Duke of Edinburgh Award

 Cambridge District Scout Archive

Cambridge Archive

For one year, 1962, the Census asked for participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.  Census returns are available between 1921 and 1984.

Founded in 1956 the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was designed to attract boys who had not been interested in joining one of the main British youth movements, such as the Scout Association. It was not necessary to ‘join’ any organisation, or wear a uniform to participate.

District Archives

DoE in Scouting started in 1960 locally.

The first Gold DoE to a Cambridgeshire Scout was in 1961, in 1963 5 Scouts (all from Cambridge District) were awarded Gold.

1960 12th Cambridge purchased eight registrations @ 2/6 each for DoE. (8 x 2/6 = £1)

1961 recipient list includes members of the 5th, 7th, and 60th – all major schools. Mr. Mackrow of the 12th wrote to the papers in this year equating all 1st Class Scouts as holding the equivalent to the Bronze DoE.

1962 returns (for those actively involved) are:

  • 7th Cambridge (County School)           4           
  • 28th Cambridge                                   1
  • 57th Cambridge                                 1
  • 60th Cambridge (Leys School)             20

1963 returns for the County recorded 13 Gold and 8 Silver. This was ahead of the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh , by helicopter, for a DoE Award event at Sawston Village College. (30th May)

1964 returns for the County were 15 Gold and 10 Silver (cumulative totals) but in 1965 a rapid decrease in Scout based involvement was reported. It is interesting that at this date Cambridgeshire Scout County felt that the award was so recognizable to the public that it should be encouraged within Scouting.

In the 1962 edition of Look Wide, a book for Senior Scouts first printed in 1956, Chapter 8 is about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards. 

The first requirement for a Scout to enter was to hold the First Class badge.  This enabled a Scout to start at the Silver DoE Award.  At this time it was generally necessary to work through all three stages in order.  The Silver Award could be achieved through attaining existing Scout badges.  The Gold Award could also be achieved by working through Scout badges and Scout Leader training.

The Census does not state if the DoE was being conducted with the Scouting Association acting as ‘Operating Authority’.  As two of the four returns and twenty four of the twenty six participants are from School based groups it is likely that the schools had separate systems in place.

Interaction in practice

Current leaders recall that in the 1970’s Scouts in Cambridge were actively supportive providing or hiring equipment to bodies and individuals involved in the scheme. This declined within a few years in some Groups as the standards required by each organisation became confusing and potentially dangerous. Scouts in the DoE Award scheme were taught different and less rigorously safe practices and the softer version was tempting and confusing.

More recently some schools have encouraged it as a CV worthy activity for all and the evidence of a lack of rigour has been seen when camping alongside the training trips. The half hearted – ‘it’s only a training camp and (insert child’s name) can’t be expected to carry all that’ – are weeded out.

Those who have achieved the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award are as fully worthy of the trip to the Palace as a Queen’s Scout and from experience the skills are readily transferable to Scouting as leaders.

Personal recollection

Without having analyzed it at the time I recall my own experiences of attempting to reconcile the two approaches. No clear cut examples remain but I definitely learnt that scout practices were required at Scouts. The most dangerous places I have been lead into was with the school based DoE. I recall the understated expertise of some DoE leaders, no badges to demonstrate rank or skills, and the familiar faces of teachers in a new context. But also an overlay of educational awareness by the teacher leaders of the wider benefits of the experience. The experience was sometimes just that, an experience, not expected to be repeated by the children and so harder to abandon if it became less safe. Or maybe this was just a lack of experience.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019