Brownsea Island – An Experiment That Led To Scouting

As many of you know, I grew up in Scouting and my sons are Scouts as well. I am fascinated with the roots of the Scouting movement in B-P’s military manual, “Aids to Scouting” which was later expanded into a serialized book targeted at boys and the Brownsea Island experiment. Even during that summer, he had no intention of being the head of an organization for boys. He just wanted to validate his concept.


Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell (he pronounced it POE-el, btw) in a uniform from the South African Constabulary at the first Boy Scout camp on Brownsea Island in 1907. The camp was an experiment to see if his “scouting” concepts developed during his time in South Africa would actually work with boys. B-P made a point of recruiting boys from both the upper and lower classes to see if they could work together. Obviously, it was successful, but it still was not his intent to start a movement. B-P thought other boys organizations might find it useful, but boys started reading his book, “Scouting for Boys”, and starting Scout patrols and troops, sometimes themselves recruiting a man to be their Scoutmaster.

11 Responses to “Brownsea Island – An Experiment That Led To Scouting”

  1. Dan says:

    We have to say thank you to that man who created a great movement based off of treating others fairly and preparing youth for adulthood. His name should be known by every candidate for Eagle, and I’ve been known to ask candidates for Life Scout to come back at another time if they don’t know his name at their board of review.

  2. Pyronaute says:

    His Granddaughter Gill (pronounced Jill) was a special guest at the Jamboree this past July. I had the pleasure of meeting her (twice) and chatting with her. Very lovely lady; I believe she is involved in scouting in Wales, where she now lives. Really cool to meet a member of his family finally after 40 years in scouting. God bless B-P. So many have been the beneficiaries of his wisdom and foresight, especially me!
    NE IV-86-57 Raven

  3. Mike B. says:

    I grew up scouting, and now not only is my son a Life Scout, and a member of the OA, but I too am still Scouting. An ADC for my District, and a Brotherhood member of the OA. The is the greatest movement I have ever been involved with. Forming young boys into men. And now girls are also profiting from the leadership in the BSA.

    NE-193-II Bobwhite.

  4. Greg says:

    If anyone’s interested in reading “Scouting for Boys”, it can be found here, free.

    • Rob Collins says:

      This is wonderful, thanks for sharing this, I’ve already passed along to 2 friends who are adult leaders for their sons packs/troops.

      I love this site! Good to see all of you former/current Scouts!

  5. Mark says:

    There was a program in the 70s called Brownsea Double-Two, which was a modern adaptation of the original Brownsea camp to help train patrol leaders. It was a great time.

    I was a Timber Wolf.

    • Rob Collins says:

      I went to Brownsea Double-Two in 1984, (Heart of America Council in K.C., MO, at Camp Powell) shortly after my dad completed Woodbadge training. +1 on the great time. The curriculum was 5 days that tried to cover the identical material in the Woodbadge course.

      My son is 4 1/2, I can’t wait to get back into it. “….and to give back more to Scouting than it has given to me….” That part of the citation echoes in my brain 29 years after receiving my Eagle. I have a lot to give back… Humbled..

  6. Daniel says:

    I am taking my son to his, and my, first scout meeting Monday evening.

  7. Scubasteve says:

    I recently learned that the Afghan Scouting movement is active. They just did a huge flood relief effort for victims in Sarobi, AF. There’s also 13 Wood Badged Afghan Scouts. Awesome stuff!

    This is one of those good stories that needs to be on the main stream media or get some more coverage.

  8. James says:

    A an Eagle Scout I am so very greatful for his study/work in developing Scouting. Could not have been prouder than when my nephew Eagled this past Spring. BSA is a wonderful organization that developes boys into true leaders and instills in them values which will help them shape and lead a nation… or at the very least help them in the real world. If you want to know what it is all about google Mike Rowe scouting speak… very inspiring

    Thank you sir for all you have done for Scouting

  9. Joshua says:

    As a former scout and current Scoutmaster, I must admit that I am a bit torn between appreciating what Scouting is today and wanting for what it was back then.

    I feel like the concept that BP envisioned has been lost a bit. There are troops that I know of around me whose boys seem like they are attending a finishing school prepping them to be CEOs and politicians. Outdoor skills and experiences seem to be a minimum, and “boy led” is an unknown concept.

    I chalk some of this up to the the actual organization as a whole changing with the times. Merit badges focusing less on outdoor skills, program structure being more political, and uniforms becoming more “show” than “use”. (Compare making a floatation device with the old canvas pants versus the new microfiber stuff or using one of the current smaller neckerchiefs as a sling.)

    However, maybe it really comes down to the individual troops. Because I also have interacted with troops whose SPL obviously runs the show with support from his council the patrols are slick. There is a good mix of outdoor adventure and community service. This I feel produces well rounded young men.

    Its amazing to compare the maturity and attitude of a 14 year old Eagle Scout to some 14 year olds today who has never experienced Scouting.