25th Cambridge: Victoria Road Congregational

Cambridge District Scout Archive

This incarnation of the 25th Cambridge was opened or registered in December 1938.  This coincides with arrival at the Church of Rev Norman Armstrong who was very active in generating a youth friendly church.  An appreciation of Rev Armstrong (below) does not mention the Scouts but it is clear that he put a great deal of time into making the Church ‘Youth Friendly’.

Victoria Congregational Church was next to St Luke’s on Victoria Road slightly downhill from the site of Kindersley Workshop, part of whose front building was in the Church grounds.

A L. Collis became GSM (See list of groups labelled Post 1934 but probably nearer or including entries as late as 1938/39) probably Leslie John Collis then at age of 18 or 19; this may be an error for ASM (as above) or SM.  The Collis family were a single family in Cambridge at this time and no other L Collis is known at the address given, the family address.

The 25th – Sea Scouts Barry Jones is 2nd from the right

The undated photo above is one of several from the Collis family in 2020. Only three clearly show 25th scarf colours and Sea Scout uniforms. The rest show a strong Light/ dark halved scarf and (land) Scout shirts. This troop has not been identified.

Clearly labeled ‘Troop 1939 outside Victoria Road Congregational Church’

Leslie John Collis is also recorded elsewhere on this site as a POW, and ‘Missing’ and as an individual Cambridge Scouter with reference to his Scouting in a Japanese POW camp.  He was with the 25th both pre and post war.

The following information comes from a letter (August 2020) from an old member of the Troop.  The letters are produced in full below.

Rev Norman Armstrong is described as opening a Sea Scout Troop about 1937/38, initially in the Church Small Hall with help from Perse Scouts.  A initially a small troop of 15 – 20 at this time they had two patrols, Seagulls and Herons. The numbers post war rose to a high of 42 with a further 12 Rover Sea Scouts.

The Group found a meeting place in the garden of a detached house opposite the Church, property of a member of the congregation, having the use of an outside toilet and the careful use of the garden.  They also meet on St Andrews Fields.

House opposite in whose garden shed they and the brick built shed can be seen from the rear access road, Hilda Street; ‘An ideal Scout HQ’. The current owner (Sept 2020) confirms the hosting but the building. originally a stables, burnt down and all that remains is the rear wall.

The first camp in 1939 was at MacFarlene Grieves Toft Manor (Perse SM). L Collis’s son recalls:

After the war, I know that when there were scout camps in Hemingford Grey (about 11 miles from Cambridge), Dad would cycle over, help set up the camp, spend the week-end and nights with the scouts, leaving for work in Milton (approx 11 miles each way) each morning, returning after work in the evening.  This he did by bicycle, as he didn’t have a car. I don’t have any idea how many camps were spent at Hemingford, but there were quite a few.

Indeed, my Mother recalls cycling out to Hemingford after they were married (1948) and staying at the camp.

The following letters are the only known record of the activities of the 25th

The Parish Magazine of 1944 records Sea Scouts camping at Burwell and a Group of Rover Scouts at Windermere. In December 1944 both a Pack and troop were recorded and by 1948 two troops The Parish Magazine did not include regular reports.

The 25th Cambridge (Victoria Road Congregational) Scout Group expanded to include a Wolf Cub pack, Rover Crew and post WW2 Senior Scouts. In 1939 they are recorded as having an influx of 10 evacuees, a number dropping to 4 in 1940.   The Troop lost their leadership team in the late 1940’s and the Church withdrew its sponsorship of the Troop in consequence.  The Troop worked with, but are not listed as amalgamating with, the 29th/42nd (a war time amalgamation) and were part of a three way rearrangement in late 1950.  The Pack were left as the core of the 25th but only continued until May 1951.

JWR Archivist Sept 2020

Notes on Rev Norman Armstrong Rev of Victoria Cong Ch (excerpts from recollection/ history) http://www.churchatcastle.org/sites/default/files/ThroughEyeOfNeedle.pdf

3.2 My Recollections of Victoria Road Congregational Church/U.R.C. by V.R.Vesey (nee Leete)

In 1937 the Rev. Norman Armstrong became our minister. Norman Armstrong drew young people together and the Church benefited. Every Sunday after evening service we met in the vestry for discussions. In those days we were known as the `Young People’s Friendly’. Norman Armstrong had taken youth groups abroad and I remember we talked about the state of things in Europe, and hoped that war might not happen.

It was intended that we should cater for the community as well as the youth of the church and we had several evacuees. Three leaders of the Youth Club were appointed. Mr. Harold Muggleton (Uncle Harold), who was a deacon and who took considerable trouble to help the young. When any members came home on leave he would take them out to coffee and he was always present at the Youth Club meetings. Mrs. Nellie Francis was another Leader. She was an evacuee herself and came with her husband and two daughters from London. She was very helpful. I was the third Leader. We had various activities.

 The youth of the church who were in the Forces were remembered in our prayers every Sunday, and Norman Armstrong wrote regularly to them.

In 1944 Norman Armstrong left for London to become Co-secretary of the Congregational Youth Department