Don Potter in Cambridge

Taken c 1934 this picture shows Don Potter demonstrating rope spinning in Cambridge. Don introduced the activity to Scouting. He was a talented sculptor, a skill shown at Gilwell and encouraged by BP. He later went on to carve the statue of BP at Baden-Powell House. From the Cambridgeshire Collection, A J Covell’s album.

Note the wonderful socks.


The first DC

Belatedly I have added a page on Charlies (Charlie) Travers Wood, Dean of Queens’ and the first Cambridge DC.

(One did exist very briefly before him but left little of his brief tenure)

It has been very difficult to collect the information for this page – clearly very influential, generous in time and money but so much part of Cambridge Scouting that a clear summary was unnecessary at the time.


Coronavirus and all that

Being in lock down for a month has separated archivist and archive material. Much of the work is in a limbo between knowing the shape of the story but lacking the details.


The closure of access to free public library internet ancestry services has stopped the detailed work on individuals and the ready access to local paper sources. As the work required several of these at irregular intervals they do not justify the combined cost.

The significant information gained from 13th Archive has been returned to the 13th Cambridge, many of the details intergrated into existing articles and the previous histoires published. The work done at the Leys School Archive (60th) has been interrupted mid flow. Much needs clarification.

Some pieces may yet be published, but without a final search they are often missing a final reference point – even if it is a negative one. These may not appear in any article but do reassure me that the work has been worked up to a point with no obvious loose ends.

On the up side viewing figures, after an initial dip, are hitting new highs – for the moment. The publication on the Cambridgeshire Scout Facebook page every second day has helped spread the word and is appreciated, beyond the ‘likes’ gained.


‘Who is your Latinist?’

The latest page is a delightfully ‘Cambridge’ piece but I am not sure where to place it within the existing menus. A observation about the interpretation of Lord Somes motto is not, perhaps, gripping to ‘the artisan types’, to borrow Rex Hazelwoods phrase.

If Profesor Duff comes across as having an irrelevant focus on this corner of academia it will be seen that it was his concern for the appropriateness of the motto in relation to the Chief Scout that lead to his particular concern. He was a long term and very able servant of Scouting and had an, unspecified, adventurous youth.

I have placed the piece under People/ Individuals/ in the place where a page on Patrick Duff will eventually sit. It is unfortunate that this life long Scouter has so little written about him and I am struggling to unpick his past.


Hitler and a Polish Nativity

Many strange tales come from the archives; occasionally some crop up that are so emotionally complex as to prompt a thoroughly inconclusive evening’s debate.

The following is quoted in full from the 60th Rover Crew (Leys school) record. The meeting following the return of the school to Cambridge after five years in Pitlochry, Scotland and of various Crew members from the War.

You need to know that the Scout Relief team was the ‘Scout International Relief Service’ (SIRS) a volunteer force of Scouters that went into war zones behind the advancing front line to work for refugees.

The first month of this term was devoted to cleaning and redecorating the Den for a second reunion at which 21 Rovers listened to the story of the Scout Relief teams, told by Mr. Ellwood, one of the members. His yarn included the description of a Polish Nativity play in which Hitler and Goering replaced Herod and Pilate.’

These two sentences are the whole of the story for us. Mr R H Ellwood was SM with the 1st Cambridge and worked in the NW Europe teams, some of which worked near Belsen and entered the Belsen Complex.

Six members of the 60th Crew died in the war. The names of those who attended have not been located but it is very likely that some had been in battles and that some had lost family members.

For the listeners maybe all too raw, maybe all too soon to consider this dispassionately (if that is possible), maybe it needed telling, maybe Mr Ellwood needed to tell it (and the rest); maybe it was met with the tail end of ‘wartime humour’ or weariness. And possibly it was just understood, in that moment, as a tale that needed to be told, slightly humerous but requiring little comment and for later thought.

See WW1/WW2/ Scout International Relief Service