26th Cambridge: Outline History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The 26th Cambridge has six names but three or possibly only two separate Troops or Groups.

  • 26th Cambridge (St John’s Choir)                                1919                919
  • 26th Cambridge (Brunswick School)                            1928                18451
  • 26th Cambridge (St Andrew’s St Baptist Church)        1928                7570
  • 26th Cambridge                                                           1937
  • 26th Cambridge (Zion)                                                 1946
  • 26th Cambridge                                                           1954

The last four or five names are one, apparently continuous, Group without break.

26th Cambridge (St John’s Choir)                              <1919 – 1923              919

St John’s Choir or St John’s College School was for choristers.  There is no record of the catchment extending, as it did within other College Choirs, to past and present members or wider to sons of College workers or members.  The Troop is listed as closed in 1923, however, census numbers are listed for 1921 to 1924.  Recorded census numbers only began in 1921 and the 1924 is the standard ‘year in arrears’.  Rover Scouts are recorded for 1921 only.

From the single issue District magazine Reveille of early 1920 we have ‘26th (St. John’s Choir). They are such busy songsters that they can only Scout in snatches, and their H.Q. has been remote. But P.L. E. Wilson is a host in himself.’

This suggests that the Troop was well established before registration, the norm rather than an anomaly for troops and packs formed during WW1.  The same source reference a ‘Nimble Newt’ of the 26th but this leader has not been identified.

26th Cambridge (Brunswick School)                         1928                            18451

Registered on 24th May 1928 this short lived Group has left little clear information. It appears to have shared scarf colours with the next 26th which came later in the year. This may suggest a continuity of existence with the later Group, merely an early switch of name. 

The change in IHQ number may also suggest continuity between the second and third iteration.  The 7570 series of numbers came with the universal switch to Group numbers in late 1928.  Before this date Packs and Troops were listed separately.  A move to Group may have been used to accommodate an early change in name.

The 26th Cambridge (St Andrews Street Baptist Church) pack is recorded as starting in February 1928, ahead of the Brunswick school registration.  Packs and troops starting ahead of formal registration was the norm, registration coming after the section had demonstrated a stability and appropriate standard of Scouting.  A three or four month gap to the May registration as Brunswick School is far more likely than a ten month gap to the December registration as St Andrew St, another indication that Brunswick became St Andrews St .

26th Cambridge (St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church)         1928 – 1937                 7570

Registered in December 1928 and unambiguously listed in the AGM report of 1927/28 published in late 1928 the scarf was royal blue and the pack had 20 members on opening.  They met in the St Andrews Parish Hall.

  • Miss W F Heeps                      CM
  • M Barrett                                ACM
  • K A C Parsons                          ACM    (from 1930)

M Barrett and Miss W F Heeps were later to marry and had a son, Roger, in 1946 who became known as Syd.  By 1930 the group had 25 Cubs and by 1931 they had started a Scout Troop with 10 members and 12 Cubs.

  • M Barrett                                GSM
  • K A C Parsons                          CM     
  • E D Barrett                              ACM

The pack joined the 14th Cambridge (St Columba’s) for a year between 1932 and 1933, possibly as separate components. The 14th was a strong Group and very near neighbours.

Census returns (below for all stages of the Group) give Scouts troop from 1929 or 1930.

By 1935

  • J Johnson                                 GSM

Three of the five leaders were from the University and leader turnover is high at this point. The troop is recorded as closed in 1934, but this was for a short period and Census figures return in 1935.  They are recorded as amalgamating in 1935 with the 43rd Cambridge (Fen Ditton, St Mary) which may have re invigorated the numbers.   This may have been a ‘diplomatic’ amalgamation and more of an absorption by the 26th; the number 43rd never appears as part of the title and disappears from the lists.  With the 43rd came Horace George Flitton Cann (Skip) – who stayed from 1935 as ASM, 1936 SM, 1947 – 1965 GSM.   The one known member of the 26th Cambridge named on the Roll of Honour has a Fen Ditton address.

 The pack closed in 1937 for a year and Cub census numbers reappear in 1938. As with the earlier troop closure of a year this did not indicate that the Group closed.

26th Cambridge                                                          1937 – 1946                 7570

On 26th January 1937 the Group dropped its association with St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church and became ‘Open’.  The details of the separation are not known.  The Group is then recorded as meeting at the District HQ in Grafton Street.  Unusually the change in details did not alter the IHQ registration number.  It may be that in practice this was not a fundamental change. 

The Cub pack restarted in 1938 and whilst not returning Census numbers for 1942 re registered in that year and has continued ever since.

In a War time collection of details the Group listed only one leader, probably after the death of the first Mrs. Cann.  Later, but undated, we have three known leaders including the second Mrs. Cann who was in role by February 1944.

  • H G F Cann                              GSM               
  • Mrs Cann                                CM                 
  • Mrs Miller                               ACM

Three evacuees were reported in the troops in 1939, but none in 1940, the only two years of details.  It was noted that within Cambridge District  ‘WSS (War Service Scouts) was flourishing and Skipper Cann is in his element.’  He took particular interest in this war time initiative.

The Group reported one death in action during the war, C J Sewell of Fen Ditton.  However, Mrs Emma E Cann, Horace Cann’s first wife, was reported as having died from an illness contracted whilst working for the Red Cross in 1940.  She was a Member of the District Executive committee.  This, alongside other deaths directly attributable to war work but not part of active service, was not registered as part of the Roll of Honour locally or nationally.  The debate about this request has not survived.   The Mrs. Cann of 1945 is Ivy M Cann (nee Pugh), Horace’s second wife. 

In February 1944 the Group amalgamated with the 65th Cambridge, previously ‘Holy Sepulchre’.  The 65th had no associated kit, but as the amalgamation was for ‘the war period’, Mrs Cann took care of the flag.  The 65th was abolished in 1946. 

26th Cambridge (Zion)                                                           1946 – 1954                             7570

Registered on 26th December 1946 the Group remained open.   It met at Zion Church Sunday School (Petersfield entrance) and the leaders probably still those of 1945. 

 It has one other known meeting place, Cherry Hinton Hall, lately home to the short lived 27th Cherry Hinton Hall group, at the evacuee centre.  The hall was Council owned and several community centred activities were based on the site. 

26th Cambridge                                                          1954 – date                            7570

The association with the Zion Church ended and the name was registered as 26th Cambridge on 29th April 1956 or, from HQ records, 4th June 1956.  A record of unclear date (after 1950) lists Brunswick School as a meeting place, possibly between 1957 and 1965.

  • H Cann                                    Scouter in Charge

Two very long serving leaders joined in the next decade and the group moved into a position to build its own scout building.

  • John Wallman             SW       SL from 1956 and GSM from 1968
  • Barrie Sheehan           SW       SL from 1966

Both are associated with the Group in 2022.


The Group has retained a core identity since 1928 despite three or probably four changes in name.  Certainly the HQ number has remained unaltered since late 1928, a soft indication of there being no fundamental change in the Group, as has the scarf.  It stuttered in its early years as leaders came and went but settled to a solid base and growth first under the long serving Horace Cann and later John Wallman. 

Census numbers from 1928 until 1983, when records cease, give

  • Cubs                            1928 – 1983    Not 1937 or 1942
  • Scouts                         1930 – 1983     Not 1934 or 1975
  • War Service Scouts     1942 – 1943
  • Rovers                         1938, 1944 and 1946
  • Ventures                      1968 – 1983
  • Beavers                       1983 – 

No Sea Scouts, Air Scouts or Senior Scouts have been recorded in the years when the Census asked for these categories.

Since 2022 they have been working with 14th Cambridge.

JWR Archivist Aug 2022