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Two Beads-Wood Badge recognition

Three Beads-Wood Badge Staff recognition

Four Beads- Wood Badge Course Director recognition

Five Beads- First Wood Badge Course Director in a nation (the 5th bead is from the original B-P Zulu breast plate)




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Where would one find "bead etiquette" wrt Wood Badge? I don't recall anything in the insignia guide.


For example, at a COH I would like to wear my WB beads and my troop neckerchief. I've been told by some the beads may be worn sans a neckerchief or with the taupe neckerchief or McClaren (McLaren?) taran only.

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  • 1 month later...

While I in no way claim to be any sort of an expert on the origins of the Wood Badge I have done a little reading about the subject over the years.

I hope that I never become a member of the "Good old boys". While I like the traditions of Wood Badge I hope that I never forget that it is a Training Course and the purpose is that we end up doing a better job for the important people the youth in out programs.

As far as my time spend at the happy land. I did my first Wood Badge Course back in England. At that time we did the first part in our Districts and Counties. The Course was very much like the Scoutmaster Specific training now offered over here. Once completed the insignia or patch was a small patch about the size of a BSA knot. It had a single Wood Badge bead on it. Over the years it became affectionately known as the "Peanut Badge."

I took the Boy Scout Wood Badge training at Gilwell Park in June of 1974. A week when I swear if one more person told me to "Check your resources!!" I would have screamed.

The ticket was tough and you had to give a full written report of what you had done in order to meet your goals. I remember mine being over 150 pages!! The time spent on the course was hectic. We "Played" the part of Scouts in a patrol, rushing from one activity to the next as well as trying to complete the spare time activities, cooking over wood fires and somehow trying to keep to the very tight schedule. I think that I was luckier then a lot of the guys as Gilwell Park, was a "Local Campsite" and I had spent a fair amount of time camping there as a Scout and knew where things were.

Looking back, I was far too young to really grasp the real meaning of what the course was trying to teach me. I got caught up in "Beating the other Patrols" and playing Boy Scout.

I needed a Wood Badge in order to be a leader at the World Jamboree. So it was just something that "Had" to be done. This might be one of the reasons why now I'm not in favor of mandatory training. The idea of "Let's get this done and out of the way."

After I became involved in Cub Scout Leader training I took the Cub Scout Leader trainer Wood Badge course (NE-CS-58) A week long course at Hawk Mountain. Much as I hate to say it I found that the Wood Badge traditions got in the way. We were there to try and become better trainers and the Wood Badge stuff did little to help this and at times ended up getting in the way. Having the course at a Scout Camp was not ideal and it being a Regional Course didn't help. My Den Counselor who was also my ticket counselor lived about a four hour drive away so meeting with him was hard. I needed to change a ticket item which needed the approval of the Cubmaster, she went MIA?? We eventually tracked her down in Germany!!

I served on four of the pre 21 Century Wood Badge courses. Three were outstanding, with Scoutmasters who understood why we were there. One was terrible the Scoutmaster a nice chap but I felt being Scoutmaster went to his head and he got too wrapped up in the "Window dressing and traditions," of the course.

I really do like the new course and have served as a Troop Guide,which is the best position to have as a Staffer and once as the Scoutmaster.

When Gilwell Park was purchased for the Scout Movement in 1919 and formal Leader Training was established Baden Powell felt that "Scout Officers" (As they were then called.)who had completed a training course should receive some sort of recognition. His first idea was some sort of a tassel on their Scout hats but instead the alternative of two small beads attached to the lacing on the hat or to a coat button hole was instituted and designated the Wood Badge.Very soon the wearing of beads on the hat was discontinued and instead they were strung on a leather thong or boot-lace around the neck.

The very first Wood Badges were made from beads from a necklace that had belonged to a Zulu chief named Dinizulu. There is some controversy as to how Baden Powell came to own the necklace.

But I'm not going to go there!!

The necklace was 12 feet long and contained about 1,000 beads. The beads varied in size from being very small to as big as 4 inches.

The Zulus considered the necklaces being sacred, being the badge conferred on royalty and outstanding warriors. It was made from South African Acacia yellow wood.

The first sets of beads were all from the original necklace, but as the supply dwindled in early courses one bead was taken from the necklace and the participants had to carve the other from hornbeam or beech. Eventually the wood beads became the norm.

In England two bead necklaces were worn by Scouter's, three beads by Assistant Leader Trainers (formerly known as Assistant Camp Chiefs) four beads by Leader Trainers (Deputy Camp Chiefs.)In recent years the practice of awarding three and four bead necklaces in England has now ceased.

There was for a very brief time a system in place for Wolf Cub Leaders (All packs were Wolf Cub Packs.) From about 1922 till 1925 Wolf Cub there was the Wolf's Fang or the Akela Badge. The badge was made out of bone tooth fangs or wooden replicas. Wolf Cub Leader Trainers wore two fangs. This was done away with on November 13,1925. However the Committee of the Council (Very much like our National Executive Board, and still going strong.)thought that there needed to be a distinctive mark to show in what section the Leader was working. The mark took the form of a small abacus-type bead, placed above the knot on the Wood Badge necklace. Yellow for Cubs,green for Scouts and red for Rovers. This didn't last long as the Committee of The Council decided it would cease at a meeting held o October 14, 1927.

According to records in Baden Powell House and at Gilwell park, when foreign countries (outside England!!) Established Wood Badge Training after the pattern set by Gilwell, the person in charge of originating the course was designated a Gilwell Deputy Camp Chief, representing Gilwell Park in his own country. According to a tradition supposedly established by Baden Powell that person could wear fivebeads. Most of the fifth beads were presented in the 1920s and 1930s but what has happened to them and who wore them is not known by the British. I have been informed that Greenbar Bill Hillcourt was awarded five beads.

Baden Powell himself wore six beads. He did award a set of six beads to Sir Percy Everett, a friend who had been with him at Brownsea Island in 1907 and who became the Commissioner For Training and later the Deputy Chief Scout.

In 1949 Sir Percy presented his six bead necklace back to Gilwell Park to be worn as the badge of office of the Camp Chief. (The person on staff at Gilwell Park in charge of Training.) John Thurman the then Camp Chief wore it until his retirement in 1969, when it was passed Bryan Dodgson the Director Of Leader Training,following his retirement in 1983 and a reorganization in staff titles it was worn by Derek Twine then the Executive Commissioner Program and Training. Today it is worn by Stephen Peck Director of program and development.

As far as I know here in the USA we only go as high as four beads.

I do wear my four bead necklace with a lot of pride. However if things changed and we all started to wear only the two bead necklace, I don't think that it would be a bad thing. There are a few people who do go a Wood Badge Course in order to get the bead. A good Scoutmaster will spot these guys and get them to see the light or send them packing.


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WOW, thank you for that explanation.


I would like to say this... I have earned my 2 beads and I am very proud of them, but not just for the beads... it's what they mean to me and represent. It's what the experience of Wood Badge has been for me.


I will admit that I definately wanted my beads. I worked very hard for more than a year to earn them. They mean a great deal to me, but I would not say that I only went to Wood Badge or worked my ticket just for the beads. I now have life-long friends, experiences, and memories that I will cherish.


If I was asked to serve on a Wood Badge course I would do it in a heart beat... and not really for the third bead. I love the experience of the brotherhood of Wood Badge. To have the chance to spend a week with such excellent people again, and going through the experiences of preparing the months before the course... That is what I would really like.


The beads are a badge. A representation of many things. Really no different than the Eagle for the Scout or the Arrow of Light to the Webelos. What is important, and I believe what you wanted to point out, is what the beads represent.


I will never forget my Wood Badge experience, just as hundreds of others won't.



Eagle Patrol

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Thanks Pete,

Sad to say when I was first asked to serve as a Staff member I was more interested in the bead then I was the participants. Glad to say that only a few hours into the development weekend I seen the error of my ways.


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  • 6 years later...

The BSA Insignia Guide ( http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Media/InsigniaGuide.aspx ) clearly explains 2 beads for wood badge recognition, 3 beads for course staff, and 4 beads for course director.


What the Insignia Guide does NOT explain is whether the person who wears 3 or 4 beads can continue to wear their "extra" (third and fourth) beads after the conclusion of the course that they are leading.


I recall reading years ago, somewhere official, that the "extra" beads were to be worn ONLY while the person was actively serving on course staff; but I can't find any reference now that clearly directs one way or the other.

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"What the Insignia Guide does NOT explain is whether the person who wears 3 or 4 beads can continue to wear their "extra" (third and fourth) beads after the conclusion of the course that they are leading.


"I recall reading years ago, somewhere official, that the "extra" beads were to be worn ONLY while the person was actively serving on course staff; but I can't find any reference now that clearly directs one way or the other."


That information was never in the Insignia Guide.


AFAIK, it was in the WB staff materials. As I understand it, under the old WB, wearing of 3 & 4 beads was only for a period of time (1-2 years), and you had to do another course to extend that time. Not all councils (or individuals) followed that rule.


That rule has been dropped with 21CWB. I have the staff materials, and I don't recall any such rule.

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Emb is exactly right.


At one time, the award of 3 or 4 beads was a "badge of office." This meant that one wore those beads only as long as one held the office which was during the course and for 2 years after while people completed their work. However, that was honored pretty much in the breach. Very, very few people stopped wearing their 3 or 4 beads.


The 4 beads for Course Directors became permanent in 1973.


I'm not sure of the date for 3 beads but believe that it was during the '90s.


It is now considered both a badge of office and a recognition.

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