--> Informal History of Scouting - 10th Croydon Scout Group

10th Croydon Scout Group

An Informal History of Scouting

By a Scout Group that was actually there as it happened !!!



Robert Baden-Powell / Brownsea Island Camp / Credit Guardian Newspaper

The Origins of Scouting

Baden-Powell became a national hero when he was besieged in the small town of Mafikeng (Mafekin) by a much larger Boer army during the second Boar War, against all odds he successfully defended the town. One reason for his success was the Mafekin Cadet Corps, a group of youths that supported the troops by carrying messages, and observing enemy operations which freed his troops for military duties and kept the boys occupied during the long siege. The Cadet Corps performed very well, making a real difference in the defence of the town (1899 - 1900), and Baden-Powell discovered the usefulness of well-trained boys.

On his return to England in 1906, he was surprised to discover that his military handbook "Aids to Scouting" (1899) had become unexpectedly popular especially with youth groups and teachers at some top British schools that were using it as a teaching aid.

Many friends encouraged him to re-write his manual for a younger audience. So he wrote a brief draft, titled "Boy Patrols". To give his ideas a practical test he gathered about 22 boys of mixed social backgrounds and held a week-long camp in August 1907 on Brownsea Island, Dorset, to put his ideas into practice. He used a Patrol System which allowed the boys to organize themselves into small groups under a patrol leader and this remains a key part of Scouting. Little did anyone realise the global impact this camp was going to cause.

1st Camp

The First Scout Camp / Brownsea Island / Credit National Trust

Scouting for Boys

Upon returning from the camp Baden-Powell refined "Boys Patrol" into "Scouting for Boys" which was first published in six fortnightly instalments (about 70 pages each) between January and March 1908. These were a great success and so were published as a complete book costing two shillings (10p in today's' money) on 1st May 1908.

This book has been re-published in various editions ever since and is now available in almost 90 different languages, and is estimated to have sold between 100 to 150 million copies, making it the fourth best selling book of all time, and is also the basis for the later American version titles the Boy Scout Handbook.

When Baden-Powell wrote Scouting for Boys, he had not intended to start a new youth movement, he intended his book to be used by schools and existing youth groups. However the reaction to the book was phenomenal, and quite unexpected. Very quickly boys and girls spontaneously formed Scout Patrols which were springing up all over the country and all following the principles set out in Baden-Powell's book.


Scouting for Boys - the fortnightly publication

The world of 1900 to 1910

The world of 1908 was very different to the one we now live in. There were no computers, no electronic games, no television, no radio programs and in fact homes did not have any electrical appliances and many did not even have electric lighting, which may help explain what happened next.

The Scouting phenomenon swept the country like a tidal wave, first hundreds of Scout Patrols spontaneously sprung up, then thousands, but it did not stop there. The Scout movement gained momentum and swept the globe like a tsunami, and all based on the publication of a small handbook called "Scouting for Boys".

Some of the more successful Scout Patrols grew and had so many members they divided into multiple Patrols and thus the first Scout Troops were formed, usually still led by a teenage boy.

1900 world

A slightly humorous look at the world of that time

The First Scout Troops

Soon some of these of these Scout Troops started asking schools and churches if they could use their halls in the evening to practice their "Scouting Skills". Not surprisingly the owners of such buildings did not immediately agree, but after carefully studying the book themselves many realised "Scouting" was a good thing, to be encouraged. And so many granted permission, obviously on condition that an acceptable adult was willing stay and supervise the Scout Troops use of their building.

School teachers were called School Masters back then, and so the one willing to stay and supervise the Scouts soon became known as the Scouts' Master, then Scout Master. At this time there was no central Scout organisation, just a spontaneous youth movement, led by it's members for its members. This has remained a fundamental concept of Scouting to this very day, which helps explain why Scouting now has collectively about fifty million members world wide.

By the end of 1908 there were thousands of successful Scout Troops, and Baden Powell was being swamped with request for help and advice, Croydon alone had about fifty Croydon Scout Troops (of which we were one).

Around August 1908 (records are a bit vague to be honest) our Troop was fortunate enough to gain the use of the lower hall of Spurgeons Tabernacle and our activities were watched over by Mr Walkely, the Sunday School Teacher. Mr Walkeley became known to his Scouts as "Skipper" becoming the Groups first Adult Leader. About a year later he went on to formally found our Group in May 1909, just under a year from the publication of Scouting for Boys but almost exactly a year before The Boy Scout Association was formed.

The 10th Croydon Scout Group is one of the oldest Scout Groups in the U.K. and therefore one of the oldest in the world.


The Tabernacle - From a 1908 post card - Now the West Croydon Baptist Church

1909 Worlds First Scout Rally - Crystal Palace.

In 1909, the first Scout Rally was held at Crystal Palace in London, and being local to where we live our Scout Troop was there amongst the other 11,000 Scouts that attended, making us one of the oldest Scout Groups in the country and therefore the world. Also present at the rally were many "Girl Scouts" and Baden-Powell met and spoke with them.

However Edwardian England was not ready to accept young girls participating in the activities of the Scouting and so Baden-Powell created the Girl Guide movement which was run by his sister Agnes, the object being to provide a more "suitable" programme of activities for young ladies.

The creation of the Girl Guides is far more significant than it at first appears, because it was the first attempt of adults to influence and direct the direction this spontaneous youth movement was taking.


The 1909 Worlds first Scout Rally at Crystal Palace

1910 The Boy Scouts Association Formed

A year later in 1910, The Boy Scouts Association was formed, in order to provide a national body that could organise and support the rapidly growing number of Scout Troops, which had spontaneously developed following the publication of Scouting for Boys. By the time of The Boy Scouts Association's first census in 1910, it had over 100,000 Scouts in the UK.

If you think that's impressive by 1910, Scouting also operated internationally in the following countries; Gibraltar, Malta, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Malaya, Argentina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, South Africa and Chile which was the first country outside the British dominions to have a Scouting organization recognized by Baden-Powell. The Boy Scouts Association later went on to be incorporated by Royal Charter in 1912.

Scout Troops in the UK were encouraged to register with the newly formed Boy Scout Association, however parents often took two or three months to register the birth of a child, (which was a legal requirement by then) so as you can imagine this was something that the teenage boys running the troops "eventually got around to".

Think about the world of that time, how would the newly formed Boy Scout Association even know that a specific Scout Troop existed? Basically it wouldn't, well not until the Troop wrote to them. Letters also cost money to post, admittedly only one penny back then, but to put that in perspective a copy of Scouting For Boys fortnightly cost 4 pence to buy. So as you can imagine registering their Scout Troop was not seen as a high priority by the teenage boys running the troops. In fact it was not until Mr Walkeley (Skipper) became involved that we were officially registered, and no doubt he stumped up the postage from his own pocket.

1910 First Wood Badge Course Held

Baden-Powell could not single-handedly advise all groups who requested his assistance. Early Scoutmaster training camps were held in London and Yorkshire in 1910 and 1911. Baden-Powell wanted the training to be as practical as possible to encourage other adults to take leadership roles, so the Wood Badge course was developed to recognize adult leadership training. The development of this training was delayed by World War I, and the first Wood Badge course was not held until 1919. And the first World Jamboree in August 1920, where 500 Wolf Cubs perform a Grand Howl in the Olympia Arena, London.

The wood badge is literally two wooden beads worn on a leather thong around a leaders neck hanging on their chest. This shows the leader has successfully completed all their Leader training in the Section they work in.

The reason that the "badge" takes this form is, while Baden-Powell was in Africa he became friends with a great Zulu leader. The Zulu leader recognised Baden-Powell was also a great leader and asked if he also had a Leaders beaded chest piece. Baden Powell replied that he did not own one, so the Zulu Leader had one made and presented it to him explaining that wearing the beaded chest piece would grant the wearer, the courage, wisdom and other qualities a person needed to be a truly great leader. Baden-Powell kept and cherished this gift and brought it back to England when he returned after the Boar Wars. When he ran his first Scout Master training course in London, one of the leaders asked "Don't we get a badge, or something, to show that we passed?". Baden-Powell replied of course you do, and took two beads from his ceremonial Chest piece and threaded them on a single leather thong and presented them explaining what they symbolised, and that has remained the tradition ever since. All very early wood badges were from the original Zulu leaders gift, these obviously ran out a "very long time ago". However the tradition remains and Scouting makes it's own wooden beads which have exactly the same symbolic meaning.

I am sure that story will be documented somewhere, but in case it's not this story was told to me about 60 years ago when I was a Scout at camp sitting round a camp fire. I asked my Group Scout Leader what the beads round his neck were for and that was the story he told me. His name was Frank Hepworth, and he was the Chief Probation Officer of Croydon, so I would say it's a true story. As a matter of interest Scouts always shake hands with the left hand, and that was also an inherited Zulu tradition, to shake with the left hand, you must lower your shield down, which demonstrates good faith and intent.

These old stories that I remember from more than half a century ago, prove that the things you learn in Scouting stay with you for life.

Leaders who complete all their training are also made an honary life long leader of the 1st Gilwell Scout Group, and entitled to wear the Gilwell Scarf, which is dusky pink and has a small patch of Gilwell Tartan at the rear point.

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Wood Badge, Gilwell Scarf and Gilwell Woggle

1914 to 1925

Originally, Scouting was for boys aged between 11 and 18 however younger boys wanted to join which resulted in the creation of the younger Wolf Cubs Section, which was trialled from 1914 and openly launched in 1916. Below is Lord Baden-Powell addressing a Scout rally at Saffron Lane showground, Leicester, in March 1937. a very large number of the new wolf cubs can clearly be identified by their peaked caps. Credit Leicester Mercury.


Many Scouts who had grown to old to be Scouts still wanted to be a part of Scouting resulting in another section for those over 18, the Rover Scouts being created in 1918.

First World Jamboree - August 1920

The first World Jamboree was held in August 1920, where 500 Wolf Cubs perform a Grand Howl in the Olympia Arena, London.

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The First World Jamboree

1925 to 1950

In 1929, the Boy Scouts Association hosted the 3rd World Scout Jamboree at Arrowe Park in Cheshire; some 56,000 Scouts from 35 countries attended, making it the largest World Scout Jamboree to date.

Below is a photograph of our very own Rover Scout Section, or Rover Crew as it was known within the group, taken in 1928 just prior to their going to the Jamboree.

rover crew

The Senior Scout Section was officially launched in 1946, allowing Boy Scouts aged fifteen to eighteen years to form separate Patrols or Troops, with age appropriate activities.

1950 to 1980

The Boy Scouts Association and its programmes in Britain went largely unchanged until it underwent a major review in the 1960's.

As a result, in 1967 the association's name was changed to The Scout Association and major changes were made to the sections and their respective programmes. The youngest section were now named Cub Scouts, the Boy Scout section was renamed simply as the Scout section and the Senior Scouts and Rover Scout section was replaced with Venture Scouts for 16 to 20 year olds.

1980 to 2010

Through the 1990s due in part to the negative stereotype as being old fashioned, but also due to having to compete for young people's time against schools which were increasingly offering similar activities.

This spurred a major review and In 2002 the association launched its new vision towards 2012, which heralded a period of major change and an entirely new programme, complete with a new range of badges and awards covering a wider variety of topics such as Public Relations and Information Technology, developing practical and employability skills which attracted much praise for finally "moving with the times". In 2003 the Adult Training Scheme was re-launched to be more focused and targeted to the volunteers individual role as opposed to the previous more general training.


Scouting Today

By 2010, census figures scouting numbers showed a strong upturn, with the association in April 2010 claiming its highest rate of growth in UK since 1972, with total U.K. membership reaching just under half a million. By 2014 membership had increase by another 100,000 and by 2016 Scouting had experienced eleven consecutive years of growth with a considerable and growing increase in females, which by then made up 25% of our overall membership.

The Scout movement is and always has been a voluntary, non-political, educational movement for young people, it allows membership without distinction of gender, race or origin in accordance with the principles of its founder, Lord Baden-Powell. The aim of Scouting is to help young people achieve their full potential as individuals, and as responsible citizens.

Scouting is divided into different "sections" by age and employs a programme of informal education with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities, including camping, woodcraft, aquatics, hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, and many sports. Scouting started as a uniformed organisation and has remained that way, partly due to tradition, partly because it's so practical for what we do, and partly to help ensure all members feel an equal part of the organisation.

In spite of the uniform and salute, inherited from our founder, Scouting is "NOT" and was never intended to be, even remotely military. In spite of his military background Baden-Powell did not want to create a military youth movement and so Scouts never practice marching, admittedly we will look less "snappy" than other uniformed youth movements when on parade, for example on St. Georges Day parade. The apparently casual attitude is not disrespect, WE DONT MARCH, and make no attempt to instruct our members in marching.

Other Scouting Organisations

There are now also a number of independent Scouting organisations around the world, some feel we have moved too far from our origins, some feel the opposite. In 2008, there was about 540 independent Scouting Organisations, 367 of these are members of either WAGGGS or WOSM. About half of those remaining are only local or national. About 90 of the national or regional Scouting associations have created five international Scouting organisations of their own.

Click image for History of 10th Croydon

  • Lord Robert Baden Powell

  • 1906 Baden Powell returns to England as a national hero after successfully defending Mafakin against a much larger Boar Army his success due in part to his use of the Mafakin Cadet Corp.
  • 1907 Brownsea Island

  • He is persuaded to him re-write his manual "Aids to Scouting" for a younger target audience. He writes an outline draft and then runs the now famous camp at Brownsea Island as a practical test of his ideas.
  • Brownsea Island stone

  • The famous Brownsea Island stone laid to commemorate the first ever Scout Camp.
  • 1908 Scouting for Boys

  • Scouting for Boys is published in six fortnightly instalments between January and March 1908, then as a complete book on 1st May 1908.
  • 1908 Scouting starts

  • His book was obviously exactly what the youth of the day wanted because it caused a spontaneous youth movement to be born, with thousands of boys (and girls) starting their own Scout Patrols all based on his book.
  • 1909 First Scout Rally

  • The worlds first Scout Rally was held at Crystal Palace, London in 1909. Over 11,000 Scouts attended icluuding many "Girl Scouts".
  • 1909 Girl Guide Starts

  • Society was not ready for girls in Scouting, so Baden-Powell created the Girl Guide movement which was was run by his sister Agnes.
  • 1910 Scout Association

  • In 1910 The Boy Scout Association was formed to provide a national body to organise and support the rapidly growing number of Scout Troops that had spontaneously developed.
  • 1910 First Wood Badges

  • By 1910 Baden-Powell could not single-handedly advise all groups who requested his assistance. So the first Scoutmaster training camps were held. First in 1910 London and then in 1911 in Yorkshire, these were called "Wood Badge" training courses, and still are to this day. Above are the participants of the first "Wood Badge" course.
  • 1920 World Jamboree

  • Scouting's first World Jamboree was held in August 1920, where 500 Wolf Cubs perform a "deafening" Grand Howl in the Olympia Arena.

10th Croydon Scout Group

Over 100 years "YOUNG"
And still going strong!!!