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History of Wood Badge

In 1911, Baden-Powell took the first steps in training Scouting’s adult leaders by organizing a series of lectures for Scouters. He made great strides in the following years, culminating in 1919 with the establishment of Wood Badge training. Wood Badge recipients now number more than 100,000 and can be found in all corners of the world. A Scouter participating in Wood Badge has the opportunity to:

  •  Understand Scouting as a family of interrelated, values-based programs providing age-appropriate activities for youth.
  • Recognize contemporary leadership concepts and discover how they are relevant to the Scouting movement.
  • Apply the skills learned as a member of a successful working team.
  • Revitalize their commitment to Scouting by sharing in an inspirational experience which provides Scouting with renewed leadership.

Many Scouters consider Wood Badge to be a peak experience of their Scouting careers. It has served as a source of training and inspiration to thousands.

The Wood Badge

Lord Robert Baden-Powell conducted the first training program for Scoutmasters at Gilwell Park in England, in 1919. Wondering what to award the graduates, he recalled a necklace of wooden beads that he had acquired in South Africa in 1887 during a campaign against the Zulus. Baden-Powell had found the necklace, which had been worn by Zulu Chief Dinizulu, in a tribal camp that the chief had abandoned in escaping capture by British Troops. The necklace, over 3 metres long and made from beads of yellow acacia wood, was a badge awarded to great chieftains and the bravest warriors.

To create the first Wood Badge, Baden-Powell took two of the original beads and strung them on a leather thong given to him at Mafeking. These original wooden beads were then used as a template for beads made in beech wood.

This tradition continues today. Leaders are presented with the Wood Badge upon completion of Advanced Level Wood Badge training.

First Gilwell Park Scout Group

Wood Badge holders around the world automatically become members of the 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group, at Gilwell Park in England (where Baden-Powell established training centre for Scoutmasters and a campsite for Scouts). The Group is recognised by its own special scarf, the Gilwell Scarf.

1st Gilwell Park Scout Group has established a website and online community at 1stgilwellpark.orgExternal Link.

The Gilwell Scarf

In 1919, William de Bois Maclaren, a Scottish businessman, purchased Gilwell Park, a 55-acre estate on the edge of Epping Forest, London, as a training centre for Scouters and as a campsite for Scouts. In his honour, the Gilwell staff wore a scarf made of Maclaren tartan.

To reduce the expense of the tartan scarf, a substitute scarf was devised. This was made of dove grey cloth (the colour of humility) with a warm red lining (to signify warmth of feeling), and a patch of Maclaren tartan on the point of the scarf. In 1924 use of the scarf became restricted to Wood Badge holders only.

The Gilwell Woggle

The Gilwell Woggle is presented at the end of Basic Level Wood Badge training in most countries.

In the early days of the Scout Movement in Great Britain, the Scout scarf used to be tied loose knot at the neck and naturally became very creased. Some time in 1920-21 18-year-old Bill Shankley, one of the two permanent campsite employees at Gilwell Park, invented a woggle in the shape of a Turk’s Head knot - adopted in the days of sailing ships when seamen developed decorative forms of rope work as a hobby - made from thin sewing machine leather belting.

After inventing the Gilwell Woggle, Bill Shankley accompanied Sir Alfred Pickford, the Headquarters Commissioner for Overseas Scouts, on an official tour of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Afterwards he stayed on to try his hand at jackerooing and farming in Western Australia. In 1952 he moved to Hobart and became a trade and craft teacher at the Friends School. He was also Group Leader of the 8th Hobart Scout Group. He retired to Bellerive in 1977.

If you have any questions about Wood Badge feel free to contact the 2017 Wood Badge Course Director Deb Mason at or 937-244-5987.


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