An Incomplete History of OUSGG

Written by Mike Merritt (with help from Mike Wigney), May 1980


Oxford had the first Boy Scout Club, called the O.U.B.P. Scout Club. The meetings were to be held fortnightly, on Mondays with about one a term with a speaker from outside the club. One meeting per term would still have a paper, but would be called a 'Pow-wow'.

On 22nd Nov 1919, an informal meeting was held in the American Club, Daffodil Tea Rooms in George Street, and on 24th Nov the first formal meeting was held. The paper read was 'The Work of Scout Troops during the War'. At this stage membership was about 45 and was by election only. It was thought that the club could play a major part in discussing any matter on Boy Scouting, especially as it was affected by reconstruction (after the war).

In 1920, an amendment to the constitution was proposed, for the purpose of "admitting ladies who are members of, or interested in, the Boy Scouts Association". In the same month (February) it was decided that coffee should not be provided free at General Meetings.

During Hilary Term topics discussed included: "The Social Problem and the Boy", "The Importance of Open-Air Scoutcraft", and "The Training of Scout-masters".

The 'Annual Dinner' was held on 4th March at the Randolph Hotel. The cost was 10/6 (52p) for a seven course meal, exclusive of wine. The speaker was Lt. Gen. Sir R.S.S. Baden-Powell KCB, KCVO, who was asked to come only two weeks before. A loss of £4-15-8 (£4.78) was recorded.

By June 1920, other University Scout Clubs such as Manchester were in existence, and to that end in October, it was decided to alter the O.U.B.P. Scout Club Magazine to an Inter-Varsity Magazine to be run jointly by all the Scout Clubs of the British Universities, subject to the condition that the magazine should be edited and managed by the committee of the O.U.B.P.S.C. on behalf of the other universities' Scout organisations. It was known as "The Boy".

The definition of a Scout in the concise Oxford Dictionary was objected to - "Boy Scout: member of organisation recently founded for instilling spirit of military discipline etc.".

In November a photograph album was obtained (the first log possibly) although such things as term cards were included in the minute book. Also recorded here was the private as well as public business, and officers elected.

At the end of the year, the meetings were being held on alternate Mondays and Wednesdays.

At the start of 1921, there were approximately 90 members (11 honorary). Scout work still had to be done unofficially outside the Group. By now the Guide Club was in existence, known by the title of O.U.G.G.C. and joint meetings were held periodically.

This year also saw the mention of Inter-Varsity Scout Club conferences; the write-up of a meeting being called the 'log' and not the 'minutes'; a Group Bookstall; an unofficial Rover Troop; Club photographs; and a Model Troop meeting night held.

Old members were to pay 3/6 p.a. for club fixture card and 'The Boy' (published termly), and there was to be a reunion Dinner held every five years, the first to take place in 1923.

A motion with regard to the interminable length of the log was carried nem con; that in future it should be considerably shorter (secretaries please note!!)

Both Bristol and Sheffield Scout Clubs are mentioned in 1922. As far as the Oxford group was concerned, it was decided that meetings should commence at 20:15; and that the question of raising a troop to be maintained by the club was discussed and approved.

Perhaps the most interesting fact, though, was that in October subs were reduced to 4/- (20p) from 5/- (25p) per term, with a fine of 1/- (5p) if not paid by second week. (In 1972, the subs were still only 25p a term!!!)

The Group moved from the American Rooms to New Inn Hall Street (local Association HQ) and in 1924 they moved again to the Oriel Restaurant, 106 High Street. Subs were reduced yet again to 3/- (15p) a term!!

The club tie came into being in 1925. At one joint meeting with the Guide Club, the Scout Club were outnumbered. The 97th meeting was held on November 16th and Nov. 30th, which meant that when the 100th meeting was held on Thursday 11th February 1926, it was in fact the 101st (the following meeting was the 102nd). The Chief Scout was present. In the same year, Sir Arthur Evans donated Youlbury Training Camp to the Scout Movement, and it was officially opened on May 15th 1927, after a large appeal to raise £2,000.

One topic that appeared regularly in the Committee Minute book (1926-47); the first book was lost), was co-operation between Scouting and Guiding and constitutional amendment. A joint meeting with O.U.G.G.C. was held again, with Lady Burrows present. However, it was decided to restrict these to a maximum of two per year, as they did not appear to do anything that would further the main object of the club.

On May 14th a propaganda afternoon was held in Schools, with the showing of scout films, and short talks by various people including BP. As the Prince of Wales was unable to attend, Lord Jellicoe chaired the meeting.

Combined universities' camps were usually held at the end of Summer Term until 1927 but ceased due to difficulties in organising it; the university terms, owing to the negligence of those in authority, never ended simultaneously. However, it was decided to invite other clubs to the Oxford Camp.


The meeting book for 1927-33 is not in the Bodleian. However, the committee minute book from 1926-1947 is and from this we find some useful information.

The committee itself did the job of finance committee and programme committee.

The 1931 Constitution shows that both University members and City members of the Oxford Local Association shall be eligible for election and that gentlemen had to attend at least three meetings as a visitor before they were eligible for election. The Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer were elected each term. It was traditional for the host of committee meetings to provide food and drink in his rooms.

In 1932 a proposal was carried that stated 'that lady cubmasters should be eligible for city membership. However, it was carried unanimously that lady members of the Varsity should not be eligible; further Proctorial rules would make this difficult to work. The Cambridge Club was active at this time.

A vote that meetings should start at the advertised time was lost by 11 to 11 in 1934. Membership was under discussion. "The Chairman thought that a wider range of subjects might attract more members; but it was decided that the club should stick to strictly scouting subjects.

In 1935 the President of the Club, Sir Montague Burrows died, and the President of St John's College became President in 1936.

Lord Soames came to speak to the club on "some difficulties" (decreasing membership in Britain was one topic) in 1936 and again in 1938 on a different topic. This meeting was held in Milner Hall of Rhodes House.

The RSL&SRM of OU Rover Scout Crew were ex-officio members of the Committee, and often we see mentioned that encouragement be given to members of the crew to join the Scout Club as well.

At the end of 1938, the group moved to new University Rover Den in the Bivouac, in Bridge Street.

By Trinity 1939, the O.U. Guide Club was disbanded, and we find that there was a women's secretary on the committee.

Father Maund was leading a Scout Troop within the group, because the introduction of the Red Bar Course had left Rovers no time to learn Scoutmastership. The 1939 Rover Mast was run by Oxford University, City and County Rovers. The Vice Chancellor even sent a letter of praise. Finally, nearly the whole committee for Michaelmas 1939 had to be elected again because of the war, and Mr Sanzen Baker, the Rover Scout Leader was presented with his medal of merit.

Extract from PostScript 100

Inserted personal history from Peter Lund, long serving Senior Member of OUSGG, written for the 100th edition of Postscript in Hilary Term 1979

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I was asked to write something for Postscript and to have escaped 99 issues has been accomplished largely by inertia and lying low when I saw the editor was short of material. The editor and I decided that something about the history of the Group would be a good idea. I'll try to make it as objective as possible but I fear that personal involvement will mean that I may stress some points more than others. There is a quantity of documentary material - some in the Bodleian and some in my room here in college, there is a lot more that has been lost.

The Second World War was for most University Clubs a period of reduced activity, but for the O.U.S.G. as it was then known the opposite was true. This was very largely due to the fortunate fact that there was in Oxford, on secondment from the Forestry Commission, a bachelor enthusiastic about Scouting. His name was, and still is, R.C. Sanzen-Baker, always known as Sandy. He had arrived in Oxford in, I think, 1936 and soon became the leader as far as the Scout authorities were concerned of the O.U. Rover Crew which did all the practical and open air activities. There was also an O.U. Scout Club and separate O.U. Guide Club. The Scout Club held speaker meetings and had, I believe, come into existence in about 1919. Only recently there died here in Oxford an old priest, Father George Moore, who was in at the beginning. The origins of the Rover Crew are less clear to me, I think it grew out of a Toc H Rover Crew of which there are still members around.

Sandy devoted all his spare time to the O.U.S.G., he was a graduate of Edinburgh University and had danced for that university - the origin of our interest in country dancing. Because of his job he had petrol even when rationing was tight in order that he could inspect forestry experiments. And many are the camp sites visited at the same time. In 1942 the Crew organised a night hike and, requiring somewhere to sleep from about 4:00am onward, Sandy approached Col. Ffennell of Wytham Abbey asking permission to use the open air summer school he had erected for the use of deprived children from London and elsewhere. Permission was readily given and so began our association with Hill End. In the summer of 1942, 43 and 44 the O.U.S.G. ran camps there for boys whose scouters were in the forces or whose equipment had been destroyed by enemy action. We had plenty of equipment because the Rover Crew had staffed the 3rd(?) World Rover Moot at Monzie Castle in 1939 and when this broke up in haste we acquired much equipment. These summers saw hundreds of boys at a time at Hill End, and the Crew acquired a "catering Licence". This meant that we could buy food for the camps. We had to have different licences for Oxford and Hill End as they were in different counties. One of them was for a vegetarian youth organisation as that enabled us to get vast quantities of cheese. After the war we continued to use Hill End but not on the same scale. However, from 1947 to 1951 a number of us lived there permanently as it is just inside the 3 mile radius of Oxford. By this time the Scout and Guide Clubs had merged for social activities although both clubs held separate meetings for open air activities. I think that is enough to be going on with. I hope I have given some idea of why the Group means so much to those of us up during that period.


In 1940, the 287th meeting was held during an air raid alarm, and the following week it was noted that the records of the club were reposing in the Bodleian, thereby ensuring the immortality of the club. In the following year, a film of the Nuremberg Rally of 1936 was shown. Lord Soames, as Chief Scout, addressed a meeting at which about 300 people were present. On the 6th February, a meeting of the Guide Section of the O.U.B.P.S.C. was held. The GSM called a meeting because it had been suggested that the O.U. Guide Club should be revised and have its own sub-committee. The club was officially registered as the O.U. Guide Club, although it was subsequently found that it had never been disbanded, although it had ceased meeting. It hoped to retain one fifth of O.U.G.C.'s subs which was agreed by the Scout Club. The committee was held once a week. In 1941, Kitty Little (Somerville) was treasurer. By now equality of meetings was the norm:- two scout orientated, and two guide orientated. It was decreed that training meetings for Guiders counted as war work.

The first records in the log volume I are from 1939, and in 1944 the Group Review gives a summary of the group and the sections of which it is comprised. I quote "The Group took its present form in 1939, when the old Scout Club was amalgamated with the University Rover Scout Crew; a new section especially for the training of Scoutmasters; known as the Scout Troop, was started at the same time. Very soon afterwards the University Guide Group was incorporated in the Group. Lord Somers, now the Chief Scout, showed his great personal interest by becoming Group Scoutmaster.

These four sections carry on their activities within the framework of the group. The Scout Club now holds weekly meetings during term which usually take the form of an address followed by a discussion; the subjects discussed cover many aspects of youth work and associated activities. The international aspect of Guiding and Scouting receives special consideration, and each term the Club endeavours to entertain some prominent Scout or Guide from another country.

The Rover Crew aims at providing advanced Scout training, particularly in the practical sphere, in preparation for future service and leadership. Activities are largely carried on out of doors. The Rovers are often called upon to organise special events for local scouts such as training week-ends and conferences. Members of the University Scout Troop also help to run Troops and Wolf Cub Packs within the city.

Members of the Guide Club participate in outdoor guiding activities and training with a view to leadership in the Guide Movement; they also assist with local Guide companies and Brownie Packs".

An international camp, organised by Sandy, was run at Youlbury in 1942, with representatives from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the Empire. The previous year members of the group had run Scout Camps in Ashdown Forest and Wytham Park and the Guides in Eynsham Park for girls and boys from the heavily bombed cities. At the end of 1942, the Chief Guide, Lady B.P. came to dinner.


In 1943, the group's association with Hill End started. It had been an open-air school, developed by Colonel Ffennell. The Rover Crew slept there after a night hike, and in the summer it was the HQ for a six week camp for 300 scouterless scouts (and again in 1944). Both Lady Somers and Lady B.P. came to visit the group, and a Hallowe'en Party was held in the Group HQ in Bridge Street. The following year, the group moved from their HQ to the Organ loft, above Phipps City Motors at Gloucester Green. A special feature was the unique lighting system - two large wagon wheels, gaily painted and hung by chains from the rafters, wired by the group's electricians. As early as Feb. 1944, the Guide Club were discussing the Post War situation, and the desirability of acquiring a large house for hostel accommodation/meeting place. The sentiment was echoed through the group. The Guide Club ran a camp at Blenheim Park in the summer. These camps were for guides whose guiders couldn't take them to camp. Hallowe'en was celebrated at Hill End, the start of one of OUSGG's traditions.

In 1945, meetings of the Guide Club became known as Courts of Honour, since the corresponding move to the meetings of the Rover Crew then the Scout Club. Cambridge Rovers attended the Hallowe'en celebrations. Miss Savage, later Mrs Sanzen-Baker (1947) took over from Mrs Belsfield in the Guide Club.

In 1946, the group moved HQ to 26 Pembroke Street (owned by Christ Church). A conscience money box was established. Joint activities between Rover Crew and Guide Club included Country Dancing and Literary and Music evenings, with Scout Club members by invitation only. An international camp was held at Youlbury, and an old members club was started - The Upidee Club; officially the Old Members Section.

In 1947, "insurance" was talked about. Also four members of the group, including Peter Lund, were living at Hill End, and this was the start of the Mrs Wilson Story. She had her first birthday party in 1948, died in 1951, and had a 21st birthday in 1968. The story goes that the milkman's bills were all made out to Mrs ........, and two Wilsons, Dick and Geoff, were living there. Hence Mrs Wilson! Sandy unfortunately had to leave the group, and Dr Chrystal was group ASM. Peter Lund was QM (Food) and on the Management Committee. He commented that Group General Council = Prog. Comm. now, was like POR, in that it was calculated to put anybody off.

In 1948, the Scout Troop was renamed the Scouters' Training Group. Amplifier, loudspeakers and turntable were bought for approximately £37. The Group attended the 4th World Rover Moot in Norway in 1949, from which came the Dis Vis Bis (camp biscuit with names on).

In 1949, Bristol and Cambridge Crews came to Hallowe'en. The Chief Scout, Lord Rowallan was also a visitor. The Group had £1300 property.

In 1950, a Loch Ness Camp was held for senior scouts. 100 rovers went to Cambridge, and a rally was held at Birmingham. The training group, mentioned above, was reformed. Food provided at HQ was quite a sizeable item - for entertaining guests etc., and members' use. A proposal to call the group OUSGG was withdrawn and Country Dancing became the responsibility of the Scout and Guide Club.

The proposal to hold AGM's was defeated (see below however).

By 1951 Peter Lund was Treasurer and Ass. R.S.L.

In 1952, the 500th meeting was held on 20th May, at the group HQ. 53 members and guests sampled a five course dinner. Also the first general meeting was held. 160 people attended Hallowe'en. It was noted that each secretary should endeavour to provide speakers for the term in advance of his term of office.

The Rover Crew, defunct in 1953, was functioning in 1954. Declining membership was noted, and the use of the Green Dragon at Hill End was discontinued as it was a financial liability and the stores there were disposed of.


In 1955, the Constitution was rewritten as the previous one had been lost. This "new" version was very similar in parts to the present one. Included for the first time were the Trustees, whom we only removed recently from it: David Jenkins, Chaplain of Queen's [and later to become Bishop of Durham] was Senior Treasurer and the 22nd Oxford was hiring our den. Also the Group Council was formed which appeared to function as a Finance Committee.

1956 saw hire charges for group equipment; 27 members helping with local troops, uniform for Scout and Guide Club members at meetings, and a return to Monday meetings. Typical Rover Crew activities included a Duty to God course, Farnell Cup (competition for Scouts), and a P.L.s' weekend.

In 1957, the first Ennerdale Camp was held by the Rover Crew, but the Scout and Guide Club went to Derbyshire. Peter Lund left the group, but returned in 1960 as RSL. Subs were 6/- a term.

Dr Lowe was replaced as president by Dr Goodhart in 1958. Planning for the First Western European Witan for Scouts and Guides of Universities was started and this was held in 1959 at Gilwell. A book explaining the Scout & Guide Movements in the European countries was written by Audrey Barons and a copy is in the log.

By now there were 110 members in the group (117 in 1960). The 40th anniversary was celebrated by a dinner and members of Dorset House provided patchwork curtains for the den.

In 1961 a second Witan and Inter-Varsity Rally was held - at Gilwell. 108 people of 19 nationalities attended and service work involved cleaning bombed sites in Islington and Stepney. A member of the group, David Morten, was killed in a climbing accident in Norway and the bridge over the stream at the entrance to Ennerdale Campsite was built in his memory. Contact was established with the Police enabling the group to dance on Eynsham toll bridge during Hallowe'en celebrations.

In 1962, a new constitution was accepted and the name of the club became OUSGG. Annual Dinners were restarted; the Scout and Guide Committee was abolished and replaced by a Group Council. The present Group Council was changed to a Group Committee. The AGM was held after the Annual Dinner!! A lecture theatre in BNC was used for meetings because the den was in such a bad state. Women's hours in BNC caused some meetings to be completed elsewhere. Group equipment was everywhere (Ennerdale, Binsey, etc.), Country Dancing was abolished as a group activity, and St Stephen's Rover Crew was disbanded.

In 1963, meetings were held in Queen's and New College. Sheep roasting for May Fair took place in the University Parks, and 11 & 11 is mentioned. Also Philip Hetherington organised Moonshaker, a most complicated event for senior scouts, which Mike Wigney has analysed.

1964 saw a Hallowe'en Rally. There were only six female members and larger cups were requested for coffee. Gardening was carried out as a service, and after much discussion, and searching, the den was re-established, this time in Bridge Street schools, sharing with other groups. A Group President was elected (from the junior members).


In 1964, women went to Ennerdale. Ennerdale organisation sec 7 (1964) states: "women are not allowed to camp on the site; although they have done so illegally. A tent must be put up outside the grounds for appearance's sake. The general feeling has been that since they were invited in 1964, they need not be invited again, as they appear to contribute little and to some extent detract from traditional activites that have been set up. Some are a distinct liability on hills and crags".

Women were in fact excluded in 1965. Mah Jongg was played at Ennerdale in a certain hostelry, and country dancing was restarted. Articles for 'Scouter' used to be submitted by the discussion group chairman. Attempts to get the Prime Minister or Prince Philip to attend the annual dinner were made!!

In 1966 a service organiser was appointed, and St Stephen's Rover Crew was functioning again. A News-sheet was reintroduced, a signing-in book for meetings appeared and SCMA (Scout Club Mixed Activites) organised for Rangers and Venture Units. The result of the Advance Party and Working Party Report was to replace the Rover Crew with a training unit, which in turn became absorbed into the Scout and Guide Group fully, the Training Unit Leader becoming External Activities Organiser in 1973. 1967 saw the Group Committee become the Finance Committee and Group Council, Programme Committee. The Chief Scout came to the Annual Dinner, and the Group moved to 119A Walton Street (St Paul's School). SSAGO was known as the Inter-collegiate Varsity Student Movement. Ennerdale became a group event, as did the trip to the Broads in the summer (Winter Walking is not mentioned until Jan 1971). Peter Lund became senior member.

Cub Scientist badge course was run in 1968, and John Kitchen and Gordon Selway are mentioned. Mrs Wilson's 21st birthday was celebrated at Hill End, and it was suggested that meetings in Trinity Term should not be speaker meetings.

In 1969, a contribution towards the new hut at Ennerdale was sent. Literary and musical evenings and discussion groups became the responsibility of the Sunday evenings organiser (S.E.O.).

In 1970, Hallowe'en was a SSAGO Rally. A comment in one minute book was that "Oxford was a trifle isolationist". There was apathy over rambles, and PostScript succeeded the newsletter.

In 1971 it was noted that Hallowe'en had made a large profit to offset deficits from subs and conscience money. That year it made a £100 profit. There were 74 members. A librarian was appointed and "N'n'N" became "coffee" for one week.


Nothing of note happened in 1972, but in 1973, the guest of honour at the group's 300th meeting/annual dinner was Lord Baden Powell, grandson of the founder. The new log book was ready, but the neglect of it between 1969 and 1975 shows in the lack of items in it. Venture-Ranger Punt Parties, together with Incident Hikes were organised by the Training Unit Leader. The future of the patrol system, inherited from the Rover Crew was questioned, but it continued to 1979 when, after the departure of the illustrious East Patrol Leader, Sue Crossley, it seemed to die. Temporarily or for ever? Who knows? At the general meeting in 1973, criticism was levied at the coffee. Plus ça change. In Trinity Term, a new den in Canal Street was occupied, and in 1974, the group mascot, Erik the Panda, was born. Hallowe'en in 1975 was a SSAGO Rally, and was held at Matthew Arnold School, Hinksey.

In 1976 the group moved yet again, this time to St Michael's Hall (behind Littlewoods), before finally becoming nomadic, in Hilary 1977. The 1000th meeting of the group was celebrated at Hallowe'en, at Hill End, that year, to which many old members came. The post of S.E.O. and with it Literary and Music Evenings disappeared by 1979.

A former chairman of the group, Andrew Rowse, died suddenly in 1976. The group donated a trophy to the Tour de Trigs Walking Competion in his memory in 1979, to be awarded to the fastest young novice, since OUSGG had won the novice (any age) trophy in 1975, 77 and 78. It was made by John Atkins. Talking of Tour de Trigs, the group also won the ladies trophy in 1977.

In 1977 and again in 1980, the group ran joint Scout/Guide Patrol leader training courses. There have also been numerous Brownie Revels, and most recently a Guide Activity Weekend.

In 1979, the group celebrated its 60th anniversary, a quiet affair, on 22nd November at N'n'N with an anniversary cake.

For anyone who is interested in looking at my major sources of information, the following will be of interest. They are all in the Bodleian Library.

Guide Club

  1. Minute Book 1941-7. Ms Top Oxon 3 304

Scout and Guide Club/Group

  1. Minute books, 1919-27; 1933-43. Committee minute book 1926-47 Mss Top Oxon d 328/1-3
  2. Minute books, 1943-52 Ms Dep c 105; 1952-63 Ms Dep d 206
  3. Minutes of Group General Council 1946-62 Ms Dep s 207
  4. Minute book 1952-64 Ms Dep c 479
  5. Minutes of Annual and Termly Gms 1964-74 Ms Dep d 389


To be continued...