Air Scouts in Cambridge

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Air Scouts have a particular emphasis on an aviation themed programme and/or flying-based activities.

The first aviators badge appeared in 1911 and proposals to start an Air Scouts were first raised in 1927.  The Boy Scouts Association eventually introduced Air Scouts in 1941.

In the Scout section, Air Scouting may exist as an Air Scout Group, or there may be an Air Scout Patrol within a typical Scout Troop.  Air Scouts often wear a slightly different uniform from the rest of the Scouting movement and/or may have additional badges/insignia

Major Baden Fletcher Smyth Baden-Powell, youngest brother of Robert Baden-Powell and an aviator, first brought flying-based activities into Scouting in the form of kite and model aeroplane building.  He can be considered the founder of Air Scouting even though he thought it was hardly feasible to have special ‘Air Scouts’.

Aeronautical Activities

In 1935 the District forwarded details of an Aeronautical Exhibition with an essay competition for Scouts.

Troops, Patrols and numbers

Census returns requested Air Scout numbers between 1941 and 1968.  Census returns are available between 1921 and 1984.  No figures were requested in 1961, 1964, 1966 and 1967.

Census details are not available for 1940 and 1941 – numbers for 1941 are from contemporaneous notes. Totals are included where they exist separately and confirm or confute the individual numbers given.

During their five years in Pitlochry Scotland, the 60th Cambridge (Leys School) started an Air Scout section. It ran from Feb 1942, alongside an Air Training Corps, but did not survive the return to Cambridge in 1946. No clear numbers are available, 6 No. are quoted in 1942 alongside 4 No. War Service Scouts and other Scouts and Rovers unnumbered.

Air Training Corps

A proposal to initiate a Scout Flight of the ATC was recorded in the District Minutes February 1941.  The District Scout Masters Minutes record the 11th as registered as Air Scouts in May 1941.  The District Minutes of February 1941 report that the ’12th was taking up Air Scouting’ and by May ‘had already made two Patrols Air Scouts’.  The same minutes record ‘ATC – DC reports no names had been received and there was no possibility of forming a Scout Flight.’  It is of note that this alternative was being considered at this time when many younger Scouts were being lost to other Services.

11th and 12th Cambridge with combinations of Air Scout, Land Scout and Sea Scout Patrols held specialist meetings on different evenings of the week.

12th Patrols called Kitty Hawk and Martlet    (Land Scouts Woodpeckers, Owls and Ravens) W A Mackrow built a Link trainer for the Air Scouts during WW2.

This example at the Shuttleworth Collection. Another can be seen at Duxford

1942    Attempting to find examiners for Air Mechanic and Air Apprentice badges.  The new badges required specific engineering skills and the standard Scouting skill base couldn’t provide these experts.

Details from the 1942 Census notes state

  • Land Scouts    205
  • Sea Scouts       102
  • Air scouts        34        :11th Cambridge – 6 (a patrol):               12th Cambridge  – 28 (a very large group with Scouts, Sea Scouts and Air Scouts.

In 1943 the Local Association had an Air Scout Committee.

Dorland Park 1942

In July 1944 the 5th Cambridge Perse started an Air Scout Section ‘for older members of the Troop’.  They attended the National Air Scout camp in 1946 but by 1949 they were no longer recorded in the School terms review nor the Census returns.

None of the Groups based in or around RAF bases in Cambridge were called Air Scouts.

1949    No Air Scouts were returned in Cambridge figures from this year on

Dorland Park 1942

1954    Air scouts were not recorded as separate entries on Census returns from this date.

1958/9 Bob Eden recalls being P/L of a newly formed Air Patrol in the 5th Cambridge.

1960’s Waterbeach reported a significant number of scouts attending from the RAF base amongst the peripatetic families. Bob Benton recalls 4 ‘land’ Scouts, 26 Sea Scouts and 1 Air Scout at one point. The Group did not register the Air Scout.

1960 1st Duxford RAF (then not in Cambridge District) on the RAF base, not Air Scouts.

1972    1st Willingham started Air Scouts

Cambridge Archives

1946                5th Cambridge (Perse)             ‘The 5th Cambridge were well represented at the fourth National Air Scout Camp’, a fortnights camping with a strong air focus.

The Air Scouts had recourse to Byron’s Pool. The visit to Waterbeach having been cancelled as the squadron had left the aerodrome that day.’

JWR Archivist Jan 2019