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Scouting for younger boys - The Wolf Cubs

Wolf Cub symbol
The Wolf Cubs were not part of Baden-Powell's original concept for Scouting - it could be said that, like the Girl Guides, they formed themselves by just turning up. As in the case of the girls, many Scouters did not have the skills or the inclination to train them. To be fair, the Scout Training Scheme was never envisaged for boys below the age of 12. By 1913 the younger element were seen as a problem and something would have to be done

Formation of the Wolf Cubs

THE question of what to do for younger boys had been raised many times and was not easily answered.

Some years later, Sir Percy Everett wrote, "Some Scoutmasters wanted to lower the age for Scouts. Others desired different methods of tackling the boy of nine or ten. Others again thought we ought to confine the Movement to those boys of Scout age and not to worry about older or younger fellows." (For more on Sir Percy, there is a Milestones biography on him.)

Some Scout groups encouraged under-aged boys to swell their numbers. B-P said that this was 'ridiculous'. He had seen troops "... largely composed of little chaps in big hats and baggy shorts grasping staffs twice as tall as themselves."

The Headquarters Committee, of which Everett was a member, had to deal with a 'horrid' problem. It appeared that some Scout Troops were adopting mascots, some as young as seven - dressed in parody of Scout Uniform.

Then, as now, there were concerns for the youngsters themselves; that they might be put off Scouting for life if introduced too young, and that their presence would put off older boys who would see themselves as too old if their section had 'kids' in it.

Initial Proposals

IN 1913, B-P asked Everett to prepare a scheme for 'Junior Scouts'. Everett sent the completed draft to B-P in November, 1913.

Cub Cap
The photograph is of my son Joe, taken on the day he was invested as Cub. Joe went on, as a Scout, to attend the World Jamboree in Chile in 1999

On 19th November, 1913, The Chief wrote back to Everett, responding to his scheme. In his letter he said that the working title 'Junior Scouts' would never do, and went through a range suggestions he had received for the name of the new section: "One S.M. called his (juniors) Beavers - not a bad idea." Another had suggested 'Nippers'. "'Cub' might do for 'tenderfoot' juniors."

He pronounced in favour of Everett's school-type cap in green with yellow piping, though he had envisaged something very different - "I was going to suggest a khaki sailor's cap"

The Cub Cap has remained virtually unchanged from its inception in 1914 until the current uniform review will abolish them in 2003 - a life span of 89 years. Time for a change?

Baden-Powell wrote to Everett again on 9th December, 1913, summing up the views of his correspondents on the proposed section.

"But very many are also equally agreed on the importance of getting hold of boys younger than the Scout age, and shaping them in the right direction while they are yet specially susceptible to good influences.
Cubs sketch
The initial draft explaining the origin of the Wolf Cub Salute. (John Ineson Coll.)
"So convinced of this are many that a large number of boys are allowed to become Scouts before they have reached the authorised age.
"This is bad for them and bad for the Movement."

The Chief also sent Everett the first original designs for the badge, the salute and the first draft of the promise, sketched out on a single piece of notepaper.

There was a later note from B-P to Everett on the subject on 10th December, 1913:

"The rules might show that Patrols of Young Scouts may be formed in connection with existing Troops as feeders."

From Draft to Reality

EVERETT tells us that the scheme was carefully considered by the Headquarters Committee and was approved on an 'experimental basis'. The Wolf Cubs received their official blessing in the HQ Gazette, in an article in January 1914. The Promise, tests for the First Star and the Second Star were all set out.

Perhaps understandably the 'experiment' was left to run unaltered during the early years of the First World War.

Baden-Powell said of the scheme:

"It will meet the view of a large number of Scoutmasters who have been anxious to take boys under 11 years of age; it will open a number of elementary schools to Scouting; it will give a groundwork of Scout knowledge to boys before becoming Scouts, such as will help to raise the standards of efficiency while reducing the instructional work of the Scoutmaster. It will bring boys under Scout discipline at an earlier and more receptive age."
Akela certificate
An original parchment certificate for the Akela badge, signed by B-P

The experimental scheme led to vast correspondence. Ladies in particular saw the scheme as a way in which they could help. A very large number of packs were started all over the country. I am a past Chairman of a Scout District in Wakefield, Yorkshire and in that one district alone two Cub Packs, the 1st Sandal and the 1st Wakefield, were started in that first year, 1914. Sadly, neither of these packs is still in existence.

The certificate shown on the right was in issued to Miss Francis Judge in 1923. The Akela Badge was only awarded between 1922 and 1925 and it was Miss Judge's most prized possession. (There is a Milestone article on the Akela Badge and the Scout Wood Badge.)

Miss Judge spent her lifetime is Scouting, (see the photograph below of Miss Judge's Cubs at the World Jamboree in Denmark in 1924) and was awarded a Silver Wolf in April 1979.Gone Home She died on 13th March, 1994. Miss Judge's parents were also both Scouters in Wakefield from the start of Scouting there.

The text at the bottom of the parchment is from a Rudyard Kipling poem, The Feet of the Young Men and reads:

"Who hath smelt wood smoke by twilight?
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."

B-P's Intervention


BADEN-POWELL was to revise Everett's training scheme, though not its Tenderpad, First and Second Star structure, in 1916. He also wrote the manual suggested by Everett in 1913, The Wolf Cub's Handbook, which was published on December 2nd, 1916.

Everett's scheme has been described as 'watered-down Scouting', but nonetheless it was recognisable as Scouting. B-P's new scheme must have amazed many people. It was based on a child's story involving talking animals! (In America, Ernest Thompson Seton had successfully used talking animals in his own stories for his organisation, the 'Woodcraft Indians', which predated Scouting.) The story came from The Jungle Book, written by his long-standing friend Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was no mere storyteller, but the most popular author and poet of his day. The two men had been friends since their days in India and South Africa, and Kipling's son had attended the second follow-up camp to Brownsea at Beaulieu in 1909. Kipling had written the official Boy Scout Song. The two men were also near-neighbours in East Sussex. It is not surprising then that B-P felt he could rely on his friend to give his permission for the use his material. It was sought, no doubt on the insistences of B-P's publishers Pearson's, quite late in the proceedings when the book was already in proof in July 1916. Kipling, not noted for allowing his works to be used beyond his immediate control, replied the following day, the 27th, giving his full consent.

Though the central ideas for the new handbook were undoubtedly the inspiration of the Founder, he had help of a brilliant young Akela who had joined his staff at Imperial Headquarters only that year. Vera Barclay though only 22 years old had been both an Akela and a Scout Mistress. In 1915 she had written an article in the Headquarters Gazette, How a Lady can train the Cubs. As the national Wolf Cub Secretary she was present in Caxton Hall on June 16th 1916 when B-P launched the new Wolf Cub's Handbook in front of 200 educationalists. She was to remain one of the few females in the hierarchy of the Scout Movement until she went to live in France in 1931, from where she continued to write about Scouting as well as religious and other children's books. Her biography (see above link) is the story of a remarkable life.

Membership Card
Early Membership Card with a progress chart through the training scheme on the back. Note the Grand Howl in progress. The card dates from the 1930's, but neither the Akela nor the Cubs are wearing woggles. As the word 'woggle' and the object itself dates from the early 1920's, the illustration must have been made before this time

Kipling was noted for observations of 'Empire'. He published many serious works, though Mowgli's story in The Jungle Book has become his most well-known. It is long-lived (first published in 1894) and loved by children throughout the world - the Disney cartoon version is still one of the best-selling videos ever. At the time, B-P was a man of 59 years old, yet he instinctively understood the appeal of this story to nine-year-olds, and how it could used a vehicle to teach the blend of morality, activity and fraternity that went to make up 'Cubbing'.

Cub Packs, the Handbook said, were to begin their meetings with the Ground Howl. The Akela, or Old Wolf, would stand in the middle of the encircled pack and encourage the boys to yell their heads off!
Pack: "A-KE-LA - we'll - do - our - BEST!"
Senior Sixer: "Dyb-dyb-dyb-dyb!"
Pack: "We'll dob-dob-dob-dob!"
And with that the pack as one leaps into the air.

In 1955 I was the Senior Sixer in the 46th (Stanground) Soke of Peterborough pack, and I knew the power of the Grand Howl. Having spent a lifetime in Scouting though, I have to admit that, before doing the research for this article, I did not know the meaning of the mystic 'Dybs' and 'Dobs'. Had I read The Wolf Cub's Handbook as a boy, I would have discovered that the words are acronyms:
Drawing (1) Drawing (2)
B-P's drawings from The Wolf Cub's Handbook

Dyb = Do your best
Dob = Do our best

OK, it all sounds very dated, the comedians have had their fun, and the words have had to be changed. But anyone who thinks that modern kids would not revel in throwing back their heads and roaring for all their worth are obviously a little out of touch.

The new scheme was launched on December 16th, 1916, with Wolf Cubs present, at the Caxton Hall in London, in front of 200 educationalists. In his address, B-P made it clear that he believed his scheme to be highly educational in content and hoped that it would enable 'cubbing' to be adopted by schools, which indeed, in some instances, it was.

Whilst Michael Rosenthal, author of The Character Factory, would look to maxims such as
"A Cub gives into the Old Wolf, a cub does not give in to himself."
As evidence of B-P seeking to tame and conform the spirit of the young. The reality is very different - B-P reminded his adult readers:

"If God made the boy a creature of extreme and restless energy, with inquisitive and eager mind, a sensitive little heart and a romantic imagination, it is up to you to make full use of these instead of crushing them."
Young and old
The youngest Cub and the oldest Scout at Olympia, 1920. Eight-year-old Leslie McCreadie meets the Earl of Meath, aged 80

Nothing succeeds like Success

AT the end of the first year of the new scheme in 1917, there were 30,000 Wolf Cubs.

Baden-Powell now had another successful arm to his Movement, and he wanted the world to know about it. He carefully planed his 'prospectus' for the world's first International Jamboree, to be held at Olympia in August 1920, to include Wolf Cubs. His stagecraft, first exhibited at his old school, Charterhouse and then with good morale-raising effect during the Siege of Mafeking, had not deserted him.

Olympia was packed with over 10,000 seated visitors including HRH The Duke of Connaught KG, but the vast arena was empty. A very small cub, hands in pockets, sauntered out into the centre, looking this way and that way. Poor little fellow, had he lost his friends? Putting his fingers to his mouth he emitted a shrill whistle and was joined in a rush by 500 friends who quickly formed a massive circle. From out of the 'rocks' behind the circle came a 'real' Old Wolf, bushy-tailed, ears pricked, jaws grinning. The Old Wolf dropped his paw, 500 Cubs dropped to the squat and then lifted their voices as one. The moment was to stay in minds of some of the visitors forever.

Naturally, Baden-Powell's son Peter was a Wolf Cub. He was to be often dubbed the 'Chief Wolf Cub'. He had been at Olympia and was still a Cub on the return of the Prince of Wales from a world tour in 1922, when Peter played a central part in the prince's 'Posse of Welcome'. He took the Royal Chief Scout of Wales to a large 'Council Rock', set in the grounds of Alexander Palace, for a Grand Howl from the throats of 19,000 Wolf Cubs. (Can you really comprehend what it would take to organise 19,000 Cubs?)

Wakefield Cubs
Miss Judge's Wakefield Cubs having fun with Cubs from Denmark. Photograph by Miss Judge

Baden-Powell wrote;

"Those hordes of imps of enthusiasm, The Wolf Cubs (19,000 instead of the 10,000 we had expected) with their throat gripping howl and spontaneous cheering, was perhaps as moving a feature as any in the day. Mr Kipling was there."

In 1924, Cubs had their own day at the Imperial Jamboree held at Wembley, this time on August 6th. In front of H.R.H. the Duke of York (and later King George VI) and Mr Kipling, 7,000 Cubs performed scenes from Kipling's The Jungle Book and, of course, finished with a Grand Howl.

That same summer, there were English Wolf Cubs, selected from those who were not at Wembley, at the 2nd World Jamboree, at Ermulden in Denmark. The Baden-Powells, with Cub Peter, were there, and so was a young Akela from Wakefield, Yorkshire with a pack of Wakefield Cubs. This was the same Miss Judge who was so proud of her Akela Badge.

The Jamboree was wet, but successful and more in the simple style of Brownsea than the set-piece spectaculars that were a feature of the 1920 and Imperial Jamborees. When she returned, Miss Judge bought back with her what she claimed was the first Leaping Wolf flag finial ever seen in Britain. Today, I am proud to own that same Leaping Wolf.

Leaping Wolf


'CUBBING' was to go from strength-to-strength. In the early 1950's, when I was a cub, membership reached its peak. I remember reading that, at one point, 5 out of 9 boys aged nine had some experience of cubbing. Now, though numbers are not as great nationally, the world-wide total literally runs into millions. The number of people throughout the world who have benefited from being Cubs must be beyond the population of many countries. A complete re-organisation of the movement, including the Cub Scouts as they are now called, is taking place. A comparatively recent development has been the introduction of girls. Cub Scouts are no longer the youngest members of the Movement. That honour belongs to the Beavers - but their story is to become another Scouting Milestone.


Printed Sources
Headquarters Gazette Oct 1916, B-P's Outlook
The Jamboree Book 1920
The Imperial Jamboree Book 1924
The First Ten Years by Sir Percy Everett, 1948
Boy Scout Jubilee by E E Reynolds, 1957
27 Years with Baden-Powell Mrs Eileen K Wade (B-P's Personal Secretary), 1957
Baden-Powell by Tim Jeal. (p. 500), 1989
The Origins of the Wood Badge Scout Info. Centre FS145001 July 1999
Internet Sources
The History of Cubbing in the United Kingdom 1916 - present
ScoutBase UK, HQ Information, New Scout Uniform

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