The History of Gilwell and the Woodbadge
On the morning
of September 8, 1919, a 61 year-old retired general of the British Army
stepped out into the center of a clearing at Gilwell Park, in Epping
Forest, outside London, England. He raised to his lips the horn of a
Greater Kudu, one of the largest of African antelopes. He blew a long
sharp blast. Nineteen men dressed in short pants and knee socks, their
shirt-sleeves rolled up, assembled by patrols for the first Scoutmasters
training camp held at Gilwell. The camp was designed and guided by Sir
Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the World Scouting Movement.
When they had finished their training together, Baden-Powell gave each
man a simple wooden bead from a necklace he had found in a Zulu chieftains
deserted hut when on campaign in South Africa in 1888.
The Scoutmasters training course was a great success and continued
to be held year-after-year. At the end of each course the wooden beads
were used to recognize the completion of training. When the original
beads ran out, new ones were whittled to maintain the tradition established
Because of these beads, the course came to be known as the Wood Badge
Course. It continues to this day in England and around the world as
the advanced training course for leaders in Scouting.