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15 Extremely Resourceful Scout Facts!

These fascinating facts about the Boy Scouts will leave you totally prepared for anything!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  June 8th 2024

Are you a Scout? A Cub? A Beaver? Or maybe you're not into Scouting at all, but you just love to learn? Whatever the case, these are the facts for you! There's SO much to learn about this youth organisation - it's been around for a long time, and it operates in more countries than you might think! Get ready to find out everything - which famous people used to be members, which rockstar held his first concert with the Scouts, and the handful of countries where you can't join a Scout troop! Don't forget to try some of our quizzes while you're here - see how much you know about the Scouts, or about St. George's Day!

1. It's an old organisation

The Scouting Movement was started in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell, making it almost 120 years old! Baden-Powell was a lieutenant general in the British Army, and he wanted to create a movement for boys that would teach them good citizenship, teamwork, and outdoor skills. The first Scout camp took place on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, where 20 boys of various backgrounds tried Baden-Powell's scouting model.

2. It's a bestseller

In 1908 Baden-Powell wrote a book, Scouting for Boys, the essential guide to everything a Boy Scout needs to know. Back then, that meant camping and tracking skills, woodcraft, wildlife guides, first aid, lion-hunting (!), and survival skills - but it also included guides on how to be chivalrous and how to be a good citizen of the British Empire. Modern editions have been rewritten to reflect more modern values. The book has more than 300 editions, and is one of the best-selling books of all time!

3. There are SO MANY Scouts overseas!

Even though it has very British origins, Scouting is truly a global phenomenon! The first overseas Scouting troop was established in Malta, because Baden-Powell had connections there, and now there are more than 38 million Scouts! The country with the most Scouts is Indonesia, which has more than 24 million members. The UK only has the seventh largest number of Scouts!

4. Only a few countries have no Scouts

There are only five countries with no Scouting organisation: Laos, Andorra, Cuba, North Korea, and Vatican City. The Scouting Movement was banned in China in 1949 by the Chinese Comunist Party, but it was restored in 2008.

5. American Scouting sort of started by accident

There are more than four million Scouts in the USA, and the story of how Scouting crossed the pond is quite sweet! According to legend, in 1909 an American businessman named William D. Boyce got lost in the thick London fog (that was a huge problem in the olden days - London used to be a LOT more polluted than it is now!). He was rescued by a young boy, who approached him and offered to guide him to his destination. The boy wouldn't take any payment, saying it was his duty as a Scout to help someone in need. Boyce was so impressed that he was inspired to bring Scouting to America. There are a lot of embellishments of this legend, including one where the boy took him to Scout headquarters where he met Baden-Powell, which definitely didn't happen, but the basic thread of the story seems to be true. Boyce went to the headquarters himself and picked up the book and some pamphlets, and later returned to volunteer as the American leader of the Scouts!

6. There have been some very famous Scouts!

Planet Earth II | BBC Natural History Unit, BBC Studios, BBC America, ZDF, France Télévisions, Tencent | BBC One

There are actually WAY too many famous people who used to be Scouts, so here's a short list: Sir David Attenborough, Graham Norton, Jamie Oliver, James Acaster, Richard Hammond, David Beckham, Andy Murray, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Jarvis Cocker, Greg Davies, Ronnie Corbett, Gareth Southgate, George Michael and Pete Waterman - and that's just the Brits! Famous international former Scouts include Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Harrison Ford, Chris Pratt, Barack Obama, Jack Black, Martin Luther King Jr, John F Kennedy, and Michael J Fox. And this doesn't even include Cubs - John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to attend Cubs together as children!

7. David Bowie's first concert was as a Scout

While it probably wasn't as glam-rock as his later shows, the Scouts can proudly claim that rock legend David Bowie's first public musical performances was at a Scout Camp on the Isle of Wight in 1958! David played ukulele while his friend George Underwood played the washboard and sang.

8. Tintin was based on a Scout!

The Adventures of Tintin | Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing International | Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy | Steven Spielberg

Comic hero Tintin was created in 1929 by Belgian artist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé. Hergé wrote an earlier comic about a Boy Scout patrol leader called Totor. Totor heavily inspired the new character of Tintin, and Hergé said he thought of Tintin as Totor's younger brother. Even though Tintin isn't actually a Scout himself, he has a lot of skills that Scouts need to learn - resourcefulness, kindness, and the art of always being prepared! Hergé said, "Scouting gave me a taste for friendship, for love of nature, animals and games. It is a good school. So much the better if it lives on through Tintin."

9. They stepped up on the Home Front

During the Second World War everyone had to help out on the Home Front - and that included the Scouts! While younger Scouts might be evacuated from the big cities, older Scouts helped to organise the evacuation and provided comfort and support for the displaced children. Scouts also did war work like preparing for the blackout, teaching Scouting skills to the Home Guard, planting and cultivating vegetable gardens, helping to build air raid shelters, and supporting police, fire and ambulance services in the aftermath of air raids. One Sheffield Scout, John Flinn, was awarded a medal for rescuing a woman from a bombed house and wheeling her in a grocer's barrow to safety. He wore a saucepan on his head to protect against the air raid!

10. ...and abroad!

The Sea Scouts (the branch of Scouts dedicated to sailing and other water-activities) helped to monitor the British coastline, send signals and operate the telephones - and one unit actually played a role at Dunkirk! The 1st Mortlake Seas Scouts took their boat Minotaur to France, where they helped with the evacuation effort under terrifying Nazi fire!

11. The uniform is awesome

How do you recognise a Scout? By his uniform, of course! It's changed a lot over the years and different countries have different versions, but you can always tell a Scout. The original British uniform consisted of a khaki shirt and shorts, and a broad-brimmed hat. Neckerchiefs are also usually worn by all kinds of Scouts, with the colour and pattern identifying their unit and age group. The outfit is meant to be practical for adventuring, but also for emergencies - the neckerchief can be used as a torniquet or sling, for example!

12. There are so many merit badges!

There were fourteen merit badges in the original handbook: Ambulance, Clerk, Cycling, Electrician, Fireman, Gardner, Horseman, Marksmanship, Master-of-Arms, Musician, Pioneering, Seamanship, Signaling, and Stalker. It's expanded a bit since then - you can get a merit badge in geocaching, photography, writing, cooking, local knowledge, road safety, world faiths, caving, and so many more! There have been some strange ones throughout time, including stamp collecting, bugle-playing, nuclear science, and taxidermy!

13. There are collectable patches

Those patches you can get to sew onto your uniform change a lot over time, and some of them are actually worth a bit of money! Patch and pin trading started as a way for different troops to show friendship and give each other souvenirs - in the days before social media, it was super neat to have a patch that a Scout from Russia, or Australia, or Brazil gave you themselves! Patch trading continues today at international Scout jamborees. Some vintage pins and patches can sell on eBay and other sites for a LOT of money - the fewer badges that were made, the more valuable they'll be!

14. Bear Grylls is the Chief Scout

Sky News | YouTube.com

Chief Scout is a very important position - they're the main public face of the whole movement in the UK! Outdoor adventurer Bear Grylls became the youngest ever Chief Scout in 2009, when he was just 34. He was also the youngest person to climb Mount Everest, embodying the Scouting spirit of adventure! He says, "It’s all about delivering chances to young people where they are needed most."

15. Girls can Scout, too!

Scouting isn't just for boys! In 1909 lots of girls also wanted to join the Scout movement, so Baden-Powell established a branch especially for girls. This was because there were some activities that Boy Scouts did, like camping and hiking, that weren't considered very ladylike. A lot of Guiding activities focused on more domestic activities, like cooking and sewing. Nowadays though, Guides can do any outdoor activities they want - and girls are also free to join the Scouts, if they'd prefer to!