Horses, Riding and Scouts

Cambridge District Scout Archive

1st Class test 1908       Make a journey alone of not less than fifteen miles from point to point by walking, riding, boat, or bicycle.

Horses were the standard means of local transportation of goods before 1914 but despite the proximity to Newmarket, Cambridge was not a centre for horse riding.

In the early years the second most frequent reason for the award of a Scout medal of honour was stopping runaway horses, although this was not recorded in Cambridge. The inclusion of ‘rescue of horses’ in the book Fire Brigade Work for Boy Scouts suggests other difficulties.

Some references have appeared in the archives that suggest that some Scouts had the opportunity to become riders.

Cambridge Archives

1909 A mounted photograph held by 5th Cambridge Perse school shows the troop with 30 bicycles and three horses. Firmly dated 1909 not as an inscription but as a note on the mounting it is clearly pre WW1 and probably 1909 – 1910.

1911                ‘On Saturday May 20th, 1911, some 400 scouts assembled on Parkers Piece in traditional Chief Scout’s weather. “A bitterly cold wind blew across the Piece; there was a suspicion of rain in the air”. The troops marched round the town, led by the Bands of the Perse and County Schools, while cyclists and mounted scouts (how’s that) brought up the rear’                   WTT Archaeology 1978

1917                Impington Fruit Farms ‘Our field was also tenanted each night by five jovial cart horses devoured by curiosity and not devoid of humour.  The field had a barbed wire fence but … his friends looked over the fence with glee written on their faces  as he trotted round and into the tents.’

1919                5th Cambridge             ‘ All very glad to welcome the Headmaster who rode over on his horse’     This was at a camp near Oxford, presumably he was staying nearby

1920                Medaevil Fayre           Donkeys as beasts of burden for the display

C T Wood’s album 1920

1920                28th (Cherryhinton). A.S.M. George Langham worked so well with this Troop in the earlier part of the year that they were worth entering for the Silver Bugle.  P.L. Coe is splendidly keen. Scout King deserves mention for his pluck in stopping a running horse.                Reveille

2nd Cambridge on the way to camp 1933

1956                Course for Rider/ Horseman Badge if at least six apply, at Abington.  No cost, but provide your own food.

1960’s              Morley competition; each section covered by a different Scout:   Running 1.5 miles, Wheeling wheelbarrow 0.33 mile, Pulling a trolley 0.33 mile, Walking 1.5 mile, Horseback 2 miles, Cycling 6 miles, Raft 0.5 mile, Canoe 1.5 mile

1970’s              Camp inspection by Jock Dawson on horseback.  Jock was County VS leader and Ventures recall riding his horses on a hack around Linton. In 1964 Jocks 1st Hadstock Mounted Scout Troop Jocks was in the paper. ‘The only troop of equestrian Scouts in Britain, at Hadstock, near Saffron Walden, Essex. The troop came into being after Dr. Jock Dawson, a Ministry of Agriculture vet, moved to the village with his wife and son, to find there wasn’t a Scout troop. So he founded one’. See Alamy Pictures

‘I spent many happy hours riding at his farm we went on several long rides in the surrounding bridal paths. We also went over jumps.. I took the 28th Scouts to camp in one of his fields, Jock inspected the camp one morning on horse back! The horse was a white cart horse called George. The only other horse names I can recall were Nibbles, who would take a playful bite when being saddled and Youslaf (spelling?) an ex race horse it went fast, I fell off at least twice!’ SL 28th


1920                5th Cambridge             ‘…loading our goods onto a wagon.  This on starting on its way to the gate sank nearly up to its axles in the ground.  All efforts of horses and men were unavailing and we had to unload everything…’

The journey from the station was by ‘van’, that back by ‘wagon’.  This wording may imply that the first was motorised and second horse drawn.

Cambridge Chronicle 1922

1925 5th Cambridge Entitled ‘Home from the Station’ after unloading the train back from camp in North Norfolk. See companion piece in ‘Trains’.

1928 23rd Cambridge

23rd Cambridge 1928 At camp if not to camp. Cambridgeshire Collection

1929 23rd Cambridge – a year later

Entitled ‘Everything packed!’

1957    54th Cambridge Courts of Honour      ‘We have acquired a horse and cart for the last three quarters of a mile to camp.’

JWR Archivist Feb 2019