Oldest Scout Groups
Many Scout Groups claim the title of Oldest Scout Group in their respective countries.
Due to the rapid growth of Scouting, it took some time for central organisations to be established, and the earliest groups were only registered some time after their first meeting. Some groups first met under the banner of another organisation, including the Boys Brigade, churches or schools, and only officially became Scout groups later. This often makes it difficult to establish which groups started first. Today, national Scout associations often do not take a stance as to which was the first group in their country.
Birth of Scouting
Scouting is usually considered to have started on 1 August 1907 with a camp run by Robert Baden-Powell on Brownsea Island. Thereafter Baden-Powell began promoting Scouting in Britain, and Scouting for Boys, the first Scout handbook, appeared in six fortnightly installments in a boys' magazine starting in January 1908. Boys began forming Scout patrols and flooding Baden-Powell with requests for assistance.
The Scouting movement developed rapidly from here, first through the British Empire, and shortly afterwards around the world.
The first Scout Troops were formed in the United Kingdom in 1907, and registered in 1908. There are a number of claimants to be the first troop. However, due to poor record keeping when the Scouting Movement started, The Scout Association does not acknowledge any single troop as being the first.
The Scout Troops with the strongest claims are listed below:
The first Scout Troop to receive a visit from Baden-Powell was the Vaux's Own Scout Troop in Sunderland. This visit was made on 22nd February 1908, so it is assumed by The Scout Association that the Troop was running for at least a few weeks ahead of the visit. This was also the first Scout Troop listed in the Imperial records.
The 1st Glasgow Scout Group in Scotland holds the earliest known registration certificate, dated 26th January 1908, issued by the Scouting Association. The Group was formed from the Glasgow Battalion of the Army Cadet Corps; its Adjutant was Captain Robert E Young. In June 1907, they formed the ‘Cadets’ Winter Recreation Training Club’. The club was a success from the beginning, as ‘Boss’ Young related: “At first we met at my house, signalled up and down the stairs, tied knots around the banisters and always finished with a good tuck-in.” ‘Boss’ Young met B-P during Autumn 1907 who suggested that the Club could experiment with the ideas contained in ‘Scouting for Boys’. On the 16th January 1908, the Club was formally disbanded and The First Glasgow Troop of Boy Scouts was registered with Scout HQ in London.
There is also an entry in Baden-Powell's diary on 4th February 1908 which mentions a Scout Troop in Nottingham.
Finally, a troop from Hampstead was involved in various events in the first half of 1908.
The Scout Association maintains a list of all the Scout Troops who claim to have started in 1908.
The first recognized overseas unit in a country controlled by the United Kingdom was chartered in Gibraltar in 1908, followed quickly by Malta. In the spring of 1908, Canada became the first overseas Dominion with a sanctioned Boy Scout program, followed by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. By 1910 India and Singapore had Boy Scouts too.
The 1st Sliema Scout Group in Malta was founded in 1909. It is the oldest surviving Scout group outside the UK. The 1st Douglas Scout Group, on the Isle of Man (a Crown Dependency of the UK and not technically part of the UK) was also founded in 1909.
In Australia 1st Toongabbie Scout Group in the western suburbs of Sydney was founded in 1908 and is still operating.
Sethna's 18th West Bombay Scout Group was established in 1914, after Rustomji Edulji Sethna (1898-1954) came across a book called Scouting for Boys, written by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement. He was enamoured by the book and formed India's first Scout group for native boys. Prior to that, there existed some Scout groups, but they were primarily for the British expatriates who were ruling India then. It is today, India's oldest continuously running scout group. Since its first day on August 14, 1914, it has met every weekend without a break.
Outside the British Empire
Chile was said to have the first country outside of the British Dominions to have a recognized Scouting program.
By 1910 Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, France, Russia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Mexico, Argentina, Greece, The Netherlands and the United States had Boy Scouts too.
Toimen Pojat (Unga Fribyggare in Swedish), a Scouting troop in Kauniainen, Finland was established in 1910. Toimen Pojat is the oldest continuously operating Scout troop in Finland. During the Russian ban on Scouting in the 1910s before the Finnish independence in (1917), the troop operated underground. Many traditions that distinguish the troop formed during that period.
In Greece, Mark Mindler established in 1913 the third sea scout group of Athens (3η Ομάς Αθηνών Ναυτοπροσκόπων) as the first scouting group of the country. (The first and second scouting groups were to be established later for training scout officers.) The group operates to this day.
United States of America
During the Siege of Mafeking (1899-1900), boys in the town formed the Mafeking Cadet Corps, made famous by Baden-Powell in the opening chapter of Scouting for Boys. However, the cadets were not themselves Scouts.
- 1st Bury St Edmunds (Mayors Own) claimant to be England's oldest surviving registered Scout Group
- 1st Glasgow, claimant to be Britain's and the world's first registered Scout group
- Sethna's 18th West Bombay Scout Troop, claimant to be India's oldest Scout group
- 1st Claremont Scout Troop, claimant to be South Africa's oldest Scout group
- Troop 20 in Brookyn, New York, claimant to be the oldest Scout group in the United States of America
- 1st Merrickville Scout Group, Ontario, Canada, claimant to be North America's oldest Scout group
- 1st Sliema Scout Group, Malta, claimant to be the oldest Scout group outside the United Kingdom
- 3rd Athens Seascout Group, claimant to be Greece's oldest Scout group