1st Willingham: Outline History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Scouting in Willingham has two phases, during the second of which they moved outside Cambridge District and becoming lost to Cambridge District records.

  • 3rd Cambridge District (Willingham)                          1913 – 1920
  • 1st Willingham                                                            1963 – date

3rd Cambridge District (Willingham)            1913 – 1920

The 3rd Cambridge District was used by five villages or combinations of villages with ten variations of names between them.  The Troop which included Willingham was variously recorded as Longstanton; Longstanton and Lolworth; Longstanton, Lolworth and Willingham and later just Lolworth and finally just Willingham.  It is not known if theses name changes represent the fluctuating catchment areas in the troop, the formal growth and shrinkage of the troop or are just short versions of the full name.

The Troop is referred to as Longstanton, Lolworth and Willingham in the 1912/1913 AGM and as just Willingham in a District list of June 1920.

It was reported in The Scout, a weekly magazine for Scouts (rather than ‘The Scouter’ for Scouters) in January and February 1914.  The earliest report of August 1913 does not name it as ‘Willingham’ but probably relates to the same troop.

Aug 1913         The 9th Cambridge and 3rd Cambridge District Troops had a most delightful and successful week at camp at West Runton, Norfolk from July 24th to the 31st.

Jan 1914          Scouts from the 9th Cambridge, Longstanton and Willingham Troops recently performed an excellent Scout play entitled ‘Black Eagle’ by the Rev. W A B Clementson.

Feb 1914         On Feb 4th the 3rd Cambridge District Willingham and Longstanton and 9th Cambridge…   (as reported above but Troops reversed)

  • R A Wright                  SM
  • Rev C T Wood             SM of Lolworth and 9th Cambridge (Queens’ College Choir), later DC and CC

A SM warrant in October 1914 for an R A Wright with the address The Council School Willingham might suggest involvement in the troop. 

C T Wood specifically supported Lolworth from 1913 and during the Great War.  Photographs from his album label the troop Lolworth.  It is assumed that the addition of Willingham came later.

  • Note Rev W A B Clementson who published plays for Scouts is not known local connection.

It appears that the troop folded around 1920.

C T Wood Album No 73

Another photograph labelled ‘Lolworth Patrol’ with seven scouts is adjacent to this in his album which might suggest that this was the expanded troop of several villages, each with a village specific patrol.

1st Willingham                                                1963 – date

Records from this period do not provide much peripheral detail and no stories have come down to inform the history.  In addition Willingham became part of Cambridge Crafts Hill in the 1982 division of the core Cambridge District and no longer mentioned in reports.

  • Tony (Chick) Fowler    Founder           SM/SL  GSM/ GSL       
  • Lyn Curtis                    CM/CSL
  • Dave Daniels               SL
  • Dusty Reynolds            ASL

The Group returned census figures for 1971 and 1972 for Cubs and in 1973 to 1984 (the end of records) Cubs and Scouts.  The lack of returns for 1963 – 1970 is not explained.

  • Air Scouts                    From 1972.
  • Venture Scouts            The Troop fed Crafts Hill District Units, originally Crafts Hill VSU and presumably later Belsar VSU.  Belsar Hill is just to the east of Willingham, Belsar VSU ran from 1982.
  • Beavers                       Start date not known

HQ Number 39509      HQ Number 39886

The two HQ numbers suggest a  new registration, something that usually occurs at a significant change of detail or hiatus in a Group.  The details are not known although a delayed or missed annual re-registration through a break in the postal system or an administrative lapse could require a formal restart.

In 1984 a 2nd Willingham was listed but no 1st, possibly an error, but otherwise unexplained.

The following is taken whole from a history on an old 1st Willingham website in which the founder of the current Group Tony Fowler (SW) was interviewed.  The date is not clear but after 2007.

https://sites.google.com/site/1stwillingham/troop-389-history

Scouting is alive and well in Willingham, as village residents will know. This is a testament to the foundations that Tony Fowler laid when he started 1st Willingham Scouts within a year of arriving in the village in 1962. It was his enthusiasm, based on long experience of scouting, that got it started in 1963, and built it to the flourishing state which it now enjoys. ‘In my humble opinion’, Tony declares, Scouting is the greatest youth movement ever.’

The Scout movement was founded by General Baden-Powell in February 1907. Tony notes that it began, in Poole, Dorset, with 20 boys, and there are now more than 28 million Scouts around the world.

Tony Fowler’s own involvement began in 1943, as a cub scout at the Perse preparatory school. He moved to the Perse Upper School, and was a member of the school troop. He also joined the Air Section of the Combined Cadet Force, and with that background entered the RAF in 1951. By the early 1960s Tony was Assistant Scout Master (the term now is Leader) of 29th Cambridge Scout Group, East Barnwell.

Moving to Willingham, he discovered that there was no troop in the village – and that many people wished there was. He cut his ties with the 29th, called a meeting in the (old) school, and things began to happen. At an early stage he recruited Lyn Curtis and as a result of Tony’s remarkable powers of persuasion, she later became Cub Scout Leader – in 1969.

Meanwhile, he met the Parish Council, which agreed that the newly formed Scout Troop could use the Public Hall, which is still the meeting place for Willingham’s Scouts.

Parents raised money to buy old army wardrobes to store kit. Later, as the troop grew, other fund-raising activities were started.  For several years in the mid-1970s Scouts, and a group of parents, went round the village on the first Saturday each month collecting waste paper for sale. They also organised a collection of saleable metal.

For a time Tony was the only Scout leader, but he soon recruited others, the first being Dave Daniels, so Tony became Group Scout Leader.

Talking of people’s willingness to serve, Tony emphasises that Scout leaders are volunteers. ‘Some people’, he remarks with surprise and disappointment ‘even a few years ago thought that leaders were paid.’

Tony’s contribution to Scouting was not just in Willingham. He became the first Assistant District Commissioner for leader training across the District. He joined a training team, set up by Lieutenant Colonel Harry Mainwaring, then County Commissioner, as part of a plan to make Scouting more adventurous. Tony speaks warmly of Harry Mainwaring as one of the ‘characters’ in the Scouting firmament.

When Dusty Reynolds, who had a RAF background, became an Assistant Scout Leader, the Troop became Air Scouts (which chimed in with Tony’s own National Service experience). With the help of Colin Dews, company service manager at Pye, who was Tony’s boss, Willingham’s Scouts were able to enjoy gliding.

Listening to Tony Fowler talking, still with huge enthusiasm, about the growth and development of Scouting in Willingham and beyond, you marvel that he actually had time for a career as well. In fact, he had joined Pye in 1951, left to join the RAF, but because of his father’s illness ceased to be a regular, and returned to Pye after two years of national service. He joined Pye Telecommunications on 18 May 1953. Three months later his father, who had worked for Pye throughout the war, died.

After 21 years in the service department, Tony became the company’s health and safety adviser in 1974. Health and safety regulations came in nationally on 1 April of that year, and Tony reflects wryly that, given the way in which the regulations have developed, the date was well chosen.

He retired (from Philips, as the firm had become) in 1991, after almost 40 years of service. In retirement he worked part-time for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme in Cambridgeshire – an appropriate role, since, as he notes, Scouting has now embraced the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award, which is held jointly with the distinction of becoming a Queen’s Scout. Tony takes particular pride in the fact that in 1985 his son Tim, Andrew Cook and Tim Curtis, were the first Willingham Scouts to win the coveted Queen’s Scout Award.

Now finally retired, Tony is still involved in County Scouting events. He was in Ely Cathedral for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Scout Movement. In 1996 he was presented with the Silver Wolf, which is the personal gift of the Chief Scout, in recognition of his services to Scouting in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire.

Hundreds of Willingham boys have enjoyed and benefited from Scouting, and Tony Fowler takes great pleasure from the fact that the foundations he laid have proved so solid and lasting. Why is it that Scouting continues to flourish? Tony’s reply is clear: ‘It offers a sense of fun, achievement and challenge’.

Scouting in Willingham is still active, and whilst the group have broken ties with the Air Scout movement, there are still plenty of fun activities!

Tony Fowler

In addition to the roles mentioned ahead of the 1982 division of Cambridge District Tony Fowler was also DC for the administrative Sub Division North and later DC Crafts Hill immediately ahead of the division of Cambridge District into Cambridge North, Cambridge South and Cambridge Crafts Hill.

JWR Archivist July 2022