English Boy Scouts


Figure 1.--This photograph shows what an early English scout uniform looked like. This photograph was probably taken in the 1910s. Notice the colored bands on the knee socks.

Scouting began in England during 1907 and was based on Robert S.S. Baden-Powell's ideas, and ideas he borrowed from others organizing youth movements, and his book--Scouting for Boys. The book and program proved to have universal appeal. After a debate within the Brotish Scouting movement, Scouting was promoted and quickly spread worldwide. Some aspects of the program vary around the world, but the principles of the Scout Promise and Law unite the world brotherhood of Scouting and prepare boys for adulthood in today's world. We have only limited chronolgical information on English Scouting. While we have a variety of historical images, often they are not dated. We have begun to collect some dated images which will show us how the English Scout uniform evolved over time. The English Scout uniform was of course very important as many countries used it as a basis for the scout uniform in their countries when the movement owas founded. These early uniforms or at least certain elements of them endured for decades as the basic Scout uniform worn around the world. The principal English Scout Association is Baden Powell's Boy Scout Assocition now called the Scouts. In the early years the British Boy Scouts posed a serious challenge and lead in the spread of Scouting overseas. More recently the Baden Powell Scouts were formed. One of the important issues concening Scouting was who would sponsor Scout troops. This was especially important at the beginning of the movement as the rask of organizing large numbers of new troops provided a challenge. It was one reason that Baden-Powell first worked with the Boys' Brigade. English conventions on wearing the uniform are quite different than American practices. American Scouts tend to wear uniform most of the time in camp, whereas British practice is to get the kids out of uniform as soon as possible, in order to keep the uniform itself crisp for formal occasions. One English Scouter reports trying to get their Cubs to wear Pack teeshirts. In his Group uniform does not cause much of a conflict--possibly because most of the members wear school uniform, and so Cub or Scout uniform is no big deal

History

Scouting began in England during 1907 and was based on Robert S.S. Baden-Powell's ideas, and ideas he borrowed from others organizing youth movements, and his book--Scouting for Boys. The book and program proved to have universal appeal. After a debate within the Brotish Scouting movement, Scouting was promoted and quickly spread worldwide. Some aspects of the program vary around the world, but the principles of the Scout Promise and Law unite the world brotherhood of Scouting and prepare boys for adulthood in today's world.

Baden-Powell

As a youth, Robert Baden-Powell greatly enjoyed the outdoors, learning about nature and how to live in the wilderness. After returning as a military hero from service in Africa, Baden-Powell discovered that English boys were reading the manual on stalking and survival in the wilderness he had written for his military regiment. Gathering ideas from Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard, and others, he rewrote the manual as a non-military nature skill book and called it Scouting for Boys. To test his ideas, Baden-Powell brought together 22 boys to camp at Brownsea Island, off the coast of England. This historic campout was a success and resulted in the advent of Scouting. Thus, the imagination and inspiration of Baden-Powell, later proclaimed Chief Scout of the World, brought Scouting to youth the world over. 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 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.

Scouting for Boys

B-P. met with various influential people in youth movements across the country, and was pursuaded 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 Bournmouth). Scouting for Boys was initially printed in six fortnightly parts, and sold very quickly. Baden-Powell had originally intented the scheme outlined in Scouting for Boys to supplement the programmes of youth organisations that were in existance 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 Terratorials 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.


Figure 2.--These English Scouts are hiking in a photograph probably taken in the 1940s. Notice the colored cuff on the knee socks.

Expanding horizons

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 1910, 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.

Racism in British Scouting

Unlike America, few blacks lived in Britain in the 1900s when Baden Powell founded Scouting. Britain, however, governed a vast colonial empire populated by non-whites. As a result of their position of power over these non-white populations, the idea that white Britons were superior people was a widely held opinion throughout Britain. Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The white man's burden," published in 1898, consisely summarized the attitude of the British people: "Take up the White Man's burden--Send forth the best ye breed--, Go, bind your sons to exile To serve your captives' need; To wait, in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild--, Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child ...." [Kipling] Several authors have raised the issue of Baden Powell's racism. [Rosenthal, Character Factory] Given the iconic staturec of Baden Powell in Scoiting, many in the movement or influenced by the movement, object to any criticism of the legendary founder of Scouting. The objection is especailly vehement on the subject of racism and it is such a serious charge in the modern context. At the time of Scouting's founding, issue of race were generally regarded as of little consequence. There are many statements and writings by Baden Powell that are indeed blantanly racist and in the modern context, offensive. Even his serious defenders do not deny this. There are many examples. Baden-Powell's mnemonicdevice for 'N' in Morse code was a cartoon of 'Nimble Nig' (the dot) being chased by a crocodile (the dash). [Macleod, pp. 212-214] The general response to the charges of racism is that "B-P was no more racist than most Englishmen of his time, indeed in many ways less." [Buruma] Some authors do not accept this argument. One writes, "The issue, of course, is not whether Baden-Powell was more or less racist than anyone else, but whether his racist thinking tells us something important about the originator of a significant social movement whose professed ideals transcended race." [Rosenthal, letter] Here we are not sure just how Baden Powell initially envisioned Scouting. The competition with the British Boy Scouts had a significant impact on Baden Powell and British Scouting, giving it a more international inclusive outlook. Indeed Baden Powell worked diligently to bring Scouting to non-white boys. He succeeded to a degree in India, but failed to gain Scouting for South African blacks. In America where Powell had much less influence, it would be a generation before many blacks could participate in Scouting. At the time British colonial officials opposed both steps. Baden Powell wrote in 1926, "The question stands with the politicians just where it did 20 years ago. They do not look forward to what is due to the native." [Buruma]

World tours and Jamborees

Baden Powell 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.

Chronology

We have only limited chronolgical information on English Scouting. While we have a variety of historical images, often they are not dated. We have begun to collect some dated images which will show us how the English Scout uniform evolved over time. The English Scout uniform was of course very important as many countries used it as a basis for the scout uniform in their countries when the movement owas founded. These early uniforms or at least certain elements of them endured for decades as the basic Scout uniform worn around the world. Carolyn Soto published a photographic study, The Boy Scouts depicting Scounting in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States during the 1980s.

Associations

The principal English Scout Association is Baden Powell's Boy Scout Assocition now called the Scouts. In the early years the British Boy Scouts posed a serious challenge and lead in the spread of Scouting overseas. Since the 1960s there has been a small breakaway association--The Baden Powell Scouts. Quite a number of other grouups have played a role in the history of British Scouting: Woodcraft Folk, The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, Kibbo Kift, Life Pioneers, British Scout Federation, Boys' Life Brigade, British Pathfinder Scouts Association, the Outlanders, the Federation of European Scouts UK Association, and other smaller groups. During the early phase of English Scouting various Scouting organisations existed. Many were sponsored by other youth movements such as the Boys' Brigade and the Church Lads' Brigade. The London Diocese, the Salvation Army and the Young Men's Christian Association also sponsored Scout troops.

Social Class

Class divisions have tended to be sharper than in America, especially before World War II. The "class flavor" of both the Boys' Brigade and Boy Scouts meant that working-class boys were less interested in participating than middle-class boys. Working-class boys tended to be less willing to accept the discipline as well as the support for the existing social system that these groups supported. There was some of the flavor of the public school in early British scouting. At the time uniforms were associated with the military and private schooling. In addition the cost, especially the cost of the Scout uniform made it difficult for working-class children to participate. Boys Scouts might be taunted in some areas. A sample jeer was, "Here come the Brussel Sprouts, The stinking, blinking louts." [Macleod, p. 222.] Another factor was the goody-goody image that was a particular anatema among working-class boys. The social class trends were reflected in the sponsoring groups. Scout troops were organized at private schools and grammar schools, but rarely if ever at secondary modderns.


Figure 3.--English Cubs still wear the same green peaked caps with yellow piping they have worn since Cub Scouting was founded in 1916. Except for the shorter shorts, the modern uniform is little changed from Baden Powell's original.

Scout Levels

At first Scouting only had one level, but soon Wolf Cubbing was added and then Rover Scouts. The demise of the Boy Scouts, Wolf Cubs and Rover Scouts. Mahor changes occurred to Scouting in the 1960s. 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. Beavers were added in the 1980s.

Cub Scouting

Orignally B-P. had invisaged 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. To address the problem of what to do with the younger brothers, Scouting first just ignored the formation of unauthorized Troops, taking no steps to dicourage or promote them. Basen-Powell finally in 1914 revealed a basic scheme in The Headquarters Gazette for the training of what he first called the "Junior Scouts". Two years later in 1916 he introduced a more detailed program which he called Wolf Cubs. The program was based around the enormously popular Jungle Book of his close friend Rudyard Kipling. The Cubs were to have their own distinct uniform, badges, motto, sign, salute, etc. This was an important decission as nothing could be more dertimental to the succes of a program for teenagers than to allow younger boys to participate. Note that the lore assocaited with English Cubbing focuses on Africa. When American Cubbing was belatedly introduced many years later, the focus of the lore was on North American Native Americans.


Figure 4.--These British Scouts are headed for the first American National Jamboree in 1937. Both regular and Sea Scouts are in the group. Notice that none of the boys wear anything but the Scout uniform.

Rover/Venture Scouts

Wolf Cubs dealt with those too young to be Scouts. Buy what was to be done with teenagers that were to old to be Scouts. In 1917, just before the end of World War I, Baden Powell set up a scheme for Senior Scouts. They changed their name to Rover Scouts in 1918. The program was for anyone over the age of 18, with Outdoor Adventure and Service as the mainstays of the programme.

Beavers

The latest addition to the English Scout familiy is Beaver Scouts. In the early 1980's Scout Groups were allowed to take in boys in the 6-8 age range for a new Beaver group. Although at this point the Beavers were not part of the Scout Association, only their Leaders were allowed in. This changed on April 1, 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. Beavers have proved to be a very successful program for English Scouts

Girl Guides

Baden-Powell did not just encounter the problem of unauthorized patrols of younger boys, he also had to contend with the girls--some of whom were also keen on the idea of Scouting. The Cjief Scout as early as 1909 at the Crystal Palace Rally, came across a Patrol, who claimed to be Girl Scouts. Initially he favored 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 Sufferagette 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.

Sponsorship

One of the important issues concening Scouting was who would sponsor Scout troops. This was especially important at the beginning of the movement as the rask of organizing large numbers of new troops provided a challenge. It was one reason that Baden-Powell first worked with the Boys' Brigade. In America the YMCA played a key role in erly organizational efforts. This does not appear to have been the case in Britain. We do not at this time have details on troop sponsorship. We do know that churches were important sponsors. We have less information about schools. In America state schools often sponsored troops, we are not sure if this was the case in Engalnd, although we do nore troops at private schools. We believe that many early Scout and Guide troops organized without local sponsors, in some cases sharing facilities. We believe that this has continued to current times. Hopefull our British readers will provide some insights on this.

Identification

It is not always easy to identify which Scout group boys belong to in avilable photographs. Cubs of course have destinctive uniforms, but English Scouts have the same basic uniform regardless of level. There are, however, some small destinctions regarding garter tabs on kneesocks and epaulettes.
Shoulder knot and red garter tabs: Baden Powell Scouts
Very dark green garter tabs: Cub
Emerald green garter tabs: Boy Scout (11-15 years)
Maroon garter tabs and epaulettes: Senior Boy Scout (16-18 years)
Red garters with green epaulettes: Rover Scout (over 18 years)

Organization


Activities

Some of the activities most associated with English Scouting, like Scouting around the world, are of course outdoor pursuits such as hiking, campaing, cooking, and fireside singing and story telling. Scouting of course involves much more. The uniforms thus have to be designed for a wide range of activities. Scouts as uniformed groups have participated in a variety of activities from bands to summer camp as well as moder pusuits like rocket launching and computing. There are also find raising programs. One popular fund raiser was "bob a job day". Uniforms were designed for rough outdoor wear, but many boys also wore them to school and church. We are not sure there is any activity exclusevely associated with English Scouting. We are also not familar with any important English Scout program involving military training. Hunting was an activity in American Scouting, but we have not noted it as an activity in English Scouting. Many uniformed groups participated in similar activities such as bands and outdoor games, other groups has more destinctive programs such as weapons training pursued by the Hitler Youth.

Events

The most important day for English Scouts is St. George's Day--the patron saint of England. Hero of the George and the dragon legend. St. George was a famous knight who, according to legend, slayed a dragon and saved a princess! He also converted many people to Christianity in 300 A.D. St. George was a cavalryman who died a martyr's death in 303 A.D. when Rome was governed by an anti-Christian emperor Diocletian. Later, he became associated with the legend of a mythical dragonkiller, known both in Europe and in Asia. As the legend fitted to symbolize the victory of Christianity over paganism it got reflected in iconography as well. Hence the image of St. George as a brave warrior, victor and miracle-worker. And this is why the so-called George's Thaler was considered one of the most precious amulets in the 16th-17th century European wars. Although St. George became England's patron saint in the 13th century, replacing Edward the Confessor, very little is known about the man himself--save that he lived in the 4th century and died in Lydda, Palestine. St. George's Day is celebrated on April 23rd. English Scouts on St George's Day parade and renew their Scout Promises during this special day.

Meetings

On occasion boys from different youth groups or boys in the same group from different countries had the opportunity to meet or encounter each other. Circumstances varied. The most common occasions were events like Scout Jamborees. There were other friedly interactions. In some countries there were conflicts. Rival youth groups in Germany fought eah other during the 1920s and 30s. After the NAZis seized power in Germany they incorporated the Scouts into the Hitler Youth. Then there were contacts with other Nordic groups in neighboring countries and even Scouts in other countries. There were a few propaganda meetings with Scouts, such as visit to England by a Hitler Youth group, but such contacts were overall not incouraged by Hitler Youth officials.

Overseas Scouts

Americans began arriving in Britain immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was decided not to bring families over as this would stress the logistical system. Even General Eisenhower did not bring Mamie over. This changed after the war. The advent of the Cold war meant an American commitment to back the western democracies. This time the American military brought families along. The American tendency was to create little American communities at the bases abroad. This meant dependent schools and other facilities. The Americans organized Cub Packs and Scout Troops. A reader tells us about the American Scouts in Britain.

Girls

A major controversy in the 1990s has been admitting girls to Scouting. English Scout Groups have been 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. In 2000 approximately 5-10% of English Scout Groups in the Country are mixed.

Uniform

The first Scout uniform adopted by the new British Scout association appeared in 1906. The uniform adopted for the Cubs, especially the cap also became a standard. The English Scout association has made several major changes in the uniform. Perhaps the most significant was the new uniform adopted in 1969 including long pants for the Scouts. The basic organization of Scouting was set in England with the creation of the Scouts in 1906 and the addition of cubbing in 1916. The organizatand has remained unchanged except for the creation of Beaver Scouts in 19??. Most countries initially adopted the British system, although some countries changed the names. The English Scouts from the beginning have give more attention to the uniform than Scouts in many other countries. The English Scouts continue to require a uniform while Scouts in many other countries, especially in Europe, have virtually given up on uniforms.

Boys' Attitudes on Uniforms

Wolf Cubs

I have no information at this time on what Cubs in earlier eras thought of their uniforms. We assume that they were very popular as uniforms often are with younger boys. This would have been especially true in the eraly years of Cubbing. One English Scouter in 1998 reports that he helps out at a local Cub pack where the uniform standards were very low--jeans, tracksuits, trousers, whatever. A new leader decided to smarten up the pack and decided on the traditional uniform. The Scouter reports that he was expecting a lot of complaints but was surprised to find that the boys willingly took to the new uniform and wore it with pride. Even the 10 year olds were happy to wear short trousers as it made them feel part of a team.

Scouts

We have no information at this time about English Scouts' attitudes toward the uniform.

Uniform Conventions

English conventions on wearing the uniform are quite different than American practices. American Scouts tend to wear uniform most of the time in camp, whereas British practice is to get the kids out of uniform as soon as possible, in order to keep the uniform itself crisp for formal occasions. One English Scouter reports trying to get their Cubs to wear Pack teeshirts. In his Group uniform does not cause much of a conflict--possibly because most of the members wear school uniform, and so Cub or Scout uniform is no big deal.

Shields

wenotice a lot of photographs of British Scouts with awards. This include trophies, shoelds or awards boards, or several other types of other awards. e are not entirely surce just what these awards are for. Many appear to be internal awatds for competitions between troops and patrols. Others may be competitions between other Scout units. Some seem to be won by Scout and Cub units combimed. We have few actual details on what these competitions are all about. There are a variety of ways in which units were rated, including attendance, unifirm turn out, fund raising, camp competitions, amd much more. Hopefully our English readers will provide us more details.

Publications

The British Scout Association (BSA) has sponsored quite a range of differnt publications. The most famous publication is Baden Powell's Scouting for Boys. A popular boys' publication Chums, decided in 1909 to sponsor the BBS. Chums (Cassell and Co. London) was a boys' paper with comics launched in 1892. The editors had been working with Baden Powell, but when approached by the break-away British Boy Scouts, they were impressed with the anti-militarism peace message. As a result the editors of Chums decided to promote the BBS. As Chums was read throughout Britain as well as the overseas Dominions, it proved highly successful in spreading the BBS, both within Britain and in British Dominions overseas. Baden Powell's BSA had no comparable overseas outreach. We have only limited information at this time. The best known publication is Scout Magazine. There were also a vriety of annuals. Besides he BSA publicaions ther were a lot of publications about Scoutng.

Personal Experiences

Some personal experiences reported by English Cubs and Scouts about their uniform include:

Ian as a Scout: 1948

Scout at a cub camp.

Anthony: Descides not to join.

Sources

Buruma, Ian. Review of Tim Jeal's biography of Baden-Powell, New York Review of Books, March 15, 1990.

Jeal, Tim. Boys Will Be Boys, a biography of Baden-Powell

Kipling, Rudyard. "The White Man's Burden," McClure's Magazine, February 12, 1899.

Macleod, David I. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 315p.

Rosenthal, Michael. Letter, The Mew York Review of Books, June 28, 1990.







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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 7:02 PM 6/4/2007