Cambridge District Scout Archive
The first books used for the Evercircular letters were Hike reports. The pages were mixed lined, plain and squared pages, a combination that was regularly a point of comment. Although some were able to transcend the format it cramped the handwritting of other fists; the squared paper in particiular producing a tight and over full page. The squared paper did invite the creation of a small crossword although the later full page crossword was hand drawn.
See also Evercircular: Crossword
The Hike reports were replaced by standard Exercise books, lined and with more pages. These were not Scouting issue and using the standard wide spacing between lines generally produced a more readable page. One contributor ignored the lines and wrote with a greater frequency. The reason for this is unknown but school training or wartime need may have driven this. I can recall school in the 1960/70s having to demonstrate that my last exercise book was full before receiving another and being chastised for not using the top line.
One later book was used for two late letters of the Narvik Patrol. It was another form of reused Scouting stationary. Despite the title ’Questions for Service Scouters’ it is has blank lined pages.
A number of letters were inserted into the booklets, one from a mess mate of a contributor who did not wish to write directly in the book, one typewritten by WTT whose handwriting was particularly poor but who had access to typewriters at St John’s College.
Pens, pencils and ink
The letters were usually written in pen, but occasionally pencil. As mentioned above those with access to a typewriter occasionally used them.
The pencil was the consequence of ‘having loaned his fountain pen’, having conked out (run out of ink) or on another occasion a pen was lost and the message written in pencil. One letter started ‘This isn’t my pen so don’t blame me for the ink this time,’ The ink was green. He later added ‘What a lousy pen that was.’ Ball point pens did not exist at this time and fountain pens were generally personal property. It was a concern that if others used your nib it would distort the pen for the owner. Nibs were available in different widths and cuts but they also wore or bent to the owners use and another user could noticeably distort the set. Many would loan a pen only to a known penman and then reluctantly and not a second time if the styles were incompatible and, the worst of all possibilities, the nib was ‘crossed’.
Pens for general use were generally simple dip pens with an ink well rather than an integral reservoir. The ink for these was not of the best quality. In both dip pens and fountain pens the density and thus colour of the ink declines as the end of the load is reached. On occasions the ink almost turns brown at this point as it dries. Dip pens can be identified as the ink fades in short, sentence long, runs.
Legibility was always an issue when so many were written in haste, probably in poor light, on cheap paper and with poor ink. Bill Thurbon was accused of writing one postcard that was so illegible that it could only be identified by the post code, and a second only by the scene on the picture – by these means the recipients could write back and ask for clarity. Blank postcards were generally used for messages – they were cheaper to send than sealed letters.
References to the envelopes, which have not been preserved in the archives, state that they were reused and became covered with multiple addresses. This became worse as the writers were moved, a significant aspect of Army life, and the letter chased the addressee. One delay was occasioned by the difficulty in obtaining a replacement envelope. The opportunity to leave a base was often highly variable and many bases were far from towns. Then there was no certainty of finding supplies at a stationery shop.
The cost of a posting is unknown but a cumulative cost listed by Bill Thurbon as coordinator of several Evercirculars was £1/11/11 for an unknown period. A considerable sum this presumably included the chasing postcards at ½d stamp each.
JWR Archivist Sept 2019