Adventurous Activities

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Scouts place themselves in the way of adventure; new experiences with a potential for the unexpected.  They learn to rely on themselves and those around them.  What constitutes adventure differs between each Scout and changes with age and experience.

What follows are some of the notable planned and unplanned adventures of Cambridge Scouts.  Arranged historically it aims to show the changing nature of what was adventurous at the time.

Cambridge Archives

1920                ‘22nd (Holy Trinity) The Scouts have been most useful in Parish stunts: two of them had the luck to be in at the fire on Newmarket Road.’                                    Reveille 1920

1925                The Chief Constable of Cambridge to SM 22nd Cambridge ‘the valuable services rendered by the three Barlow brothers, who were members of his troop, at a fire on 5th November at Kidmans Wood Store, Abbey Walk.  A copy of this was sent to BP who personally replied with congratulations.  I remember this fire and the three brothers were all friends of mine.  It is jobs like this though generally never published … that give our Movement its Good Name.’               Ken North  70 years of scouting

1920’s  C T Wood’s album No. 360  

1925                Pilgrimage to Rome, 600 Scouts, 9 from Cambridge           

1928                First evidence of rock climbing by Cambridge are photographs of 9th Cambridge in the Lake District.

C T Wood’s album 1928 Lake District

1934                A letter introducing parents to the first camp of the fledgling 1st Harston, then a patrol of the 56th Cambridge , the ASM wrote ‘All possible precautions will be taken to ensure the Health and Safety of the scouts especially with regard to bathing’.

1935                A letter to District stated that Cub swimming races were held in other districts and that caution was necessary as to distance and evidence of strain.  The first Cub swimming competition recorded in Cambridge was 1936.

1938 7th Cambridge Aerial Runway. A photographer in a perilous place and a runway possibly suspended from a dead tree.

7th Cambridge 1938: Cambridgeshire Collection

1939                The Second World War was declared on 3rd September, coinciding with the last day of the Troop stay at Kandersteg Scout Chalet in Switzerland.  Scouts were encouraged to sign up as messengers for war work, acting as links between Air Raid Wardens during raids.

1946 – 56        The Adventurer           The purchase and adaptation of a hull for use on the river

1947 – 1955    Adventurer/Venturer Trophy was a competition based on the most adventurous event reported that year.  It ran intermittently, the dates 1947 to 1955 being the first and last identified.

1949                Two Scouts awarded flights in an Auster over Cambridge for the best report on trip to Marshall’s Airport and works (now Marshall Aerospace)

1953                Mending dykes in Kings Lynn and helping at WVS centres during the Great Flood

1956                Queens Scouts and Jamboree participants of the 5th J Boocock and D Greenwood built a diving bell and stayed submerged beneath the Cam for which they won the Adventures Trophy.  They were ‘able to remain submerged below the Cam as long as they choose.  They surpassed the ‘night adventurers of Devon’.

1956                Cambridge University Austerdal (or Austerdalsbre) Exhibition, Norway      ‘set camp in the middle of a glacier under survey and remained there for a fortnight.  All visited the Ice Cap above the glacier and some climbed points on it over to 6000 feet high’

1957                Flood Relief in Derbyshire      Five Cambridge Scouts who, on being faced with the floods reacted with such support as to receive the commendation of the Chief Constable.

1957                Glacier work see 5th Cambridge

1960’s              Senior scouts of the 54th canoed 120 miles down the Mosel from Trier to Koblenz

1969 11th/9th seeking money to buy Life Jackets (£120) as buoyancy aids were no longer adequate

1970 Chip supper evening of the 44th was ‘very good’ with the additional comment that ‘Three chaps had slight oil burns.’ and ‘The pre training paid off.’

1971 The Swimming Gala had a Wee Willie Winkie round in which competitors swam two widths of the pool with a lit candle on a plate.

1972                Most Venture Scouts had been on expeditions (at Easter).  ‘One party had come across a car smash and coped with the injured.’

1982 From Cambridge Scout Gazette of October 1982 ‘Tree Climbing. Recently a Scout was injured as a result of a fall from a tree which was climbing while wearing wet wellington boots. This is very dangerous. Please make sure that footwear is suitable for this activity.’ The note did not state that it was a local occurrence. The photograph below is not connected, and indeed not very high at all.

A J Covell album, Cambridgeshire Collection

Health and Safety      not so mad

Some activities have always been recognised as dangerous; from the beginning rifle shooting has required supervision.

Never a safe practice 12th Cambridge

With changing awareness, experiences and resources limits have been placed on many once common activities.  The following were progressively prohibited: riding in the back of open trucks, side facing seats and no seat belts (some current leaders did all these things).  Boxing was once a Wolf Cub activity but ruled harmful ‘to the boy’ in 1932.

1930’s  2nd Cambridge

1949    5th Cambridge (Perse)             ‘The journey there was (South Downs) was made in a lorry…this commendable innovation resulted in less transportation problems and more cheerful campers.’  These forms of transport were coming under scrutiny in 1977 with concern for insurance and, if aboard hired lorries, lack of supervision by leaders.

1950’s              A GSG notice concerning climbing of trees at Abington…many not fit to be climbed, Scouters must take precautions or ban climbing.

1952 44th Cambridge (Trumpington) ‘The object of the (wide) game was for one patrol to set a firework off while the other patrol tried to stop them.’ ‘we had the lights switched off and a brown paper set alight at a certain spot, and we wrote down the direction it took’. This last may have been outdoors.

1958                54th Cambridge           Proposed by the Court of Honour it is not clear if this wide game against St Luke’s (14th) went ahead in this form   ‘set your flag in the woods and defend it using catapults, peashooters and water pistols as weapons.’

28th Cambridge No seat belts in 1961

1966 Senior Morley competition had Scouts making balisters and projecting flaming logs at a target.

1977    CSG noted ‘Hang gliding is not an approved scout activity.’  Gliding was.

1979    ‘it was decided to take all the Scouts to a local swimming bath, they were all piled into the back of the Luton van and off we went.’               28th Cambridge                      


The reports from 5th Cambridge Scouts ‘The first 50 years’ list a number of occasions outside the obviously dangerous periods of war in which members of the Troop died.  These deaths occurred outside Scouting but show that medicine has advanced hugely in the intervening years.  A blow from an axe is damaging, to die from blood poisoning within two days is now unlikely.

Equipment and the skill base have also improved. Powerful torches, access to a compass and the knowledge to use it are routine. The number of awards for saving people from drowning and the focus on swimming in Scouts (it was necessary for all 1st Class Scouts) illustrate the need for training. C T Wood’s recollections before 1930 list a number of deaths from drowning and walking over a quarry face. The Leys school history records two deaths on a hike when two Sixth Former’s fell into a river canyon.


One of the results of leading Scouts through adventurous activities is that they are prepared to go on to greater adventures, planned and unplanned, beyond Scouting.

5th Cambridge (Perse) August 1914    ‘All the incidents of camp seem trivial in these days of great things.’

It is difficult to address ‘Adventurous Activities’ in Scouting when the whole of the history of the past century is reflected in the District Scout archives:  Scouts of sixteen embarking for Dunkirk in the Great War to work as hospital orderlies, medals and awards for bravery, the Rolls of Honour and Jack Cornwell.

It is the core of all our activities that Scouts are willing and prepared to do their best in all ‘new experiences with a potential for the unexpected’.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019