Sea Scouts in Cambridge

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Sea Scouts have a particular emphasis on boating and water-based activities.

Early records of “Sea Scouts”  can be found in the Chums Scouts and British Boy Scouts; and the British Boys Naval Brigade, was subtitled ‘Sea Scouts of the Empire’  .

Within the Baden-Powell Boy Scouts organisation the first Seamanship badge was issued In December 1908.  Some boating skills were expected of all Scouts.    A camp for Scouts was held at Bucklers HardHampshire in August 1909 at which boating activities were a focus.  A special uniform for Sea Scouts was approved in 1910 and, in 1912, the name “Sea Scouts” was officially adopted within Baden-Powell’s Boy Scouts Association.

 Warington Baden-Powell, eldest brother of Robert Baden-Powell, wrote Sea Scouting and Seamanship for Boys in 1910.

Cambridge Archive

1909 Leonard Spiller, the instigator of Scouting at Queens’ College which became a major source of Scout Masters, later went on to become a HQ Commissioner for Sea Scouts. He later became the first Scout Chaplain for The Discovery when it became a Scout Training Ship.


The 5th Cambridge have pictures from this year that show Scouts in a white Sea Scout Jersey with what appears to be the hatband ribbon ‘Pelican’. Previous historians of the 5th suggest this survived until 1918. One of the active founders, Mr. Green, was a member of the Navy League whose purpose was to encourage nautical skills.

5th Cambridge


In Cambridge the 1st Cambridge, founded in 1908, became Sea Scouts in Jan 1913 following a trip to Felixstowe camp in 1912 which initiated the idea.  They ordered a 6 oared cutter ‘The Alert’ and moved to met at University Boat House.  The Alert was purchased for £50 and it was launched by Mrs Howard Marsh.

1st Cambridge flag in dark blue

Census returns from between 1921 and 1983 are largely available.

Light red – not available                     Dark red – not asked

Figures in brackets are Rover Sea Scouts.  They are in addition to any Sea Scout figure.  The figures for Rover Seas Scouts were not requested after 1947.

Before and after these census figures full histories have not been located. The figures from 1942 have been taken from notes at the time.

In returns some mixed groups (with land, sea and/or air patrols) listed only the Senior Scouts as Sea Scouts, all Scouts younger than 14 were Land Scouts. See also ‘1960’s 32nd’ below.

‘Boats owned’ does not include the occasional extra ‘boat used’.

1929    5th Cambridge records note ‘took a party of Scouts who were in the boatman class for a weekend cruise on this yacht’.  At this time the Perse did not record Sea Scouts but clearly had a sub set learning nautical skills.

1942    Details from a note on the (missing) 1942 Census

  • Land Scouts     205
  • Sea Scouts       102
    • 1st Cambridge             30                   Troop
    • 7th Cambridge             65                    Troop
    • 11th Cambridge           7                      Patrol –  alongside Land and Air Patrols
  • Air scouts        34

1942    1st, 11th, 25th, Whittleford attend conference

1943    In 1943 the Local Association formed a Sea Scout Committee.

1943    Y scheme and Admiralty grant brought to attention of Troops (To produce able recruits for artificers and officers)

1945    5th Cambridge formed Sea Scout Patrols several months after their Air Scout Patrols. 

1946    1st Cambridge received Admiralty recognition

1948    5th Cambridge ran Senior Sea Scout Patrols. The Sea Scouts of the 5th may have moved to become Senior Sea Scouts in 1948/49 and internal historians of the 5th record that this ended in 1967.

1949    The 1st, 12th and 60th Sea Scouts were all given Admiralty recognition.  GG&AA 6/49

1952 The 60th Cambridge (Leys school) had a Senior Sea Scout Patrol from 1952 (their 1957 Review claims Sea Scouts from 1947, maybe the move to a purely Senior Patrol is what is recorded here)

1953    Admiralty Inspection and congratulate 12th and 60th The two were working together

1954 12th Cambridge note ‘Expenses of Admiralty Inspection’ in their accounts

1955 60th Report a ‘firefly’ named Zombie and purchasing a dinghy from CC Duchense, a clinker built, Bermuda rigged vessel named Phewtus in 1957.

1957 12th ‘to be recommended for Admiralty Recognition’ (from Link magazine)

The 12th record a number of boats in the 1950’s and 60’s, those named include Teal, Tern, the donated dinghy Grebe and the Kayak Kittiwake. The smaller boats are bought and sold. These are not requested on the yearly census and the records of the Boat Committee have not been located.

Note on Admiralty Recognition: The Admiralty currently recognizes a maximum of 105 Sea Scout Groups to maintain high standards. Recognition carries a number of benefits and during conscription permitted Sea Scouts to serve in the Royal Navy; the two year service usually not deemed of sufficient length to train seamen.

1960’s The 32nd Cambridge (Waterbeach) recalls a mix of Scouts from amongst the peripatetic families of the associated RAF base. Bob Benton recalls 4 ‘land’ Scouts, 26 Sea Scouts and 1 Air Scout at one point. The Group did not register the Sea Scouts nor list itself as a Sea Scout Troop.

In 1963 the 60th claimed ‘Admiralty Recognition’ except for one brief period for their Senior Sea Scouts. In 1967 it was recorded that they were unlikely to be seeking Admiralty recognition again. The 60th were moving away from Scouting throughout this decade and were soon to stop.

Sea Scout Senior Patrol

In the 1936 Cambridgeshire County Gazette a full page article appeared promoting Senior Sea Scout patrols (some 10 years before Senior patrols were formally agreed) and stressing the suitability of available waters in Cambridge stating

            ‘Indeed, the conditions in Cambridgeshire really offer more scope to Sea Scouting than to advanced “Land Scouting”.’

            ‘There are small rivers which are ideal for exploring in kayak or canoe, and so laying the foundations of seamanship.  There is perfectly good sailing at Waterbeach, Stretham, Ely, Denver and elsewhere.  The Broads, and the tidal estuaries of Suffolk, Essex, such as the Debden, the Orwell, the Blackwater and Crouch are by no means inaccessible.’

JWR Archivist Jan 2019