The Scouts Defence Corps

Cambridge District Scout Archive

1915 was a time when the outcome of what came to be known as the First World War was uncertain.  Fears of an invasion of Britain were still great and hopes of a short war were declining.  The flow of volunteers ‘to the Colours’ had not yet diminished to the point where conscription was required and Scouts were given the option of preparing themselves for active service.

The Scout Defence Corp and the Red Feather League were introduced in 1915 to train with small arms for defence in this time of war. Scouts choose to become a member of the Corps and achieved the Red Feather on completing the musketry requirements. This was the only period in Scouting when the focus was on the martial element of shooting.  Members of this voluntary group had to be sixteen. 

CC Box 2 12th Cambridge

Patrol Leader Mackrow, later SL of the 12th Cambridge, was one of 28 Scouts who joined the Cambridge Scout Defence Corp, twelve of whom won the feather.  Two left the Troop, two went coast watching in Devon, two left the District, two went to Dunkirk, two joined the RAMC, four joined the navy and one the Territorial’s.

‘Went to Dunkirk’ refers to a Scout staffed recreation centre for soldiers in Dunkirk.

The numbers were never high; the numbers of Scouts over 16 rapidly diminished, as they always have, and even within Scouting there were other ways of ‘doing ones bit’ as the reference to coast watching shows.

Scout Defence Corps and Red Feather Brigade

Undated cuttings of the era

Scouting Activities

General scouting activities did continue as the following extract from The Scout 1917 illustrates. The 1917 Rally was a major success involving many Scouts and is possibly indicative of a wish to return to gentler pursuits.

BP’s report on the Cambridge Rally 1917

JWR Archivist Feb 2019