An Austrian Scout in Cambridge


In 1939 Heinz Resinger, a former First Class Leader of the Austrian Scout Association became a member of the 23rd Cambridge Rover Crew.

The year before Scouting had been banned in Austria and leaders arrested.  Some were sent to Concentration Camps where they died.   Eight hundred Scouts left the country

In Vienna an Emergency Call out system for Scouts had been used.  Heinz proposed that it could also be used in Cambridge and other British cities.  A record was made by W T Thurbon, 23rd Rover Scout Leader and Secretary Designate of the Cambridge Scout District.

This was a period before ‘social media’, before emails, before mobile phones and indeed before common ownership of land line phones in homes.  In discussing the proposals it was assumed that phone ownership was lower in Britain than on the continent.  From a 1944 directory Cambridge had approximately 5000 phones, many of them in businesses, for a population of c 78000.

The plan relied on a few phones and individual messengers branching out to contact 3 or 4 others.

It did assume a high level of people being ‘at home’, and did not discuss work or other commitments.   However, in the proposal the example given was a gathering on the evening of the following day.   The system had duplicate feedback systems so failures could be identified.

Heinz also proposed a system of identifying the houses of Scout leaders with a hierarchical flag system.   During the war homes of Air Raid Wardens were marked with a luminous W for identification in a blackout, however, W T Thurbon considered the flags element unworkable.

Scouting in Austria went underground, becoming associated with the Red Cross, and an Austrian Scouts in Exile was founded in the UK.  During the earliest post war celebrations in Austria Scouts appeared once more in uniform. 

In the same pre/early war period two German Scouts were welcomed into the 60th Cambridge Rover Crew.

The original typewritten report and a hand drawn diagram in German are in the Cambridge District Scout Archive alongside a 1980 note from W T Thurbon.

This information has been passed to us by W T Thurbon

Heinz and other refugee Scouts in Cambridge were later processed through Government agencies and were apparently for a time in Canada as potentially hazardous enemy aliens. Many sent to Canada were later identified as refugees and like Heinz were later employed in war work.

  • Heinz Resinger (13805563) later (c. 1940) had an address at No.3 PC Training Centre Ilfracombe            (PC = Pioneer Corp – some units of which specifically trained enemy aliens and non combatants)
  • Report for AGM 1941 ‘The Refugee members of the 23rd were at one time interned in Canada, have now released and are on war work or in the Pioneers’
    At a later date (after 1941) the Evercircular letter that ran between members of the 23rd Crew in the Services mentioned ‘Hans is in Cambridge, Heinz is with the Pioneers in Bristol, Ernst is at Woolwich with the RAOC‘. In 1943 Hans and Ernst visited W T Thurbon in Cambridge.
  • From the same source Heinz is recorded as having married in August 1941

JWR Archivist Jan 2019