The scouting world
History of the scouting movement
The birth of an idea
returned to England a national hero, after defending the town of Mafeking (Mafikeng as it is now spelled) for seven months from the
besieging Boer troops, the first real British triumph in the Boer
War. When he returned to England, he discovered that many boys and
young me were avidly reading his book Aids to Scouting.
This book was intended as a military training manual, teaching
soldiers techniques such as observation, tracking, initiative...
B-P. met with various influential people in youth movements
across the country, and was persuaded to write a version of Aids
to Scouting aimed at teenage boys, Scouting for Boys
was published in 1908 (after a camp on Brownsea Island, Poole
Harbour, Dorset, where B-P. tried out his ideas on four patrols of
boys from London and Bournemouth). Scouting for Boys was
initially printed in six fortnightly parts, and sold very quickly.
Baden-Powell had originally intended the scheme outlined in
Scouting for Boys to supplement the programmes of youth
organisations that were in existence at the time, like the Boys
Brigade and the Boy's Clubs. But boys not in other youth movements
bought the book, and set themselves up as Patrols of Scouts, and
quickly found themselves leaders to train them. It was soon
realised that some form of organisation was required to support
Scouting for Boys is now in fourth place in the all time
best sellers list, behind the Bible, the Koran and Mao-Tse-Tung's
Little Red Book
The start of a movement
It is a movement, because it moves forward. As soon as it
stops moving, it becomes an Organisation, and is no longer
Scouting. -- B-P.
At the out-set the one thing Scouting could not be called was
an Organisation, as it was far from organised. B-P. was
still an active soldier, organising the Territorials in
Northumberland, which kept him far from the hub of Scouting in
London. The initial rush for membership was handled by Messers C.
Arthur Pearson & Co., the publisher of Scouting for Boys
and many of the subsequent Scouting publications, and the newly
published Scout magazine.
It was soon seen that some break from the publisher would have
to be achieved to get the Movement the status it deserved. The
Movement slowly evolved, being very democratic at the grass-roots
level, with the Scout Leaders having a fairly free reign with what
they did, as long as it was within the ideals of Scouting.
The next year the Scout Association opened its first offices in
Victoria Road, finally breaking the strong bonds it had with
Pearsons. In 1910 B-P. retired from the Army to devote his time,
effort and money (all his royalties from Scouting for Boys
were ploughed back into the movement) into Scouting. This year
also saw the first census of Scouts in the UK, indicated over a
hundred thousand Scouts in the UK. So, in less than three years,
Scouting had a firm footing.
South America, Scouting started in Chile, and it was
already crossing the channel into Europe. The big step across the
Atlantic, and into the United States came more by chance. In 1909,
an American business man, William Boyce, was lost in the fog of
London, when a small boy approached him, and offered to take him
to his hotel. Once there, the boy refused any offer of money for
the service, saying that it was his good turn as a Boy
Scout. Joyce was intrigued by this and tracked down B-P. before he
left London to discover more of this. When he got back to the
U.S.A. he went about setting up the Boy Scouts of America. By
1918, its numbers had risen to 300,000, and had reached the
million mark before the end of the twenties.
B-P. spent much of the rest of his life on World-tours,
initially organising Scouting throughout the world, and later
attending the World Jamborees, which have become an integral part
of international Scouting. The first of these was in 1920 in
London, at Olympia, it was more an exhibition of Scouting, held
inside. The second Jamboree, four years later, in Copenhagen, set
the model for the modern Jamboree, a major international camp for
Scouts from all over the World.
Scouting now has twenty-five million members world-wide (not
counting Guides and Girl Scouts) and is still growing.
Approximately four million of those are from the United States,
the largest single Scout Association.
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)
has another nine-million members, making it the world's second
largest youth organisation, behind Scouts.
Originally B-P. had envisaged Scouting as a movement for boys
between the ages of 11 and 18. As early as 1909 Scoutmasters were
facing the problem of younger brothers wanting to join in the fun.
Some just turned a blind eye to the age of some of the boys,
others formed Patrols and Troops of Junior or Cadet
Scouts. The problem wasn't just confined to younger brothers,
but also to sisters as well. In 1909 at the Crystal Palace Rally,
B-P. came across a Patrol, who claimed to be Girl Scouts.
Initially B-P. was all in favour of allowing girls to become
Scouts (in separate troops), but had to change his mind due to the
pressures of Edwardian society. It was not considered right that
young ladies should be out-and-about, camping, hiking, etc.,
(remember this was about the same time as the Suffragette
movement). He addressed this problem by setting up the sister
movement the Girl Guides in 1910, with (initially) the help
of his sister, Agnes, and then with the help of his wife, Olave.
To address the problem of what to do with the younger brothers,
Scouting first turned a blind eye to the unofficial Troops
that were forming. In 1914, though, B-P. outlined a scheme in The
Headquarters Gazette for the training of these Junior
Scouts, but it was not what he really had in mind. He replaced
this two years later with a new Scheme, under the title Wolf
Cubs based around the Jungle Books of his close
friend Rudyard Kipling, with the Cubs having their own distinct
uniform, badges, motto, sign, salute, etc.
Wolf Cubs dealt with those too young to be Scouts, what was to
be done with those to old to be Scouts, in 1917, just before the
end of The Great War, B-P. set up a scheme for Senior
Scouts, which changed its name to Rover Scouts the next
year, for anyone over the age of 18, with Outdoor Adventure
and Service as the mainstays of its programme.
Life without B-P
B-P.'s health deteriorated to the point that in 1938 he moved
to Kenya to spend the last days of his life in Africa. He finally
passed away on January 8th 1941. In his belongings was his last
message to Scouts throughout the world:
Dear Scouts - if you have ever seen the play 'Peter Pan' you
will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying
speech because he was afraid that possible, when the time came
for him to die, he might not have time to get it off his chest.
It is much the same with me, and so, although I am not at this
moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want
to send you a parting word of goodbye.
Remember, it is the last time you will ever hear from me, so
think it over.
I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have
a happy life too.
I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and
enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely
being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One
step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong
while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can
enjoy life when you are a man.
Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful
things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented
with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the
bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.
But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to
other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you
found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in
feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have
done your best. 'Be Prepared' in this way, to live happy and to
die happy - stick to your Scout Promise always - even after you
have ceased to be a boy - and God help you to do it.
B-P. was the first and only Chief Scout of the World
after that no one person held that responsibility. The United
Kingdom has seen seven Chief Scouts since B-P.:
Lord Somers, Lord Rowallan, Lord Maclean, Sir William Gladstone,
Major-General Michael Walsh, Garth Morrison, George Purdy.
The demise of the Boy Scouts, Wolf Cubs and
In 1964, the Boy Scout
Association commissioned a working party (the Chief Scouts
Advanced Party to look into how Scouting in the United Kingdom
should progress. The General Report of 1966 made radical
reforms to the Boy Scout Association which were carried out in
Firstly the Association's name changed, dropping the Boy
to become the Scout Association. The Cub section dropped the Wolf
to become Cub Scouts; the Scout section also dropped the Boy,
and the upper age limit was altered to 16; Senior Scouts and Rover
Scouts were disbanded, to be replaced by Venture Scouts for
the 16 to 20 year olds and the B-P Guild was set up for those
members who wanted to participate in Scouting over the age of 20,
but did not want to necessarily commit themselves to a leadership
Secondly the Scout and Scouter Uniforms were changes, out went
the lemon squeezer hats and the shorts, and in came green
berets, mushroom trousers, and green shirts for the Scouts, and
fawn shirts for the Venture Scouts and Leaders.
Finally the training scheme's changed, gone were the first
stars, in came the Arrows;
out went first class and second class, in came the Scout Standard,
Advanced Scout Standard and Chief Scout Award; the Queen Scout
Award was retained, but no longer was it a Scout section badge,
but belonged in the Venture Unit, and no longer was it a case of
earning proficiency badges, but included long term service,
commitment, and a 50+ mile expedition over four days.
The changes to the training scheme brought about modernised the
movement, taking into account the greater variety of activities
available to the youth of the sixties in comparison to the youth
of the first half of the century, to the change in life style and
to the change in schooling, many of the traditional Scouting tests
were being brought into main stream education, and so more
different challenges were required.
Changing with the times
After very little change in the years leading up to the General
report, Scouting has changed in leaps and bounds over the last
In the Cub section the Bronze,
Silver and Gold arrows lasted just eleven years before a new developed
arrow scheme was introduced, which allowed Cubs virtually complete
freedom to choose which twelve activities they took part in for
each of the three arrows. This was again superseded in 1990 by a
new award scheme consisting of the Cub
Scout Award, Adventure Award and Adventure Crest Award, still
allowing the Cubs to choose the activities they wish to take part
in, but in a much more structured way.
Another minor change is the age range of the section, with the
usual transfer age dropping from eleven to ten-and-a-half.
In the Scout section, the Scout Standard and Advanced Scout
Standard didn't last as long as the arrows, disappearing in 1983,
to be replaced by the Scout Award, Pathfinder Award, and Explorer
Award. These also introduced more choice for the Scout, and yet
again modernised the programme. Only minor changes to the scheme
have been made since 1983, most noticeably to put traditional
Scouting skills back into the core of the programme.
In the early 1980's Scout Groups were allowed to take in boys
in the 6-8 age range to Beavers
although at this point the Beavers were not part of the Scout
Association, only their Leaders were allowed in. This changed on
April 1st, 1986 when all Beavers became Beaver Scouts overnight.
Initially the section had just one badge to earn after the Beaver
had been enrolled, but in 1995 a new programme introduced two new
badges, imaginatively know as the First Beaver Scout Badge
and the Second Beaver Scout Badge, allowing with the Beaver
Scout Challenge Badge for the older Beavers.
The Venture section has, on the whole, not changed much since
its inception, a few minor changes to names and requirements for
the badges name change but that is all, other than the
controversial decision in 1976, when young ladies were allowed to
join Venture Units. The first time that girls had been
allowed into the youth of the Movement since B-P. started up the
Guide Movement in 1910.
The B-P Guild on has all but vanished, being replaced by the Scout
Fellowship, a branch of IFSG, the International Fellowship
of Scouts and Guides.
Two controversial changes were also made. The first in the late
80's saw the Uniform review, which saw the sad death knells for
the Cub cap and Scout beret, which although they have been gone
for over five years still seem to crop up as symbols for the
movement. It also gave Packs and Troops the option to decide on a uniform
nether garment (remembering the image of the movement). The
second (very controversial) saw Groups given the option of whether
to allow girls in Scouting in all sections.
The only proviso was that if you allowed girls into a Group
that was it, there was no turning back, and they had to have the
option of staying in Scouting. So, if a Cub Pack went mixed, then
the Troop and Unit it fed into had to be mixed, but not
necessarily the Beaver Colony that fed it. At the moment
approximately 5-10% of Groups in the Country are mixed.
What the future holds
Who knows, the movement is still expanding and moulding itself
to the changes in the world. Over the last few years with the
collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and Asia, the numbers in
the movement have expanded in leaps and bounds.
The World Organisation of Scout Movements has 150 member
organisations. Scouting is now in all but five countries in the
world: China, Cuba, Manymar (formerly Burma), North Korea and
Turkmenistan do not have any Scout movements.
All in all it is believed that the total membership over the
last ninety years of Scouting (and Guiding) is somewhere in the
region of half-a-billion, and that its effects have touched many
There is more
information on the world of scouting on the Scout HQ Website,
accessible from the Links page.