Traditional Ceremony

A Traditional Ceremony

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 (Dinny-Zulu).

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.)

The Neckerchief

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 Woggle

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’.”

The Certificate

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 guns.

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 others.

(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.