OUSGG is the oldest student Scout group in the UK, and the second oldest in the world.
In 1919, the Oxford University Boy Scout Club was established with the aim “to further the interests of the Scout Movement within the university”. The programme included meetings four times a term, which often featured a guest speaker from the Scouting community on topics such as ‘Scouting in Europe in the Crisis’ and ‘Play Acting as a Plank in the Scouting Platform’. The first 'Annual Dinner' was held on 4th March 1920 at the Randolph Hotel. The cost was 10/6 (52p) for a seven course meal, exclusive of wine. The speaker was Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell, who was asked to come only two weeks before.
The Guide Club was developed during the early 1920s though was not originally an official club. They explain in their minute book that “the purpose of the committee was to arrange Guide activities and to act as an unofficial steward at the Scout Club meetings”. The Lady Baden Powell, Chief Guide, was invited and attended the 1943 autumn meeting, which must have been exciting. The club ran activities including training weekends, 2-3 outdoor activities per term, a summer camp for Guides and joint meetings with the Boy Scout Club.
Throughout the 20th century, the club changed name several times: from a Boy Scout Club to a Rover Crew and then to the Oxford University Scout Club. By 1960, it had joined with the Guide Club to form a joint Scout and Guide Club. This later became the Oxford Scout and Guide Group. It was quite common during this period for University Ranger and Rover clubs to merge together and reflected changing wider society attitudes towards mixed gender activities.
By 1968, the club boasted 78 members! The 1960s were also a turning point for national SSAGO. In 1967, two separate organisations, Intervarsity and Intercollegiate, came together to form one joint organisation. This was a major achievement as previously intervarsity members would look down on intercollegiate members.
OUSGG also paved the way to forming a long standing SSAGO tradition – Witans. Witan means ‘meeting of the wise’ and during the post-war period, it was a select few who went to university and therefore they saw themselves as wise and noble people. The first Witan camp was held in Youlbury, 1946 and was a way to reconnect with a broken Europe. Witans were a place to meet other Rangers and Rovers from across the seas and there was a service element to the camp as well as other activities. It was a tradition to hold a cultural day which included sharing food, games and dressing up.
The club also held an annual Halloween camp. This was usually held at Hill End Campsite, which had previously been an open air school. Activities would include hikes, going to church and exploring Oxford, whilst in the evening there would be country dancing and dressing up.
All of this information was gathered by the help of the vast records held at the Bodleian Library. The records include scrap books, minute books dating from 1919 (which were deposited soon after they were filled up), treasurer accounts, constitutions and AGM minutes. The collection shows that in order to progress and stay relevant; SSAGO, Guiding and Scouting have had to continually stay up-to-date and interesting for the modern youth. I would encourage anyone to go to the Bodleian Library and search through the club records. There is so much to discover. When you’re sitting there in the library, you truly feel you are a detective searching through important records that are telling you pieces of the puzzle, and that it’s up to you to put them together and tell the next part of the story.
Happy Birthday OUSGG, 100 is a fantastic achievement! Here’s to the next 30, 50 and hopefully another 100 years of fun, adventure and discovery.
By Larah Korrison, National Archivist for SSAGO 2019
This account of OUSGG's history was written for the Centenary edition of PostScript, distributed at our 100th Annual Dinner in May 2019.
A more extensive history of 1919-1980 can also be found at http://ousgg.org.uk/about/history.
The old club tie and scarf, courtesy of Richard Harper.
OUSGG's 70th Anniversary Dinner, 1989
OUSGG's 90th Anniversary Dinner, 2009
OUSGG's 100th Anniversary Dinner, 2019