Fighting Fires

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Over and above the safe management of fires on camp the skills required to prevent and tackle accidental fire were practiced by Scouts. Sir Francis Vane was encouraging the Histon BBS to practice in his 1911 visit and training was demonstrated to B-P at the early Cambridgeshire Rally’s.

Tackling fires was the third most frequent reason for awarding Scout medals after preventing drowning and runaway horses.

1917 Cambridge Scout Rally: C T Wood’s album

From 1919 Reveille a single issue District Magazine

Fireman’s Badge. Unfortunately there is no longer a spare room at the Fire Station, where the Foreman can take classes for instruction or examination. But Mr. Brookman can occasionally arrange to come to a Troop Headquarters and examine candidates. When he cannot, application should he made to the D.C. Candidates are expected to know something about the T-key, Standpipe, length of hose, metal branch, nozzle, and hose and nozzle-spanner. They must also be able to tie a bow-line, slip-knot, and chair-knot.

22nd Cambridge (Holy Trinity) record two instances where Scouts helped at fires. In October 1922 the Parish magazine reports ‘at a recent fire at Cherryhinton five members of the 22nd rendered invaluable service staying until 1.30 in the morning. Last winter four of them attended special instruction at the Fire Station.’

22nd (Holy Trinity). The Scouts have been most useful in Parish stunts: two of them had the luck to be in at the fire on Newmarket Road.

From Ken North’s 70 years in scouting (1978) we have ‘In 1925 an interesting letter was sent to Mr Walker, as S.M. of the 22nd troop, from the Chief Constable of Cambridge for the valuable services rendered by the three Barlow brothers, who were members of his troop, at a fire on 5th November at Kidman’s Wood Store, Abbey Walk. A copy of this was sent to B.P. who personally replied with congratulations. I remember this fire and the three brothers were all friends of mine. It is jobs like this, though generally never publicised, that have happened in the past and still often occur, that give our Movement its Good Name.

From the Parish Magazine we have two brothers. Kens report was 40 years later ‘We should like to report the splendid good turn of Albert and Ernest Barlow on the morning of the 6th January. When they awoke at 4.20 the smelt something burning. On ‘turning out’ they found the premises of fire not far from their home. The fire brigade had been previously summoned by a railway-man. Albert used his cycle to take a message to the other side of town. Both Scouts possess their fireman’s badge, and where able to use their knowledge in assisting the Fire Brigade.’

‘On July 4th 1925, there was a County Rally held on a meadow near Owlstone Croft, just above Sheep’s Green. I well remember this as it was the first Rally I attended. Sir. Alfred Pickford, the Chief Scout’s Commissioner for Overseas and Migration, was the inspecting officer. There were many demonstrations including life saving, bridge building and fire fighting.’

The incident, below, from an album held by the Cambridgeshire Collection, records an incident involving the 7th Cambridge on camp in 1938. It is noteworthy that the gamekeeper felt able to ask for their support.

The following reports have been collated by Mike Petty and shared through Cambridgeshire History Facebook page.

1910 08 19

Two fires have occurred at Linton this week. Monday’s was the most serious with two cottages next to the Green Hill being burned down. The engine was brought up smartly from its home under the rooms of the Constitutional Club and a host of helpers lined up from the well and passed filled buckets from hand to hand to keep the ever-thirsty engine supplied. Unfortunately over-zealous individuals took their buckets straight to the cottage and tackled the flames themselves, thus the engine was allowed to get dry. A patrol of ten Boy Scouts was brought to the scene and seated on the roof of an adjoining house the Scoutmaster directed a stream of water on to the flames. 10 08 19g

1910 08 26

Meanwhile the enterprising photographer who produced a series of picture postcards of the recent blaze has been hard at work keeping pace with orders. Several Boy Scouts who gave distinguished assistance have ridden over from Cambridge to purchase cards, one of which depicts the Scoutmaster seated on the roof of an adjoining building and directing a jet of water onto the flames. 10 08 26e

1910 10 21

A serious outbreak of fire took place on the premises of John Jarvis, horticultural builder of Hills Road, Cambridge and a large carpenter’s workshop which backed on to the stables of the Warwick Hotel was burnt to the ground. It had been filled with wood and a fire was always kept burning to boil down glue. The brigade was soon on the steam but the engine had such a short run it did not have a chance to get up steam. When the water did come the flames had abated. A group of those ever-invaluable little mortals, the Boy Scouts, rendered valuable assistance in keeping back the crowd and helping with the hoses 10 10 21

1913 02 21

Linton boy scouts extinguished a fire at the Crown Inn. At the close of their weekly meeting one the patrol leaders were putting out the lamp when it fell to the ground. The paraffin poured out, ignited and flared up so that the flames reached the ceiling. Scoutmaster Barber ordered the boys to fetch the fire engine but Patrol Leader W. Dison threw sacks on the floor and jumped on them, extinguishing the blaze. Two lads’ overcoats were seriously scorched

1911 04 04

Training he received in the Cherry Hinton Boy Scouts allowed Herbert Stone of the Wood Pigeon Patrol to save his two little brothers and his little sister from being burnt to death at Rydal Villa, Hartington Grove. The window curtains caught alight in their bedroom and spread to a chair containing the youngsters’ clothes, then to a chest of drawers. Herbert stamped and beat the flames out just in time: the iron work of the large double bed in which the three little ones lay asleep was scorched, as was the counterpane. His hands and feet were scorched and large holes were burnt in the feet of his stockings 11 04 14

(21 y o Sidney Stone, brother of Herbert, died in WW1 1916)

1912 09 27

A hay stack and some straw belonging to Thomas Steadman, butcher, Elsworth, was destroyed by fire. Mr John Judson, who was thatching the stack, accidentally caused the blaze by placing his pipe, which he had been smoking during his dinner interval, in his pocket without having first knocked out the burning tobacco. On resuming work he laid his coat on the straw and was soon horrified to discover that the stack on the top of which he was engaged was well alight. Mr Judson did his utmost to beat out the flames, and in doing so burnt his face. Two nearby corn stacks were for a time in serious jeopardy but were fortunately saved by the smart action of a party of Boy Scouts on their way to Elsworth. 12 09 27k

1914 09 11

Fire. On September 2 a fire occurred in a meadow (at Duxford) belonging to Mr. A. Keeble, burning a hay stack and straw stack, both of which were entirely consumed. The fire was supposed to have been caused by children playing with matches. Fortunately there were plenty of willing helpers, including Boy Scouts, and the Whittlesford Fire Brigade also attended, so that the fire was confined to these premises. At one time it looked very dangerous to the adjoining thatched cottages. – 1914 09 11 CIPof

1911 03 24

Histon Troop of Peace Scouts was inspected by Sir Francis Vane, President of the British Boy Scouts who said the Histon Troop was not only the First of All in England, but the First of All in the world (great applause). War is an awful thing and the Peace Scouts were an order whose role was to rescue and save, not destroy. Their ambulance work was performed with enthusiasm, the Morse signalling was good and the Swedish drill excellent. But they should be given training in Fire Brigade work so they could assist in passing buckets of water in an emergency. 11 03 24e

1932 08 26

A stack fire which broke out near Coldham’s Lane attracted a crowd several hundred strong. It is believed to have been started by one of the many courting couples who frequent the place. Mr A.H. Doggett of Rectory Farm, Cherry Hinton said: “The fire was not caused by internal combustion, nor by lightning. Couples come here and lie about. I don’t mind so much as long as they don’t damage my property”. Boy scouts from Fen Ditton worked with police and farm hands to prevent the flames spreading. 32 08 26e

JWR Archivist Sept 2021