The Scout Section

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The starting unit for Scouting was the Troop.  Since the creation of the Troop the age range of Scouting has expanded and the age range of the Troop has shrunk. External demand and internal realities generated Wolf Cubs in 1916 and Rovers in 1918.   The eternal concern of ‘wastage’ formalized the Senior Scouts, Ventures and Explorers.


Scouts ages 10 – …

10 –                  The starting age of the Troop has remained stable throughout at 10 -11.  Initially no top age for a Scout was identified. 

10 – <18           The starting age of Rovers was in practice variable, as recognised by the age ranges in the Census forms which asked for Rovers <18 and Scouts over 18

10 – <15           In 1946 Senior Scouts moved the top age of the ‘Scout’ to <15.

10 – <16           In 1967 Venture Scout moved the top age of the ‘Scout’ to <16.

10 – <15           In 2003 Explorer Scouts returned the top age of the ‘Scout’ to <15.

Troops and Packs

Scouts ages 10 – 25+

In the beginning all Troops were Boy Scouts.  In 1916 Wolf Cub packs were formed, some without a clear attachment to a Troop.  In Cambridge (inside the town boundaries) and Cambridge District (outside the town boundaries) some early packs were listed with letters and any links to numbered troops were often not explicit.   Most took the numbers of existing troops.  With the advent of the Group system in 1928 all Packs were given a number, some Groups having no pack and some no troop. 

The following information is taken from Cambridge (Town) packs and troops.  The early information is taken from many sources and this part appears more complete.  Soon after the advent of the Group system in 1928 the Cambridge/ Cambridge District distinction ended.

1916 – 1927Twenty nine Cambridge troops are listed before the 1928 Group system.  Only three of these did not start a pack at some point, 1st Cambridge Sea Scouts and the 7th and 9th Cambridge both based in schools.  The 25th Cambridge is the only troop/pack that started in the same year, 1918, during this period.   From many sources the information suggests that in any year half the troops had associated packs.

1928 – 1972The following is taken from the forty four years between the start of the Group systems 1928 and when the district split in 1972.  The period of the second war has disturbed census returns. 

Packs but no troops                 It is unusual to have packs running alone for long periods. The 28th Cambridge, opened 1928, was initially a troop then within three years the troop had folded but a pack, having opened in 1930 remained for eighteen years until a troop was restarted.  The 2nd ran for twenty seven years, the 42nd for eighteen years and 19th for eleven years.  The 52nd, a specialist school with specific age range, ran a pack for nineteen years.  Short runs were significantly more frequent, usually at the start of a new group, occasionally for a year or two between troops, sometimes as a group runs to a halt.

Troops but no packs                Three of the Groups that ran troops as the only section for long periods are those that are based in schools; 5th The Perse, 7th County School and the 60th The Leys.  The 10th remained a troop only group for many years, the 9th and 11th were both troop only for much of their early existence.

The 1st Cambridge, a long time Sea Scout Troop had no attached Cub pack for most of this period.  It is not known where the boys came from but it had an intermittent and peripatetic existence until 1938 when it stabilized for 30 years.

Packs and TroopsIn the busy year of 1934 57% of groups were single section.  In 1972 only 21% of groups were single section.  The turnover of groups had fallen very significantly and as discussed elsewhere the average numbers in each group steadily increased, 27 per group in 1931, 33 in 1951.

Which section comes first? Many of the Groups that started in the 1930’s started with a Scout section: thirty eight starting with troops, five with packs and five with both sections.  Most of these failed very quickly; many being in villages and probably reliant on a small leadership base.  In 1931 Cubs were 36% of the pack/ troop total.

In the following charts the Groups are numbered down the left and right hand sides, the years across the top. It is very likely that some entries for 1939 and 1940 are missing.

  • Orange Pack and Troop
  • Khaki/ pink Troop
  • Green Pack

Green pack only

Few of the Groups that started between 1950 and 1971 started with only a Scout section: three started with troops, nine with packs, ten with both sections.   Both during the 1930’s and 1950/ 60’s the groups opening with a pack lasted longer, sometimes five years rather than two. By 1951 Cubs were 52% of the pack/ troop total. In 1966 the County were very conscious of ‘unbalanced’ groups, groups with only pack or troop or two packs to one troop.

The shift to opening with a pack may reflect the greater number of clubs for older children, the falling away of Scouts, an increase in demand for Cubs, a falling away of interest generally, ahead of the Advance report, a growth of uncertainty about handling troublesome youth, a more palpable demand from younger children or a belief that a troop will be naturally fed from a pack. 

Troops and Crew

Scouts ages 10 – 17

First formed in 1918 Rovers (briefly named senior scouts) was a recognition that older Scouts flourished when given room to step away from the tenderfoots.  Outside the ever present 31st Cambridge University Crew a maximum of nine Cambridge Groups reported a Rover Crew, and for many years only three.

If running a crew assumed a core above 17, a lack of an identified crew did not rule out Scouts above this age.  The 5th Perse school ran a Crew from 1923 – 1946, the 60th Leys school from 1947 – 1966.  Similar institutions, both provided schooling to 18+ throughout these periods and ran active Scout Troops.  The reasons for one deciding to continue a Crew alongside a Senior Scouts and the other not are unclear.  Both were set to lose all their members before 19.

Troops and Senior Scouts

Scouts ages 10 – 14 or 10 – 17

Census categories showed an expectation that not all 14 + scouts would be formed into Senior Patrols.  Later census only sought separate Senior Scout troops and treated all combined Scouts and single Senior Scout patrols as one.  The final census in 1967 did not ask for separate Patrols or Troops but totaled Scouts and Senior Scouts by year between 10 and 17.  Many troops did report Senior Scout patrols, some consistently others with a stop start existence.  Those Groups consistently running Rover Crew all ran Senor Scout sections; 12th, 13th, 60th.  Some running Rover Crew before the war did not do so after the war but ran Senior Scouts; 23rd, 29th.

  Troops and Venture Scouts

Scouts ages 10 – 15

Census returns not yet available for analysis.

Troops and Explorer Scouts

Scouts ages 10 – 14

Census returns not yet available for analysis.

JWR Archivist Mar 2019