English Baden Powell Scout Association

Figure 1.--This photograph shows the traditional British scout iniform in the 1960s before the uniform was changed.

The United Kingdom has one dominate Scout association, unlike many European countries where the Scout movement is splintered. There are, however, several small Scout associations in the U.K. The U.K. plays host to three independent associations in addition to the mainstream Scout Association. The largest is the Baden-Powell Scouts’ Association (BPSA), closely followed by the pan-European Fédération du Scoutisme Européen (FSE). The best known of these associations is BPSA.

Advance Party Report (1966)

Baden-Powell helped popularise the wearing of shorts having brought the idea back to the UK following his experiences in India and South Africa. These then becoming almost a trademrk of the Scout uniform around the world (except innAmerica) along with neckers and woggles. As part of the Advance Party Report in Britain the Scout Association made numerous changes to the Scout uniform as well as to the promise and Law and programme. A lot of Troops disregarded the order to move from shorts to trousers or reverted to shorts whilst at camp or undertaking adventerous activities. Many Troops even to this day will allow the boys (and girls) to change into 'activity gear' once the formal parts of their meetings or camps have taken place. This gear will not usually be uniform although most Groups will have printed or embroidered t-shirts with their own logos or names on.

Baden Powell Scouting Established (early 1970s)

Although relatively small compared to the Scout Association the Baden-Powell Scout Association (BPSA or BP Scouts for short) is a second Scouting organisation in the United Kingdom. Its membership wanted to retain the values and aims as laid down by BP and formed following the Advance Party report. The BPSA aims to preserve Robert Baden-Powell’s original training scheme, including the uniform and badges. The Baden-Powell Scouts’ Association (BPSA) began as a splinter group which broke away from the mainstream UK Scout Association following publication of the Advanced Party Report in 1966 which they saw as junking most of Robert Baden-Powell’s original training scheme. The organisation was formally established in the early 1970s and overcame some early setbacks to become the largest independent Scout body in the UK. The Baden Powell Scouts still hold to many of the early traditions of Scouting. The boys also still have great pride in their traditional uniform.


The BP Scouts follow the same basic levels as the old-line Scout Assocition, but have reinstituted some of the old traditions. The Cubs still do the grand howel where they say the "dib dib dib" and hold two fingers up on each hand as the wolf cub ears. The boy scouts still have the old 10 laws to remember.

Specialized Units

The BP Scouts also have Sea Scout and Air Scout Troops who have the option of different coloured shirts and shorts.

Figure 2.--Baden Powell Scouts not only have a traditional uniform, but also give more attention to traditional Scouting activities. This image was taken in July 1993 on the West Highland Way in Scotland. The Scouts are English Scouts on the week-long West Highland Way long distance walk. It runs from from Glasgow to Fort William.


BP Scouts are not old fashioned regarding their programme, aviation, space and other topidcs can be persued but they do not believe in having a paid Headquarters staff, sponsored badges, the revised Law & Promise etc and prefer t stay with traditional scouting skills such as camping, pioneering, hiking, survival skills etc.


What is interesting is that in Britain there has been a steady and quite fast decline in membership of the Scout Association, especially by older members, whereas the BP Scouts have managed to maintain good numbers and tend to retain their older members. This probably has little to do with uniform and more to do with the programms offered but it does show that boys are not put off at the prospect of wearing traditional uniforms. The BP Scouts have always accepted girls and have mixed as well as single gender groups. The girls wear skirts instead of shorts.

Baden Powell Scout Uniforms

As part of being the country’s leading proponent of traditional Scouting, the BPSA has remained faithful to the uniform and badges in place in 1959 (the last uniform review before APR), which had developed from the original designs of Baden-Powell over the intervening 40. They are most distinctive because they have retained berets, shorts and short-sleeved shirts as part of the Boy Scout uniform and caps for Wolf Cubs. Very recently some troops have permitted trousers at least for formal duties but shorts are worn by all from beavers to adults most of the time.

Uniform Details

The uniforms of the different BP Scout levels have various destinctive features. The uniform adopted in the 1970s was worn for three decades. Beavers wore red garter tabs. Cubs from 8 to 11 years wore a green cap with yellow piping, Group scarf and woggle, green jumper, grey shorts, grey knee-length socks with green garter tabs and black or brown shoes or boots. Scouts from 11 to 15 years wore the full traditional unifrom that Baden-Powell designed, except they wear berets instead of the Smokey Bear (lemon squeezer) hat. The boys wear a green beret, Group scarf and woggle, khaki short-sleeved shirt and shorts, brown leather belt with brass Scout emblem buckle, khaki knee-length socks with green garter tabs and black or brown shoes or boots. They also wore white lanyards with the scarf/neckerchief. Senior boys from 15 to 18 year wear a similar uniform with a maroon beret and garter tabs and maroon epaulettes. The older Rover Scouts 18 year and older wear green epaulettes. Major changes were made to the uniform in 2000.


The above uniforms are pretty much standard although there are some variations - e.g. blue shorts instead of grey or khaki etc. Some Groups also have Beavers (5 to 8 year olds. The Beavers wear a green cap with yellow piping, Group scarf and woggle, grey jumper, shorts and knee-length socks with green garter tabs, black or brown shoes or boots. This section is not strictly traditional, however, so a lot of Groups don’t have them. One Baden Powell scout master stresses that his troop still wears short pants. They believe that scouting should be run the old way like Baden Powell wanted so they still to this day wear the uniform that Baden Powell set out.


Girls are fully integrated into the BPSA, unlike the mailine BSA where girls participate in Beavers and Cubs, but not Scouts. The uniform is essentially the same, but alternatives for girls is green skirts. [DNS]

Figure 3.--This photograph shows a modern Baden Powell scout troop. The photograph was taken in the 1990s.


The 'Smokey Bear' or wide rimmed hat is an alternative to the beret, a descision made at group level. There are still several BPSA groups that wear these (although most groups choose not to due to there expense). A destinguishing aspect of BP Scouts has been the continued used of short trousers after they were dropped by the BSA, except or Cubs, in 1969. At the end of 2003 the BPSA changed their uniform policy to allow groups to wear trousers of a uniform design, alternative choosen at group level. [DNS}

Reader Comments

A British reader writes, "The BPSA now have several Groups in the United Sttes, South America, Australia and Europe as well as here in the United Kingdom. Having experienced both the Scout Association and the BP Scouts (although individual Groups can vary immensly) I much prefer the latter as it comes across as more genuine, has a far better training programme revolving around the outdoors and really promotes the Patrol System and individual leadership skills."


DNS, E-mail message, January 25, 2004.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 8:55 PM 6/4/2007