Venture Scouts in Cambridge

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Venture Scouts began in 1967 as part of the adoption of The Chief Scouts’ Advance Party Report.  The term Venturer had been used for a major badge of Senior Scouts, a compulsory element of the First Class Scout Award.

The age range for Venture Scouts was 15½ – 20 and as such overlapped two existing sections and CUSAGC membership.  Those over 20 became members of Scout Fellowship.

In Cambridge Venture Scouts replaced the 14 Senior Patrols (15 – 18) and 4 Rover Crew (17 – 24).

AN entry from the 11th/9th in 1968 refers to their ‘Venture Patrol’. This nomenclature is not seen again.

Venture Scout Units

In Cambridge Venture Scouts retained two of the three Senior/ Rover strands;

  • Group affiliated Units
  • District Unit                (The three sub districts of Cambridge District operating in 1967 became separate Districts in 1983)
  • It was not a component of CUSAGC.

1967 A Cambridgeshire report of 1974 stated that in 1967:

  • 4th, 11th/9th, 16th, 23rd, and 29th            elected to feed to Sir John Cockcroft VSU (District) 
  • 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 14th, and 54th           elected to start their own Units (the 5th and 7th were working closely together.)
  • 50th, 57th, 29th, 32nd              started units between 1967 and 1974
  • 26th and 56th                             expressed interest in starting units           

District Units

Sir John Cockcroft Venture Scout Unit was formed in late 1967 from the District Senior Scouts (15 – 18) and District Rover Crew (17 – 24) both of which met at Perne Road HQ.

Both District Sections had low numbers although the Rover numbers may not reflect the total involved.  Other Groups elected to feed this Venture Scout Unit. (See above)               

District VSU and Groups reporting Venture Scouts in their Census returns

Census returns are largely complete between 1967 and 1984.  The total from 1975 is taken from contemporary records

  • Red               no Census data
  • Orange         VSU listed in Census returns.  Some of these had as few as 1 VS.
  • Dark blue      District units

Note – whilst the Districts did not split until 1983 they were administrative Sub Districts from 1976. 

1968    16th – possibly a misunderstanding having Venture age members but no formal Unit   

1969         52nd — Littleton House School – for those with special needs and probably not expected to feed into Venture Units by dint of age or infirmity. This needs clarification.

1977 60th planned to restart VSU but this did not formally materialize. This intent, in the midst of the wider school disengagement, suggests a residual desire by some to retain Scouting.

1974    The Cambridgeshire Report identified that the average Unit size in the district was 9.5, just above the minimum recommended size.  They had small leadership teams which provided a limited skill base and left units vulnerable to leaders moving.  Larger groups were better at generating involvement and leaders.  At this point it was recommended that no further Units fed by single groups be registered and that District Groups be favoured.

The new proposals were for 6 Units in the three Cambridge sub Districts: South, North and Crafts Hill

  • S                            5th, 7th                                      +13th
  • S          Sir John Cockcroft       4th, 11th/9th, 16th, 23rd, 28th      +13th
  • S                            27th, 29th, 57th
  • N                           32nd, 50th, 54th
  • N                          12th, 14th, 18th, 19th, 26th
  • Crafts Hill           6th/17th, 56th, Bar Hill, Cottenham, Histon, Oakington, Over, Willingham, Gamlingay       + 10th Cambridge, Girton?
  • 44th to support Granta (confirming established practice)

1975                 District Scout Council Minutes:

  • 5th and 7th (VSU’s) have combined and are looking for a name (became Tithe – registered as such July 1975)
  • – Sir John Cockcroft has too many leaders
  • – Cam Valley VSU formally registered

Following the above report the three areas all formed District VSU’s.   The three Cambridge sub Districts became separate Districts in 1976.


  • Tithe VSU                   joined the existing
  • Sir John Cockcroft VSU


  • Cam Valley VSU         Fed by 32nd, 12th, 54th, and 50th it ran until 1978 then became the 12th Cambridge VSU

Crafts Hill       

  • Crafts Hill VSU            which ran until 1981
  • Belsar VSU                  opened in 1982
  • Bullock Haste VSU     opened in 1984

The 14th, 26th, 54th and 57th Cambridge all continued to run VSU’s, the 12th later taking on the role of Cam Valley VSU.

1991 The Tithe became less active and the 5th Cambridge (Perse) formed a Venture Unit.

Neighbouring Districts

1976 Granta  South Cambs. VSU       Bodica VSU

1980 list from Cavesac  (Venture Scout periodical) ACC VS Richard Crabtree

East Cambridge (below) with West Cambridge, Bedfordshire and Essex were ‘Region 5 of the National VS Board’.

  • Camb N           12th, 14th, 26th, 54th ADC ‘Jock’ Dawson
  • Camb S            Tithe, Sir John Cockcroft, Fulbourn ADC ‘Jock’ Dawson
  • Crafts Hill       Crafts Hill ADC ‘Jock’ Dawson
  • Ely                   Ely ADC Cliff Jaggard
  • Granta             Fleam, Rhee Valley, S Cambs vacant
  • March             Mercian, Whittlesey vacant
  • Newmarket   Crofter, Fen Heath, Bodica ADC Cliff Jaggard
  • Wisbech         Wisbech ADC P Charnly

RA – VEN                     Committee of Ranger Guides and Ventures coordinating events for the two groups.

1980    Newmarket Camp: Rangers and Ventures  (list of Venture Units)

  • 12th
  • 14th
  • 54th
  • Sir John Cockcroft
  • Tithe
  • Fulbourn
  • Crafts Hill
  • S Cambs
  • Mercian
  • Bodica
  • Crofters           (Newmarket)
  • Whittelsey                  

1981    12th, Boudica, SJC, Crofters (Newmarket), South Cambs, Fleam, New B Hill – no name, Whittlesey, Rhee Valley, South Cambs,  50th started April 1981    

1987 Gog Magog VSU started, a South Cambridge District Unit meeting at Netherhall .

Tithe reported to be working in four units each specializing and meeting together once or twice a year as a whole unit. Details of this arrangement are missing.

1988       Gog Magog         From Swimming Trophy

1991 The 5th and 7th Ventures united to become the Tithe VSU in 1976. The 5th VSU reformed in 1991 following disagreement about the focus on the big summer trips such as those to Iceland and Kenya.

1995       Paddocks VSU   From Swimming Trophy

2001 Cambridge South 

  • Salamander VSU        Open  31/01/1999 Reg 463131988     


In 2003 as Explorer Units took the place of Ventures 61 Venture Scouts were listed on the Census and 15 Explorers.

Female Venture Scouts

In 1976 Venture Scouts were the first program of The Scout Association opened up female participants. Combined Scout and Guide Unit had been running in Cambridge since 1965.   Later called ‘Venture and Ranger Guide Unit’ it held an AGM in 1975.  The 1973 /74 Annual Report recorded that the Guides ‘felt it necessary to withdraw support ‘.

The 5th/ 7th had existing ties with Guide Ranger Units before this time and held joint training schemes. In the 1974 report all Units were encouraged to ‘form stronger links with Ranger Guide Sections … than is often the case at present’.

1979    CSG                  ‘District Executive has…  given their support to the DC Crafts Hill for the formation of a mixed Venture Scout Unit in that District on the understanding that it is regarded at present as a unique arrangement having regard to the local conditions and that it must not be assumed that similar support will be forthcoming automatically for experiments elsewhere.  Good luck to Crafts Hill on this new ‘Venture’.

Records recording male/ female Venture scouts started in 1979.

The Census did not ask for a split by gender until 1979.  The first female members were recorded in 1983.  Bolstered by the large intake into Tithe VSU 29% of Venture Scouts were female in 1983.  Tithe VSU started the year the Perse School (5th) and County School (7th) VSU’s closed. 


There were two awards available to members of the section – the Venture Scout Award, and the Queen’s Scout Award. The latter award was the highest award available to the youth sections of Scouting.

Venture Scouts wore the same uniform as leaders but could choose from a brown tie or group/unit/district scarf.


East Cambridge Venture Scouts County produced a magazine ‘Cavesac’, that ran for over ten years.  It details activities of the Venture Units.

Venture Scouting was at its strongest in the 1980s when it became quite fashionable to be ‘in a unit’. It rapidly declined in the 1990s as the target age-group were staying on longer at school and the educational demands on 16- to 18-year-olds placed a limit on their free time.

It was recorded that between 1968 and 1974 following the implementation of the Advanced Party report scouting numbers had increased by 50% in the District. (Census returns + doc. attached in Archives)

Names of units

Sir John Douglas CockcroftOMKCBCBEFRS (27 May 1897 – 18 September 1967) was a British physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for splitting the atomic nucleus and was instrumental in the development of nuclear power.

He won a scholarship to St. John’s College, Cambridge, completing his doctorate under Rutherford’s supervision in 1928.

Later he was involved in the design of Windscale.  From 1959 to 1967, he was the first Master of Churchill College, Cambridge.

The Venture Unit was named in agreement with his widow and they met her to report on the activities of the Unit.  The Unit Scarf had a hydrogen atom as a badge.

Bullocks Haste  (Crafts Hill)          Romano-British settlement on Bullocks Haste Common, Cottenham

Belsar     (Crafts Hill)                        Belsar’s Hill is a hillfort near WillinghamCambridgeshire on the boundary between the tribal lands of the Iceni and Catuvellauni

Bodica (Granta)          A Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61, and died shortly after its failure.

A fuller list of names is available under County

JWR Archivist June 2019

JWR Archivist Jan 2019