History of Cub Scouts

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The History of Cubbing in the United Kingdom.

When Baden-Powell created the Scout Movement in 1908, it was designed as a programme for boys over the age of eleven. But very soon younger brothers wanted to be part of this Grand Adventure. BUT there was no such organisation to quench this thirst.

Often they just forced their way into ordinary Troop or Patrol meetings (with the Scoutmasters turning a blind-eye to this). In some areas as early as 1909 unofficial Junior or Cadet Scout Troops were set up, to siphon off the younger members to protect the Scout Movement.

These Cadet Troops, taught a much simpler form of Scouting, just including the basic knots, basic first aid, tracking and so on. In 1914, there were articles in the Headquarters' Gazette (the regular newsletter to leaders) outlining such an official scheme: This was not really what Baden-Powell wanted, he wanted something different, not a watered down Boy Scouts, but a movement in its own rights, with its own identity and programme. In announcing, in 1914, his plans for 'Junior Scouts' to cater for boys under 11 years old, B.-P. said:

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.

In 1916, he published his own outlines for such a scheme, it was to be called Wolf Cubbing. Baden-Powell might have had a number of reasons to call this section Wolf Cubs:

the Mat abele had given B-P the nickname Impeesa (which mean The Wolf that never sleeps);

Wolf was the name of the cannon made in the railway workshops at Mafeking;

Wolf was one of the names American Indians gave to their best scouts - So a young boy not old enough to be a true Scout or wolf could be a baby wolf or Wolf Cub.

A Theme for Cubbing!

The Jungle Book.

The choice of the name Wolf Cubs suggested to him the ideas of Cub Packs, and to base this new programme around one in particular, the Seonnee pack from his close friend, Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. (Kipling like Baden-Powell had spent much of his time in India and Africa, not as a soldier but as a journalist and writer, and at this point lived quite close to Baden-Powell. He was also the author of Kim, the title character inspiring Kim's Game).

Even today, the Cub Scout programme still uses the Jungle Book stories as a basis, each new Cub finding out about the story of Mowgli's entry into the Pack in Mowgli's Brothers.

The programme, although entirely different from Boy Scouts, started on a trail to learning all the Scouting skills they would need later in the Troop, and giving them a taste of the game of Scouting, and teaching them to be part of a co-operative team the Pack. As well as the adventure it also had the fun element of the Jungle Book character's, the Pack leader becoming Akela, and other assistants Baloo, Bagheera or Hathi, and the recruit entering the Pack was like Mowgli, the young boy who was brought up by the wolves.

Stars in their Eyes

Wolf Cubbing 1916-1966

The section had its own unique uniform, with a yellow-piped green cap (which survived over 70 years as a symbol of Cubbing in the UK), and yellow scarf; its own law and promise; its own badges; its own salute and handshake; and its own ceremonies - including Grand Howl, with its mysterious Dib and Dobbs. Each Pack was split up into Sixes, each Six the colour of a wolf: Black, Grey, Red, White, Tawny and Brown, not the bright primary colours now used. The Sixes each wore a distinctive coloured badge on their sleeve, their Sixer, two broad yellow stripe on the left arm, and the Second just one. Some packs would have had a Senior Sixer, who wore three stripes.

The Wolf Cub Handbook (written and illustrated by B-P) outlined everything any prospective Wolf Cub or Leader would want to know about the section, split up into Bites or chapters. These intermingled stories, skills, tests, games, activities and badge requirements in one continuous prose. This (with slight) modifications remained the handbook for the section for 50 years right up until the time of the Chief Scout's Advance Party Report of 1966, which radically changed the whole movement. Wolf Cub Leaders never did have their own handbook, like very early copies of Scouting for Boys, the Leader's hints were included in the boy's handbook.

The basic tests for the Wolf Cubs changed very little over the years, although Baden-Powell was always aware that the Movement should change with the times, showing a credit to the badge scheme he instigated. Cubs first passing their Tender pad requirements so they could be invested into the Cub Pack, then getting their First Star, which was placed on their cap so they had one eye open, and then working for their Second Star so they had both eyes open. Later B-P introduced the Leaping Wolf as a `link badge' between Cubs and Scouts, as one of the first attempts to stem the ever present problem of leakage between the two sections. It showed the other Scouts in the troop that irrespective of the length of time the Cub had been in the Pack, he was a good Cub, having completed his two stars and a number of proficiency badges. Initially there were twelve of these, rising to fifteen by the time of the Advance Party.

The Packs kept a record of the achievements of the whole Pack, by placing ribbons, with Cubs names and badges on, on a Pack Totem, consisting of a wolf's head on a pole, which was prominently displayed at Pack meetings, and used in all the ceremonies.

As early as 1917, Wolf Cubs had their own monthly paper The Wolf Cub, ten pages costing just one old pence (approximately 0.4p in modern terms), although it did double in price to 2d in 1920. Which was the year which Cub Scouter training started at Gilwell. Leaders who completed their wood badge, received not the two wooden beads of Troop Scouters, but instead a single tooth worn on a leather thong around the neck, along with of course, the Gilwell necker.

Numbers in the section grew rapidly, in 1917 there were already 28,000 members, not a mean feat considering the official birthday of Wolf Cubbing was only 16th December 1916; and by the end of the 50's had reached nearly a quarter of a million.

All Change

The Arrow Scheme 1967-78

1966 saw the Chief Scout's Advance Party recommend major changes to the movement. The Cub section was mainly affected by a change of name, Wolf Cubs being no more, Cub Scouts being the new name.

There was no major uniform change, unlike the Scout section. The green jersey, cap and shorts being retained. The service stars (not the First and Second Stars) were also retained, the Cub section being the only section to retain them.

The change was generally accepted smoothly (it was roughly at this point that some Scouters broke away from the main movement to set up the B-P Scouts, who still have Wolf Cubs, Boy Scouts - although they did go mixed long before the Scout Association - and Rovers). One of the main aims of this change of name was to unify the sections, building a stronger tie between the Pack and the Troop.

The salute, motto and promise were adopted from the Scout section; a unified membership badge. This was not the round purple World badge we wear nowadays, but a red badge with a gold-arrowhead. (The Scout background is green and the Venture Scout badge brown). The Wolf Cub's Leaping Wolf was also replaced with a new link badge - which again was strengthened the links between the two sections.

The training scheme went through a complete change, the new Handbook outlined an entirely different program, the Bronze, Silver and Gold Arrows replaced the two stars. One for each year that the boy was in the Pack - unlike the stars, where a Cub could quite practically get both in his first year. A wider range of activities including a small amount of choice - in the form of alternative activities if a Cub was incapable of some of the prescribed activities. Also a more subjective rather than objective assessment of skills: Instead of having absolute benchmarks for Cubs to progress, but more on whether Cubs had done their best to complete their task.

The proficiency badges remained, three-stage badges being introduced, for activities such as Swimming, Athletics and Art.

One or two parts of the Advance Party report were not followed through quiet as suggested - for example the multi-stage proficiency badges were to be green (stage 1), yellow (stage 2) and red (stage 3), but ended up red (stage 1), yellow (Stage 2) and green (stage 3). The proficiency badges were to be on the right sleeve (put on left), and the arrow badges on the left sleeve (put on right side of chest).

Too much choice

The Developed Arrow Scheme 1978-90

A major review of the Arrow Scheme was carried out in the late 70's, and it was decided even though the new badge scheme was only about ten years old, that it needed a radical change. The choice of activities was not great enough for the Cubs, and so the new Developed Arrow Scheme was introduced. For each of the three arrows a Cub had to complete three activities from each of four section, Discovering, Growing Up, Sharing and Thinking. The Cub had nearly complete choice over the thirty-six activities he wished to complete (there were four compulsory ones for the Bronze arrow, one from each section).

This scheme had many advantages and drawbacks. On the plus side:

  • Cubs could have some choice in what they did

  • In Packs with a poor Cub/Leader ratio could run the same activity for all the Cubs in the Pack, and get activities ticked off for all the Cubs

  • Cubs were not held back by missing a week (one of the main problems with running any scheme with compulsory activities is how someone who is away can catch up on what he has missed out on), as, as long as the programme was such that activities in Pack meetings covered all the activity sections, he would just take part in another one of the activities a few weeks later (or he could do an activity at home)

On the other hand

  • To run it properly was a organisational nightmare - if run properly the Cub should have complete (guided) choice over his 36 activities.

  • Extra time was needed to work with individual Cubs to choose the activities he wanted to complete.

  • It was easy for a Cub to lag behind in one particular section.

  • It was easy for a Cub to choose an easy route through the award, missing out anything remotely challenging.

  • Subjective assessment became more of a challenge, as what you pass a boy for on Bronze arrow, was considerably different to what you would pass one for the same activity at Gold arrow standard.

  • Classical Scouting skills could be avoided as much as possible, making the Troop Scouters work very difficult.

The two main problems though were (a) lack of structure, (b) trying to balance the complexity of the activities. Many Pack Leaders counteracted both these problems by imposing their own structure to the choices, and in some areas, whole Districts imposed their own variations, which was not what was originally intended.

Another change made at this point was the introduction of the collective badges, for activities such as camping, exploring and entertainment, which unlike the rest of the proficiency badges were round not triangular.

Another change although not directly to the Cub Scout Programme, was the inclusion of Beavers (who became Beaver Scouts on April 1st, 1986) the section for 6-8 year olds, thus meaning that Cubs were no longer the youngest section in the movement.

Goodbye to the Arrow Scheme

Welcome to Challenge and Adventure 1990-present

1990 saw yet another review of the Cub Scout award scheme, getting rid of the developed arrow scheme (with too much choice) and replacing it with the more structured Challenge and Adventure scheme. The requirements were split up into about ten sections, some sections requiring more activities, and some less, with more activities becoming compulsory.

The Link badge disappeared, being replaced by the four Scout Family Badges, (one to go with each of the progressive awards: the Membership Badge, Cub Scout Award, Adventure Award and Adventure Crest Award) which act as continuous link between Beavers through Cubs to Scouts, letting the Cubs learn about the whole movement initially and then learning more specifically about the Scout Troop. As well to try and stem the leakage between Cubs and Scouts a further badge, the Cub Scout Challenge was introduced (for Cubs in their last year) to try out the sorts of adventurous activities which Scouts participate in, and putting more emphasis on the leadership of the Sixers and older Cubs in the Pack.

Another change saw the proficiency badges renamed activity badges, and more of them being introduced, bringing the total to forty. The three stages of the Swimmers and Athletes badges were kept, but instead of the red/yellow/green badges, the new badges were all red, with the stage number on them, and the collective badges changed shape to triangular like the rest of the badges, rather than being round. The only odd badge out (like in the Scout Troop) is still the World Conservation Badge, still round and not red!

The Badge scheme was modified slightly in 1995: introducing one more Activity badge, the award winning Road Safety badge (admittedly one of the easiest of the activity badges to gain, as most of its requirements are already part of the award scheme - note this badge received the Prince Michael award for contributions to road safety in 1995); lowering the numbers of requirements needed to be completed for the Adventure Award to just 12 and the Adventure Crest Award to 15.

In this period, a major change to the movement occurred, with girls being allowed in Cub and Scout sections for the first time since the formation of the Guide and Brownie movements. This had no affect on the Cub Scout programme, although the Law had to be changed to remove the words his and himself.

Rishtons Cubs

As far as I am aware, Rishton has four cub packs. One of them is based in the Methodist Church, the Baptist hut, Saint Charles, and the Saint Peters & Saint Paul's School.

Saint Peters & Saint Paul's School have their cub evening on a Friday, and the pack leader is Mr. Edwards from Clarke Street.

No information is known about the Methodists cub pack at the moment.

1st Rishton Cubs
2nd Rishton Cubs
3rd Rishton Cubs
4th Rishton Cubs


History of Cub Scouts web page. (Link no longer exists - http://www.scoutbase.org.uk/library/history/cubs/index.htm).

The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, The Century Company, 1893.

The Second Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, The Century Company, 1895.

All the Mowgli Stories, Rudyard Kipling, Macmillan, 1933.

The Wolf Cub Handbook (11th Edition), R. S. S. Baden-Powell, C. Arthur Pearson Ltd, Jan 1949.

The Wolf Cub Handbook (15th Edition), R. S. S. Baden-Powell, C. Arthur Pearson Ltd, Mar 1960.

The Advance Party Report '66 (Popular Edition), The Boy Scouts Association, 1966.

The Cub Scout Handbook (4th Edition), The Scout Association, 1974.

The Cub Scout Story from 75 years of Scouting, Hazel Addis, The Scout Association, 1982.

The Cub Scout Handbook (1st Edition), Andrew Pearson, The Scout Association, 1985.

The Arrow Scheme, The Scout Association, 1985.

Baden-Powell, Tim Jeal, Pimlico, 1989.

The Cub Scout Handbook (Revised Edition), The Scout Association, 1995.