Boys Brigade and Scouting

Cambridge District Scout Archives

In Cambridge it was Scout Patrols formed in a Boys Brigade Company that were the possible origin of the first Troop that survived long enough to gain the name 1st Cambridge on the formation of the District in 1910. The records of the 1st Cambridge in the Cambridgeshire Collection quote the annual inspection of the 3rd Company Boys Brigade ‘three Patrols from this company are formed to do Scout work’ dated 12/4/1908.   A very clear history exists of the 5th Boys Brigade company forming patrols in 1910. These were to become the 7th Cambridge.

The Boys Brigade were specifically invited to attend BP’s Feb 1908 visit at the Perse school hall and were lined up and inspected by BP, along with the Cadet Corps, on the way into the meeting.

A few months after the issue of S. for B. B.P. addressed a meeting at the Perse School in March 1908. As a result some isolated patrols were formed and in time these were organised into troops in Cambridge, Cherryhinton, Chesterton, and at the Perse and Higher Trade Schools.  Patrols were also formed within the Boys Brigade.’ WTT     Archaeology 1978       (for Trade read Grade school) 

Later in 1908 a sub committee of the Cambridge District Executive was formed to enquire into the opinion ‘that some of the Boy Scout Patrols were doing harm to certain companies of Boys (Brigades).  At a later meeting a report on Boy Scouts belonging to Boys Brigade and Boys Brigade belonging to Boy Scouts was received and regulations upon transfers made.

  • 1st Cambridge Boys Brigade Company St Barnabas 1930 (date of observation)
  • 5th Cambridge Boys Brigade Company St John’s Mission Church 1923 (had existed c 25 years) The 5th was based at St Andrew the Less c 1910 and had a Patrol of Scouts around this date. The Abbey Church, part of the same parish group, hosted the 7th Cambridge for a few years alongside the BB.
  • 7th Cambridge Boys Brigade Company St Phillip’s 1937 (date of observation)

Also at Chesterton Methodist Ch.

In 1929 the BB annual report named 1st, 4th and 5th Cambridge and 1st Soham, 1st Sawston & 1st Shelford Companies. Totals of Officers and Members – 1st 58, 5th 55, Sawston 40 and Shelford 28. Alderman E O Brown was elected as an Officer in this year. He was involved in Cambridge Scouts as a member, initially specifically linked to the BB, from very early on.

The Cambridge evacuation Survey of 1941 records three Boys Brigade Companies in Cambridge (Town) buy did not name them.

Cambridge Archives

1908    A sub committee was formed to enquire into the opinion ‘that some of the Boy Scout Patrols were doing harm to certain companies of Boys (Brigades). 

1911 Duxford Boys Brigade Trek Cart in use by Scouts (see Trek Carts). It is not clear if the Troop was part of the Boys Brigade, as seems likely from the prominent display of the words on teh cover, or merely borrowed.

1912    E O Brown of the Boys Brigade sat on the District Committee in 1912 and 1913.  E O Brown, Councilor, remained in 1918 and 1919, without the Boys Brigade affiliation being noted.

c.1915 When the 4th Cambridge District (Histon) disbanded it was merged with the Histon Boys Brigade.

c.1920            ‘Church parades, sometimes with the Boys Brigade and the Church Lads’ Brigade.’                                                    WTT Archaeology 1978

1921    The District Committee felt it was able to ask the Boys Brigade to delay the proposed opening of a new Boys Brigade in Harston until the Harston / Newton Boy Scout troop situation reached some resolution.             District Minutes

1923    3rd Cambridge St John’s Mission Church Troop was formed in but folded, ‘never really got off the the parish church had the 5th Boys Brigade Company which had been operative for at least 25 years and as at many other places, the established unit was the one to survive.’                                      Ken North        Seven years later it was much the same – see below

1925    November       ‘Joint Church parade with Boys Brigade and Church Lads Brigade.  The numbers attending being 232 scouts plus 15 Scouters from12 troops (against 2 BB companies and one CLB)’ Ken North 70 years of Scouting

1930    42nd Cambridge (St Barnabus) ’the fact that there was an established Boys Brigade Company (1st) attached to the church, we really did not get off the ground…the Troop had to close after 18 months’.       Ken North

1926    Joint Church parade with other boys organisations

1932    ‘At that time there was a close church connection between Christ’s Church and St Matthews so arrangements were made for some of the B.B. boys to visit the camp for a cricket match (of sorts)’.      Ken North

1937 The invitation to the 1937 Garden Party mixed the Girl Guides, Boys Brigade and 13th Boy Scouts. They were all associated with St Philips Church. Later that year the 13th Cambridge joined the Boys Brigade to entertain ‘old people’ at Tracy memorial Hall. This was repeated the following year with the Girl Guides joining the occasion. These events were described as unique (for the District or County?) by Mrs de Beaumont, GG Commissioner.

It is of note that the Boys Brigade started after the Boy Scouts in St Philips Church.

1938 Four BB Companies in snd near Cambridge, St Barnabus, St Phillips, Christ Church and Sawston

1939    Boys Brigade was also asked to be part of the Air Raid Wardens Messenger Service which was trialled in July and continued through the early years of the war.

1943    Congratulations sent on Diamond Jubilee of the Boys Brigade

1957    Sports Meeting for Boys Brigade and Boy Scouts      Grafton Street Gazette and Abington Advertiser

1964    Six Boys Brigade Companies were listed in Cambridge.

1966    Boys Brigade band asked to play for St Georges Day March past.  Did so and refused proffered sum to funds.  In years around this date ‘The Band’ was booked, possibly the Boys Brigade band.

1979 D D Carr of the Boys Brigade was a co-opted member of the Association. Co-opted BB representatives at County at least until 1987.

That the relationship could be less friendly is found in ‘B P Scouts: An Official History’.  It quotes Michael Grave writing in the Manchester Guardian ‘Not that I have any brief for the Scouts: a deep-rooted antagonism cancels that.   I was in the Boys’ Brigade myself and we and the Scouts were deadly rivals.  I received my first black eye from a Boy Scout….any middle aged man will testify that, thirty odd years ago, when Boys Scouts and the Boys’ Brigade passed each other in the Whitsuntide processions all hell broke loose, what with a clash of bugles and  private fights.’

If Cambridge echoed this experience it is not in the written record. One incident related to me involves the very early reveille bugle call at a BB camp close to a scout camp. One night the bugle went missing to the distress of the owners. Meetings of the respective leaders got no further than the assertion that the bugle had not been taken from their camp. Upon reassurances that they just wanted the bugle back it was shown to have been in full sight, although attached to the top of a mast, fixed there with the aid of tree or pole climbers spikes. The bugle was retrieved, the bugle calls ceased.

In 2018 the Cambridgeshire Battalion of the Boys Brigade consists of six Companies, 1st Histon, Soham, St Neots, Saffron Walden, and 1st and 2nd Sawston, but none in Cambridge.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019