31st Cambridge: Outline History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

 The only Group to use the 31st Cambridge is the University Rovers.  The University has a clear history before and after the 31st and has since been erroneously labelled 31st before and occasionally after the strict dates of this nomenclature.

See also Structure/ University Scouting/ Cambridge University Scouting: 1 – 6 for a fuller history

An earlier use is recorded but sits outside any known standard naming systems at that date and is presumably an error.

  • Windermere School Pack
  • Cambridge Rover Troop
  • Cambridge University Rover Troop                                     7778    1920 – 1928
  • 31st Cambridge (Cambridge University Rover Troop)             1928 – 1967/8
  • Cambridge University Scout and Guide Club                     7550    1953 – date

Windermere School Pack

This odd entry is almost certainly the consequence of ambiguous phraseology.  The District Minute book of 4th Feb 1918 gives ‘Windermere School Pack, 31st Troop’.  This is almost certainly two items.  However, no records for 29th or 30th Troops have been located up to this date.  The 31st may be an error for 21st Troop which was founded in 1918 (St Faith’s School).  Further, packs were labelled separately and those without associated troops were given letters not numbers.  Windermere School Pack was active by 1919 and labelled ‘C Pack’.

Much of the very early growth of Cambridge scouting, in and out of the University, was generated by University students and what might be considered the late formation of the Rover Troop is not yet understood.  Any short lived war time institution may have been lost – many troops and packs were not registered until 1918 – 1920.  Whilst most students left and the colleges were used by the military, a number of medical students, Conscientious Objectors, foreign students and the infirm remained.  That said, there is no evidence that it was an active organization before 1920, and if it were it was not registered with the local Scout Association District the District records may not mention it at all.   No University units are mentioned in the 1919 single issue District magazine Reveille!  Few records remain at all from this era.

The University Rovers return Census figures for every year from 1921 to 1966.  1939, 1940 and 1942 are missing for all Groups.

Cambridge Rover Troop                                                       7778

This Troop was registered 21st December 1920. The registration document was first Cambridge University Rover Troop but the ‘University’ has been strongly, but not totally, lined through.  In brackets is added and clearly part of the full title (for the training of Scout Officers). A latter archivist / secretary had labelled the registration documents CURT, but the document itself gives the title as Cambridge Rover Troop.  The Troop was ‘open’, but ‘confined to members of Cambridge University’.  Elsewhere the Troop was planned or considered to be for both Town and Gown, but the context of this observation is unclear.

At registration it listed four leaders and 12 Rovers.  This appears to have grown to 67 Rovers by November 1921.  The four leaders are difficult to untangle as later changes were added to the original Form but we have

  • Captain Gidney           Hon ASM         (Camp Chief, Gilwell Park)    (Ex Camb)
  • R Lang                         Deputy Camp Chief                 Instructor
  • L R Missen MC           Deputy Camp Chief                 Instructor
  • T M Garraway             Deputy Camp Chief                 Instructor
  • N V Halward                Scribe              Troop Leader
  • HRP Boormatrin?        SM

The registration does not bear a HQ stamp but dates are probably correct as later notes and amendments (some below) are dated Nov 1921 and Oct 1922

Oct 1922

  • N V Halward                Troop Leader
  • A Swallow                    Scribe
  • C L Beaumont             Treasurer


  • C L Beaumont             Troop Leader
  • A Swallow                    Scribe
  • ? P Kennedy                 Treasurer

1923 – 1924

  • B Armstrong                Troop Leader
  • MM Simmons             Treasurer

Cambridge University Rover Troop                                     7778    1923 – 1928

This Troop registration has few details and no IHQ date stamp.  The IHQ number remains the same and gives for 1924 the ‘all ranks’ total as 80.  It reaffirms Members of the University only.

  • B Armstrong                Scout Master

31st Cambridge           Cambridge University Rover Troop             1928 – 1967/8

This was a re registration, ‘to add 31st Cambridge’ only and is dated 23rd November 1928.  Whilst this is during and probably alongside the registration of new Groups 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th it is a renaming on a ‘Change in Group Registration’ Form C2.

  • T M Cherry                  Group Scout Master

The membership and some officials changed rapidly but some leaders were Senior members of the University.


  • Dr J Parry RSL Clare
  • J G Manners ARSL Queens’
  • Rev G K Tibbatt DCC Sidney Sussex
  • Prof Duff Sen Treasurer Trinity


  • A L Pervical Jones Scouter i/c Jesus

Cambridge University Scout and Guide Club                     7550    1953 – date

Formed in 1953 from CURT and Girton Guides.  They did not take a Cambridge Number, sitting outside the District as a member of Student Scout and Guide Association (SSAGO).

The Rover Crew continued alongside CUSAGC, the Census figures returned were apparently for the CUSAGC but possibly male members only.  This is not explicitly stated.  The Rovers finally came to an end in 1966/7, but it may be that the Rover Crew was not simply the male portion of CUSACG but a male only enclave for some men within CUSAGC.  This is not yet clear.


University and College Crew and Patrols

The Crew was the Cambridge University Scout Group as a whole.  Within this Colleges or pairs of Colleges formed Patrols.  Most of these were identified by College name, certainly in the 1932 -1938 Log book of the Jesus and Sidney Patrol.  Some choose a traditional scout patrol name.  The Log book differentiates by name and function between Crew events and Patrol events.

Some senior members of the College Patrol (Rover Mates) were invited to step up to Crew management roles by the (University) Rover Leader.  They did not hold both roles simultaneously.

The nomenclature was altered nationally in 1927.  From Colin Walker (2022) we have: ‘Technically speaking Rover Patrols were replaced by Rover Crews in 1927. Before 1927 if there was more than one Rover Patrol the ‘unit’ was called Rover Group. Rover Mates were in charge of the patrol or prior to 1927 with a Senior Rover Mate being in charge of the Rover Troop. After 1927 the Crew’s leaders were of course RSLs and ARSLs. However as B-P said Rovers were men and should left alone to get on with it with a minimum of rules so way up into the 1930’s we have Rover Patrols in Rover Crews let by Rover Mates and sometimes the Crew led by a Senior Rover Mate. And, I suspect University Crews were even more cavalier in keeping to the Rules! 

Much of the following comes from the Jesus and Sidney Patrol Log of the 1930’s.


(A full list can be seen in Structure/ University Scouting/ University Scouting : Patrols)

The Patrols identified in Jesus and Sidney logbook are

  • Jesus and Sidney (Sussex)
  • Queens’                       Wild Boar                    (late 1920’s)
  • King’s
  • Downing
  • Ridley              (A theological College, not a member of the University of Cambridge)
  • Clare
  • Christ’s
  • Trinity                          Eagles
  • Selwyn
  • Peterhouse and Pembroke  (informally ‘Peterbroke’)
  • St. John’s
  • Magdalene
  • St .Catharine’s

Other sources add

  • Emmanuel                   Lions and Rams           (late 1920’s)
  • Pembroke                    Swallows
  • Gonville and Caius      Doves

Swallows is not a standard Patrol name but is occasionally found where the membership is peripatetic or transitory.

  • A Dove sits atop the Gonville and Caius achievements – the birds on the shield are Martlets.
  • A Wild Boar is central to the achievements of Queens’ College
  • Emmanuel has an azure (blue) lion rampant

Jesus and Sidney identified themselves as separate components of the same Patrol and College based demands meant that sometimes one element was unable to participate in events as with  ‘Two members of Jesus patrol (took the 13th) signalling on Coldham’s Common’. In 1938, curiously at a small dip in numbers, they started to discuss splitting the Patrol.  Records stop here, but the log suggests that the members were all in their last year and, whilst planning recruitment, momentum was lost and seemingly not regained ahead of Munich and the declaration of war.

Crew Events

Annual Crew events in 1930’s were

  • Annual Crew or Group Dinner            (all the Colleges)
  • Annual Crew Service

            1935    Caius College Chapel

            1937    St Edwards Chapel

  • W/E Camp at Babraham where the Group had a storage hut.
  • Annual Group Camp

In the 1930’s at West Harling Park (demolished 1934) and later at Southill Park

  • Inter Patrol Challenge, held in two parts ‘Indoor’ and ‘Outdoor’ in different terms.
  • Grafton Street HQ meetings with speakers

The Crew also participated in the 1933 District Jamborette at the Guild Hall to raise money.  It was noted that the hall was full but the programme perhaps over long.

Annual Crew or Group Dinner (all the Colleges)

This event generally had a notable Chief Guest.  Those recorded in the Jesus and Sidney Patrol Log are:

  • 1930                Sir Alfred Pickford (Picky) & E E Reynolds Camp Chief
  • 1931                Baden Powell (Hon SM of CUSG) & Camp Chief Gilwell
  • 1932                Field Marshall Sir William Birdwood & Col G Walton H Q Commissioner for Rovers
  • 1933    (crew not present)
  • 1934                Lord Hampton
  • 1935
  • 1936                Lord Bernard

Grafton Street HQ meetings

1932    Oct      Sir Percy Everett         Home Commissioner

            Nov.     Sir Montagu Burrows  HQ Commissioner for Special Scouting

1933    Nov      Robert H Hole             Assistant Commissioner Sea Scouts

1934    Jan       J F Colquhoun (Koko)   H Q Commissioner Wolf Cubs

                        Huber Martin              International Commissioner

            Nov      J S Wilson                    Camp Chief

1936    Nov                                          Camp Chief

World Scout Jamboree

1933    Gödölló, Hungary        Seven from CUSG

1937    Holland                        Eight Cambridge University Rovers attached to British HQ staff.  8365 boys from England (Britain?)

We know of many other University based Scouts attending WSJ’s through the years.


Uncling (from Uncle) was the term used to describe student support of local groups.  Of six Groups aided in 1931 five were noted to have temporary or no SM in place.

            Town packs and troops

The aid given appears to fade as the majority of the Jesus and Sidney Patrol gets towards its third year.  Individuals and occasionally small teams from Jesus and Sidney Patrol helped Barton (17th Cambridge District), Coton (38th Cambridge), 13th Cambridge (Notts’ Own) 55th Cambridge and Pampisford.  It is of peripheral note that the numbers given in 1930-31 are in the old format, that is, Cambridge District.  Coton did not have Cambridge District number; nor did it last long. 

17th Cambridge District (Barton) was a Patrol undertaking.  After they handed it over one member continued to walk to Barton each Monday to support the pack, four miles each way.  Some took formal roles with troops as ASM.

 In-house observations on the supported Troops and Packs suggest a level of tact was required by all parties.  These bright and active young men met those ‘in ripe middle age’, ‘incompetent TL’s, and experienced ‘the sudden and often unexpected interference in the running of a meeting by the GSM, an elderly lady.’  The role placed them in ‘an indeterminate position’.  The new ideas and changes appear to have moved on some stuck groups.  The Patrol did give active thought to how to run troops and packs.

            Home packs and troops

Reports of support in the Long Vacation suggest around 70 – 80% were actively involved at home.  New recruits to the Patrol are, occasionally, apparently new to Scouting, but from these figures many were already involved in their home towns. 

A number, but by no means all, may have been at boarding school.  An undated report to the College from HQ gives details of only two public schoolboys who were in Troops at school and were to enter Sidney Sussex.  It is perhaps less likely that they were also engaged in troops at home.

The University based Scouters have touched almost every aspect of Cambridge Scouting from the very beginning.  This can only be a brief outline of the structure and the work.

See also

  • Structure/ University Scouting/ Cambridge University Scouting: 1 – 6
  • Structure/ Sections / Rovers /
  • People/ Individuals/ Scouters up at Cambridge/
  • General History/ General Strike
  • Local History/ Order of Woodcraft Chivalry
  • Structure/ District/ Early Establishment Support/ Early University Support
  • People/ World Rover Scout Moot
  • Local History / Scouts and Camps for the Unemployed
  • Etc.

JWR Archivist Aug 2022