1st Cambridge (Short History)

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The Troop/ Group ran from 1908 – 1928 (+1929 – 1932), 1937 – 1949, 1951 – 1968, 1971 – 2001.  The 1st Cambridge (Orchard Park) started on 12th Nov 2012.

The gaps in the history of the 1st Cambridge Troop and Group are not clearly identified. The starting dates are clear, the pauses rest on assumptions.  A considerable amount of detail from the very early days is recorded in the second issue of the very early magazine of 1912.

             See Local History/ Communications/ Scout Newsletters/ Fleur de lys 1912

The survival throughout the Great War is note worthy; the numbers it sent to fight was remarkable.  However, the later records are patched together and lacking in the ‘tales’ that give depth and secondary details.

It is the years between 1928 and 1937 which are particularly unclear.  The 60th Cambridge (Leys) record a gap of 8 years ‘since it (the 1st) paraded its flag’, and a clear re-registration date of 1937 is known.   An almost continuous run until near the end of the century was broken by a gap in 1950 and again in 1969 when no returns were made.  A re-registration date of 1971 is recorded and they continued into the new millennium.

The dates of leaders (below) are the first known date, not definitive start dates.

Troop, Crew and Pack

The Troop stayed as a Troop and we have no records of a Pack up to 1968 when no returns were made. A Wolf Cub pack is listed as taking two refugees in 1939, but no registration details remain for this section. They did not record pack numbers on the general census for this year and the entry as C (for Cub) may have been an error or misreading for S (for Scout).  I have not chased the reference (below) in Reveille! (1920) concerning the ages of Sea Scouts.  The Troop may have pushed the boundaries and we know they adopted a nine year old as a ‘Mascot’ before the war.  No clear evidence remains of recruits moving from other troops or packs, or the option being given.

The 1st restarted in 1971 as a Pack only and the next available census return from 1973 record both a Pack and a Troop.  In 1985 it had 8 Scouts, 14 in 1986 and between 1987 and 1991 around 30, dropping to 14 in 1993.  The leadership team grew during this time from 4 leaders and 4 Instructors in 1987 to 9 and 5 instructors in 1989.  These two details suggest a temporary decline in Troop fortunes in the mid 1980’s.

A Rover Crew was identified in 1927 for a year and again 1948 – 1950.

Sea Scouts

The 1st Cambridge formed in 1908 and became Sea Scouts in 1912/ ’13.  This followed a camp at Lowestoft in 1912.  The Troop was mixed Sea Scouts and Scouts in 1912 and Sea Scouts until the end of available census by Scouts/ Sea Scouts/ Air Scouts in 1967.  They gave no return as ‘Sea Scouts’ in 1962 or 1966, but did in 1964.  Up until at least 1992 they owned boats, storing them under Elizabeth Way Bridge.


A boat called the Ripple is recalled by George Black who joined in 1912.  The crew was known as the Cripples.  On 6th June 1913 they launched their new boat named ‘The Albert’ (a cutter) built of pine and elm with six oars and a mast, capable of carrying 10 boys. They purchased the Albert for £50 (with mast and sail) and having been delivered by train was dragged from the station with the band leading the way.  It was launched by Mrs Howard Marsh.   Another boat was donated by Dr and Mrs. Griffith in 1917. In 1921 they launched The Sentinel.  Dates of boats,

  • Ripple              1912
  • Albert              1913
  • Alert                1917   
  • Sentinel           1921

            See Local History/ Boats on the Cam

In the 1920’s two boats were kept under the Scout hut, although four were on the census returns until 1934.  By 1938 only two were recorded on census returns.

1908 – 1914

Date of warrant

  • A W H Curzon              SM       16/4/1910       Named as first SM.  District Exec 1910
  • R W Wright                 SM       18/3/1910       SM in his home Troop.
  • R W D Coombes          ASM     22/11/1911     SM       14/2/1912
  • W E G Phillips              ASM     17/5/1911
  • L Bonnett                     ASM     14/2/1912

R W Wright was a Silver Wolf, having achieved the 24 badges required at the time.  He died in attempting to lead his home troop to safety in a thick fog in September 1911.

            See People/ Scout leaders/ R W Wright

The 1st Cambridge was possibly formed within the 3rd Cambridge Boys Brigade and probably ahead of B-P’s visit of February 1908.  This BB Company was certainly already ‘organised into patrols’ for Scouting by April 1908.  Records of the foundation of Scout Patrols with the Boys Brigade are retained with the very early records of the Troop.

In 1987 Ted Hewett recalled it as a spontaneous formation the boys seeking Mr Curzon as SM.   He had been adopted as a Scout mascot in 1910 aged 9. The Troop first met at Pratt’s Yard, moving to Clement Place in Park Street then on becoming a Sea Scout Troop to Pocock’s Yard.

They were given the title ‘first’ at a time when it was known who came first (1910) and most of the subsequent Troops were formed after B-P’s visit.  It is significant that they have never carried the name of a sponsor organisation or location as did subsequent troops.

By 1911 they had a bugle band and in 1912 a Cycle Patrol (the Eagles) and a Troop magazine.  They were active at the B.-P. rallies of 1911 and 1917 and decorated boats saluted the King on Trinity lawn for his coronation in 1911.  The breadth and number of badges achieved during these years is very good indeed.

In the pre war years the Troop was well supported by prominent backers including Mr. and Mrs. Scales of the Scales Brewery and Dr. and Mrs. Griffith (surgeon at Addenbrooke’s).  The provision of boats by local families and the patronage of the first DC’s wife (no mere figurehead) were evidently very beneficial.  Such support can be attributed to the title ‘1st’ and the then unique ‘Sea Scout’ section but generally support goes to able and active Troops lead by effective Scout Masters.  The troop was both active and able.  They are recalled as ‘camping most weekends’ and won the Silver Bugle in 1914 against strong competition in the 1st Newmarket.

 A successful concert at the Rex Ballroom funded the Alert.

1914 – 1919 (The Great War)

  • 1917    Harry Victor Melbourne         SM

Mrs. Howard Marsh, wife of Professor Howard Marsh, the Master of Downing College and first DC, was a patron of the 1stCambridge.  The 1st Cambridge District (Cherry Hinton) was titled Col. Howard Marsh’s Own (he was an Honourary Colonel), but the 1st Cambridge did not take her name.  He died during the war but his widow is recorded as being an active supporter of the Troop in the absence of its leaders and drain of the older Scouts into the forces.

The troop was reported to have a significant number in the forces and three were recorded as killed. A newspaper report of June 18th 1915 states ‘I hear that the Roll of Honour of the 1st Cambridge Troop (Sea Scouts) bares the names of no less than 17 Scouts and Scoutmasters.  The number of the Troop in peacetime are between 50 and 60 Scouts and Officers’ The three known to have died are:

  • Arthur Curzon             died     1915
  • W G E Phillips              died     1915
  • L Hills                          died     1917

Arthur Curzon was killed by a shell on returning to France from his first leave.  The Troop was run by older Scouts until they, too, joined the forces.

The troop also supplied a Patrol to Coast Watching at Challaboro South Devon, maintaining an almost unbroken presence until at least 1916.  This contingent were recalled as ‘Senior Scouts’ and their absence ‘broke up’ the troop, as recalled by Ted Hewett in 1987.  Senior Scouts was a name used ahead of the adoption of Rover Scouts.

Three students from a Westcott College took on the role of leaders

  • Davidson                    
  • G D Riddell                  (in place 1912, SM 2nd Chester, later DC but not in Cambridge)
  • Leonard Spiller            (President from 1912, an existing DC of Southwold, Suffolk)

1919 – 1928

From Reveille! a single issue District magazine of January 1920, we have

1st (Sea Scouts). J. Dalton has had to give up the Scoutmastership, owing to pressure of business: it will seem strange to have no Dalton among their S.M.’s: but Mr. Melbourne will, we are sure, make good with the Troop, helped by A.S.M.’s T. King and Dent. Mr. King brings more than a whiff of the sea! They are beginning to rake in Badges again. We are glad to hear that H.Q. are not altering the age limit for Sea-Scouts after all.


  • James Dalton                          SM


  • H V Melbourne                       SM
  • T King                                      ASM     Tom possibly Thomas Herbert. 
  • Dent                                        ASM

This period is poorly recorded, but the Troop highlights include leading the parade for the Royal Show Fete in 1922 along the backs in at least two boats, the Sentinel and the Albert.  The Troop also provided the Mayors boat at the 1920 Stourbridge Fair. 

1926/7 District AGM

  • H V Melbourne                       SM      
  • T H King                                   ASM
  • L Lord                                      ASM

In 1928 when the Troop was re-registered as a Group the Troop had two ASM’s, but no GSM or SM listed. (This was a National re organisation)

  • L J W Lord                               ASM
  • H E Canning (Trinity)              ASM

In 1929 District AGM (therefore largely 1928)

  • T H King                                   SM
  • H E Canning (Trinity)              ASM
  • G S Catchpole                          ASM

The troop won the Swimming in 1927 and the Boxing in1928 and ’29, but little else in this era.  It was, however, active in displays for rally’s and a visible presence at parades.

They were working out of the Peterhouse Old boathouse near Victoria Bridge around this date.

1929 – 1932

The RN and RM (Re Union) Association involvement.

In 1930 District AGM

  • C R Cook                                  SM
  • T H King                                   ASM
  • H Milligan of the Perse.          ASM

They listed 26 Scouts in this year.  The Troop was twice re-registered in late 1928 with two new IHQ number being given.  This was the time of National reorganisation when Troops became Groups.  The old number (900)   was quoted in the middle.  It is unclear if this was an internal muddle or suggests a brief hiatus ahead of the link to the RN and RM Association.  Such muddles are rare within the District team at that time.

It would appear that the Troop had become significantly run down by 1928.  The following from 1932 is the only record we have of the request to the RN and RM Association to help.  Some level of unforgiving clarity may be read in the description of the equipment and Troop.  From December 1932 we have: ‘RN and RM (Re Union) Association returned the Group to the Cambridge Boy Scout Association’.  Run by Mr Cook (RN retired), who was now resigning, ‘the troop, which was practically defunct condition, in debt and with unseaworthy equipment, was built up again and reorganised on disciplined and efficient lines while the boats were rendered and have been maintained in an efficient condition.’

The only possible ‘C R Cook’ located was in his fifties at this point.  T H King was a constant presence and could work in both regimes.  He may have been an old sailor, bringing as he did ‘more than a whiff of the sea. H V Melbourne was not listed during this period but was associated with the Troop again in 1945.

It would appear that no one was available to take on the Troop in 1932.  The formal wording perhaps suggests a formal handover of responsibility, possibly greater than was likely to have been the case.  It would be an exceptional occurrence if the 1st had been totally transferred out of the Scouts.  It may, however, explain the ‘eight years’ mentioned by the Leys troop archives in which they were initially semi detached from the District and then defunct.

1933 – 1936

No figures are recorded on the Census for the years 1933 to 1936.

1937 – 1969

1937    The Troop met at 39 Cam Road (Yard). 

  • Edward John Anstee    ASM when the troop was restarted. 
  • R H Ellwood                 GSM and SM (Skipper)
  • FP Ellwood                   ASM and in 1948 DSM,

Re-Registered 25/6/1937 with IHQ No. 18728.  Little remains of the activity during WW2.  A local census records a Wolf Cub Pack which took two refugees in 1939, but no return was made for the 1940 census.  In 1941/42   four leaders were listed as being involved as Home Guards and Air Raid wardens, but the Group were seemingly disinclined to complete records at this time. No records of members or past members of the troop engaged in the Armed Forces remains.  This is not unusual in groups with broken histories, continuity and records are lost.


  • J Fuller                         `Bosun’
  • Meadows                    No1. 
  • Melbourne                  ‘ex Skipper’     presumably Harry Victor Melbourne,
  • S A Melbourne            Instructor        269 Mill Road
  • I Meadows                  ASM                 1943 – 1947, later 23rd, 44th until 1974

Derrick Pearce (Silver Wolf) came to Cambridge in 1946 and took on District and County becoming ACC (Water Activities) Cambridge and Suffolk.  He worked with the 1st, 12th and 60th Cambridge Sea Scout Groups, and his own 13th Ipswich.  Not listed as a leader with any one Group he was a very strong presence in Group, District and County Sea Scouting.

The Troop was able and active during these years, gaining Admiralty Recognition in 1946, 1947 and 1949.  A full set of dates is not available but the 1st are not identified as gaining recognition in 1953 alongside the 12th and 60th.

They participated in District events, won the Morley Trophy and were selected to act as Guard of Honour for Princess Alice in 1947.  Also in 1947 four Scouts attended the French WSJ, they started a Senior Scout Patrol, held a Senior W/e on the Adventurer, ran a Senior camping trip by boat and attended the District Camp at Trumpington Hall by boat.  In this year R H Ellwood and Bob Gillings attended the St George’s Day rally at Windsor, Ellwood presumably for his SIRS work and Gilling having received an award for saving a drowning boy from the Cam – coincidently a Cub from the12th.

At some date between 1943 and 1947 they refurbished a boat – a photograph remains of it outside the Green Dragon, Chesterton.

They won the Adventurers Trophy in 1946 and 1947, for the report on the most adventurous journey of the year.  In 1950 and ’51 they won the Swimming Gala.

 The records list a wide range of badges achieved at this time.  In three months the following are recorded: Swimming (2), Ambulance, Handyman, Civil Defence, Spotter, Gardener, Plumber, Athlete (9), Carpenter, National Service (2), Friend to Animals (2), Metal worker, Artist, Rescuer, and Oarsman (5).

It is of note that in the same entry in 1947 it was recorded that two Scouts achieved the green and yellow cord and two the green cord.  This was presumably an overlap between Scouts and new Senior Scout awards reorganisation.

By 1950 the Scouter I/C was L F Hamilton and they met at St Faiths School.  Derrick Pearce was Bursar at St Faith’s and probably the link to room hire.   In that year there was no return to the Census and the Troop was deemed to be ‘in abeyance’ but they were back in 1951.  At District level it was discussed whether it should be a Sea Scout Group with no waterside accommodation. 

In 1953 they are listed as meeting at the Local Association HQ (Grafton Street).  No Group records survive for this period.

Again in 1969 no census returns were made.

1971 – 2001

In 1971 the Group restarted. 

  • Michael Frederick Curwain    CSL.  A ‘Curwain’ was amongst the winners of the Morley Trophy in 1947 but the connection is not made.
  • Ken Fletcher                CSL                  1992
  • William Tripp (Bill)     GSL  retired in 1993.  He ran Sub Aqua sessions for the District.

The Pack met at St Augustine’s Church in Richmond Road.  Scouts started two years later.  It is not recorded that they ever had a Venture Scout Unit or that they fed into a District Unit.

During the 1970’s they were notably good at first aid, winning the District Ambulance three times.  Despite not registering a VSU they won the 1981 Venture Scout Endurance Test.

The Troop provided part of the Guard for the Royal wedding presents in 1981 and the 80th Anniversary of Scouting in 1988.  They were in attendance when Chief Scout Garth Morrison visited Witchford Village College in 1989.  In 1991 they sent three to the World Scout Jamboree in Korea.

The Group were listed as one of the North Cambridge that was present at the re-amalgamation of the District in 2001.  However, leadership numbers and Troop numbers had fallen and the Troop was meeting with the 14th Cambridge (St Luke’s).  The surviving leader, Chris Scott, joined the 14th and the 1st lost any remaining identity.

2012 – date

  • Kathryn Pennell                       BSL
  • Richard Halliday                     CSL
  • Antonio Tosi                            SL

1st Cambridge (Orchard Park), which is not a Sea Scout Group, picked the 1st as a number.  It started on 12th November 2012.  Operating in a new part of expanding Cambridge, as of June 2022 it comprises Squirrels, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts.


Notable Leaders

It is notable that we have no records of 1st Cambridge leaders achieving a Silver Acorn or Wolf, aside from W R Wright who achieved his on badge count alone. 

  • A W H Curzon built a Troop that was able to provide an almost unbroken Coast Watching team for two years.
  • R H Ellwood was the only Cambridge Scouter to join SIRS, a distinctly noteworthy act.
  • Ivor Meadows, later GSL 44th Cambridge (Trumpington)

Notable Scouts

  • Scout Frank Keepin                             1st Cambridge Troop Medal of Merit, 16th May 1916 for stopping a pair of runaway horses. This medal was presented by Professor Gardiner D.C.
  • Patrol Leader Robert Gillings                         1st Cambridge Group. Gilt Cross, 3 August 1946. For his gallantry in rescuing a little boy from drowning in the River Cam at Cambridge on 3rd August 1946. Awarded 23rd October 1946.

Note: Herbert Stone Medal of Merit was from 1st Cambridge District (Cherry Hinton)

1st Cambridge and the District

Judging by the work put in to maintaining the Troop by the District it was clearly important that it succeed.  Nowhere written, but nevertheless apparent, there was a strong affection for the Troop.

The fact that it was the ‘first’, that it was the Sea Scouts, that it was a very visible element of Scouting, and possibly that it was, if spasmodically, an active and successful Troop may all have contributed to this feeling.  The intangible affection for the individual leaders and the work put in may also have played a part.  The 1st was very able – in many periods.

It is evident that, the Ellwood’s aside, the Troop did not provide many significant leaders to the wider District; into other troops or to the District team.  The work required to run a Sea Scout Troop may be greater than other Troops, certainly no very long lasting leaders came out of the Troop to gain the recognition via Silver Acorns and Silver Wolfs. 

Lacking names we cannot be certain of the internally generated leaders and we have no records of members involved in WW2.


The 1st Cambridge (Sea Scouts) flourished in some decades under good strong leaders, but continuity was difficult.  It was very successful before the Great War, achieved notable work during the war and again revitalised immediately after the war before faltering around 1929.  The Second War delayed resurgence under the Ellwood’s, but after the war the Troop had five years of significant re-growth until it stuttered in 1950.  Records for the 1950s and 60’s are very poor but following a second stutter in 1970 it settled into 30 years of steady work.

Without a Pack to feed the Troop numbers have varied but, inevitably, stronger in periods of great activity.  That they never had a permanent base by the river or elsewhere damaged the chance of longevity.

The latest ‘1st Cambridge’ is once again in the hands of an active leader who is growing a vigorous new Group, but without ‘a whiff of the sea’.  

A great deal more could be said, a very great deal more remains to be discovered.

JWR Archivist June 2022