Scout Marksmanship

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Marksmanship was one of the first Scout activities.  It is as a sport that it is currently offered, shooting at numbered targets and never at living things or representations of living things (no, before you ask, not even Zombies or Aliens). 

It is difficult to untangle the target requirements of the first badges but the competitions were marked with a numerical score.  In the midst of WW1 the Scout Defence corps was formed to train some Scouts in anticipation of joining the armed forces.  This is not and has not been the function of Scouting for the vast majority of its existence. See separate page.

General Archives

1908    A marksmanship badge was available from 1908.

1911    In July the Duke of Connaught, President of the Boy Scout Association from 1913, offered the Connaught Banner as a prize for an Annual shooting competition.  By November this had become the Connaught Shield.  A Junior shield was introduced in 1925.


Also in 1913 there was a rally in the grounds of Downing College; I recall seeing this and its grand finale “captured by redskins”, the captives being rescued amid a fusillade of blank cartridges. Interestingly, there was also on display a wireless transmitting and receiving apparatus set up by one of the Troops W T Thurbon ‘Archaeology

1915    Scout Defence Corp and the Red Feather League were introduced to train with small arms for defence in this time of war.  This was the only period when the focus was on the martial element of shooting.  Members of this voluntary group had to be sixteen. 

1919 Competition for Donegal Medals were held in the District. Only two per troop and two competitions, over 15 and under 15.


The Scouter

1999 The Connaught Shields, formerly Scouting’s Miniature Rifle (.22 inch rim fire) Trophies, are now the Grand Aggregate Trophies of the National Scout Air Rifle Competition

District Archive

Note: Indoor air rifle target shooting has standard distances of 6 yards and 10 meters. The lengths of the ranges mentioned below are not known.

1912    Rifle shooting was available in the district.  14th Cambridge entered the Imperial Shield competition of the National Rifle Association                   2nd annual Report

1918 Purchase of air gun for range                        District Minutes

1920  There will be a Shooting Competition (juniors and seniors) for the Donegal medals towards the end of January. The range is now managed by our old friend and former Secretary, Mr. Howard Mallett (39, Halifax Road). Scoutmasters taking a party to shoot must have a permit signed by the D.C. or D.S.M.‘      Reveille

1920 ‘…rifles removed for cleaning.   There was a great laxity in signing for ammunition.’                    District Minutes

1921 Donegal Badge Shooting Competition; Targets to be sent to District Scoutmaster.

1923-24 Association rifle range Kings Mill (The Granary)    Annual Report

1924  The rifle range was still operative     Ken North 70 Years

1928 – 1934                25th Cambridge    Babraham, Abington and Hildersham

This Troop ran from 1928 until about 1934 and the orders of the names vary in different sources. Abington was home to a well established shooting club with a range in pre WW1.   Only five different Proficiency badges are recorded by the Troop, 12 Ambulanceman, 9 Pioneer, 7 Marksman, 3 Cyclist and 3 Farmer. 

The Troop had a Duke of Connaught team of marksmen. In the 1930 competition the 25th Cambridge came second in the Senior Section, behind 45th Nottingham who were the pre-eminent shooting Scout Troop of the time.

1930      New air rifle range arranged by Rovers at Grafton Street. This frequently referenced range was for air rifles and lasted until 1934.

1931 Air Rifle range affiliated with SMRC (almost certainly the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs))

1931       ‘It was agreed to sell two rifles to Mr MacFarlane Grieve at 2/6.    …(and) to cancel the firearms certificate at present in the name of C T Wood’.  District Minutes. (See below)

1933      Miniature Rifle range at Grafton Street        District Minutes

1934      Rifle range closed                                           District Minutes

1934       The rifle range at Grafton Street Headquarters was closed and the equipment sold.  A later plan of Grafton Street does not clearly indicate where the rifle range was set up.  It is described as being used as the Equipment store (Scout shop) half way up the stairs.

1938    POR                 Ref. Duke of Connaught’s Shield is a competition open to Scouts

WW2   Duke of Connaught’s Shield was not held as a National competition during the war but Home Guard rifle ranges were made available for Scout use.

1946 12th Cambridge competed in the Duke of Connaught’s Shield coming 8th and 11th in the Senior Section. For many years after this date they were paying membership fees for the Small Bore Rifle Association.

1948 60th Cambridge (Leys) competed in the Duke of Connaught’s Shield coming 6th with a score of 733. The winners scored 772.

1950       An inventory was held of Association property and it was reported as ‘complete except for the Rifle Range’

1951        Target shooting with a .22 was recorded on a cruise on the Adventurer, the boat owned by the 12th Cambridge.

Note: Donegal Medals The Donegal Challenge Cup is to be open to winners of the Bronze Badges, which the National Rifle Association will present to rifle clubs, to be competed for as club committees may direct, the Challenge Cup being shot for at 200 and 600 yards: and other prizes are offered for rifle club teams at 200 and 500 yards, shooting individually and by teams.

I think this adds up to rifle clubs set a competition, the details of which are up to them.  The winners receive Bronze Badges and may enter for the Donegal Challenge Cup.

2019 Target shooting remains a sport offered by Scouting. Leaders are required to obtain a Nationally recognised qualification to act as Range Master and parents must sign to give permission for Scouts to participate.

2019 A team from the 28th entered the Scout competitions at Bisley. A District team are in formation based on the 28th Cambridge.

These rifles are no longer Scout property. The date of the information is unclear. If the guns were in existence at the 1938 Munich Crisis and 1939 declaration of war it is likely that they became property of the Local Defense Volunteers (later the Home Guard). However, the 12th were paying both membership of Small Bore Rifle Association and for a Fire Arms license in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Cambridge Scouts’ Boat Club

Not marksmanship but it is recorded by Ken Drake in ‘Cantabrigian Boat Club 1950 – 2010’ that at one time the Cambridge Scouts Boat Club had a Webley .45 revolver which it used to signal the proximity of a bump. One shot at a length, two at a half and three at a canvas (as the opponent gets closer to you). Six shots emptied the revolver. From other mentions this was either a well known individual habit and required no explanation or was not unusual for some or all clubs. In a presentation to S A (Squid) Elwood we have ‘largely due to his encouragement with the gun that they rowed over on the last two nights‘. In 1972/3 they were paying £2.50 for a gun license.


The killing of animals for pleasure was, from the beginning, directly against the Scout laws. The use of guns to control vermin or to hunt for food was permissible. See Activities/ Hunting, Shooting and Fishing. No evidence of guns for hunting being held by Scouters within the District has been identified. It is clear that they have been used on occasion.

1927 His first rabbit 7th Cambridge

JWR Archivist Feb 2019