Scouts in the General Strike

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The General Strike of May 1926 was an attempt to prevent wages falling further and support 1.2 million locked out miners.  1.7 million workers went on strike, particularly in transport and heavy industry.  Public transport stopped and a call for volunteer Constables and transport workers was made. 

The strike ran from the 3rd to the 12th of May.  In Cambridge the local paper ‘Cambridge Daily News’ of the 4th May asked that volunteers report to the Guildhall or the Railway Company; on the 5th it was noted that numerous volunteers had reported but that more were wanted.  On the 6th it was commented ‘There is probably no town in England where the effect of the strike has been felt less than Cambridge’ and that 4000 undergraduates had offered their services.

On the 8th May 300 volunteers had gone to Hull to run the buses and 600 Civil Constabulary Reserve were destined for London.

Talks went ahead on the 11th and the strike finished on the 12th May

Cambridge Archives

Little of this nine day strike is recorded in the Cambridge District Scout Archive.   The following was circulated by ADC B. Armstrong on May 6th

The District Commissioner begs to call to the attention of Scoutmasters to the Imperial Headquarters’ Rule 84.

  • 84. STRIKES
  •    The Boy scouts Association is a non political body, and its assistance should not be given to breaking any ordinary commercial strike; at the same time, if it is notified by any recognised public authority that voluntary workers are required to avoid grave public danger or inconvenience resulting from a strike, there is no objection to a Scoutmaster, with the approval of his Commissioner, offering the assistance of his Troop.  Even in this case, however no compulsion should be brought to bear on any individual scout to volunteer his services, and no penalty should attach to him for not volunteering.

Will any Scoutmaster who is willing to offer the services of his Troop communicate with me, mentioning the numbers volunteering and the time at which they will be available, and NOT to the Civil Commissioner.

No contemporary records of Scout involvement remain in the Cambridge District Scout Archives.   In 1974 Derrick Pease the County Commissioner for Suffolk and guest speaker at the Cambridge AGM recalled ‘Cambridge Rovers drove buses in the Great Strike’ but this stands alone as a statement.

University Archives

The only comment located to date from the Trinity Log Book was on 24th May 1926 ‘The General Strike has upset the term‘. The following week it was noted that at a Section meeting (a sub set of College troops) ‘Practically all Eagles (ie Trinity) but the rest of the section poorly represented.’

Many students from Cambridge University volunteered to keep services working.  Much of the work they did was outside Cambridge.  It is very likely that of the 4000 undergraduates who volunteered some were Rovers and some may have driven buses.

No other evidence of Rovers, Scouts or Scout Troops in Cambridge working to either break the strike or modify distress from the strike has been located either from the Cambridge District Scout Archive or elsewhere.  Any replies to ADC Armstrong are not recorded in the archives.

A Summary of the strike from the ‘Cambridge Daily News’ reported 3000 men were on strike in Cambridge, 5900 enrolled as volunteers of whom 4000 were undergraduates.  Not all the volunteers were used; of those that were 2000 were used elsewhere.

Cambridge Students manning the signals.

The ‘Cambridge Daily News’ was given praise for the very even way in which it reported the strike.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019