Swiss Boy Scout Movement

Figure 1.--This is a photographs of Scouts arriving at the nationl jamboree in Trevano during 1948. It was the first jamboree since World War II began in 1939. Click on the image to see more of the photograph.

The Boy Scouts began to orgnize soon after the movement was founded in Britain (1910) and Guiding began a few years later. Scouting as in the rest of Europe was quickly established as a suitable activity for boys. The movement was still quite small in the early and mid-1920s. One source reports that there were eight groups with 60 Scouts (1926). Lous Blondel from Geneva becomes the Chief Scout (1927). Blondel plays a major role in making Scouting an important institution in Switzerland. Swiss Scouts have their first Rovermoot or national jamboree/campout at Kandersteg (1931). Kandersteg becomes a permanent camping center for Swiss Scouts (1935). The second Rovermoot campout is held near Geneva (1935). The Swiss Scout movement had grown to 97 groups with 6,400 Scouts. Switzeland is a multi-cultural country with German and French speakers as well as a much smaller Italian-speaking country. With rise of the NAZIs in Germany (1933), it was unclear how the different communities would be affected in neighboring Switzerland. We do not know, for example, if there was different attitudes toward Scouting in the different language/etnic comminities. (Scouting was banned n Germany and Italy, but very important in France.) Swiss Scouting fared better during World War II than Scouting in many other European countries. Switzerland was not invaded and occupied by the NAZIs. Many Swiss expected a NAZI invasion. As part of the military preparations during the War, Swiss Scouts were integrated into the Swiss Army as an auxiliary service. Scouting emerged in post-War Switzerland as the major uniformed youth group.


Swiss Scouts organized their first groups a few years adter the movement was founded in Britain (1910). The Scout groups began forming cantonal associations and several (Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Berne, Bâle, Zurich and St.Gallen-Thurgau) when the Swiss Scout Federation (SSF) was founded in Berne (1913). The first Girl Guide groups were formed (1913). The various Guide groups because they were organized locally had a variety of basic belifs, uniforms, and symbols. Scouting as in the rest of Europe was quickly established as a suitable activity for boys. There was some concern about similar activities for girls. There was considerable interest, however, among girls so Guiding gradualy expanded as well. The national Swiss Guide Federation (SGF) was founded (1919). Swiss Scouting fared better during World War II than Scouting in many other European countries. Switzerland was not invaded and occupied by the NAZIs. Many Swiss expected a NAZI invasion. As part of the military preparations during the War, Swiss Scouts were integrated into the Swiss Army as an auxiliary service. Lady Baden Powell visited a Swiss Scout encamplent to honor the SSF's 30th anniversary (1949). The SSF celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Scout Chalet" in Adelboden (1952). The SSF held another Rovermoot in Kandersteg (1953). After World War II, gender attitudes began to change throughout Europe. Coeducation in the schoolds, for example, became the dominant approach. This affected the Scouting movement as well. The SSF and SGF Guides holds Roverschwert (Rover Sword), a joint undertaking and the beginning of the fusion process to form a coed movement. .


Swiss Souct activities evolved largly around the out of doors, survival and first aid. It was clearly a training program to help young boys to become more selfreliant. To that effect, the advancement program, through the different scout ranks was set up to become progressively more proficient in many of the skills necessary to live in a primitive environment without much outside help. Swiss Scouts engage in all the standard Scouting activities enjoyed by Scouts around the world. The standard Scout activities of hiking and camping are an important part of Swiss Scouting and they enjoy some of the most spectacular areas in the world for such activities. An annual camping trip is the highpoint of the year for many Swiss Scout troops. Other activities include crafts. cooking, knot tieing, map reading, pioneering ans a wide range of others. All this provided in learning on how to work with others, give and take leadership and learn to become interdependent with the other Scouts


Some European countries had separate Scout associations for different religions. The Swiss, however, had only one national Scout (SSF) association and one Guide association (SGF). Religious differences were addressed at the troop level. Most troops were organized along religious lines, mostly Protestant and Catholic. There were also interdenominational troops. A Swiss Scouter tells us, "While language was always the prevailing language of the region, it did not create any problem in Scouting. The same with religion. Many of the institutions were led by religious orders and therefore the kids there were of that religion. In camp we always had a religious services for each, the Catholic and the Protestant. There was always respect and tolerance towards each others religion in Scouting. This was not exactly the case in the village (Montana) where I grew up. This was a very catholic area and everything was controlled by the local priest. Therefore there was strong evidence of intolerance toward the non-Catholics. This was also a reason I went to a private school." [Voute]


Most Swiss speak either French or German with smaller populations speaking Italian or Romantsch. While this might seem divisive, Swiss Scouts resolved this with the simple expeient that they speak the language of the majority in any given area. And as children learn French or German as a foreign language in school, it does not present a major problem. The one problem that language does create is that it makes it very difficult for the national association to publish Scoying mterial. Swizerland is not a large country to begin with. This means that Scout publications have small press runs and to publish four editons or even two editions in different languages is prohibitively expensive.Swiss Scouts thus do not have a national scouting handbook.


Swiss Scouts have the same basic levels as Scouting around the world, but there are some differences. There is no separate program for younger children like Beavers in America. (The name varies in different countries. Rather the Beavr program is included in the Wolves (Cub Scouts). Wolves is a program for childen 6 to 12 years of age. I am not sure when Cubbing was founded, but assume it was about 1920. Scouts play an important role in the Cubbing program. The Scouting program was the original program. It is for children 10 to 18 years of age. The Rover/Ranger Scouts are for youths aged 17 to 25+ years. I'm mot sure when the Rovers were organized. Scout Leaders are for adults ages 18 to 30+ years. The age groupings seems to overlap more in Swiss Scouting than in many other national programs. The Swiss Scout Association explains, The reason why the age groups overlap is because we move a Scout to the next level according to his/her maturity, not his/her age."


The Swiss Scout and Guide movements as in othr European countries were founded as separate movements. The two groups after World War II moved to gradually fuse. The Swiss Federation of Scouts and the Swiss Federation of Girl Guides fused in 1987, creating the unified Swiss Scout Movement. The Swiss Scout Movement is now an entirely coed group. The only remnant of the original separation is that girl Rovers continued to be called Rangers.

Special Scout Units

Swiss Scouts have two specialized units, Sea Scouts nd Scouting for the Handicapped.

Sea Scouts

Sea Scoting may seem a strange undertaking in a land-locked country, but Swiss Sea Scouts have access to the country's several large lakes.

Scouting for the Handicapped

A HBU reader tells us that his father decided to organize Scouting for the handicapped. He writes, "Most handicapped at that time lived somewhere in an institutional setting. The modern concept of mainstreaming had not yet ppeared. In fact you might say that my father's work with Handicapped Scouting was an early appearance of this concept. Scout units were organized at these institutions for handicapped children. My father provided them on a monthly basis with program-helps for activities tailor-made for their handicaps. The highlight was always during the Summer months when my father organized regional Summer camps for the Handicapped which our whole family attended and where we functioned as helpers to the handicapped. These Camps provided me with a life-long affinity for the handicapped. We did not just have those regional camps, but we also had large delegations at the National Jamboree in 1948 near Lugano and then at the World Jamboree in 1951 in Austria. Again, our whole family was involved in some way in assisting at these Camps."


Troops, patrols and packs traditionally meet every Saturday afternoon for 3-4 hours. A Swiss Scouter writes, "We spend 98 percent of our time outside in the woods or in the field. I get inside with my cubs three or four times a year, when the weather is clearly unbearable (temperature below -25 Celsius or snowstorm). Otherwise, we're outside."


Kandersteg, to our knowlege, is the only permanent, year round international Scout camp in the world. Every summer there are a few thousand Scouts from every corner of the world camping there.


Swiss Cub-scouts and Boy-scouts wore dark blue corderoy-shorts and the older, Rover-scouts wore dark beige ones with knee-socks. In winter there were corderoy knickers with knee socks or shorts with stockings or tights. Naturally stockings and tights under shorts started to disappear in the 1960s. Lederhosen were never popular in Switzerland and were definitely not worn in Scouting, even in the German-speaking areas. The mandatory parts of the Swiss Scout uniform in the 2000s are the shirt, the neckerchief, sturdy hiking boots, a fire lighter, and of course a Swiss army knife. Optional items are are belt, scout jeans, hat, dagger, etc. A new Scout receives his/her neclerchied and vulgo (scout name) from his unit leader in an initiation ceremony before the whole troop.



A Scouter writes, "I am very intrigued over the wonderful HBU section on the Boy Scouts. I was active in the Scouts from my early youth on in Switzerland and then became a member of the professional service of the American BSA, where I spent 27 years, before taking on the position of Director of the World Scout Foundation in Geneve Switzerland. Now retired from the Scouts I am still active ion Fundraising for a local Hospital. Enclosed you find a picture of me as a "fresh baked" Cub Scout at the age of 7 years in Switzerland. As you can see I wore the long stockings, which were common at that time. The were held up by a waist. As we grew up in the mountains, we wore them all winter long and well into the spring. During son-time we wore long knickers-type ski pants which were held together at the ankles. Once it was a bit less cold it was tradition to wear short pants and stockings. As we grew older these stockings were replaced with either woolen hand knit tights or commercially bought tights. [Voute]

J & S Program

The Swiss Government J & S program supports youth sports and outdoor activities as well as youth leadership training. J & S subsidizes camps for children anf youth 12-18 years of age. They also provide camping supplies like tents, denim square units, ropes, ect. The Swiss Scout Movement participates in the J & S program.


Voute, Tom. E-mail message, May 13, 2006.


Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Chronology Pages:
[Return to the Main chronologies page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Activities] [Biographies] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Essays] [Garments] [Organizations] [Religion] [Other]
[Introduction] [Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Questions] [Unknown images]
[Boys' Uniform Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web organizatiion pages:
[Return to the National Scout page]
[Return to the Main Swiss Youth group page]
[Boys' Brigade] [Camp Fire] [Hitler Youth] [National] [Pioneers] [Royal Rangers] [Scout]

Created: 6:55 PM 5/13/2006
Last updated: 2:48 AM 6/1/2006