Scout International Relief Service

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Proposed in 1942 and started during the last years of the Second World War the International Relief Service comprised teams trained to offer support across countries affected by war.

It was initially reported under several names, Relief Abroad Service, Scout Relief Abroad Service and later as (Scout) International Relief Service. The Job Day of May 20th 1944 was intended to raise £20,000 at a shilling a boy to fund this service. By October 1944 The Forces Bulletin was reporting that £29,000 had been raised. The same Bulletin announced the first Service Team was in operation (now on active service) in April 1944. By October five teams were in service in the Middle East and NW Europe.

The Forces Bulletin 1944

The International Relief Service was staffed by many organisations. The Guides, Red Cross etc. staff other teams.   Seventy one men and twenty six women Scouters took time off work to join the Scout teams.  The teams had largely disbanded by September 1946.

Scout sections worked in Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. Four Scout Units worked in NW Europe, No’s 3, 102, 106, 122 working in refugee camps and hospitals.  One team worked in the concentration camps.

Cambridge Archive

13/5/1944 A letter from Rover Scout Arthur on HMS Duke (shore establishment for training) to the 13th Cambridge troop drew attention to the front page of the Scouter of April and the Scout Relief Abroad Fund. Prior to enlistment he had spent some time at Roland House with three Rover Scouts who were the first to go abroad on this service. Being inquisitive he learnt some ‘horrible things that are not fit for you to hear and I hope that you never will.’ He urged the 13th to work hard for the fund. A single entry elsewhere notes 6d. Gardening, 9d. odd jobs.

18/6/1945       SM R H Ellwood (1st Cambridge) working for six months with Scout Relief Team Overseas                        District Minutes R Ellwood was listed as GSM 1st Cambridge in ‘Post 32’ list and ACM 12th around 1945.

1946                AGM    Reported as working in Germany

Mr F P Ellwood (SM 12th Cambridge) spoke on SIRS at the AGM (I believe, his brother)

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.

From 60th Cambridge (Leys) Rover Crew report in the Leys Fortnightly late 1946 ‘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.’

H Q Archives

R H Ellwood worked in NW Europe with Section 102. From the dates he may have been a replacement member of the team.  He was listed as living at 101 Windsor St Cambridge after his return but did not appear to be active in the reunion newsletters.

From Ellwood to the 1st Cambridge. They had sent him signed by 34 members of the Troop.

He wrote the following piece whilst on service Feb 1946 Sec 106 Newsletter No. 8

Unnamed SIRS team.  The Scout badge can be seen on the battledress and they wore a green Rover strap.  Whilst not members of the Armed Forces they were given ranks to enable them to operate within the hierarchy of the Army.

The Cambridge University Crew COH Minute book records that Magdalene man had recently joined SIRS and another would follow.

Alison Duke, Cambridge born classicist at Girton, later one of the first batch of Vice Presidents of CUSAGC, was engaged in Guides International Relief Service in Greece 1944- 1946.

See also

JWR Archivist Sept 2019