The History of Scouting
This page give a brief over view of the History of Scouting and some of the changes that have happened to the movement over its history, this is viewed mainly from a British perspective. More details can be found on related pages.
The birth of an idea
Baden-Powell 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 men 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 these Scouts.
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.
As early as 1908 Scouting was starting in many of the British outposts of the Empire. After a trip to 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.
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 too 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 with out 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’ i 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 Rover Scouts
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 1967.
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 role.
Secondly the Scout and Scouter Uniforms were changed, 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 and second 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 a modernisation of 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 changes in life style and 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 thirty years.
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 superceded 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 known 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.
There are 155 countries with internationally recognised National Scout Organisations. There are more than 28 million Scouts, youth and adults, boys and girls in 216 countries and territories.
There are six countries where Scouting, to WOSM’s knowledge, does not exist; in some it would not be allowed. These are: Andorra, Peoples’s Republic of China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar.
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 more.
Reference: Scouts Base UK.