Donald Winnicott of the 19th

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The identification of a Troop Leader of the 19th Cambridge in 1916 as D Winnicott by DC C T Wood in a newspaper article led to a search.  A second reference can be found in March 1917.

Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal Dec 13th 1916

The leader was Donald Woods Winnicott.

Donald W Winnicott attended Leys School, Cambridge as a border and from 1914 Jesus College Cambridge.  As a Medical student he was exempt from military service and of ideal age (20) to be Scout Master, particularly when most young men were at the war.  He joined the RN in 1917 and I have only found two references in the sparse war time records in what can only have been a short Scouting career.  He completed his medical training in London on return from the war.

The Leys school is a Methodist foundation and Winnicott came from a Methodist family. 

The 19th Cambridge Scout Troop was ‘the Wesleyan’, opened in 1914 and whilst not registered until 1918 clearly part of the District in 1916.   They were last mentioned in 1920.   Based at the Wesleyan Church (now Wesley Methodist Church) situated just off the Jesus Lane, the site of Jesus College; the Troop met at 17 Jesus Lane. 

The Winnicott Trust drew my attention to letter from 1916 to his mother in which he discussed the Troop. 

As a Scout history the points of interest are that he was approaching individuals for funds and had ‘two half sovereigns within a week’ from Miss Pratt and Mrs. J H S McArthur, Hon President of the Leys, and 5/- from a Wesleyan Draper.  He calculated that if the boys brought their penny a week they would raise 2/- a week; which suggests a Troop of 24.   They were now ‘out of debt’. 

Donald was soliciting small financial gifts from friends and family to help in supporting one of the boys.  Winnicott was paying 1/2 a fortnight for medication (one shilling and tuppence) for the family.  The father was unable to work, paralyzed and fitting, the older of the two brothers, both Scouts, was ill and the only child old enough to work.

Winnicott became a paediatrician and psychoanalyst who became an influential thinker on child development and play.  His appreciation of the role of the mother and his observations on her two boys ‘one of the poorest’ (families) and ‘one of the best’ (the sick Scout), ‘clean and respectable’ demonstrate an early consideration of these topics, as does the focus on learning through play, as in scouting.

JWR Archivist May 2021