Scout Emigration Service

Cambridge District Scout Archive

This is a page in which, from the Cambridge point of view, nothing happened.

Supported emigration of young people was not initiated by the Boy Scout Association.  They played a small part in the total juvenile emigration. 

In 1913 and 1914 The Scout weekly advertised links to the Official Emigration Agent attached to the Boy Scout Association with regard to subsidised fares and work in Australia and New Zealand.

TThe Boy scout Association did create an ‘extremely successful migration programme after the First World War, linking emigrants to Scout Troops abroad when possible’.     See ‘On My Honour: Guides and Scouts in Interwar Britain’Both those seeking young farm workers and the Scout Association in providing this service emphasised Scouting skills as being of major benefit to those emigrating.  Nearly 5000 Scouts emigrated over the seven or eight years from 1922, over 3,350 to Australia.

Sir Alfred (Pickle) Pickford was the Chief Scouts Commissioner for Overseas and Migration in 1922 – 29, and, from a reference by Ken North, visiting Commissioner for the 1925 Rally in Grantchester.

Kevin Brown in Passage to the World quotes the following advice and echoes the Scouts view of the boys.          ‘Don’t coddle the boys but ensure that the new Scout in his home overseas knows that he has friends in reach…’  ‘Self reliance and solidarity were the hallmarks of Boy Scouts at home and abroad’   ‘these young knights of empire…’

From the Cambridge District Scout Archives – mid 1920’s

7/2/1923 Scout News column in the Cambridge Journal advertised that ‘50 Scouts a month between the ages of 16 and 19 can be accepted as farm labourers for settlement on the land in Queensland‘. Full particulars via Imperial Headquarters.

23/1/1926       Government of Queensland will take 50 Boy Scout emigrants… pay between 10/- and 15/- per week with board.  

It is not clear that this offer was Scout sponsored but in the archives is the following:

Special Note:   It is very important and in the interest of Scouts that they apply for settlement overseas through the Migration Department at Imperial Headquarters.  Letter of introduction are given to Headquarters in the Dominions and at the Ports en route, and occasionally offers of scholarships etc. can be made by Imperial Headquarters.

This undated page in the archives from c. 1926 fleshes out offers found in The Scouter:

Canada            Boy Scout Farm learners scheme for Ontario see special leaflet (not available)

Australia          Scouts between 15 and 19, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland

  • Three months training in ploughing – ring barking – planting – fencing – milking etc.
  • Free railway fares, jobs found with room and board and not less than 15/- week
  • Fares (voyage out) under 17 £5/10/0, 17 – 19 £11

New Zealand   15 – 17½         

  • Free passage out, in charge of a Conductor
  • Placed with approved farmers
  • Will be kept in touch with by the Church of England Migration Committee

This information sheet lies beside another in the records ‘Developing the Empire: Australia for the Public School Boy’.

In contrast in 1934 the topic of British Boys for British Farms was also advertised in the District Minutes.

The Scouter of April 1942 carried the offer of Apprentice Tradesman roles in the Ordnance Survey.  It was an Army post at the time and ‘frequent opportunities for periods of service in the colonies was an inducement’.

Cambridge Archives

There are no records in the Cambridge District Scout Archives of individual scouts from Cambridge taking up these offers to work abroad.  With about 1200 Districts nationally and 5000 emigrant scouts it is possible that no one from Cambridge District followed this route.  Areas that were labelled economically ‘distressed’ may have generated more volunteers and were given targeted support.  Parts of South Wales and the industrial north of England which had particularly high rates of unemployment and poverty were labelled ‘distressed’. The Scouts invited boys from the Welsh mining villages to train in farming skills before supporting their passage abroad.  This offer was not targeted at Cambridge.

SM Harold Nunn of the 12th Cambridge did write to Frank, an old scout of the 12th Cambridge, in Greendale, New Zealand who spoke of ‘driving his team’ and was presumably working in agriculture. He is not clearly identified as being part of the migration programme.

One reference to a Scout applying to emigrate from Cambridge has been found. It contains no reference to the Scout programme: 1951 from The Link 12th Cambridge newsletter ‘Rover Scout John Langworth is applying to emigrate to Australia’.

A number of Scouts who were University based academics took posts in Australia, most notably T G Room and T M Cherry who, respectively, became Professors of Mathematics in Sydney and Melbourne.  T G Room was very active in Cambridge Scouting and a driver of the Grafton Street Gazette and Abington Advertiser. T M Cherry, similarly very active, organised the 1928 ‘BP’ rally in Cambridge.   It is assumed these emigrations were not Scout sponsored. 

Similarly the Rev J D Sansom, (Joe) one of at least three members of the Sansom family involved in the 23rd Cambridge, and one of the first in the troop, worked in Australia. There is no suggestion that this was part of a Scout organised scheme.

Emigration was not confined to schemes or era. In 1960 SM G Angel, of the 12th, emigrated to Canada, his Group presenting him with £5/-/-. This late example is very unlikely to have been linked to any scheme. In 1957 Chief Scout Rowallan spoke of it being a tragedy if all the able Scouts went emigrated. This was a period when for most the first moves out of austerity were not yet evident.

JWR Archivist Apr 2019