23rd Cambridge (St Matthew’s) Outline History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Only one group has been numbered the 23rd Cambridge, for most of its existence ‘St Matthew’s’. It generated a very strong Rover Crew and leadership team under Fred Feary and most central District Groups benefited at some time from members. The links with the 13th were particularly strong.


The 23rd started at St Matthew’s in 1917 with a formal registration date of 29/10/1917 following a short lived 14th Troop in 1910 – <1913. It was first listed in the Parish Magazine at some point between Feb 1916 and March 1918 (the Magazine set is incomplete) but a ‘Coming of Age Supper’ in 1938 confirms 1917.

They were parading at the Parish Room at their ‘HQ’ in July 1919 and it is recorded that the first time it camped on its own was for a week in July – August 1919. Fred Feary, an Irish Guardsman badly injured in the war, took over as SM, and they were not in charge of the Vicar. At this time a Lads Club was still in place at the Church which ran a number of clubs for young people.

(See People/ Individuals/ Scouters/ Fred Feary)

  • Peck SM
  • Mr Garlick


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

23rd (St.. Matthew’s). The 23rd got an excellent start two years ago, from S.M. Peck and the Curate, Mr. Garlick. Now it’s telling: P.L. W. Brown is bedizened with Badges (and good ones too); while the two Sansoms ought to be called Samsons. Speaking generally, their Scouts show a very fair knowledge of Badge work. We haven’t had much chance of testing them lately in out-door work, but through no fault of their own.

  • Rev. Herbert Wise (Curate) left for the new St George’s and started the 54th.

The Cub pack, known as the 23rd from 1925 was registered 26/4/1927 and the pack ‘not really attached but working with the troop’ was formally linked from this date.

The Troop and Pack became a Group 9/10/1928 along with the rest of the District.

The Parish Magazines are not available between 1919 and 1932 by which point they record Cubs, Scouts and Rovers.


  • Fred Feary GSM
  • J Covell CM
  • W T Thurbon ASM ARL Bill
  • W H D Wolfe ASM
  • R Eaden ASM Reg
  • C J Sansom ACM


Rovers are recorded in 1924, 1926 and 1928 – 1942.

A full list of Rovers is on 23rd Cambridge /Rover Crew.

1934 (circa)

  • Fred Feary GSM
  • W T Thurbon RSL Sec. District Sec. Evercircular letters
  • I Meadows ASM Ivor later 44th
  • G Russell ASM
  • R Jackson CM
  • R Furlong ACM
  • E Tilley Old Scouts Sec. Edgar

(See 23rd Rovers and 23rd Cambridge Rover Crew taken from a later book report.)

By 1932 date Rev AWN Tribe (Assistant Clergy) was involved and the Group was very active with regular, large and successful Concerts , later characterized as ‘Operas’, and camps for Cubs and Scouts and with visitors days arranged by coach. The Church as a whole continued to be a centre for a centre for several youth activities, Campaigners, Guides and Brownies, but the Lads Club had stopped.

The Group was very well engaged in the Cambridge Boat Club, Fred Feary the first captain racing in the first two years – despite being invalided out of WW1 with a shattered knee.

The last of the available Parish Magazines is in 1941 when the Cubs were not listed as running.

1939 – 1945

Before and during the war the Group took in three German/ Austrian refugees who were later interned before being released and participating in the Allied war effort. In 1939 the Scouts had 6 evacuees amongst 21 members and in 1940 the troop 3 and the pack 5.

The Group named the following as members who died in the war (see WW1 and WW2/ Roll of Honour).

  • R Culpin
  • R Summerfield
  • R Wallis
  • E W Carter
  • H F Gigney (Frank) was associated with both the 11th and the 23rd.

A number of gallantry awards were listed, DFC, DSM and BEM. A total of 87 members and ex members were recorded as being engaged on active service by the 23rd, 5 of whom were officers. Three of the seven leaders were in the forces in the 1941 questionnaire.

Bill Thurbon was the central organizer of the Evercircular letters (see Evercircular letters), a remarkable survival. The Troop records only one War Service Scout in 1944. They did not record either Sea Scouts or Air Scouts.

Senior Scouts / Venture Scouts

It is noted that Senior Scouts were in place in 1944, ahead of the formal start date of 1946. The Group lists Senior scouts from 1946 – 1965 when Ventures started. With the start of Venture Scouts the Group elected to feed into the successful Sir John Cockcroft Unit.

1946 – 1960

The Group participated in the 40th anniversary and sent four Scouts to the French WSJ.

1960 – 1976

Fred Feary continued as GSM/GSL for 50 years gaining a Silver Acorn and Silver Wolf in 1970. Chuck Lilley (SW), W T Thurbon (SW), Rob Farringdon (SW), Ken North (SW) are among others associated with the Group.

In 1963 two members attended the Greek WSJ.

In 1974 the Group re registered, retaining its HQ number but losing the St Mathews affiliation. Around this date it lost its meeting room and on 1/1/1976 amalgamated with the 7th and later with the 13th where the joint group lost its identity. The 13th persists as a group name.


It is recorded that they were attempting to restart the Cub Pack in 1983. It is not known when it failed. This is the date at which Cambridge District split into North and South and the records are very poor.


The 7th/23rd element of the 13th were in place in 2005 but disappeared from the name at in 2006.

The 23rd was a very active an important Group particularly between the wars. Lead by Fred Feary for many years it attracted many to the Rover Crew and they spread back out to much of Cambridge. It was central to the Evercircular Letters and home of many active leaders.

JWR Archivist May 2022