Cambridge Scout Band(s)

Cambridge District Scout Archive

No clear history concerning a Scout Band in Cambridge District has been located.  The term ‘band’ or ‘the Band’ are used without qualifying titles.  Occasionally they can be seen to be bands belonging to other associations in Cambridge.

In 1922 BP wrote in the Scouter

The following references are all we have concerning bands.  A Cambridge District Band can only be identified in the years between 1919 and 1923. Early Annual Reports do not mention a band. The term ‘Band’ can be used very lightly. Se 1915 below.

Cambridge Archives

1911                George Black recalls the 1st as having a bugle band in 1911.  One bugle was usual, a second was won and a side drum purchased.  Histories of the 1st also recall that the Perse School (Scouts) also had a very good band and ‘they would all parade at the District Church Parade’. Unfortunately the record does not explicitly state Scout or Troop for the Perse troop band – but it is very much a scout band from context.

A history of the 1st Cambridge band is the troop magazine the Fleur-de-Lis of 1912. See under Local History/ Communications/ Scout Newsletters/ Fleur-de-Lis, and the photo below.

1911                ‘On Saturday May 20th, 1911, some 400 scouts assembled on Parkers Piece in traditional Chief Scout’s weather. “a bitterly cold wind blew across the Piece; there was a suspicion of rain in the air”. The troops marched round the town, led by the Bands of the Perse and County Schools,..                    It is not known if these were Scout bands. WTT Archaeology of Scouting 1978

1912 1st Cambridge ‘headed by our band we marched off to the station‘ (to camp). The 8th report ‘the Troops are now wanting a bugle. All Troops are to have at least one bugler.’

1913 8th Cambridge (All Saints) records ‘Drums but no bugle’

1914 Before the war the (6th Cambridge) flourished with its own band – led by Jock Freestone.

1915 At a P/L camp a ‘band’ consisted of ‘P/L Green on mouth organ and SM Lewis on Multiphone clarinet’.

1916 Six Scouts from the 8th Cambridge Troop (All Saints) brought their instruments to a Scout Entertainment (fundraiser) at Horseheath to add to the programme.

1917    BP visit to Sheeps Green rally             ‘Bugle bands of the Sea Scouts and 1st Chatteris, a very smart lot of well set up young fellows.’

C T Woods’ album B P visit 1922

C T Wood album 1917 Rally

1919                ‘The Committee was authorised to spend a sum not exceeding £1 per annum on the District Band.’            Presumably this was not sufficient as the following month this was amended to  …not exceeding £15.                                        District Minutes

1919       H R Mallett to be Superintendent of the Rifle Range and District Band

c 1920 District

1920                ‘Now that the Troops are waking-up, there is a bad tendency to be so jealous about our own troop that we can’t spare time or energy for united stunts “A Scout is a brother to every other Scout;” therefore, we appeal to you all to support Association Field-days, Lectures, Parades, the Band, etc.,’                              Reveille  1920

                        We also make another appeal for the District Band, which we are anxious to get going again, under Sgt. Kent. It is a great thing for each Troop to have a Bugler (and only one!)                                                                                              Reveille  1920

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. Like the 11th, they are giving three Scouts to our Band.’    A Cambridge Scout newsletter of one issue: Reveille 1920

1920 Medieval Fayre C T Wood’s album

1922                In November 1922 the Cambridge Chronicle reported ‘The Association Band headed Church Parade in Haslingfield’.    

1/1923             Affirmed that the band was not military that it must be kept and was not a nuisance.   The instruments were in a bad condition                          District Minutes

2/1923            ‘ the band can practice with fifes at ‘own expense’’     District Minutes

5/1923            ‘ checked the price of drums offered from 13th Cambridge but they were ‘too dear’.  ‘                                                                                                        District Minutes

                        ‘can purchase Fifes and Piccolos not to exceed £7, providing an instructor can be found.’                                                                                       District Minutes


Some Troops had drums and bugles displayed in their photographs.  The 1st formed a Bugle band in 1911

Photos from CC Box 75

Between December 1st 1914 and c. 1917 the 13th Cambridge list a band with, eventually, four bugles, 1 pair of cymbals, three side drums and 1 big drum. The first list includes ‘A Arnold may have cymbals Cymbals’ which suggests that they were initially relying on borrowed equipment. Many of the names have ‘Back or Not back against them. It is not clear what this refers to as most of the boys were too young to join up. By 1923 they were offering to sell drums to the District (see above).

13th Cambridge – part page 1914 – 1917

A series of Troop photographs from the local press in and around 1921 show some with instruments.  The 7th Cambridge District (Harston) display both bugles and drums although this is not described here or elsewhere as a band.  The 22nd Cambridge photograph from this series does not display instruments although as noted above they gave three to the (District) band.  It is probably not a clear indication of the number of Troops possessing instruments.

1926 7th Cambridge Court of Honour minutes pass the sounding of their Kudoo on the raising and lowering of the flag. From context this was at meetings – camp was not implied.

1939                District Minutes          ‘26th This Crew also has ambitions to raise a band for the Association; in the meantime with mouth organs etc they are able to provide a surprisingly effective substitute’

1942 Evercircular letters This snippet from the Evercircular letters refers to a band in the 23rd. It may by this point be a recent but historical allusion; the 23rd had a strong tradition of shows and entertainments. Many of the references were to past Scout camps not the present reality of military service. The correspondents were Scouts and Rovers and leaders from the 23rd and 13th Cambridge who communicated during their dispersal during the war. See Evercircular Letters.

1943                St Georges Day The Cadet band played between the Cubs and Scouts

1944                St Georges Day The Home Guard band played

1951                60th Leys Troop Orchestra willing to give recitals to other Troops    District Minutes The 60th was a large school based group.

1960’s              District Minutes          St Georges Day parades were often accompanied by ‘The band’.  It is not clear who the Band was from the District Minutes but they were paid £3/3/0 (three guineas).

1972                District Minutes          St Georges Day parade was accompanied by the Salvation Army band.  They were voted £5 donation.  District Minutes

Other Musical instruments

The early Scouting magazines advertised both bugles and drums although in the midst of the great depression of the 1930’s mouth organs were more usual.  The Rover (1934 – 1936) advertised harmonicas for Crew bands.  Maybe fashion had altered, certainly money was short. 

Scout Groups associated with The Salvation Army may have had closer involvement in Bands.  Ken North records an ASM who ‘… had a concertina which helped a jolly sing song (his parents were Salvationists).’

1930’s 23rd Cambridge clarinetist. From A J Covell album, Cambridgeshire Collection

1939 ‘Sidney Clarke played on an accordion’

1939                District Minutes          ‘26th This Crew also has ambitions to raise a band for the Association; in the meantime with mouth organs etc they are able to provide a surprisingly effective substitute’

                        At Abington near the campfire ‘Jesu, joy of mans desiring’ on an oboe’..

1940                54th  camp  L Peel ‘provided some entertainment with his mouth organ’…’Troop Leader J Watling brought his piano accordion’.

The 48th Cambridge contrived an Ox horn incised with ‘48th Cambridge’ along the side and Boy Scouts within a  Scout emblem on the bell.  It was suspended by a leather thong.

1942                War Service Scouts were presented with a horn made into an instrument

1977                CSG      Les Neal accompanied the hymns on a Banjo

1997 The Census of 1997 asked, as a ‘Special Question’, that is one off for that year, ‘Does your group have a Scout band or a Scout Guide band?’


Cambridge has an enviable range of music, instruments and teachers.  One Group claimed two harpists who played together for their Jamboree funds, and Cambridge scouts have participated in the National Scout and Guide Symphony Orchestra (NSGSO).  Violins, or maybe in this context fiddles, have been used around the camp fire.  Cub buglers have volunteered for Remembrance Day; and been up to the mark.  One eight year old Cub received the highest Staged Musicians badge.

The Gang shows produced musicians able to both perform and entertain.

This bugle of unknown origin has been given to the Archives by William Holliday in 2018

JWR Archivist Feb 2019