Cambridge University Scouting: Rovers

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Individual Rovers were invested into the University Troop or Crew not College Patrols.  The first 566 were listed chronologically in a book.  Details were also entered on an alphabetical Card Index.

Part of the record listed past Scouting experience and ongoing involvement in (Cambridge) town or home troops. Previous involvement on registration was often detailed, if they were already Scouts but the recording of the Rovers new engagements with the town Scouts was poorly maintained.  Many Rovers probably only had incidental involvement, possibly helping at events with others from their Patrol, but not acting as individuals in a pack or troop.  This cannot be quantified from the existing records.

The involvement of individual Scouters after they left university does not come back to these records. Some we can pick up, N V Halward in Sheffield Scouts is an example, but most are lost.

More widely and unlike WW1 there is no central University list of WW2 participants, medal winners or dead to consult, and many fall within the 80 years ‘not available’ category. 

Two known reunions gathered enough interest to go ahead, in 1937 and 1995.

A number of Rovers or applicants presented problems, a few have residual jottings to illustrate the concerns.

  • ‘refusing to take oath to the King’
  • ‘wrong type, out to get not to give’ 1925
  • ‘socialistic’
  • ‘Religious difficulties, communistic’
  • ‘went down’ (that is left the university before completing the course)
  • and G V H Baerlein’s ‘brilliant Scouting career in the university was thoughtlessly cut short by the College authorities’

The socialistic/ communistic observations probably imply refusing to take an oath to the King or to a God.  We know of one experienced Scout whose views had altered and the Troop Leader was corresponding directly with IHQ. BP replied to this letter.

See Local History/ Order of Woodcraft Chivalry – entry on Kibbo Kift

Rovers did support the District Troops and it is evident that most help was in the town.  We have a record of a Rover walking 4 miles each way once a week to help a village troop but cars were not permitted and many villages had no transport links running in the evening.  These interactions often started as patrol endeavours but the more successful relationships became individual actions. The one long lasting College/ University support was that of Littleton House.

Concern was raised about the effect of students being relied upon to support District troops. The surviving document was long and multifaceted but the core was that it left the town troops vulnerable and students were only Up for short terms. Both valid observations and if student support tided over some troops they probably only delayed the end of others.

Nevertheless town Scouting has been immeasurably richer for the involvement of able, young and active Scouters, now as in the past.

JWR Archivist Sept 2022