60th Cambridge: The Leys School

Cambridge District Scout Archive

We have enjoyed ourselves, we are enjoying ourselves and we shall enjoy ourselves’

A ‘Pitlochry Scout’ quoted by R P Ayres who added ‘This is the spirit of the group’.

This is the only group to be labelled 60th Cambridge. The Leys is a boarding and day school founded by the Methodist churches in 1875.

A brief mention of a pupil joining in a scouts around the Great War hints at an early unregistered troop. This non specific reference is a long way from proof. It is very likely a reference to the Leys Prep School, the Caldicott School in Hitchin. The school history gives a start date for the troop of 1912, but no local Hitchin registration or number. The Leys magazine reports some Troop and Wolf Cub activity at Caldicott but no copies are held before or after 1915 – 1918. The Caldicott Troop were present at the opening of the Leys Scout Hut in 1934. The connection altered when the Leys purchased St Faiths, over the road, as a Prep school in 1938.

The 60th Cambridge was formed in 1933 under the leadership of Reg Ayres. It was recalled as ‘being in the mind of many‘ before the arrival of an experienced Scoutmaster. The Scout HQ (30′ x 15’) in the grounds opened in 1934 by Lord Hampton from Scout HQ, but as a troop/ group it was not registered with Cambridge District until 1937. No specific reason for his delay is recorded. The principal aim of the Scout Troop was ‘the extension of this world friendship and the supply of Scoutmasters to all classes of the community’. The troop had a hut, campfire circle, wooden shelters, and fire places on the far side of the playing fields. Separate buildings were later opened for the Junior Troop and the Rover Crew.

Under Reg Ayres the troop started with a full set of roles; QM (Uniforms), QM (Equipment), Troop Secretary, CoH Sec., Log Keeper, Librarian and Reporter, alongside SM’s and PL’s. For much of the early years it ran with three patrols of 6 – 8 members. It is not known if these numbers were limited. The early entry that ‘campfires should not be treated as rags‘ tells of the setting of expectations, but also of the pre-existing ethos of the school. Many other troops may have moved towards this expected behaviour in stages.

Initially it only took older boys and when it was established a ‘Junior Troop’ was opened in 1936, under Maurice Howard, coming into line with standard ages for Scouts. The two troop often came together for events. The Junior and Senior troop maintained different scarves and had separate huts. Rovers were formed in 1939.

The Troop was quickly active camping at home and abroad, camping in Luxembourg in 1934. A full list of camps 1935 -1964 is seen on the 60th page. They sent a fair number to National and International events.

The school was evacuated to Scotland in 1940, the school having been requisitioned, and six years of very outdoor based scouting around Pitlochry began. A log book entry of October 1940 gives ‘It must be said that the Rover Crew and Troop were not disappointed with the new surroundings.’

See WW1 and WW2/ Highland Exile

During this time the troop was very active, formed new sections (Air scouts and War Service Patrol) and gave significant support to the local troop. The 60th did not contribute to the post war collection of war service details by District, sitting in two Districts and detached from Cambridge generally. Post war records say six members of the troop on the Roll of Honour; four have been positively identified. A fifth may be Rev Alfred Sadd who is not clearly shown to be a member of the school troop, but was a Scout. During this time two Rovers died whilst hiking in the hills above Pitlochry.

See WW1 and WW2/ Rolls of Honour/ New

The 60th provided a significant number of officers (49 of 74 Old Leysians in the forces) and individuals received a significant number of awards for gallantry (MC’s, OBE, MBE’s)

See Structure/ District / Early establishment support/ Scouts military gallantry medals

It was the 60th that begun the placing of wreath on the tomb of Sgt Dillaway in the American Cemetery.

See Elsewhere

After the war the Sea Scouts were formed and worked with the 1st and 12th at Banhams Boat Yard., and Senior Sea Scouts under D E S Hayward an Old Leysian.

Two leaders in particular are frequently mentioned, Mr. Ayres, later ADC Senior Scouts (and presumably more) who was awarded Silver Wolf in 1974, and Maurice Howard who received Silver Acorn in 1977. They stepped down from running sections in 1955 (MH) and 1957 (RA).


The Troop gently distanced itself from Scouting forms, in particular disbanding the patrol system, and by 1972 the then headmaster became reluctant to pay full capitation fees. The troop records cutting formal links in 1977, the District finally closed the Group in 1979; but knew it was not operating for some time before that. In the last years, at least from 1970, the troop was meeting without uniform or parades and lead by a teacher who was not a Scout Leader, John Harding. They transferred, what had become a school club, to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

Remaining documents suggest considerable attempts were made by District to keep the troop active and engaged. The reasoning behind the shift in emphasis is unknown, but Maurice Howard, deputy head and a significant force in the troop had retired in 1965, R P Ayres in 1968. Headmasters had also changed from W G Humphrey to W A Barker in 1958. Rover Crew meetings were held until at least 1971 at the home of Reg Ayres, 6 Rustat Road.

JWR Archivist Dec 2020

The following review is taken from the Leys Magazine of Spring 2020

Spring 2020  review of Outdoor activities at the school

An alternative avenue for adventurous pursuits was introduced in 1933 when, in response to an appeal to Public Schools by Lord BadenPowell, a Scout Course was introduced for senior boys in their final year. Membership was quickly extended and by 1936 a Junior Troop was formed, followed by a Rover Crew for older boys in 1939. During the 1930s and 1940s, treks and camps abroad were arranged in addition to Youth Hostel tours to North Wales, the Lake District and Scotland.

 During the Pitlochry years the Civil Defence Badge gave senior scouts the opportunity to join with the local Air Wardens and Fire Service on special manoeuvres. The Rovers were instrumental in restarting the village troop, 1st Perthshire, the oldest in Scotland dating from 1907. On Cantilever Rock, Snowdonia, 1983 Scouting at The Leys included a strong element of Community Service, befriending and supporting elderly locals.

In 1947 a Senior Sea Scout section was formed cruising regularly on the Broads and East Coast rivers. Scouting at The Leys also included a strong element of Community Service, befriending and supporting elderly locals. Scouting continued to flourish during the 1960s and one measure of this, is the fact that in the three years leading up to 1970, 59 Venture Scout badges and seven Queen’s Scout badges were presented. Successful camps to challenging destinations continued during the 1960s and 1970s to Dartmoor, Scotland, the Alps and the Pyrenees and then, most spectacularly, to Spitsbergen in 1976. Leysian ties with the Scout Movement were terminated in 1977.

The Scouts organised annual Easter Camps to mountainous regions which soon developed into a pattern which included biennial ‘Strong’* camps to Loch Assynt, in Scotland. These camps had such an impact on some pupils that, as Old Leysians, they have returned on numerous occasions, introducing their partners and children to the beauty of this area. Their reunion this Easter marks 50 years of Assynt camps. The Royal Naval Section in action at Hunts Sailing Club The indoor climbing wall in use Above: Rover Crew near Urach in 1961 with a German hiker: J.T. Smith, J.H. Childs, Richard Armstrong, and J.P. Scot Below: Rover Crew resting after going down a salt-mine, 1961 Successful camps to challenging destinations continued during the 1960s and 1970s to Dartmoor, Scotland, the Alps and the Pyrenees and then, most spectacularly, to Spitsbergen in 1976.

* after Richard Armstrong, CR 1959–90, who organised most of them.

A two page history of the 60th can be found in the book ‘Well regulated minds and improper moments: A history of the Leys school by Geoff and Pat Houghton p 156 – 8. In particular trhey write of The End.

‘In 1977 the national scout Organisation felt they could no longer accept the Leys Scouting movement in the form that it had tolerated for the previous ten years, and therefore it ceased to exist. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme provided a substitute activity.’

JWR Archivist