Cambridge District Scout Archive

This page covers some historic examples of pioneering from the district and two projects that were first formulated in the district.

The collections of camp photographs from the archives often show pioneering in two forms.  Well laid out kitchen areas replete with those small pioneering projects called camp gadgets and larger pioneering works.  This page concentrates on the larger projects.

The most satisfactory of pioneering projects are those that have an actual function now rather than for practice or show.  The bridges built to span the stream between the two halves of the camp in 1976 (see below) are spoken of with more pride than all the grand practice pieces. Much of the reported pioneering is in the practice and the display and little in the practical use.  Even less is recorded outside Scouting events.

Cambridge Archives

 1912   9th Cambridge             ‘at a local Rally the Troop built its first Bridge (single lock-trestle).

1914    5th Cambridge             ‘Erected a rope bridge across an imaginary river’  ’various small scouts were trussed up and swayed across the chasm with great gusto’

1917    5th Cambridge             ‘Built a flag pole of scout staves’

1917    Chief Scout’s Visit for our Rally of June 13, 1917  ‘Many had told us that it was hopeless to expect the Troops to give a decent show in war-time;  but they did, – especially the 5th with their Camp-pole of Scout-staves, the 8th and 9th with their double lock-trestle bridge, .. ‘ C T Wood album

1924    5th Cambridge             ‘single lock trestle bridge across the rifle range’

1925    ‘There was a number of the usual type of displays…including bridge building,  and I remember a derrick was constructed by the 5th troop and Sir Alfred (Pickford – the inspecting officer) was hoisted up this by block and tackle.  He was a tall well built man!’             Ken North

1927    ‘and on June 13th the Chief came to a large Rally on Sheep’s Green. The 9th built a double trestle Bridge over Snob’s, the best they ever achieved’.                   C T Wood

1930’s              Bridge building by the Cambridge University Crew from The Rovers World

1930    5th Cambridge                         ‘owing to the rehearsals for bridge building display’ ‘instead we bridged an imaginary river on Ouse Fen once a week.’   ‘the Flying Fox was a great success (at the fete) and repaid the time.’

2nd 1930’s

1932    5th Cambridge             Tent pitching   Record of 2 minutes 50 seconds         ‘although the standard of pitching was sacrificed somewhat’

1932    5th Cambridge             A ‘Derrick was erected to lift some bullion over an imaginary river and we are afraid that owing to an unfortunate accident in which the bullion was knocked over its weight must have appeared equally imaginary to the spectators.’

2nd  1930’s Croydon Wilds

1932                Annual Cambridge Rally         Monkey Bridge 2nd, Aerial runway 25th Abington, Tower and flagstaff University Rovers

2nd 1930’s
2nd Abington Pool digging

1935    5th Cambridge             Signaling Tower erected by the Rovers

2nd 1930’s

1936 13th Cambridge

Troop magazine

1940    60th Cambridge           ‘Rope ladders’, ‘aerial runways across the burn’

1943    Camp Chief (a new post) John Thurman visited Cambridge  (29 – 30/10/1943)

1952    5th Cambridge             ‘Our supplies of pioneering tackle are slowly growing’

1952                From THE SCOUT: Cambridgeshire Senior Scouts with their entry for a Model Building Competition

A (scale model) guillotine

The Scouts were from the 12th, Terry Shaw and Geoff Bareham (as recalled TS Oct 2020)

1953                The Morley Trophy of this year was a combined hike camp and incident challenge.  Two of the five incidents were

  • Pioneering       (fly flag from the highest point they can and estimate the height)
  • Make a useful camp gadgets

1954 – 6           Soap box Derby           Prometheus I, II and III raced by the 5th Cambridge   Mark II won the Scout class in Morecambe. (See separate page)

1955                5th Cambridge             ‘Bridges and rafts and swimming, some of it premature’

1964                University Rovers        Built the prototype ’Cambridge Merry Go Round’.  See below

1974    Cambridge Scout Gazette      

  • Rules on Aerial runways were emphasised
  • Sedan chair rally

1975                Hele Trophy    gave credit for camp gadgets made on site

1976                On the occasion of the Chief Scout visiting Abington the District occupied the campsite and the adjacent playing field.  The two sites were joined by two bridges built by the 57th and the Sir John Cockcroft VSU.

1979                ‘A rope bridge was constructed across the river to the opposite bank.   A small rubber boat was used to take across a rope and the wooden spars were then pulled across to construct the ‘A’ frame. Anchorage was by dead man anchor on the camp side and a 3-2-1 on the opposing bank.  The ground was saturated when the bridge was built, but toward the end of camp it was very hot and the ground had baked hard when it came to strike camp. So hard we had to cut the rope and leave the anchor in the ground!’                             28th Cambridge

2015                Leonardo Bridge 28th Cambridge       6m span crossed without ropes (and when securely lashed crossed by all sections)

28th Cambridge 2015
28th Cambridge ‘Skylon’ 2019

Pioneering Projects conceived in Cambridge

Cambridge Merry Go Round: John Thurman’s Progressive Pioneering

The Abington Spring Bridge: John Sweet’s Scout Pioneering

This was invented and built on a Wood Badge Patrol at Abington (Cambridgeshire Campsite) some years before 1974. John Sweet was Field Commissioner in the region for several years. He suggested that the stave rungs were insufficient for the average GSL, but such observations did not limit the invitations to talk at the yearly AGMs.

John Sweet also names Thorrington in North Essex and the Isle of Ely as locations of pioneering projects.

Also some Camp projects were designed with a wider aim. The 5th Cambridge (Perse) devised three ‘extra’ camp activities for those whose camping skills gave them time. One of these was to make three different mousetraps, one of which should catch exclusively white mice.

JWR Archivist Oct 2019