Wood Badge Regalia
The woggle was first created in the early 1920s by Bill Shankley, a member of the Gilwell staff. He produced a two-strand Turks head slide which was adopted as the official woggle. In 1943, John Thurman, the Camp Chief, wanted some form of recognition of the completion of each stage of the Leader Training programme and it seemed logical to present some part of the Wood Badge insignia on the completion of what was then called Basic Training. So from 1943 until 1989 the Gilwell woggle was awarded on the completion of Basic Training and the Gilwell scarf and the Wood Badge beads on the completion of Advanced Training.
William de Bois Maclaren, a Scottish businessman and the District Commissioner for Rossneath, Dunbartonshire, paid £7,000 in 1919 to buy Gilwell Park, a 55-acre estate on the edge of Epping Forest, London, as a training centre for Scouters and as a camp site for Scouts. He also paid another £3,000 to help put the Wite House into good repair, as the place had been abandoned for the previous 14 years and was virtually derelict. When Gilwell Park was officially opened on 26th July 1919 Mrs Maclaren cut ribbons in Scout colours (green and yellow) that were hung across the doorway to the White House to mark the opening. B-P then presented Maclaren with the Silver Wolf as a sign of the great debt that the Movement owed to him.
Not much more is known about Maclaren, apart from the fact that he wrote several books including Climbs and Changes, Chuckles from a Cheery Corner, The Rubber Tree Book and Word Pictures of War (a book of poetry based on experiences of the First World War). He died in 1921. In his honour the Gilwell staff wore a scarf made of Maclaren tartan. However to reduce the expense a scarf of dove grey cloth (the colour of humility) with a warm red lining (to signify warmth of feeling) was substituted with a patch of Maclaren tartan on the point of the scarf and worn by those passing the Gilwell practical course. In 1924 use of the scarf became restricted to Wood Badge holders only. Today the scarf is more the earth tone colour beige than grey but the reason and the date of this development has not been found.
When Gilwell Park was purchased for the Scout Movement in 1919 and formal Leader Training introduced, Baden-Powell felt that 'Scout Officers' (as they were then called) who completed a training course, should receive some form of recognition. Originally he envisaged that those who passed through Gilwell should wear an ornamental tassel on their Scout hats but instead the alternative of two small beads attached to 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 bootlace around the neck, a tradition that continues to this day.
The first Wood Badges were made from beads taken from a necklace that had belonged to a Zulu chief named Dinizulu, which B-P had found during his time in the Zululand in 1888. On state occasions, Dinizulu would wear a necklace 12 feet long, containing, approximately 1,000 beads made from South African Acacia yellow wood. This wood has a soft central pith, which makes it easy for a rawhide lace to be threaded through from end to end and this is how the 1,000 beads were arranged. The beads themselves in size from tiny emblems to others 4 inches in length. The necklace was considered sacred, being the badge conferred on royalty and outstanding warriors.
When B-P was looking for some token to award to people who went through the Gilwell training course he remembered the Dinizulu necklace and the leather thong given to him by an elderly African at Mafeking. He took two of the smaller beads, drilled them through the centre, threaded them onto the thong and called it the Wood Badge.
The first sets of beads issued were all from the original necklace but the supply soon ran short. So one exercise on the early courses was to be given one original Acacia bead and be told to carve the other from hornbeam or beech. Eventually beech wood beads became the norm and for many years were made by Gilwell staff in their spare time. Again in the early days Wood Badge participants received one bead on taking the practical course at Gilwell and received a second bead on completing the theoretical part (answers to questions) and a certain length of inservice training.
The Leather Thong
The other important part of the Wood Badge, apart from the beads, is the leather thong itself. Baden-Powell was originally given one during the course of the Siege of Mafeking in 1899/1900 when things were not going too well. An elderly man met him and asked him about his unusually depressed appearance. Then the man took the leather thong that he had been wearing from around his neck and placed it in B-P's hand. 'Wear this,' he said. 'My mother gave it to me for luck. Now it will bring you luck.' So from these two souvenirs of his military career in Africa, the leather thong from an old man at Mafeking and from Dinizulu's necklace, B-P fashioned what is now known all over the world as the Wood Badge.