Fred Rayner's experiences in Harston Scouts

As told by the late Fred Rayner (21.9.28-4.9.11)

My name is Fred Rayner.  I am the father of Brenda Free (Akela)

Harston Scouts in 1930s

Harston Scouts in 1930s

I spent my childhood in Harston up until I married and moved to Gt Shelford in 1956. In my childhood days there were no after school activities as there are today, therefore most people joined the Scouts or Guides. I attended Harston Scouts and would like to share some of my experiences that I can remember with you.

The scout movement started in Harston in the early 1930s. You had to be 11 years old to join the Scouts. As soon as I was old enough in 1937 I joined. I felt really proud and grown up to wear the uniform . Our uniform was the old style BP hat, short trousers and we held a Scout staff. We had to polish our scout badge with brasso and had inspections to make sure it was shining. I passed the tenderfoot (first badge) and was so proud, I felt that I was as big as the older lads.

Our Troop

Oddfellows Hall, Green Man Lane used by scouts

Oddfellows Hall, Green Man Lane used by scouts (Painting by Mary Greene)

They used to meet in a building called “The loft” down Green Man Lane, this building is no longer there. To access our meeting place in the building we had to climb up a rope ladder and the door had a lion painted on it.

Our patrols were not named but our patrol leader wore the stripes as they do today. Our Scout master was called Mr Sturdy. Harston Group was called the lions; that is why we had our emblem painted on our meeting place door. We often joined in activities with other groups, Hauxton Squirrels and Newton Foxes. A Scouting shield found in someone’s wall a few years ago shows the animals representing the different villages (see photo). I can remember it being on display in our scout meeting place. In an old book about scouts is a photo of Harston Scout group, with some of the people listed below on it. (I unfortunately was not at Scouts the day the photo was taken).

Other members in our troop were – Ron Samuels and his brother Dennis, Brian Haylock, Roy Carter, Brian Machell, Keith, John & Malcolm Barker, Keith Crow, Fred Northrop.

Our leader wrote a poem about all lads in troop, all I can remember if it is –

W was for the water, where Roy Carter done his stuff,

V was for the voices where Fred Rayners was not gruff.

(it would be interesting if any one has a copy of this poem)


We had various badges to work for, some of the traditional ones are still available to work for, others have long been discontinued. I passed my cyclist badge, but I had to go to Whittlesford to be tested on it.

Scout troops used to meet up and have boxing tournaments, we sometimes hosted this in Harston village hall, this activity would not be allowed these days.

The Troop started its own savings bank for each lad. I can remember starting mine with one penny; that was a lot of money then.

My first camp

Eaton Socon Scout Summer camp Aug 1938 D Pugsley, B Haylock, F Rayner, K Barker, R S Sturdy, M Barker, R Carter

Eaton Socon Scout Summer camp Aug 1938
D Pugsley, B Haylock, F Rayner, K Barker, R S Sturdy, M Barker, R Carter

My first camp was held on the Whitson holiday and was held at Eaton Socon, and we were joined by other groups. We all cycled to camp with our kit on our bikes, as there wasn’t the transport available in those days. I had a puncture on the way which we repaired by the roadside.

We set up camp which included digging a trench to be used as the toilet “the lat”. We never had the modern conveniences that are used these days.

On the Sunday we all paraded to church led by our Scout master and was greeted by the parson.

At camp we had a competition to see who could make the best pudding which was cooked on a fire we had made previously.   The competition was between Harston, Hauxton & Newton. Harston were pleased to win. We also all went canoeing; it was great fun but I was frightened of falling in.

Scouts Flying High 1938 Show in Village Hall poster

Scouts Flying High 1938 Show in Village Hall poster

Harston Gang Show

Harston Scouts used to hold gang shows in the village hall for the village to attend. Tickets were priced at 3d, 6d and a shilling for the best seats (1½p, 2½p and 5p). The tickets sold out very fast as people didn’t have other entertainment then. Each patrol did different sketches at the Gang Show; some performed comedy sketches, some sang, we also had rope climbing demonstrations (hooks can still be seen in the hall). Some of the boys had boxing matches. I wasn’t brave enough for that. We used to sing all the songs by Ralph Reader, one of which went “we are the boys of good old Harston, sending a cheer you could hear throughout the world” etc. We also sang the well known Scout song “Riding along on the crest of a wave”.

The Scouts had made an aeroplane out of wood etc which was hoisted up on the stage; it had a handle in it to make it turn around on the stage while the Scouts led by Fred Northrop sang “flying high, flying high, over the clouds today”.

1938  Mar 12 the plane used in Flying High, Scouts: F Northrop, R Carter, G Northrop

1938 Mar 12 the plane used in Flying High Scouts: F Northrop, R Carter, G Northrop

Here is the words to a song I can remember singing:

We are birds of a feather, Harston town is our home, To all birds of a feather, Where so ever you roam, Get away back from the air, We are going to shout, boy scouts calling, Just listen to our greeting ringing out, To birds of a feather, To the wide wide world. Harston town is our home. (shouted out loud).

Scout Jamboree

Some of the lads were lucky enough to attend the Jamboree held in Holland, but unfortunately I couldn’t as you had to be 13 and I was not old enough. The Jamboree was filmed by the scoutmaster and was shown on a big screen in the village hall.   Some parts he played in reverse to make us all laugh.

I have now seen my children and grandchildren have exciting experiences in Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides, and now my daughter and son in law, along with my grand daughter run Harston Cubs and take my great granddaughter along too. I hope many future generations will do also.

Fred Rayner

This page was added on 17/10/2015.

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