Evercircular: Health

Cambridge District Scout Archive


The Evercircular letters give no notion of any personal preparation for the army physical.  Records elsewhere in the Cambridge scout archives specifically state that one of the intentions of the very physical activities and games were to get boys stronger.  This predates the war and was not specifically for the armed forces.   It is of note that even these active young men became fitter in an obvious way when subjected to the food and the physical regime of the forces.  Despite the outdoor lifestyle of their leisure hours none were manual labourers.

Ill health

Information concerning ill health tends to come after the event.   With the exception of Ken North, who was known to be frail, the story comes later.  Ken was only accepted into the army on the lowest rating, CIII, directly after Dunkirk, when in his own words ‘they were accepting everyone’.  Some report their failure to pass a medical. Stan in July 1941 writes ‘had medical but didn’t pass for active service, had interview with Ministry of Labour and have another two months exempt.  I expect they will have me for munitions or something.’  Later Bill Thurbon, at 38, also reports that he failed his medical.

 Complaints about ill health were avoided possibly because special pleading was ‘not the done thing’ generally, and specifically not at that time when everyone was in the same boat. 

Mental Health

The one detail of a mental health issue, self reported after the event (‘About three months ago I was definitely in the throes of a nervous breakdown and was ordered to hospital but the Battalion forgot to send me’) were not commented on but it was made clear that his friends were very anxious and glad when he was later discharged.  No negative comments concerning this breakdown are recorded in the Evercirculars.  Following the delay in sending him to a hospital and prior to his discharge X did state that he was now fit to serve again.

‘Poor X has had a rough time and was on his way to Medical A. to try to get his leave extended.’ ‘My own feeling is that he ought to be out of the army – he would if the Medical Staff possessed either brains or skill’.  This is a very strong statement from Bill Thurbon.

‘X may be going to a concert unit (seeing as you are a BBC pianist) He has had a very tough time with his health.’

Browned Off

It became acceptable to report being ‘Browned Off’, which, being a non specific term, covered everything from boredom to clinical depression. It also conveyed general annoyance with the sluggish, or erratic, or unfathomable decisions of military organisation.

Physical fitness

It was usual to remark on the increase in physical fitness of those who had been past basic training. 

  • Len                               Fit and well
  • Arthur                          Looking well and put on weight
  • Snowy                          Fit and well
  • Mr Tribe                      Very fit            Squadron Leader Rev. Tribe (Padre)
  • Dusty Miller                Disgustingly fit
  • Ken North                   A lot of armed defence training and an hour at coal heaving (a day)
  • Walter                          Very brown and well
  • Walter Looking twice the size now
  • Dusty Miller                Disgustingly fit

Ron      ‘But life on the whole in this man’s Army is fairly good.’

JWR Archivist Sept 2019