Ax and Log
(Gilwell attired Wood Badger enters with a log and ax and
ceremoniously strikes the ax into the log.)
I now declare this Wood Badge Court of Honor open.
Before you is the ax in the log. This is the Wood Badge
symbol and represents the old English freeman.
In feudal times, all property was owned by the wealthy nobles.
Men who were bound to the land and owned by a nobleman were known as serfs, who were
slaves. It was a crime for the serfs to cut wood from the forests owned by the
nobles. Serfs could gather the scarce wood only from the floor of the forest.
Warfare was dominated by these kings and lords. Men who
served valiantly in their lord's army were rewarded by being declared freemen.
Freemen were given the right of loppage, or permission to cut limbs from the nobleman's
trees as high as they could reach with an ax. An ax carried in a nobleman's forest
became the badge of a freeman, one who had earned the right by service.
The grain of the handle of an ax is straight and true and set
square in the eye of the head. The head has the proper temper, not too soft or too
hard, and sharpened to a point of usefulness. The ax is well balanced and a very
efficient tool in the hands of an experienced ax man.
The ax in the log reminds us that those who wear the symbol have
allowed their lives to be placed in the hands of God. They have proven themselves on
service to others and walk the straight trail as examples to others. They have
committed themselves to strengthen others through service and example.
History of Wood Badge
In 1911, four years after the first experiental Boy
Scouts' camp on Brownsea Island, Baden-Powell began training Scoutmasters in the aims and
methods of Scouting.
On September 8, 1919, the first Wood Badge training
course began at Gilwell Park using a series of lectures, demonstrations, practices and
games. The unique sounds from the long spiral horn of the African Kudu, a species of
antelope, was used to call the men to action. This was the war horn Baden-Powell
found on his 1896 expedition into the Somabula Forest in pursuit of the Matabele
natives. This was the same horn and the same way the boys at the first boy scout
camp had been called for activities.
It was not until 1948 that Wood Badge training came
to the United States. For the first ten years it was advanced training for
scoutmasters, troop committee members and commissioners. Since 1972, leadership
development has been the standard course content for Wood Badge in the United States.
The first Cub Scout trainiers' Wood Badge was held
in 1921 at Gilwell Park and was directed by Baden-Powell.
In 1972, the National Cub Scout Committee responded
to a need for Cub Scout Trainers Wood Badge in the United States and obtained the
necessary approvals to set it in motion. Final approval came in 1975. The
first National field test was held at the camp of the Anniston, Alabama Council in
November 1976. In 1977, field test courses were held in each of the six regions.
The Thong and Beads
In looking for a suitable recognition for the 19 men who
completed the first Wood Badge course, the hero of the 217 day siege of the South African
town of Mafeking in 1900 found among his old army trophies and souvenirs a long necklace
of quaintly carved wooden beads. In 1888, during the African Zulu wars, Baden-Powell
found the necklace in a hut that had been recently deserted by the African King Dinizulu
He presented each man who had taken part in the camp with one of
the beads. They were badges of wood. The beads gave the training its name -
the Wood Badge Course.
These simple wooden beads signify the completion of the training
course soon became one of the most highly prized possessions a scoutmaster could
have. When the original beads ran out, the Gilwell training staff whittled others to
keep the tradition established by Baden-Powell.
Two simple wooden beads knotted on a leather thong have come to
signify that the wearer has completed the most respected scout training program and is
dedicated to the highest standards of service.
(Place the thong and beads around the recipient's neck.)
In the early days of Scouting in England, training leaders
presented a challenge, just as it does today. Many, especially soldiers returning
from the war, were anxious to help but needed to know what was expected from them.
Facilities to train then were limited and there were insufficient funds to set up an
adequate training program with the permanent headquarters it required.
The generous action of one individual transformed the
picture. Mr. W. de Bois (de boy) MacLaren, a district commissioner, offered to buy
and donate Gilwell Park, a run down estate of fifty-seven acres with a manor house built
in the 1790's, for a camping ground. Located northeast of London near Chingford in
Essex and bordered on Epping Forest, Gilwell Park became the training headquarters for
scouters in England on July 26, 1919.
From the beginning there was a kind of enchantment about the
place. Gilwell Park changed and enriched the whole pattern of the scouting
movement. It is still used as a training center by the British Boy Scout Association
and has a special place in the hearts of scouters around the world.
Ten years later, when Baden-Powell was made a baron by King
George V, he chose Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell as his title.
Every Wood Badge course regardless of its geographical location,
is held at Gilwell. All Wood Badgers are members of Gilwell Pack 1, or Gilwell
Troop 1, representing the first course held.
By 1921 the Gilwell scarf appeared. The first ones were of
the complete MacLaren tartan to commemorate the man who gave Gilwell Park in England to
Scouting for use as a training site. This was soon replaced by the now recognized
taupe (pink/gray) scarf with a small patch of the MacLaren tartan at the tip.
Place the neckerchief around the recipient's neck.)
The leather woggle is symbolic of the skill of leather workers
making familiar Turk's head necherchief slides. The slide has neither a beginning or
an end, comparable to the never ending commitment made to serve youth and others.
The woggle reminds us of the skill in all Wood Badge training
that is emphasized in the practical phase of the course.
May the woggle keep your neckerchief secure as you join those
Wood Badgers who have preceded you.
(Slide the woggle onto the neckerchief.)
The following was relayed to Jim Newell Busting Beaver NE-VI-1, the day before the opening of the 1989 National Jamboree by William "Green-Bar Bill" Hillcourt.
Francis Gidney was the camp chief for the first two or three initial Wood Badge training sessions.
With respect to the neckerchief slide, Mr. Gidney knew that most folks were not good wood carvers, so he elected to have the candidates do some knot-tying work - the
Turk's-head knot was his choice. The rounded leather came from a supplier to the Singer Company, which made the foot-treadle sewing machines.
Those leather drive belts were the material of which the Turk's-head knots were made. That knot, started then, has stayed with us as the current-day "woggle".
Baden-Powell disguised himself in different ways when he was on
secret military missions.
In the 1800's, Austria occupied the Dalmatian coast on the east
side of the Adriatic Sea. In 1890, Baden-Powell was ordered to assess the Austrian's
military strength in that region. He posed as an artist sketching near where the
troops were holding maneuvers. Apprehended, he spread his parchment sketches out for
inspection and was set free. His captors did not look closely enough to notice that
the delicately drawn veins of the butterfly wings were exact delineation's of their own
fort and that the spots on the wings denoted the number, caliber, and positions of their
At the bottom of the certificate is found from the writings of
Rudyard Kipling, "Who hath smelt wood-smoke at twilight? Who hath heard the
birch-log burning? Who is quick to read the noises of the night? Let him
follow with the others, for the young men's feet are turning to the camps of proved desire
and known delight."
In the designs on this parchment certificate we are reminded of
the Wood Badge experience and the satifaction we have received from doing our best.
The certificate testifies of your abilities and dedication to scouting and to
(Present the Certificate)
During the times of Lord Baden-Powell, it was common for English
soldiers to be stationed throughout the world to protect the King's interests. The
story goes that when they completed their tour of duty, the soldiers were released where
they were and had to find their own way back to England. To shorten the trip home,
as they got closer to completing their service, soldiers would request posts closer to
England. This was working their tickets back home.
As those soldiers of old worked their tickets back to England,
this new Wood Badge recipient has worked the tickets back to Gilwell.
Congratulations on a job well done.
(The Wood Badger removes the ax from the log.)
I declare this Wood Badge Court of Honor closed.