District Camps 1917 and 1918

Cambridge District Scout Archive

During WW1 camping was restricted in many of the counties bordering the North Sea and Channel. Initially the threat of Zeppelin attack and later by long range German bombers raised anxiety to very high levels. Zeppelins in particular were a new form of warfare and somewhat random. Although the total death from air raids was 1392 with another 3330 injured.

See Local History/ WW1 WW2/ Camouflaged Tents

District camps, however, were arranged to pick crops and aid the war effort. These were officially sanctioned and the tents were carefully camouflaged. In ‘The Wolf that never sleeps’ Marguerite De Beaumont lists the national Flax Camps as an initiative by BP.

1917 Chivers Fruit Picking

The Camouflage tents are distinctive
The job in hand

The above photographs are from the Rev Wood’s album and the report from the Scout News column of the local paper is also signed CTW.

1918 Fotheringhay Flax picking

An interview conducted by Rev Dr Jonathan Holmes, retired Dean of Chapel, Queens’ College and Keeper of the Record with Mr Vere Stoakley.

Vere was 9 in this picture, alongside his older brother, too young to be a Scout but given an exemption to parade alongside his brother at the Prince of Wales visit in 1920. He accompanied his mother, who took charge of the cooking at the camp, to Fotheringay Camp in 1918.

Of the camp he related three details in the interview; that they cooked on open fires, that they were taken to the flax in an army lorry each day and on one occasion it turned over and that Charlie Wood (Rev C T Wood, DC and CC and SL of the 9th), was a good sort and ran a good camp. Vere also recalled a scout with regular epileptic fits and another Serbian Scout, of Rover age, who was later instrumental in getting Scouting moving in Yugoslavia

One wide game is related, when hiding items in a field to be found Costich, the Serbian Rover, placed his object under a dried cowpat.  It was not located. The full interview can be read in Queens’ College Record 2008.

The photographs at the top of the page, directly above and below are from C T Wood’s album.

CTW right of photograph

The following disconnected piece from the local paper was written by Rev C T Wood. It being legible and little more being available to enhance the story I have not added further commentory.

Steve Nikel (then SL 32nd Peterborough) wrote of the Flax camps in the ‘Cambridgeshire Noticeboard’ of 1999 listing 16 sites in the region and the origin of the 1500 participants. A minimum height was recommended for the strenuous work and in a confidential report to BP the boys from Peterborough and Cambridge were described as ‘not up to standard’ in size or age. It is not known if the debilitating effects of the ‘flu’ was mentioned.

This sketch by BP was published in the Headquarters Gazette in 1918

An Association Camp was held in August 1920 at West Runton. P D Power, C T Wood, Armitage, de Beaumont and Valentine Richards were the Officers.

JWR Archivist Feb 2020