Numbers of Cambridge Scout Groups

Cambridge District Scout Archive

1908 – 1910

The first troops (not yet groups) had no numbers.  Exactly what they called themselves between 1908 and 1910, when Cambridge District first registered groups, is not recorded.  ‘Old Chesterton’ (later 29th) may have come out of this era but it is first recorded in 1920 after New Chesterton (10th) 1910. It is far more likely that New and Old denoted the place not the date of foundation – New Chesterton was the part of town towards Mitcham’s Corner being developed and 1st Cambridge District was New Cherry Hinton, a part fo Cherry Hinton parish that reached over to Hills Road.

Notes taken from the first minute book 16th November 1908 state ‘E Troop having grown in numbers considerable be formed into a separate District and called A Division’.  No other references to this labelling system exist. In a report on the Rally of 1911 in Headquarters Gazette the participating Troops were listed alphabetically, the 1st Cambridge (Sea Scouts) being A, the 8th Cambridge being G; the 4th Cambridge being omitted from the list of Troops demonstrating skills. This may be a temporary labelling system for this event to avoid confusion with the gap in numbers.

Other Scout affiliations, notably the British Boy Scouts which started in May 1909, were also setting up around this time.  They had their own numbering systems.  Independent Troops, not affiliated to any organisation, also existed.  The 11th Cambridge District existed as an independent before joining in 1912.

1910 – 1921

Between the Cambridge Boy Scout Association gaining its warrant in 1910 and 1921 troops, and later packs, were registered locally.

The numbering system for the first few troops has not survived and the allocation of 1st, 2nd, etc was still disputed 100 years later by the Perse (5th).   However, the earliest Troops had the lowest numbers.

Cambridge was one of the first Districts and covered a large area before Newmarket and other Districts gained recognition.

 The District ran two numbering systems, Town and District. Town troops were inside the town boundary and labelled 1st Cambridge’, all others were labelled ‘1st Cambridge District (Balsham)’.  With the expansion of the Town boundaries Cherry Hinton troop moved from District in 1913 (the local troop having been previously disbanded) to City in 1919 when a new troop registered.  The ‘District’ is occasionally known as but not formally labelled as County or occasionally Country.

Newmarket District came into being in 1916 and three Cambridge District Troops moved across, Newmarket 1st and 2nd and Cowlinge.

On the formation of Wolf Cub packs, locally starting in 1914 ahead of the formal 1916 (See Page Structure/ Sections/ Wolf Cubs) a new list was devised. Packs not linked to a Troop were given a letter of the alphabet.  Letters ran from A for the Town and from M (not N) for the District giving A Pack – Miss Young’s and P Pack – Grantchester.   A ‘Miss Young’s’ pack was associated with Littleton House School.  The links with A pack – Miss Young’s in the previous sentence are not known.  This may just be incomplete record keeping. Alongside the letters, packs originating from existing Troops took the Troop name and number.

The lettered packs became redundant in 1928 when the Group system was formed.  From that point Packs without Troops got their own Group number.

In 1978 Ken North noted ‘of the 1910 town troops only two are still in existence under the same (local) numbers; they are the 5th (Perse School) and the 13th (St Phillip’s)’.  At 2017 the 13th (St Phillip’s) Nott’s Own are the only remaining group from this date.

1921                  Imperial Headquarter numbers

Imperial Headquarters took on registration of Troops and Packs.  Early Cambridge entries run from the HQ number 900, the 1st being 900, 2nd 901, 5th 903, 6th 904, 7th 905, 9th 907 and 11th 909, etc in Sept 1921.  The 8th Harvey Goodwin was 356, an unexplained irregularity as they too were entered in Sept 1921.  Changes in IHQ numbers identify significant changes in registration, some of which were national alterations.  All the original IHQ numbers changed with the start of the Group system in 1928.


The Group system was introduced linking Cub packs and Scout troops and Rover Crews.  Not all groups had all three and it was often necessary to indicate if a number was Wolf Cubs or Boy Scouts.  Some anomalies occur as when the 42nd troop amalgamated with the 29th but the 42nd Pack retained its own identity.


The end of ‘Town’ and ‘District’ as subcategories preceded the split into three Districts.  Groups from ‘Cambridge District’ increasingly took a number of the ‘town’ list.  Existing ‘District’ Groups retained their names and numbers.Some groups were lost in this period but Linton became the 69th, Fulbourn the 57th and Papworth St Everard the 50th. Four ‘District Groups’ remained in the 1935 split of Districts, 1st Balsham, 3rd Duxford, 4th Melbourne and Meldreth and 17th Barton.  They moved to South Cambridge District and further name changes are not recorded in Cambridge archives. 

Reusing Numbers

Group Numbers within the District were reused from the start.  Some early numbers have been used by four different troops/ groups.   The reuse of numbers could be swift; the 3rd was St Andrew the Great at the 1912 rally but St Catharine’s College Choir in the 1912-13 Annual report.  Later reuse was less rapid, 52nd Cambridge (Sawston) was not reused for 20 years.  The three numbers lost to the 1912 Newmarket District were all reused within three years. 

The early shuffling of numbers may at first look like poor recording but it should be noted that many Troops and Packs  were very small and warranted leader numbers also low.  One Troop (Fowlmere) closed as ‘no more boys of suitable age were available in the village’.  These Troops were fragile and disbanded readily.  In an era when we might expect populations to have been more stable many Groups foundered as leaders moved.

1921    This practice was changed in 1921.  From ‘Secretaries Notebook’ ‘It is now the practice to allot local registration numbers to new Groups in continuation of the numbers at present existing.  It is NOT intended to fill up numbers which have dropped out, except when a ‘new’ Group arises which is a revival of a Group formerly registered under that number.  In other words Group numbers once allocated to ’Churches’, Schools, Villages, etc. are always to be reserved for these Groups- and kept unused for them in the expectation of a revival.’

The practice of reusing numbers continued for a period.

In 1938 the District suggested the old 25th title be revived for Victoria Road Congregational Church on the formation of a new Group at the Church.

Following the 1934 split of the district many numbers that moved to North Cambridge and South Cambridge districts and were not reused.  Whilst some such groups later renumbered after divisions the 6th/17th Cambridge (Barton) remains in Crafts Hill District.  The 6th remains unused in Cambridge District. 

Any reuse has always been delayed where the Group has been known to be active but failed to re-register on the Annual Census.  Making contact with some outlying Groups was by post and hand written letters and stamps were costly in both time and money.  If a reply was not returned then doubt could not be quickly resolved.

The (new) 68th was working in the 43rd area.  Did they want the 43rd?         District Minutes

1944    The 1921 policy was altered.  At that time Cambridge District had 69 Group numbers but only 30 groups.  As noted above a large number had been taken out of District and the numbers would remain permanently vacant.  Some numbers were to be reserved, where Groups have been associated with several numbers the last one would be reserved.

‘It seems doubtful that the College Choirs will be reform(ed)…’      

The following photograph identifies the numbers to be retained.

It was repeated in 1948 but the allocation of numbers 50 – 59 to Mid Cambs. groups that returned to Cambridge District altered this proposal.

The 1947 untangling of the 29th/42nd war time amalgamation and the uniting with the 22nd pack created an early test of this plan.

  • The District plans to hold the 22nd for the Holy Trinity church initially meant that the title Holy Trinity would not be used in any other numbered group.
  • Holy Trinity church wanted the title be used despite the absorption of the pack

It was proposed that the 29th/42nd take the number 22nd.  Apparently initially accepted (26/3/1947), the 22nd did not persist but the name Holy Trinity was appended to the 42nd.

Littleton House School stands as an example of these numbering rules. It was the 18th in 1912 report and later the 16th between 1920 and 1934 when it became part of Mid Cambs. and was registered without a number.  On returning to Cambridge District in 1947 it was given a new number the 52nd.

In Abeyance, Dormant, Defunct, Dead and Closed Down

Abeyance was a clearly recognised notion if not an official term.  It is often used in handwritten amendments to documents.  Hibernating was the term used for inactive groups during WW2.  Following WW2 the term ‘Dormant’ was no longer allowed to describe a group.  For clearly and completely closed down groups ‘defunct’ or occasionally ‘dead’ was used.  Sometimes groups were just ‘closed down’.

The 1st did not have their number reused despite several periods of closure.  This may have been because of a significant body of Sea Scout equipment that invited a Sea Scout Group and no other, or a wish to maintain the premier group in the District as an active group.  The name did not change, 1st Sea Scouts, having the benefit of not being tied to a location or institution. 

The 1st was finally reused and renamed in the new Millennium as 1st Cambridge Orchard Park. The 2nd was re allocated in 2018.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019