Scout and Other Youth Organization Bands: England

Figure 1.--The English Scouts appear to be photographed in the 1950s or early 60s and are probably performing in a Scout band competition.

Britain is one of the few places in Europe where the Scouts still insist on full uniforms. The Scouts, Cubs, and Guides participating in the band competitions give great attention to dress as their appearance is one element in the competition. The boys make sure their trousers and shorts have a sharp crease and their shoes well shined. The mothers and Scout leaders go over each participant carefully to make sure every last detail of the uniform is just right. The participants wear the regular dress uniform with a few added touches. Some Bands all wear white gloves. The shoes are always black and smartly polished. Often the Cubs wear white gloves and kneesocks, although some Cubs compete in the normal grey knee socks.


I'm not sure when the first Scout bands were organized or when band competitions began. Scout bands may have been organized in the early years of the movement. Actual competitions between those bands may have been much more recent. Available images suggest that competitions were underway by the 1960s or even the 1950s. Unlike American Scouts, however, English Scouts continue to organize Scouts bands which have active programs.


I am not sure what the inspiration for English Scout bands. That appeared to have developed out of drum and bugle corps organized by early Scout groups.


There are quite a number of popular, enthusiastic and well established Scout bands in England. The number has varied over time, in part with the varying popularity of Scouting. A Scout band leader in 2003 reports that there were around 120 Scout Bands. [Garrord]


English Scout Bands tend to have a wide age range. Some members are Cubs as young as 8 years old. There are also many older scouts and leaders. Many bands are mixed groups including girl guides. Other bands are all boy or all girl bands. The age ranges for membership (and other constitutional issues) can vary from band to band, dependant on local committee decision. The UK Scout Association publishs their preferred version of the Band Constitution in a factsheet. As this is what the National Association publish, it must be taken as the national standard, any variations being locally agreed easements. While many Scout bands have Cubs, few have Brownies participating. For those outside Scouting, lower age limits can be a little difficult to grasp. It is true that Cubs and Brownies can join a band. However, as the Scout and Guide Associations have developed separately in the UK, they do not have common age ranges for each section.


This is a somewhat complicated sunject to duiscuss. One source suggests that there tend to be three main musical sections in English Scout bands, the Trumpet Section, Drum Section and the Bell Lyre Section. Another readr disputs this and reports that that there are several different types of Scout bands. Here Scout units are free to establish whatever type of band they wnt. The British Scout Association does not have any regulation defining the nature of Scout bands. The most common are: traditional military-style Marching Bands, American-style Show Bands, Pipe Bands and Drum and Bugle Coirps. [Garrod]


Scout Band is one of a large range of activities open to Scouts--alongside Canoeing, Caving, Mountaineering, Fell-Walking, and countless other activities. The Band is classed as an Activity Unit. A Scout Band leader tells us, "I would say the main role of the band in U.K. Scouting is to add another dimension to young people's experience--to allow them the opportunity to learn and perform music together--and to do this in a Scouting setting, using Scouting ethics and methods." [Garrod] Some bands give great attention to competitions. Other bands are not usually entered in competitions, but prefer the role of ambassadors, promoting the cause and the aims of scouting and guiding in general and adding a musical interest to that experience. Scout bands often play an important role in their local community, which includes leading parades on Remembrance Sunday, St. George's Day, Guides Thinking Day, opening of the Christmas lights, and various fetes and carnivals throughout the year. A Scout Band leader comments on competitions, "In my opinion, competitions or choosing not to enter competitions is secondary to this. Having said that, I think that we (Lincoln District Scout Band) may be quite unusual, or even unique, in the fact that we maintain a high standard of drill and musicianship, yet we actively choose not to compete. Lincoln District Scout Band chooses not to enter competitions, but prefers instead, to concentrate on promoting wider interest in Scouting and Guiding through the music and displays that we perform." [Garrod] Most good bands do participate in competitions. The U.K. Scout Association sponsor these competitions. Scout bands are not the only youth band in Britain. Other goups such as the Boys' Brigade also sponsor bands. The Traditional Youth Marching Band Association (TYMBA) also sponsor band competitions. Other goups sponsoring competitions include: the British Youth Band Association (BYBA), and the Drum Corps United Kingdom (DCUK).

Actual Bands

There are about 250 Scout Band in Britain. Some of the most accomplished include: Bournemouth Scout Band, 3rd Davyhulme Scout & Guide Band, Darwen & District Scout & Guide, Dolphin Marching Band, Enfield District Scout Band, 14th Eastleigh Scout & Guide Band, Halesowen Scout Band, Heath Hayes Scout & Guide Band, 1st Hook Scout & Guide Band, 5th Leek St Mary's Scout & Guide Band, 10th Leicester Scout & Guide Band, Lincoln District Scout Band, Medina Marching Band (Isle of Wight), Northampton Scout Band, Spen Valley Scout & Guide Band, Stone Scout & Guide Band, 17th Tonbridge Scout & Guide Band, Walthamstow Scout & Guide Band, and Wigston Scout & Guide Band. Some bands like the Halesowen Scout Band are a marching band from the West Midlands (England) that were formed as recently as 1975 as a district Scout band, which means that members are drawn up from different Scout groups throughout the Halesowen district. The Halesowen Scout district includes Hasbury, 1st Halesowen, Coombes Wood, Lapal, Hill and Cakemore, Romsley, Cradley and others.

Other Youth Organizations

The vast majority of the youth organization bands in England are Scout bands. There are other youth organizations in Britain that also sponsor marching bands. One such group is the Boys' Brigade. There are also independent bands not associated with any larger youth organization. An example here is the Prince of Wales Marching Band. The Band Master writes, "My name is Richard Burston and I am the bandmaster of the Prince of Wales Marching Band. I have been browsing through your interesting web pages of the history of the Boys Brigade and came to the area referring to various marching bands of other organisations and found ourselves listed amongst some of the accomplished bands in the Scout movement, I thank you for that compliment but would bring one point to your attention, we are not a Scout band nor ever have been. We were formed in 1997 as an independant youth marching band in the valley town of Pontypool in S. Wales. We are a traditional style band that would properly be called a Corps of Drums due to our instrumentation of drums, bugles and bell lyres." [Burston]


Many Scout and other youth organization bands belong to the Traditional Youth Marching Band Association (TYMBA). The TYMBA describes itself as a U.K. based organisation representing youth marching bands which perform music and drill in a traditional British Military style. The TYMBA is itself a member of the British Federation of Youth Marching Bands Organisations. Many British Scout Bands compete in the National Class. The TYMBA National Class is one class of many. Here we need to list all the classes to understand the progression between them, and how many classes there are in the system. Scot Bands attend competitions throughout the year which are organized by other members of TYMBA. At these contests (usually held at schools), they perform contest routines which consists of a marching display while playing music. They compete against other bands who are members of TYMBA and we are judged strictly by TYMBA adjudicators who consist mainly of ex-servicemen. The members of TYMBA attend the final contest at the end of the year which is held by TYMBA itself, and is a very prestigious event.


The correct Band uniform in proscribed by the British scout Association. The BSA states, "Members of a Scout and Guide band must wear the uniform of their parent Association. Members of a Scout and Guide Band may wear the same colour Neckerchiefs, which may be different from the feeder units. Members of Scout and Guide Marching Bands are allowed to wear appropriate activity dress when taking part in some classes of competition, e.g. Showmanship. Correct Scout or Guide Uniform is to be worn to collect any awards at such competitions. Unless authorised by the responsible Commissioners, correct Scout and Guide uniform is to be worn on all other public appearances." [BSA, FS120217] It has been a dispensation for many years, that Scout Bands be allowed to wear additional accoutrements to their standard uniforms. This is covered in Rules of the Association which allows for these additional items: "white gloves, belts and socks; lanyard around the shoulder; protective clothing for drummers; Drum Major's sash and/or cords; Orderly Sergeant's plain sash or white music pouch; beret with arrowhead badge". [BSA Rule 10.17(b)] If you search the web for images of U.K. Scout Bands you may well see different additional items to the above. In strict terms, bands who follow Rule 10.17(b) are wearing uniform which agrees with the Rules of the U.K. Scout Association. As a result white gloves, belts and socks are often added to the regiular Scout uniform to give it a dressy look as was the case of the Scouts pictured here (figure 1). Attention to the uniform is an element in the judging at band competitions. The band members often have highly polished shoes. Some bands will even wearsocks over their shoes to make sure the shoes are not scuffed before they preform. The UK Scout Uniform has undergone two major changes, one of them quite recently. The images of Scout Bands uniforms shown here and on severl other pages show some of the older unifoems. We hope that readers will supply some more recent images so that we can supply a more complete archive of UK Scout Band images through the ages.

Cub Band Groups

As far as we know, the only formal activity with instruments was with Scout bands. We note a few images of all Cub musical groups. We are not sure if they are actually Cub groups or simply units of a large Scout band. Possibly a small Cub group could organize a buggle/drum corps, but more likely they are part of a larger Scout band. The Cubs here are dressed justvlike the Cubs we have seen with some Scout bands with white gloves, white kneesocks, and black shoes.


British Scout Association (BSA). Band Constitution Factsheet- FS120217, revised January 2000).

British Scout Association (BSA). Rules of the Association - Rule 10.17(b).

Burston, Richard. Prince of Wales Marching Band Band Master, E-mail, December 25, 2005.

Garrod, Allister. Bandmaster, Lincoln District Scout Band, E-mail message, December 26, 2003.


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Created: February 25, 2000
Spell checked: December 26, 2003
Last updated: 3:23 PM 12/25/2005