Scouts and Camps for the Unemployed

Cambridge District Scout Archives

See also page on Hedingham Scout Training Camps

During the 1930’s Rovers and Scouters held camps for unemployed men to provide them with skills for work.  Some camps were specifically for unemployed Rovers and Scouters, some for non Scouts but on Scout lines and for those willing to conform to Scout discipline. 

Camps were held locally at Abington and Cambridge based Rovers and Scouters worked there and at camps in other counties.  Scouters organized some of these events and were used as camp leaders although reports exist of contemporaneous camps run out of Cambridge University that do not identify Rover or Scouters as being either the organizers or participants. (see UCUC below)

Four events supported by Cambridge Rovers and Scouters have been identified over three years; two at Abington, one at Bredon Hill, Worcestershire, one (or two) at South Hill Park.  Two or more camps were completed in a season at Abington, the campers and Scouters moving on at the end of each camp.

Local Scouters took control of the camp for the week and ‘someone’ from Fellowship House took control of the men.  I have not yet identified Fellowship House.

Cambridge Archives


1933                Provisional permission for camp for unemployed men at Abington.  (Abington opened June 1932) In September the Cambridge Chronicle reported ‘Unemployed Men from Fellowship House, Cambridge spent two enjoyable weekends through the kindly instrumentality of E H Church’ at Abington. ‘A party of about 14 spent, in charge of an undergraduate spent happy hours amid the ideal surroundings… They pitched their own tents on arrival and entered fully into the life of the little settlement.’ Not specifically named as Rovers, but this is very likely.

1933/4             Agreed to hold two camps for the Unemployed        District Minutes

1934                Joint camp Cambridge University Scout Group and unemployed Scouters and Rover Scouts at South Hill Park near Biggleswade for 28 – 32 unemployed scouts and rovers. See below Appendix A

Proposal for joint camp CUSG and Unemployed

1935                Permission for unemployed camp      Abington

1936                Cambridge Rover Scouts ran Bredon Hill Unemployment camp.  The following observation was recorded following that camp:

‘when the men arrived many were not the “down and out” sort which we had hoped for’. Organizing a camp was a steep learning curve for many students who found that team games were easier to arrange with the younger campers whereas older men preferred sunbathing, or that while discussion was enjoyed, formal debating was difficult to organize.’ ‘Hobbies had only mixed success… because the students had few skills as instructors. Hobbies thrived best when one of the men could pass on his own practical skills.’ A Social History of Student Volunteering G. Brewis

Scouters at Unemployed camp


 Hedingham Scout Training and Employment Scheme (based in London) ran camps from 1929 to beyond 1935. By 1934 740 men had been through the camps and all had got work.   ‘The Scheme, which is under the auspices of the Boy Scout Imperial Headquarters’ (see below) grew to six camps at:

  • Hedingham
  • Another in Essex
  • Badmington Park, Gloucestershire
  • Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire
  • Ossemsley Manor, Christchurch, Hampshire
  • Nr. Cirencester

(See separate page)

Unemployment Payment to the Unemployed attending camp

Universities Council for Unemployed Camps (UCUC) planned to run ten camps in 1933 and 1934 (Cambridge University Rovers appear to have been involved). UCUC was founded after a group of Cambridge students camped with unemployed men from Bristol and South Wales at Eastnor Park, where they cleared ground and built a bathing pool. UCUC attracted supporters from other universities, running at least seven camps yearly until 1939.

Eccles Rover Scouts ran an unemployment scheme in 1932.

Cambridge Archives

1981    The HQ notice ‘Scouting and Unemployment Programme’   noted in Cambridge archives.   

The Scouting and Unemployed Programme coordinated work placements in the early 1980’s.   Cambridge County Council provided places for 24 unemployed scouts in 1982 and 16 in 1983.  The roles in 1983 were in landscaping and construction.

2016    Scouting advises on how to enable Scouts to recognize and use their Scout experiences when applying for jobs.


Scouts have raised money for many institutions, such as the ‘Police Poor and Needy’ fund in 1933.  If none were labeled ‘for the unemployed’, that is where the Poor and Needy were found. 

The camps for the Unemployed were funded in part by the volunteers who gave more than their time. 

JWR Archivist May 2019

From a Facebook commentary in May 2021 Colin Walker added:-

This scheme became part of wider Scout Association effort to train unemployed Rovers in skills which would help them find employment the Great Depression of the 1930s. The scheme was so successful that there were a variety of venues offering courses that taught different skills . Rovers who attended them were sometimes incorporated in special Rovers Crews as in the case of the Mullet Rover Crew at Hedingham Castle. The scheme was so successful that it was eventually taken over by the Government who used the original Scout trainers to train other young unemployed young people (not Scouts). The whole scheme is documented in the Rover Chapter of ‘Scouting Collectables’ Vol II.