John Chambers

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Silver Wolf

It is difficult to overestimate John Chamber’s role in Cambridge District Scouting.  Active as a Scout between the ages of 8 when he became a Wolf Cub at the 13th Cambridge at the start of WW2 and 2016 the year he died when he was still working in the Scout Shop.

 John was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1968, the Silver Acorn in 1974, Bar to the Silver Acorn in 1979 and Silver Wolf in 1993.

8th February 1931 – 5th August 2016

The photograph, above, is unmistakably John, even to one who only knew him in later life. His stance, presence and resolute personality are marked.

13th Cambridge (Notts’ Own)

John joined the 13th Cambridge (St Phillip’s) Notts’ Own on 27th February 1941. By 1948 he was Patrol Leader (Wingate Patrol is mentioned – possibly post war) and Troop Leader and holder of a National Service Badge. He was effectively a young leader at the 13th, not yet warranted but active in the instruction and leadership role by the end of the war.  He recalled, in an interview for the book ‘You can help your Country’, the string of evacuees billeted with his family; they were brought along to the Scouts and made welcome. John also spoke of the war work done at that time, making shooks from sheaves of corn, picking stones and other jobs. He gained his first warrant as ASM in about 1948 and became increasingly active in revitalizing the 13th Rovers, a crew that was active from 1931 to 1967, but which stuttered during the war.   John held roles as ASM/ASL ARSL, RSL, and later ADC and ACC.

The in-house history of the 13th records of ‘the extension of the Marmora Road Headquarters (opened in 1961) …much of the actual work erecting, site preparation, etc, was carried out by John Chambers and his contemporaries (unrecorded hours of extreme hard labour of which few people know).

Coming from one of the few effective Rover Crew in Cambridge he regretted the move from Rover to Venture Scouts. The crew was involved in support at Abington.


John became one of the second group of Trustees for Abington in 1981; the original trustees having died.  In 1997 the new trustees appointed the Scout Association Trust Corporation to succeed them.  Although details are lacking John had been actively involved in the physical work on the site for many years.  He was also engaged in some of the management

Scout Shop

He is remembered by many as a face of the Scout Shop in Perne Road, a role he carried out from about 1967 until his death.  Current leaders now nearing sixty remember him selling them their first Cub uniform.

District Newsletter

Like many long term leaders much of his work was under recorded.  With his wife Rosemary, who received her own Bar to the Silver Acorn in 2006 after 50 years service, he was joint editor of the district newsletter, the Cambridge District Gazette, from 1965 until the last edition at the division of the district in 1983.  Ten issues were prepared and published most years.  They also edited County newsletters c 1980.

Fellowship/ SAS

As a continuation of his role in coordinating support work through Rovers and the Abington Camp Site Service Team, John was engaged in the Fellowship and later Scout Active Support (SAS).  He was ACC Fellowship c. 2007 and a District Vice President c. 2003.

Father Christmas

For many years John was ‘Father Christmas’ at the Cambridge Cub Christmas Party.  Few of the Cubs will have memory of him in any other role.


It is John’s safeguarding of District papers and his personal collection that were central to the formation of the Cambridge District Scout Archives.  At Cherry Jam, the Cambridge Centenary Camp, he wore an intact early Scout uniform. Rosemary distributed his collection to friends in memory of John, placing the District specific items and records with the District team.

On the Promise path at Gilwell is a brick in his memory:                                                                            


One tale – a scouter remembers calling John as the camp at Abington had run out of milk; no Sunday opening, no dairies near. John responded with words to the effect ‘he was ruddy nuisance’ but immediately come out from Cambridge with back up supplies. Always prepared.

JWR Archivist Dec 2022      

Rosemary Chambers

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Bar to Silver Acorn

Rosemary Chambers, who is still alive, was John’s wife and active in Scouting for many years.  She was District Secretary from 1975 and continued as North Cambridge District Secretary until 1994.  With John she was joint Editor of the district newsletter, the Cambridge District Gazette for 18 years. 

She received her Medal of Merit in 1977, MM bar in 1984, Silver Acorn in 1995 and SA bar in 2006.  In 2015 she received her 50 years Service award and remains a District Occasional helper.

Rosemary was a member of the Scout Fellowship 1980- 2010, Scout Active Support 2010 – 2021, and in 2018 – 2019 held an acting role on Newmarket District Exec. 

At John’s death Rosemary passed on the bulk of John’s vast collection of scouting memorabilia to his friends.  At the same time she passed the Cambridge specific documentation to the District.  It was this act that spurred the formation of the District Archive and Collection.  Some of the material was from the earliest years of the local Association and is unique.

JWR Archivist Dec 2022