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The Founding of Wood Badge
copyright 1994 The Journal of Scouting History
|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 Movement.
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 wrote:
|TOP||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:
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.
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 course:
FIRST SCOUTMASTERS TRAINING COURSE
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 Scoutcraft instruction.
|TOP||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 Boys").
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 -- Miscellaneous.
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 guide.
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 30 years.
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.
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