Cambridge District Scout Archive
The following war time roles are gathered from a number of sources, no central list exists. There is a distinct focus on crisis roles in the first stages of the war such as guarding lines of communication, which moves to longer term aims as with the Scout Defence Corps. A background of Service in collecting salvage and supporting harvest builds throughout the war, alongside helping at canteens and hospitals. See
- Activities/ Camps/ District Camps 1917 and 1918
- WW1 and WW2/ The Great War/ Scout Defence Corps
- WW1 and WW2/ The Great War/ Coast Guard
- WW1 and WW2/ Cambridge Scouts in Dunkirk
This page does not cover the military exploits of Cambridge Scouts for which see:
- Cambridgeshire Regiment and the Scouts
- Structure/ District/ Early Establishment Support/ Gallantry Medals
- WW1 and WW2/Rolls of Honour and New Rolls of Honour
The general Scouting activities are more reported in the later part of the war as the routines of the war are in place and some semblance of normality is wanted and required. These are generally reported elsewhere on the site – but little remains of this period.
- People/ Individuals/ B-P / B-P in Cambridge 1917
Defending and Attacking
Scouts were reported as mounting guard over lines of communication; bridges, railway lines and telegraph/ telephone wires. Most of these reports are early in the war and there is no clear notion of when they ceased. Initially the fears of invasion and infiltrators or spies were great.
The Perse Scouts, as documented in the Perse School the first 400 years, were asked to test the responses of the CVC (Cambridgeshire Volunteer Corps?) attempting to ‘blow up’ a railway bridge. This was probably a more memorable event than the paper collection in which they also partook. A report exists of Cambridge Scouts penetrating the screens of a Military cycle patrol and on a second meeting the troops having learnt not to underestimate the scouting skills.
Elsewhere Cambridge Scouts are reported as acting as injured and as messengers.
The following is from the post war ‘Reveille’, a one off magazine
‘At home useful, though unpretentious work was done by the Cyclist Corps under G. Langham. We may be proud of the fact that the Police turned to the Scouts when they wanted a Cyclist Corps ready to help in case of invasion or similar disturbances. On Peace night, last summer, the Cyclists were to the fore, and we received a nice letter of thanks from the C.O. of the Cambridgeshires, congratulating us on their excellent discipline.’
Scouts also worked on tasks within the Scouting organization. The following taken from The Scout in 1917. The same job was undertaken in the Second World War.
Farm work and Harvest Camps
Little is recorded about individual farm work. The major District Camps of 1917 and 1918 harvesting fruit and flax are well reported. The following
That the Scouts were not deemed to be equal to ‘a man’ is perhaps not surprising. The following clipping is from Cambridge in the Great War by Glynnis Cooper. Indeed DSM C T Wood records that town boys were less adept than country boys at the tasks. See separate page
Entertaining the Troops
The 5th report a Patrol that put on entertainment for a Hospital Train in the Perse history ‘Perse School the first 400 years’. Work at tea stalls at the station and requests to collect magazines and books for the troops are also recorded.
‘11th (St Paul’s). The Troop has won some well earned War Service Badges for Y.M.C.A. night work at the Station.’ from Reveille, probably acting as messengers, guides or providing ‘comforts’ (tea and buns).
‘The 1st sent about 16 Scouts in all to the important and responsible work of Coast-guarding. For a time they had a complete patrol in Devonshire; we congratulate them. The Balsham, troop also may be proud of its record, for six members won the Coast-guarding decoration. The 9th also sent one Scout to the Suffolk coast.’ From ‘Reveille’ See separate page
The party of five Cambridge Scouts went to Dunkirk with the Red Cross. The three that worked with the Friend Ambulance Service are among a total of only 14 across the whole Country of which records remain. See separate page
Scouting in Wartime
The Chief Scout’s Visit for our Rally of June 13, 1917, still stands out in our memories as a red-letter-day. A German bomb dropped on the front of his train in Liverpool Street Station; but in spite of it all, B.P. arrived serene and smiling, though three hours late. Many had told us that it was hopeless to expect the Troops to give a decent show in war-time; but they did, –especially the 10th and 21st with their Telegraphy, the 5th with their Camp-pole of Scout-staves, the 11th with their Zulu war-dances and camp oven, the 8th and 9th with their double lock-trestle bridge, the 13th with their burning house, and the 1st with their shipwreck. How the crowd swarmed over us on Sheep’s Green! and how we cheered the Chief after his speech at the P.L’s. Conference in the evening! Reveille
JWR Archivist June 2021
The following have been written and collected by Mike Petty
When the war began Cambridge Scouts were anxious to help and a committee was formed. Requests came from every quarter. For the first fortnight Scout patrols, aided by members of the C.U.O.T.C,. guarded by day and night the important telegraph wires on the Newmarket to London road. Some were sent to Ramsgate and Sandwich to do coastguard work until replaced by military authorities. Others assisted in the recreation and refreshment tents for the military camps on Midsummer Common, Coldham’s Common, Coe Fen, Parker’s Piece, Huntingdon Road and Stourbridge Common. They have provided a secretary and bugler for Major Comber at Pembroke College and at Corpus the Board of Military Studies has used them as messengers. They have collected large quantities of magazines and papers for the military hospitals at the Leys School and Trinity College. Now they are returning to school 14 09 11
M.J.Petty A Century of Cambridge News 1888-1988. 1988 c.37.9
The following reports have been collated by Mike Petty and shared through Cambridgeshire History Facebook page.
1912 07 26
“Expect 40 wounded men 3 o’clock” read the telegram received by Croxton detachment of the British Red Cross Society. It appeared the army had been engaged with a force of the enemy near St Neots and as a result 40 men were wounded. When they arrived at Croxton Park the hospital camp had been pitched and everything was in readiness – stores, a kitchen and operating tent. The sufferers – members of the Croxton and Eltisley Boy Scouts – were treated by 80 men and women who had turned up. There was only one real casualty during the exercise – a child was bitten by a dog.12 07 26b & c
1914 07 10
Red Cross Field Day: a hostile force had landed at Cromer and much fighting was taking place, forcing the First Eastern General Hospital, normally stationed here to transfer to Bedford. Wounded from a make-believe battle near Duxford … were taken by field ambulances to a field hospital at Whittlesford Station where he platform was used for refreshment and for re-bandaging the less serious wounded. Temporary wards were erected in the station yard to be filled with the ‘wounded’, represented by Perse School Boy Scouts who arrived in railway goods van. 14 07 10
1914 08 14
Cambridge scouts guard telephone exchange – 14 08 14 p2
1914 08 16
Boy Scouts allowed to shoot on miniature rifle range, aid VAD – 14 08
1914 09 11
When the war began Cambridge Scouts were anxious to help and a committee was formed. Requests came from every quarter. For the first fortnight Scout patrols, aided by members of the C.U.O.T.C., guarded by day and night the important telegraph wires on the Newmarket to London road. Some were sent to Ramsgate and Sandwich to do coastguard work until replaced by military authorities. Others assisted in the recreation and refreshment tents for the military camps on Midsummer Common, Coldham’s Common, Coe Fen, Parker’s Piece, Huntingdon Road and Stourbridge Common. They have provided a secretary and bugler for Major Comber at Pembroke College and at Corpus the Board of Military Studies has used them as messengers. They have collected large quantities of magazines and papers for the military hospitals at the Leys School and Trinity College. Now they are returning to school
Scouts night attack on Coton – details – 16 12 13g