Scouts: Military Gallantry Medals

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Research brought together several Cambridge Scouts who had been awarded a Military Cross.  Alerted by this coincidence a list of those holding military gallantry awards was compiled.  The recording of the medal is often only in formal records and often only for a short period after the war in question.  It is not possible to determine whether the recording is a formal politeness or a reflected pride.

The focus of this page is threefold: to consider whether men holding honours for gallantry were

  • more likely to be given scouting roles
  • were more likely to become Scouts
  • were more likely to come from Scouting

In this we are looking at Gallantry Awards Levels 1 to 3 (see below).

Members, Executive Members, Leaders and Scouts

The three groups of people considered are

  • Members of the Scout Council and Members of the Executive Council
  • Scoutmasters
  • Scouts

This Scout Council was recorded in Annual Reports before WW2 and half of those in the lists below before the war were members of this Council as opposed to being active as Scout Masters or in administrative or executive roles.  The membership of the Scout Council declined following the WW2. 

The following in all areas with gallantry Medals have been identified (by war)

Boer War

Maj. A B Whatman     DSO     (Member)


L R Missen        MC      DSM      
William Balfour Gourlay   MC      ADC Cubs 
Brig Cyril Duchesne     MC      CC
Right Rev N V Halward  MC      Founding University Rover Crew
Right Rev W L Anderson     DSC      22nd (later Bishop of Salisbury)
L C Nott          MC      13th SM
R G Briscoe   MC      Longstowe SM
Rev W L Arrowsmith MC Prob 15th (Curate St Giles)
Maj. F J Mallett MC and bar ASM
Capt G B Riddell MC DSM
Capt A G Pite MC 5th 1914
Lt Col W K Scharlieb/ W Shirley  Member  DSO (Artists Rifles, Dir Mil Studies Cam)
Col L H Thornton AQMG    DSO (Capt as Member) (CUOTC 1912)(Mem)  

T S Hele Capt RAMC received an OBE during WW1 which are awarded for meritorious service and can be awarded for gallantry ‘not in the face of the enemy’ such as bomb disposal. He was engaged in tackling Malaria in Mesopotamia and was mentioned in dispatches twice. It is not known if this was a gallantry award.

H S Morton was also awarded the OBE but the circumstances are not known.


Lt Colonel H Mainwaring CC     MC      CC  
Lt Colonel F M J Stratton    DSO     President County
Ian Valentine Balfour PaulMC
Maj A H S Coombes TennantMC 53rd
( 1 DFC                          9th          
Also un-named from WW2 review (1 DFC, 1 DSM            23rd
(4 MCs                          60th
Malcoln Joseph ClowAlbert Medal in Gold 41st

The post WW2 collection of war service details did not list the names of the recipients.


It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from these figures. 

Whilst the numbers in Cambridge District are possibly higher than a directly proportional allocation Cambridge is a centre that holds and draws many able people in all spheres.  A number of University men were awarded DSOs for leadership rather than gallantry.

The first question is unclear.  A number of the early Members were supporters whose worth was gained outside the movement.  The holding of a Gallantry award enhanced this social standing and gave greater worth to their support.  Having military experience they may be perceived as seeking to influence the movement.  A review of their roles in the military suggests that most of them had military careers outside the line infantry.  Following all major wars education is reviewed.   The increasing use of technology in areas such as signalling, medical corps, ordinance etc. needed higher levels of education and fitness.  As such the focus is unlikely to be on drill.

Members would also expect and be willing to fund some of the needs of the District. 

Few holders of gallantry medals stepped into the Scoutmaster role.  It is unlikely that they were particularly targeted as recruits.  Some did step into District and County level appointments, bringing their (military) managerial skills to the role.  Balfour- Gourlay and Cyril Duchesne joined Scouting post WW1 holding the award.  Stratton and Mainwaring joined Scouting post WW2 holding the award.

The last question is largely answered by the existing Scoutmasters in WW1 who did earn Gallantry medals.  Mallet, Missen, Arrowsmith, Riddell, Nott and Briscoe were Scouts before receiving the award. The seven unnamed recipients from WW2 were all Scouts before entering the armed services.  Pite, Coombes, Clee and Balfour Paul were also Scouts or Scouters before the war.


It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from these figures.  Gallantry recipients do not appear to be any more drawn to Scouting than any other group of active able ‘doers’.


Military Medals for Gallantry have the following categories:

  • Victoria Cross                                      VC                   Level 1 Decoration
  • Albert Medal later George Cross AM/GC   Level 1 Decoration Civilian/ not in the face of the enemy
  • Distinguished Service Order               DSO                 Level 2 Decoration (Gallantry or leadership for senior officers – replaced for Gallantry in 1993 by CGC)
  • Distinguished Service Cross/ Medal   DSC/ DSM      Level 3 Decoration      Navy
  • Military Cross/ Medal                            MC/ MM         Level 3 Decoration     
  • Distinguished Flying Cross / Medal    DFC/ DFM     Level 3 Decoration      RAF
  • Air Force Cross/ Medal                       AFC/ AFM      Level 3 Decoration      RAF

Within each category they are listed by founding date.   The DSO was for Gallantry or leadership by senior officers, generally under fire.  It is entered here even though details of individual awards are missing.  The distinction between Officers and Other ranks as determined by Cross/ Medal was abolished in 1993.


  • 37,104 MC’s and         9881 DSO’s      were awarded in WW1
  • 10,386 MC’s and         4880 DSO’s      were awarded in WW2
  • 70 Albert Medal in Gold and 407 George Cross in total

The number of men who had been in the military who are associated with Scouting alters with a number of factors.  The number who had been in the forces was clearly increased by the two world wars.  The recording of their achievements was stronger directly after these events, later ranks and achievements were often dropped.  Some, such as L C Nott, died during the war. 


Men who had been professional (career) soldiers and achieved a rank above Lt Colonel tended to maintain the title.  The guidelines suggest that retaining a title below Major is ‘bad form’.  Such ranks are generally only recognized in the District Archives directly after the war or if a continuing connection with the services remains, such as Capt Thornton OC CUOTC.   Honourary ranks were often used, particularly prior to WW1, to the confusion of the unwary.  One such was Frederick Howard Marsh Master of Downing 1907-15, Prof of Surgery and District Scout Commissioner and Honourary Colonel of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial Force).

The merit of becoming Sergeant Major within the short period of the war, as with Howard Mallett, was also noted although the title wasn’t used.

Captain L-R Missen MC South Russia, Mesopotamia and in support of Dunsterforce, a prototype special operations (see Individuals)

Captain R G BRISCOE  MC      Carried a message after a sniper had killed two messengers

DUCHESNE, Cyril C (G 1912-15) Lt, RE. MC    For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while on survey work with the right column at Svyatnavolok from 6th to 21st September 1919. On all occasions he was with the foremost troops during action and carried out his survey under fire. Between 4th and 21st September he covered 324 versts [200 miles]

Major A B Whatman  DSO  In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa 1900 – 1901

Lt Colonel F M J Stratton TD DL FRS PRAS (1881-1960), Professor of Astrophysics and a decorated British Army officer was active in both World Wars and District Commissioner. 

Lt Col W K Scharlieb, Director of Military Studies, DSO

Rt Rev W L Anderson  Not known when he joined Scouts.  In Cambridge 1911 – 1922 Sunk submarine from a flying boat. Holds the distinction of serving in all three branches of the Military.

Surgeon Lt Malcolm Joseph Clow In Cambridge Scouts 1932 – 1938 whilst at Pembroke college. Awarded Albert Medal for saving life at sea. See Individual entry.

A H S Coombes Tennant MC Escaped from POW and returned to UK where her joined SOE and was involved in post D Day liaison with resistance groups. 53rd Cambridge

I V Balfour Paul MC Member of Joint Services liaison team (Phantom, Merlin team) that worked in the front line. They avoided bombing of Allied troops by the RAF. They were described as ‘enterprising officers reporting direct from the front’. 1st Cambridge 1935

JWR Archivist Oct 2019