We should expect to find instruction for leaders as an integral part of any
program developed by Baden-Powell. His experience as a regimental officer had led him to
conclude that his men responded well to training and to action in small groups led by
trained non-commissioned officers. His specialized "Scout" training for
cavalrymen also bore this out. His book on training soldiers in scouting skills, Aids to
Scouting for N.C.-Os. & Men, was clearly meant to be used as part of an organized
group training scheme, under the direction of instructors, and included a note to
instructors. As Baden-Powell wrote there, "The secret of getting successful work out
of your trained men lies in one nutshell - in the clearness of the instructions they
From the first, Baden-Powell envisioned that Boy Scout leaders would need
help in putting on a program for their young charges and included tips for instructors in
the fortnightly pamphlets of Scouting for Boys. But, inasmuch as B-P envisioned Scouting
as supplementary to existing youth programs, such as Boys Brigades and Y.M.C.A's, he
probably did not plan on training courses for leaders in the earliest days of the
Within a short time, the explosion of the Movement as a popular, independent activity
for boys must have made Baden-Powell realize the need for a formalized course of training
for Scoutmasters. He began to encourage local Scouters to put on training events.
Scoutmaster's training camps were held in London in 1910 and Yorkshire in 1911. A lecture
course was given in London in 1911 - three lectures a week for three weeks and was
attended by 32 Scoutmasters. But Baden-Powell wanted his training to be as practical as
possible, and that meant in camp. After seeing one these early training camps in 1913, he
I think we want to arrive, first, at what are the essential points for a Scoutmaster to
know, and to set out to teach these - all others must be subsidiary. Now, I take it the
essentials are what we find laid down in Scouting for Boys. Therefore my idea would be to
take that book as the programme of work, dividing it off into the number of days
available, and then going through it as practically as circumstances will allow. The book
is arranged on that idea. The second point about the training camp would be I think to
give Scoutmasters practical instruction as to how a camp should be run. For this purpose I
should be inclined to pitch the camp as it should be done for a Scout camp - Patrol tent
on its own ground in a wide circle round the central (Scoutmasters) tent. The
Scoutmasters should of course be in Patrols for the course, under their own Patrol Leaders
and so learn Patrol discipline.
As far as possible they should run the camp -taking it in roster and be camp commandant
for the day, quartermaster, and so on, so as to learn practically the work and
requirements of those offices.
The whole principle of the Scout Movement should be impressed in the training, viz.
Backwoodsmanship. with life-saving as an important adjunct.
|Later in 1913 he shaped the course into a formal syllabus, providing for
patrols of five Scoutmasters each, each patrol camping in its own tent. Each Scoutmaster
would take a turn as patrol loader, and each patrol would supply the course Scoutmaster
for one day.
By early 1914 Baden-Powell's outline had developed into a correspondence
course called "Scouting for Scoutmasters." The official Scout publication, The
Headquarters Gazette, featured a different theme each month, with questions for the
Scoutmasters to answer, the results being examined at Headquarters. The topics dealt with
in the course were:
1. Character training
The correspondence course ended with the commencement of World War I, like so many
other features of the Movement not absolutely essential to the task then facing Britain.
But the War also served as an incubation period for greater strides in training
Scoutmasters. In 1919 - with the War over end the Scouts able to focus their attention on
internal matters again Baden-Powell used his training course notes as the outline for his
book, Aids to Scoutmastership. Moreover, it was time to perfect the Scoutmaster's training
course in a camp setting.
2. Self-improvement for making a career
3. Physical health and development
4. Service for others as a basis of religion
5. Boy training methods and national importance
At the same time, Baden-Powell had met success in his efforts to find a suitable
camping spot near London to serve urban youth as a campsite and Scoutmasters as a training
ground After securing the financial support of W. de Bois Maclaren, District Commissioner
for Roseneath, Baden-Powell charged P.B. Nevill to find a suitable camp. Nevill describes
his experience thus:
The entries in my diary show that Maclaren dined with me at Roland House - on the 20th
November 1918. This was at the request of B.P., who sent him to me as he wanted to give a
camping ground for the boys of East London. He said 'you find what you want and I will buy
it.' I told him that what I wanted was a site adjoining Epping or Hainault Forests and I
spent every available week-end on my motor bike touring the area, trying to find
something. The small committee that had been set up viewed one or two sites suggested by
agents. Gilwell was first mentioned to me by a young Assistant Scoutmaster in Bethnal
Green, named Gayfer who said he had come across the estate whilst exploring for bird life.
I went to Gilwell on Saturday, 8th March, 1919. I did not know the extent of the estate at
that time but I found the old notice board advertising its sale on the ground behind a
hedge from this I managed to get the agent's name.
Negotiations were begun to purchase the estate containing 55 acres of land and a rather
dilapidated Georgian country house. By Easter 1919, the purchase process was far enough
along to secure permission for camping at the property, and on the Thursday before Easter
a small group of Rovers from East London became the first Scout campers at Gillwell (note
the spelling, which was in common use until Baden-Powell was created a baron and returned
to the spelling of Gilwell as used in old documents related to the Estate, with three
"l's"). Arriving in the rain, they spent their first night on the cement floor
of the Pigsty, but pitched camp the next morning on the other side of the Orchard, near
the Session Circle.
The purchase cost was £7,000, donated by Maclaren, who gave an additional £3,000 for
improvements to the house. Opening ceremonies were held on July 26, 1919, including a
rally of 700 Scouts. Mrs. Maclaren cut the ribbons and Baden-Powell presented Maclaren
with the Silver Wolf.
With the camping ground in place, it was now time to hold the Scoutmasters
training course. On July 24, Imperial Headquarters had sent out an announcement of the
FIRST SCOUTMASTERS TRAINING COURSE
AT GILWELL PARK
- The Course will commence on Monday 8th September will last till Friday 19th.
- Members should book to Chingford and must leave Liverpool Street by the 5.5 P.M.
train. A brake will meet this train at Chingford Station.
- The Course will be carried out in Camp. Tents, ground sheets, and cooking utensils
will be provided there.
- A fee of £5 will be charged for the Course in order to cover incidental expenses.
All catering will be arranged by, and the cooking done in, the patrols into which members
of the Course will be divided on arrival; these expenses will be shared equally by the
members of the patrols.
- The Course of instruction will be based on SCOUTING FOR BOYS, and the Chief Scout's
book "AIDS TO SCOUTMASTERSHIP," and will include lectures and practical work in
campcraft, nature study, general scouting, organization and methods of running patrols and
- Those attending the Course should wear correct Scout uniform; shorts and not
breeches should be worn except for medical reasons.
- The following articles must be brought:
Applications to attend this Course should be sent to Imperial Headquarters by
Saturday 9th August.
Baden-Powell added a note to some of the announcements, "Your name has been
included in the first course, B-P."
- A. SCOUTING FOR BOYS, which should have been read beforehand.
- B. Notebook and sketchbook.
- C. Blankets, clothing and personal equipment as given in SCOUTING FOR BOYS, pages 109-110.
Sometime in late summer a training course attended by 25 Scouters was conducted by the
East London Association, under its own leadership for members of that group.
The first Wood Badge course was held, as scheduled, from September 8th to 19th.
Although Baden-Powell had outlined the course syllabus, he did not lead the course, but
left that to the newly appointed Camp Chief, Francis "Skipper" Gidney. Gidney
was a young man who had served as a captain during the War and had immense energy and,
most important from Baden-Powell's view, tremendous spirit. His Assistant Scoutmaster was
Capt. F.S. Morgan, District Commissioner for Swansea.
Baden-Powell visited the camp Friday night and Saturday, together with Major A.G. Wade,
Joint Managing Secretary of the Association and the man who was to organize the first
World Jamboree the next year. The Founder a gave a talk to the Scoutmasters, and led a
tracking demonstration on Sunday morning filled with personal anecdotes. Other
distinguished Scouters who served as instructors were Deputy Chief Commissioner Col. Ulick
G.C. de Burgh, Deputy Chief Scout Percy W. Everett (who had been a part of Scouting since
the Brownsea camp), Hubert S. Martin (later Director of the Scouts International Bureau),
R.S. Wood (who ran Gilwell for a time when Gidney was sick), P.B. Nevill, Rev. R. Hyde,
and Imperial Headquarters Assistant Secretary D.F. Morgan.
The participants enjoyed good weather, except for one heavy thunderstorm which, as
Gidney wrote, "had its instructive value also!" These men had come from
different parts of England and Wales, were of various ages and different professions. The
roster of the first Wood Badge course follows:
Capt. F. Gidney, Camp Chief, Gilwell Park.
The men were organized into three patrols, each one taking his turn as patrol leader,
"second," "bottom" and the other turns in the order of patrol jobs,
including cooking. Although in some camp schemes a late lunch was the big meal of the day,
Gidney scheduled the main meal in the evening, to insure no one missed any of the
Capt. . F.S. Morgan, Glamorgan.
Maj. the Rev. C.P. Hines, Gt. Yarmouth.
C. Robson, Colchester.
L.J. Berlin, Manchester.
Rev. W.A. Butler, Sussex.
M.F. Bunt, Sussex.
J.R. Davies, Cheshire.
J.F. Wilkinson, Cheshire.
A.W. Todd, Cheshire.
E. Fay, Yorkshire
J. Kent, Essex.
Ronald Firth, Suffolk.
R. Hammond , London.
C.C. Eiffe, London.
Rev. H.W. Nevill, London.
S. Phillips, London.
D. Earle, London.
Rev. W.E. Baker, London.
R. Lang, Cambridge.
|The program of the first course was summarized by Gidney:
Syllabus of Work
Troop Organisation. - Patrols formed - Practiced calls, etc. - Drill with
staves - Troop formation - Patrol formation on the march (by day and night) -- Scouts'
pace --Typical investiture - "Erogonyama" chorus -- -How to "break"
the flag -- Camp hygiene -- physical exercises (the six from "Scouting for
Campcraft -- (a) Campsites. Selection -- Sanitation -- Fires -- Pitching and
Striking camps (b) Camp expedients. Illuminations Kitchen Implements -- Beds
and sleeping appliances -- Personal comforts -- Camp tidiness Tent expedients --
Pioneering. -- (a) Axmanship - Felling Use of crosscut saw, wedges,
grindstone -- Use care of knife. (b) Construction.Rope and trestle bridge building
across water -- Simple and swinging derrick -- Use of tackle.
Woodcraft. - (a) Birds and animals. -- Those found in the locality, their
habits and uses -- Use of Nature notebook. (b) Trees, - How to identify them near to and
far off during four seasons -- How to get the Scout keen on the subject.
Signcraft. (a) Signaling Hand Whistle -- Smoke - How to
teach Semaphore and Morse Pitfalls to avoid. (b) Nature trails. (c) Sand tracking
(carried out by the Chief Scout).
Games. -- (a) Scouting.Description and actual playing of each type. (b)
Camp. - Played for one hour each day.
Fieldwork. -- (a) Measurements.Personal Distances -- Heights
Areas River Widths. (b) Mapping. How to read making sketch maps.
Prismatic compass Panoramic drawing Reports.
Study Circle Work. - (a) "Aids to Scoutmastership," (b) Headquarters
"Book of Rules." (c) "Rules for Rover Scouts and Wolf Cubs," (d)
"Our Aims, Methods and Needs." (e) "Sunday and the Scout."
Pathfinding. - Patrols sent out separately with sealed orders to from various
points across Epping Forest, for eight-hour stretch - Leaf collecting - Report of journey
- Sketch map of trek - Panoramic drawing from given point,
The first Wood Badge feast was not prepared by the course participants, but was held in
London at the Scout's Club, where Everett treated them to lunch. They then enjoyed a tour
of Imperial Headquarters, and a final talk the Chief Scout, who encouraged each
participant to start a course in his neighborhood using Aids to Scoutmastership as a
The course having been completed, it remained to find a suitable award for the
participants. Baden-Powell came upon the necklace of hand-carved beads he had taken from
Zulu Chief Dinizulu during the Ashanti campaign in 1888. One bead was awarded, to be worn
on a leather thong pinned to the shirt.
Thus began the tradition of advanced leadership training for Scouters -
another mighty oak grown from the acorn planted at Gilwell.
The story of Baden-Powell's early Scoutmaster training efforts and much of the
information on the first Wood Badge course can be found in E.E. "Josh" Reynolds
the "The Scout Movement" (Oxford University Press, 1950), Reynolds was an early
Scouter and come to Gilwell as a Deputy Camp Chief in 1920.
Other sources include two books published by The Scout Association , The Gilwell Book
(10th edition, 1965) Gilwell Story (1969), the latter written by The Scout Association's
veteran General Editor, Rex Hazlewood, M.B.E., a Gilwell Deputy Camp Chief for more than
The information on the staff, weather, and program for the first course is from
Gidney's report, "Scoutmasters' Training Course" in the Headquarters Gazette,
October 1919, page 189. This material, together with the announcement of the first course,
the roster of participants in the first course and facts relating to the Dinizulu beads,
comes from the archives of The Scout Association, and was graciously provided by the
Archivist, Paul Moynihan, and his predecessor, Graham A. Coombe.
|Compliments of The Journal of Scouting History
1001 Fannin, Suite 3700, Houston, Texas 77002
Copyright © Nelson R. Block, 1998
Baden-Powell and James E. West at Schiff
Scout Reservation. B-P was attempting to sell Wood Badge in
the USA on August 15-16, 1935. Schiff Scout
Reservation was located in Mendam New Jersey, and comprised
470 acres, compared to Gilwell Park's 57 acres, which was
where the first Wood Badge Course was held in the USA on May
A World War interrupted the progression of
Wood Badge in the United States until early 1948 then Chief
Scout Executive Fretwell appointed a small committee to get
Wood Badge Training underway. Then from July 31-August
8, 1948 the first course was held at Schiff with Bill
Hilcourt as the Scoutmaster.
|Boy Scout Leader Wood Badge:
this course is now discontinued
|This course was offered until the
current Wood Badge for the 21st Century became the mandatory curriculum beginning January 1, 2002.
|Cub Scout Trainers Wood Badge:
this course is now discontinued
|Cub Scout Trainers Wood Badge was discontinued in December 1999, and was be replaced by the new 21st Century Wood Badge.
|Varsity Scout Wood Badge:
this course is now discontinued
|This is a program that has been used a great deal in recent years
primarily in the Western Region and is now an official syllabus published November
1997. It looks basically the same as Boy Scout Wood Badge except for the terminology
for positions and an emphasis on High Adventure.
|The first Varsity Course was held in 1981 at Beaver High Adventure Base in
Southern Utah. Varsity Wood Badge basically follows the Scout Wood Badge syllabus while
putting an emphasis on the Varsity Scout Activity Booklets released by National
BSA. So things like rappelling, Cope Course, Black Powder rifle shooting, Sports, Bicycles, soccer,
baseball could be addressed depending on the camp and resources available. The main thrust
is still the training of Leadership skills but with a distinctive Varsity Flavor.
-Thanks to Kelly Roe, Course Director WV2-589-2-93
|Explorer Wood Badge:
this course is now discontinued
|Explorer Wood Badge was offered in the United States in the
1950's. It was limited to 2 or 3 national courses per year and there may have been
as many as 30 courses in all. The participant neckerchief was the opposite colors from the
Boy Scout Wood Badge neckerchief in that it was brown with a green axe and log on it. The
course was discontinued in 1958 or 1959 when Exploring became a less outdoor oriented
-Information provided by Michael Brown
The course ran from 1951 thru 1957, and was
only available at Schiff or Philmont. With the changes in the
Exploring program in 1959, the course ended. Only a little
over 30 courses were run. The course was more oriented to the
Explorer program of the 50s, with the participants being
organized into an Explorer Post. 4 Crews were used, named
after Jim Bridger, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, and William Clark
rather than the birds & beasts of WB. At this time,
WB was aimed at program trainers, not unit-level scouters.
|This information is provided now for historical purposes,
none of the information should be construed
in any way to be applied to the new Wood Badge
for the Twenty-First Century Courses.