20th Cambridge (St Catharine’s Choir) Duke of Devonshire’s Own: Outline History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Only one Troop/ Group has clearly held the number 20th Cambridge, St Catharine’s Choir.  There is evidence of another, a District Senior Scout Troop in the 1950’s and 60’s but no clear history.

1912 – 1913 3rd Cambridge

St Catharine’s Choir Troop had previously existed as the 3rd Cambridge in 1912/13.  They are recorded as disbanding in early 1914 and re forming in October 1914. A later reference in 1918 as the 3rd may be an error of memory.  They had failed, reformed and presumably not allocated a new number, or the new number forgotten.  It was as the 3rd they had camped at Chatworth and had taken the title Duke of Devonshire’s Own.  The 8th Duke, in addition to giving them permission to camp at Chatworth, was the Chancellor of the University; the 9th a Graduate of the University and later Chief scout of Canada.

Confusingly a Troop gain a mention by number (20th) in 1915, and we can only assume that this is St Catharine’s Choir. St Catharine’s re-opened as the 20th by 1918.

1918 – 1925

They were recorded as being active in 1918,  registered as in 1922 and last active in 1925 as the 20th Cambridge (St Catharine’s Choir)(Duke of Devonshire’s Own).

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

20th (St. Catharine’s Choir) The 20th has been gulping down 2nd Class Badges since its revival. Mr. Benstead has got North as T.L. We hope that, in their zeal, they won’t go too fast for accurate knowledge. We hear that in their Camp on the Norfolk Broads, their boat got run down and upset, but their heads were even cooler than the water. They can run, to judge by recent events. It is a pity we do not see them at Church Parades.

The 20th   There is no real reason for thinking that he is a Bronto-soar-us We should be more inclined to class him with the gentle giraffe (John Benstead was ‘immensely tall’)

  • C R Benstead MC (John)
  • North               TL

They were clearly active in 1922 when they were registered.  This may have been the date of the National registration.  Before this date Troops were registered locally.  A year later than most national registrations and out of sequence with the IHQ numbers the delay is not accounted for.  It is possible that it is a second registration reflecting a change in details. Only Scouts were reported on the only two recorded Census returns for the Troop in 1922 and 1923.  The lack of 1921, the first year for which we have any census numbers, might suggest a break in troop continuity.

(C R Benstead Captain RN MC See St Cat’s Society Magazine Sept 1973)

In 1922 15 members of the Troop took a ten day tour of the Great War battle fields.  They are not mentioned in other records or newspaper reports.

They are recorded in 1924 and as disbanding, a clear act to end, in 1925.

JWR Archivist June 2022