Cambridge Scouts in Dunkirk

Cambridge District Scout Archive

These five Cambridge District Scouts from the 6th (Higher Grade School), 8th (All Saints) and 12th (Milton Road/ Viscountess of Clifden’s Own) were enrolled as hospital orderlies at the Red Cross Hospital in Dunkirk.  The presentation of the news did not make it clear that this was not a District Scout initiative. 

A sixth Cambridge Scout, Charles Hubert Cousins of the 5th Cambridge District (Trumpington) is recorded as working for the Friends Ambulance Unit, but not in the Red Cross database.


We have no direct evidence of the Local Association objecting to this specific enterprise but shortly afterwards they implemented a regulation that anyone engaging in such activities, as Scouts, should request permission from the parents, the Scout Master and the District. It was made clear that permission had not been given by the SM’s, although they were asked, and it had been made clear that the Scouts could not go as Scouts or in Uniform. A number of objections were made in the local press, one at least anonymously under the name ‘Anti-Dunkirk’., It is not clear if this was before or after the bombardment of Dunkirk, but the writer was assured that the matter was being dealt with by the District.


This was not underage recruitment into the Forces; the photograph should suggest that they would not fool even a short sighted recruiting sergeant as to their age.  At 14 boys left school and went to work; the youngest of the Scouts was 16 at the time of embarkation.  Elsewhere in Cambridge Scouts were acting as Orderlies at the Great Eastern Hospital (on the site of the University Library) in a voluntary capacity.  Two of the Dunkirk Scouts, and we should assume more, were registered with the military forces but as ‘Scout’ and ‘Red Cross’ worker.  The shifts to being a member of the Armed Forces recorded below occurred at an appropriate age.  All I have clearly identified survived the war.

Two of the Scouts were recorded as belonging to the Scout Defence Corps and Basébé and Wallis are both listed as gaining the Red Feather, and at a later date Cyril Jolley.  The SDC was a voluntary pre service training corps for Scouts over 16 that existed for a short period during the Great War.  Neither completed the training, leaving for Dunkirk.  The co founders of the Cambridge Scout Defence Corps were the SMs of the 6th Cambridge (Copplestone) and the 12th Cambridge (J Murrish).  It is unlikely that they were not aware of the plans of the Scouts from their Troops to go to Dunkirk.

They came ashore on the 4th and 6th of June 1915 (two known dates) and served until Feb 1916 – 9 months.

Two have been clearly identified with the ‘Scout’ designation 

John Bertram Basébé                        born 07/07/1901 Basébé is a name that is recorded in Britain for at least a century before this date.  He was listed as

  • J B Basébé                               Orderly            British Red Cross         1914
  • John Bertram Basébé             Scout               Cert. 3531                   1914
  • John Bertram Basébé                         J.67967            Boy Telegraphist         1917 and in 1918 on HMS Hood

Red hair, blue eyes and of dark complexion, he joined the RN in Dec 1917, signed on for 12 years in 1919 (aged 18) but opted out in 1922.  His character is described as V.G. and his abilities improved from Sat. to Sup.  Basébé is listed on the Red Cross VAD register as one of the 364 Boy Scouts.  The other four names are not listed.

Red Cross VAD record card.   FAU = Friends Ambulance Unit (i.e.Quakers) see below

Both John Basébé and Charles Wallis are recorded in the Friends data base.

Charles Ernest Wallis              born April 1900, Chesterton, later living in Newnham he was listed as

  • Chas. Ernest Wallis                 Scout               British Red Cross Cert. 3529  1914 
The scarf is that of the 6th, originally Yellow and Black later

The other members cannot be located with these ‘Scout’ designations either in Forces records, nor those of the Red Cross or the Friends but tentative research suggests

Cecil Herbert Augustus Lant                         born Oct 1898, Cambridge     d 19/1/1961

  • Later Private Liverpool Regiment?

Horace Arthur Longley                     b 12/2/1899    A military family – In Chesterton 1911

  • F25821 and 225821    Air Mechanic 2           RAF 1917 and 1918

C Jolley                                               Jolley has not been clearly identified. A Cyril Jolley was named as a 12th Cambridge Kings Scout in the Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal of 18th June 1915. The Chesterton based Jolley families were large. A ‘Charles Jolley’ was born in 1901 and a ‘Charlie Jolley’ in 1902, and the initial C is common as a middle name.

Also with the FAU

Charles Hubert Cousins b 30/8/1899 London Rd Trumpington served from 5/6/1915 – 9/8/1915. A member of the 5th Cambridge District his SM was Aubrey Westlake, a Quaker, who along with SM of the 12th John Murrish, were to propose and found the influential Order of Woodcraft Chivalry.

D Emson Named in Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal of 23rd April 1915 as CM of 12th Cambridge and working ‘on duty’ with the Friends. Not found on the FAU list, but an E Emson is listed from Suffolk which might suggest a typo or a family connection.

See OWC under Local History

A full review of the Friend Ambulance Unit database gives a total of 14 from across the Country, three from Cambridge, three from Manchester, two from Liverpool, one each from Beckenham, Camberwell, Chichester, Herne Hill, and Poole. The Liverpool and Manchester Scouts were from Boys Life Brigade Scout Troops which amalgamated with the Boys Brigade in 1927. The only other named Group is 7th Beckenham. I believe this is all those on the FAU data base. The full list of Red Cross ‘Scouts’ is vast and includes many working in the UK.

JWR Archivist May 2021


Red Cross and Order of St John of Jerusalem

The two organisations united during the war as Joint War Committee to avoid duplication of aims. They took on organizing VAD services. Enter ‘Boy Scout’ or ‘Scout’ without a name for a list of all Scouts. 364 ‘Scouts’ listed.. Incomplete

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Friends Ambulance Unit (1914-1919) was a civilian volunteer ambulance service set up by a group of Quakers during World War I. Its members from 1914-1919, both Quaker and non-Quaker, totaled over 1000. Friends Ambulance Unit would first go to Dunkirk in October 1914 under the auspices of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Can only be searched by name. Incomplete


This database gives free access to a general list of entries. Individual names can be searched and the search refined by filters. The entries include volunteers working in the war zones and list some Civilians, Red Cross, FAU, etc. and, as with John Basébé above, some as Scouts. Incomplete