Cycling Scouts

Cambridge District Scout Archives

1908    1st Class test     Make a journey alone of not less than fifteen miles from point to point by walking, riding, boat, or bicycle.

1910    A Scout Cycle Patrol manual from before the Great War (reference below) supports the military use of the bicycle, soon to be rendered redundant by the development of motor transport in the Great War.  It remained an accessible form of transport for the young and most private citizens. 

Cambridge Archives

‘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, while cyclists and mounted scouts (how’s that) brought up the rear’

            WTT Archaeology 1978

1912    1st Cambridge Sea Scouts formed a Cycle Patrol (The Eagles)          CC Box 75

1915 A District Field Day event had Cyclist Section in both teams.

CYCLE-CORPS (1914 – 1918)

‘At home useful, though unpretentious, work was done by the Cyclist Corps under G. Langham. We may be proud of the fact that the Police turned to the Scouts when they wanted a Cyclist Corps ready to help in case of invasion or similar disturbances. On Peace night, last summer, the Cyclists were to the fore, and we received a nice letter of thanks from the C.O. of the Cambridgeshire’s, congratulating us on their excellent discipline.’

Reveille 1920

1915                5th        ‘A party of cyclist scouts, operating between the Roman Road and Shelford Station tried to break the cordon that the civilian (Defence Corps) had thrown out.’

1917                BP visit                        Scouts ‘came pouring into Cambridge by road and rail, mostly cycling…’            Newspaper report

1919                5th        Whole day scheme at Haslingfield ‘Part of the troop cycled to Haslingfield the rest took the train to Harston and bus from Hauxton

LEAVES FROM A SCOUTMASTER’S DIARY                               ‘I thought of the long ride to Cambridge, and wondered if I could not postpone my visit to the Vicar to another evening. But there were matters to be discussed with him that I felt should not be deferred, so mounting my cycle I made my way to the Vicarage.   …I returned to my bicycle to fetch a lamp to guide me to the rear of the house. To my annoyance found that my front lamp had gone out; the hour being late I did not wait to re-light it but, taking the rear lamp, by its ruddy beams I made my way to the back door…’          Reveille 1920

1920’s              ‘In those days bicycles were at a premium and many of us marched quite long distances on scouting occasions.’ 

1921                Harston Troop held a Dispatch carrying competition and a cycle patrol participated, but was ‘nearly captured’ suggesting a wide game element to the exercise.

1923 ‘I remember my PL testing me for firelighting and cooking, eating with him the sausage and potatoes cooked by the light of an oil burning cycle lamp’ Ken North

1926                ‘We were all to cycle with our personal kit’ (to Houghton – about 18 miles) Tommy Legge ‘arrived in a taxi with our bell tents and other gear, only to find that the poles had been left behind’.

C T Wood’s album c 1920

‘In the summer we met at the Roman road or around Cherry Hinton, cycling being our means of transport.  In those days the cyclist badge was an essential, we had to do our own running repairs, we just could not afford to do otherwise’

1926    w/e camps at Quy and Bottisham cycling with tents and other gear

2nd Cambridge 1930’s             Hike camp

1929    ‘For my first class journey I cycled to Holme, (just beyond Hunstanton) spending the first night at Castle Rising near King’s Lynn’.  This trip of about 75 miles each way was for the First Class Scout Badge.

1930    Cycling Badge was one of only five different badges recorded as awarded by the 25th Cambridge (Abington, Babraham and Hildersham)

1930 Doves patrol, Gonville & Caius Rovers, attempted to get a ‘tandem’ to take the whole patrol. All they could manage was a four seater and a two.

1931    ‘I used to cycle along what we knew then as first Ditton Lane, by ‘The Globe’ public house, the major part of this being only rough footpath, no lights at all.  I used to pick up one Cub and transport him on the back carrier, this was quite hard going for me as I was not tough even in those days.’

1931    The Morley Trophy was in the form of a Cycle Hike

2nd Cambridge 1930’s             Morley Competition

1932 2nd Cambridge ‘Bike hike’ on which they learnt many things, ‘and finally how not to build a trailer.’

1932    ‘I was able to borrow the cycle of ‘Jimmy James’…to cycle to the other end of Lowestoft for supplies.’    Ken North

C T Wood’s album c 1920

1932    5th Cambridge             offered a Cycle Rodeo at the entertainment ’and carried out a series of elaborate and accurate movements in formation, finishing by making a human wheel with a radius of sixteen cyclists.  There were no accidents, except that a scout had the misfortune (as we were warned on the programme) to break his thigh.  But scouts are always prepared, and in this case bandages and a stretcher were quickly produced, and the victim was borne away on a cycle ambulance, realistically groaning.’

1932    Abington                      ‘Agreed to erect a bicycle shelter’     1933 Wood for cycle shed ₤3/3/10

1934    55th Cambridge           purchased ‘two flags cycle’ as prizes

It is not clear if the picture below shows a tent or a daytime shelter. Probably 23rd Cambridge.

1930’s From A J Covell album, Cambridgeshire Collection

Pulling and pushing a pneumatic wheeled cart by hand. Probably 23rd Cambridge.

1930’s From A J Covell album, Cambridgeshire Collection

1935    5th Cambridge                         record a ‘Cycle maze’ as an entertainment.  (A ‘maze’ is probably an interweaving of cycles at speed)  At other times they cycled to the Gogs, Cherry Hinton and Comberton.

Cycle ambulance

1936    5th Cambridge             cycled to Ely for Cambridgeshire Scout Rally1939    ‘had a job for Scouts to deliver letters regarding blood donors’…’ the volunteers who turned up with cycles’                                                                                    Ken North Memories

1937    26th Cubs Cycled and Hiked to Roman woods and road

1938    ‘we were called on upon to prepare a Cyclist Messenger Service.  I know when a mock Air Raid was arranged one weekend the boys turned out and gave a very good account of themselves.  In fact in 1939 at the outbreak of war, they were also in action for a time.                                                                                                           Ken North 70 Years of Scouting

1939    On the 13th and 14th July black out exercises were carried out in Cambridge with Boy Scout lining up at the Post Office shortly before midnight with bicycles and lights to act as messengers to the Air Raid Wardens.  The Chief Warden had specifically requested Scouts to volunteer.

1940    60th Cambridge           One party cycled a second hiked…     Often two parties are mentioned suggesting not all Scouts had bicycles.

1943    St Georges Day           ‘Police would look after cycles.’         District Minutes

1926 – 1960’s  many planned meetings at the Grafton Street HQ or other town venues involved a letter requesting permission to park bikes off the road, often at the Co-op building nearby.  ‘Cycles and Coats can be left at Grafton Street’ 1947   ‘Cycles at GPO Telegraph House’        St Georges Day 1966

1941    5th Cambridge             Field day at Melbourn                        ‘reached by cycle instead of rail’ – probably because of war time restrictions

1941    5th Cambridge            ‘Owing to the difficulty of obtaining bus transport all went by bicycle’

1942    War Service Scouts Camp       The participants cycled from Grafton Street to Hemingford Grey Vicarage then rowed to the island camp. 

1942    Weekend cycle ride by 26th Cambridge to a group in Wood Green, London as arranged by a Scouter from the London Group stationed in the forces near here.

1946    Dispatch riders badge, initially a war time issue badge, noted in ‘5th Cambridge 1st 50 years’

1951    12th Cambridge cruise on their boat the ‘Adventurer’ took the Troop collapsible bike and cycle trailer aboard to collect provisions

1953    5th Cambridge             ‘The Court of Honour camped for a week at Gilwell, having cycled there with full camping kit.’

1954    The Morley Trophy was a ‘cycle scramble’

1955    54th Cambridge Court of Honour        Bicycle trailer ‘we decided that it would be a good idea to have one.’

1956    54th Cambridge Court of Honour        ‘Trike’ cart listed in troop gear

1958 12th Cambridge purchased and maintained a Troop cycle

1968 11th/9th practicing a cycle stretcher

1971    Regional Cyclo-cross championship

1974    Newmarket District organised a Scout cyclo-cross

A Cycling Proficiency or Activity Badge has always been available.

Cycling Badges                       1908 – 1967    Scouts

1919    This badge was to be retaken annually, possibly to ensure an up to date list of bicycles rather than check any loss of skills.

1938    The badge now admitted ‘motor cycle’ alongside ‘bicycle’ and required knowledge of the Highway Code and cyclist and traffic organisations, CTC, RAC and AA.  The willingness to use it in the Kings service remains.

The First Class Scout tests had a 30 mile cycle hike as an option, the Rovers Ramblers badge a cumulative 400 miles on a bicycle.

Despatch Riders Badge         1939 – 1945    Scouts             1947 – 1967 Senior Scouts

The Despatch Riders badge was started at the same time as the Scout Messenger Service.  On the start of Senior Scout Sections the Despatch Riders badge became the over 15 version of the Cyclist badge.

Running a Senior Scout Troop:  Melville Basillie 1964

The following link reproduces a cycling manual from before the Great War

Cyclists of note

One Cambridge Scout at least went on to race internationally, Fred Krebs of the 13th. Frederick Otma Krebs was an Austrian refugee joining the 13th c 1942. As an amateur and a professional he was good enough to deemed ‘missing’ from cycling circles when he stopped to persue his career.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019