Cambridge District Scout Archive
Early camp ablutions were rarely carried out in the luxury of a shower block. Green field sites (most camp sites) used the water sources available, stream, well, water tank, sea or tap and a vigorous open air ‘shirts off’ wash. Swimming was also bathing, with or without soap, and if not readily available a special trip was arranged to the sea or lake.
The following pictures are illustrative of the ways Scouts washed on camp and the consequences of failing to do so. I have witnessed a Cub who attracted flies in a gentle halo when the rest of the pack did not. Not obviously grubbier than others, this marker disappeared with a trip to the washroom.
It should not be assumed that what constitutes an ideal standard of hygiene has remained unchanged or is uniform across society. My mother, a teacher in Leicester in the early 1950’s, had children in her class who were still wrapped in brown paper and sewn into their clothes for the winter. Scouting was part of the process of change.
1918 Fotheringhay Flax camp ‘The river was two miles off so bathing was seldom possible. But we had two glorious 60 gallon tanks provided for us one for drinking water and the other for bathing in. And the sounds of the bathers almost rivalled the sound of the guns in Flanders (which we heard incessantly).’
The bath may suggest no handy stream, the toy yacht is perhaps optimistic.
Pictures of campers shaving, often with some implied difficulty, are not infrequent. Whether they reflect the care expected concerning personal hygiene on camp or a level of disproportionate care is unclear. It is more usual to find photo’s of those who may need to shave only occasionally.
1947 12th Cambridge Hike report ‘wash under a pump near the back of the lock keepers house’.
This is a trial camp gadget rather than a regular part of the washing facilities. However, such contrivances are part of the pioneer’s repertoire.
JWR Archivist Mar 2019