appear to have changed such as would require a new registration.

By 1924 Fr Davidson and the SM had left and Canon Marshall maintained the Troop with a five man committee.  In 1925 a new SM stepped in.

  • Father George W H  Webb                 SM

He led nine Scouts from the 17th on the International Holy Year Pilgrimage to Rome.  Six hundred attended this rally and it was counted as the highlight of the troop’s history.  On return the flag was paraded in Our Lady and the English Martyrs.  During this time numbers rose to 40. 

Wolf Cubs

The Wolf Cub pack was registered in 1921 and again in 1925.  As mentioned above it is suggested that a pack was in existence during WW1 but the registration documents are missing.

It is listed in other records in January 1923 and again in 1925 and 1928, but not in the lists of 1924, 1926 or 1927.  It may be that they were not active in District events.

The pack and troop moved to a HQ in Panton House, lent by St Mary’s convent.  Father Webb left in 1928 and the troop declined finally ending in 1930.  The District Group list of 1930 has a named space for the 17th, but with no details, suggesting a recent ending and at least some expectation of reformation.  Most defunct Groups had no such grace.

After the closure the community continued to provide youth activities based on Houghton Hall, off Union Road by the Church.  Summer camps were arranged, but not as a Scout Troop.

Summary

At this remove it is difficult to untangle the relationship between the Troop and the District.  The founding enthusiasts appear to have worked for Catholic inclusion, but most Troops needed to grow before they could move into the wider District.  The 17th and the earlier 4th had the misfortune to be served by active but peripatetic Scoutmasters, in general lasting three years.

They had the further misfortune to miss the major rallies with B.-P. and could not forge a wider reputation.  However, they were active in 1922 but did not participate in Stourbridge Fair. Outside the magazine and the Pilgrimage to Rome we have little to judge their success.  However, when active, they attracted older boys in the face of other leisure activities. 

JWR Archivist June 2022