Handicapped Scouts in Cambridge

Cambridge District Scout Archives

From 1950 to 1968 the annual Census returns asked for details of Handicapped Scouts.  The term Handicap was the second in of four names used by Scouting; Special Tests Branch,  Handicapped Scout Branch, Extension Scouting and Disability. Other terms have been used and dropped through the years in articles, reports and minutes.

Changing Terminology

The Special Tests Branch was formed in 1926 to give specialist help to develop Scouting among boys with physical or mental handicap.  The name did not convey the role and in 1932 it became the Handicapped Scout Branch.  As the name implied it was a separate branch of scouting.

Terms such as Cripple, in common use in the 1930’s, Handicapped, formally used in Scouting from 1932, Subnormal Children (from an index entry c. 1940), mentally defective (1953), and Extension , as advocated in the Advance Report, and adopted in the 1968 census, have all been used.

The 1966 Advance report adopted the current government terminology and reflects the care supplied at the time.  It advocated that all but the last of the categories be included in Scouting and observed that most were.  The categories were: Educationally sub normal, physically handicapped, Delicate, Diabetic, Epileptic, Deaf or partially deaf, maladjusted, speech defects and mentally sub normal.  The last was considered ‘ineducable’.

At this time some sufferers required treatment in residential units and it was proposed that Scouting should be brought to those units.  Ken North recalls a hospital with a Scout Troop in 1942 in which the ‘although they were ESN they really tried to keep the Scout Law as far as they could understand it’.

In Scouting we currently use the term Disability as in the phrase ‘a person with a disability’. In turn each word or phrase is held to have accumulated negative connotations or usage.  The terms were not selected with that intent nor uniformly used in a negative manner.  Cripple is not a term that would now be used but was a non judgemental observation, ‘a person with a crippling disability’, that moved to become a taunt.

Cambridge Archives

First recorded in 1920 Pack E (packs not attached to a troop used letters as identifiers) in Hope Class, Paradise Street, was run by the Cambridge Voluntary Association for Mental Welfare. In 1922 the pack was described as for boys who were ‘Backwards, Mental’. By 1924 it was supported by five Rovers from Emmanuel College. It is first recorded in 1920

The following details are from Census returns 1950 – 1968 for Cambridge when information on the numbers of ‘Handicapped’ Scouts was requested. Census returns from 1921 to 1984 are available, these details were only requested on the forms for these dates.

The single consistent entry was Littleton House School which was a School for Handicapped children.  It was first the 18th Cambridge in 1912 – 1913.  On reopening as a Scout troop in 1918 it was the 16th Cambridge.  Moving out of Cambridge City it became Littleton House School and on returning within the District boundaries in 1951 the 52nd Cambridge.  It closed in 1979.

Numbers returned. Numbers were not requested in the years banded in red.

In 1968 Papworth St Everard reported ‘1’. The Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony was moved to Papworth Everard in 1918 and was the basis for the Papworth Village Settlement which was established in 1927. Papworth St Everard Scout Troop and Guide Company were opened by Princess Mary as part of the opening ceremony. (See Princess Mary 1927)

In 1960, ’61, ’63, ’64, ’66, ’67 numbers were not collected.  The definition of ‘handicapped’ is not included in the Census returns.

In 1979 the 1st Palace Ely (Ely District) were appealing for help across the County. The Palace School was for the physically handicapped and whilst it had low numbers (c. 13) the leaders were required to be physically fit.

Nationally      Articles in the Scouter promoted Scouting for all and a series of articles explained how it could be achieved.’ Scouting and the Cripple’ (1931) and ‘A Blind Scout Group, An opportunity for Service’ (1934) were part of the series.


1931 13th Cambridge Troop log ‘We were glad to welcome one among us tonight, the cripple from Seymour Street and hope that we shall see him many weeks to come and that we can put new life into him’.

The Jesus and Sidney (Sussex) Rover Patrol record a member, A C Baxter, as Acting ASM and elements if the troop activities. It is not clear if the following is a Rover initiative, the Rovers did bring new initiatives to troops they aided. ‘Each week two Scouts fetch a cripple from the District who watches the Troop evening and whenever possible join in.’

In Cambridge from Skyblue (CUSAGC) proposals were made to run a camp for crippled men (No. 9, 1955). 

University Scout periodicals reflected the support given to the Littleton House School pack also referred to at times as Corpus Christi Special Pack.  In 1957 all four leaders had University College addresses.  This support was written in to CUSAGC rules.  

‘4) To act as Liaison between members wishing to help with packs … and in particular to arrange for the staffing of the Littleton House Cub Pack’ CUSAGC Rules             March 1962

Throughout the early 1950’s District was looking for Handicapped boys who wished to become Scouts and a coordinator for supporting them.  In November 1956 they could announce someone in post.

This book was first printed in 1972. 

The Extension Activities Handbook

1986 Noted in County records that ‘Extension Scouts were to be integrated from 1983’.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019