Which was the first Scout Troop?

It's impossible to say with certainty which was the first Scout Troop to be formed. Robert Baden-Powell had not initially planned to start a separate Scout Movement and it took a while for the infrastructure of the organisation to be formed, in the meantime Scouting was taking off all over the country. For the first 11 years of the Movement local associations were registered at HQ and troops (and from 1914 Cub Packs) were registered locally. It wasn’t until 1919 that troops and packs were registered at Headquarters. This means that evidence of early troops and packs can be difficult to find and verify.

Ex Africa

Returning in 1901 from the war in South Africa, he found that his book, ‘Aids to Scouting’, was being used by youth organisations all over England. The book had originally been written for soldiers. Urged on by Sir William Smith, Founder of the Boys’ Brigade, B.-P. decided to rewrite it with an intended readership of young boys. Before doing so, however, he wanted to try out some of his ideas and it was with this in mind that he brought together 20 boys at a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, during the first week of August, 1907.

Having tried out his ideas, B.-P. set about writing his handbook. He had selected Pearson’s as the publisher having been impressed with the charity work Arthur Pearson was already involved in. Pearson’s saw the great potential in the Scouting scheme and prior to publication Baden-Powell travelled the country raising awareness and anticipation in advance of the launch. For this reason some Scout Patrols were started before the handbook was even published. The first issue of ‘Scouting for Boys’ went on sale in January 1908. It was published in fortnightly parts and at 4d a copy, its sales were terrific. Soon Scout Patrols, as suggested in ‘Scouting for Boys’, were emerging all over the country. On the 24 January 1908 B.P. publicly announced the launch of a specific Scouting Movement. This occurred during a publicity visit to the Birkenhead branch of the YMCA. In April of the same year, a special office had to be set up to deal with the large number of enquiries coming in concerning Scouting.

Mrs. Wade’s Book …

The following extracts from ‘Twenty-one Years of Scouting’ by Mrs E.K. Wade, for many years Secretary to the Chief Scout, records the first Troop that B-P visited and references to other early Troops:

The question as to which was actually the first Troop of Scouts to be formed – excluding, of course, the Brownsea Island Troop – is one which has often been raised in the Movement. I should not like to say definitely that this honour belongs to any Troop, though many have claimed it. The first Troop, however, which the Chief Scout notes in his diary as having been inspected by himself was at Sunderland. On February 22, 1908, he notes in his diary: ‘Inspected Boy Scouts at Sunderland’. This Troop became known as ‘Vaux’s Own’, after its co-Founder. If this Troop was ready for inspection on February 22, one would infer that it had already been in existence for some days at any rate: and the present Scoutmaster of Vaux’s Own had kindly supplied the following notes based on his personal investigations

Another ‘first Troop’ to vie for the title was the 1st Glasgow which has in its possession a registration certificate dated January 26, 1908, and was founded by Mr Robert Young.

In another entry in his diary, the Chief mentions that, on February 4, 1908, he arranged for the starting of three Scout Troops in Nottingham – under Mr Hemmingway of the YMCA – so the Nottingham Scouts ran the Sunderland and Glasgow ones pretty closely in the matter of ‘firstness’

The Hampstead Troop, known as ‘The Firsts’ was another Troop very early in the field and they, with their Scout Leader Captain Colbron Pearce, took part, with the 1st SW London Troop, in the first inter-Troop competition to be held. This took place on Wimbledon Common in May 1908 and involved competitions in cooking, tent-pitching, fire-lighting and tree-felling.”

These factors all prove how difficult it is to say exactly which was the first Troop to be formed. The spectacular growth of Scouting from a handful of boys at that first camp on Brownsea Island in 1907, to a world Membership of around 43-million by 2023 is a phenomenon unequalled in world history. The Movement has grown so fast that hours could have separated the formation of first Troops and records may not have kept pace with these developments.

Here is a list of Troops which are thought to have started in 1908

         1908 foundation - Current status (2019)
  • 1st Birkenhead (YMCA) - Registration cancelled, April 1983
  • 8th Stockport - Cancelled 2009
  • 8th Southport - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Henley-on-Thames - Active, Thames Chiltern district
  • 1st Newport (The Old Guard) - Active, Saffron Wealden district
  • 1st Parkstone (Lady B-P’s Own) - Active, Poole district
  • 1st Reading (YMCA) - Active, Reading central district
  • 1st Nottingham (YMCA) - Cancelled 2007
  • 6th Eccles (1st Worsley) - Active, Ellesmere, Greater Manchester West
  • 1st Hunts (Hartford) - Active, Hinchingbrooke, Cambs
  • 1st Wolverton - Active, Milton Keynes
  • 1st Cheadle Hulme - Active, Cheadle, Manchester East
  • 1st SW Leeds (St. Luke’s) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 3rd Epping Forest South (originally registered as 1st Woodford) - Registration cancelled 2011
  • 11th North London (1st Stoke Newington) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 151st North London (1st Bounds Green) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 3rd Sunderland (Vaux’s Own) - Registration cancelled, 2009
  • 1st SW Herts (Countess of Clarendon’s Own, Watford) - Active, now 1st Watford South (Countless of Clarendon's Road), Watford South
  • 3rd Portobello (St. James’ Church) - Active, now 3rd Edinburgh North East (St James') - South East Scotland
  • 1st Don & Dearne (Goldthorpe) - 6th Barnsely (Goldthorpe) registration cancelled 2005
  • 1st Bishops Latimer (107th Birmingham Central) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 13th Lanarkshire (1st Larkhall) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Arundel (Earl of Arundel’s Own) - Active, Arundel Littlehampton district
  • 2nd Kensington - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 2nd SW Leeds (Wortley Parish Church) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 3rd Grimsby - Registration cancelled, 2005
  • 2nd Bristol (1st Ashton) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st North Devon (Barnstaple) - Active, North Devon district
  • 1st New Cross (The Greys) - Active, Lewisham district
  • 1st Colchester - Active, Colchester Estuary district
  • 1st Jarrow (St. Pauls) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Romsey - Active, Romsey district
  • 1st Croydon - Active, Croydon district
  • 1st Streatham Common - Active, Lambeth district
  • 1st Hednesford - Active, Cannock district, Staffordshire
  • 5th Wolverhampton - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • Weybridge (Brookland’s Own) - Active, Walton and Weybridge district
  • 3rd Glasgow (Waverley) - Active, South Western district
  • 1st Hirst (Ashington, Northumberland) - Active, Wansbeck district
  • 1st Rochdale (St. James) - Active, Pennine district, Greater Manchester North
  • 1st South Lambeth (Blackstaves, West Norwood Brotherhood) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 89th Lanarkshire (1st Coatbridge, Garturk) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Toxteth (8th Liverpool, YMCA) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 3rd Wallasey (Emmanuel) - Active, Wallasey district, Merseyside

  • 1st Hanwell (St. Mary) - Active, Ealing and Hanwell district, GLMW
  • Duckworth Street Congregational - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Chiswick - Registration cancelled, 2002
  • 2nd Chesterfield - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Hythe - Active, Folkestone and Hythe district
  • 90th Lanarkshire (2nd Coatbridge) - Active, Calder, Clyde area
  • 6th Lanarkshire (1st Carluke, St. John’s) 1st Isleworth - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Stirlingshire - Active, Stirling and Trossachs district, Forth area
  • 1st Dereham - Active, Central Norfolk district
  • 1st Shanklin (Isle of Wight) - Active East Wight
  • 4th Woking (Christchurch) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 3rd Fulham - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Wigan - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st East Putney - Active, Wandsworth district, Greater London South
  • 1st Cleethorpes - Active, Grimsby and Cleethorpes district
  • 1st Westcliffe (Essex) - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Market Harborough - Registration cancelled, 2009
  • 9th Edinburgh - Registration cancelled, 2009
  • 1st Buxton - Active High Peak district
  • 1st Plymouth - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Islington - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 2nd Islington - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 3rd Islington - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 4th Islington - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 5th Islington - Active, North London district
  • 12th North London - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 23rd North London - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st City of London - Active, North London district
  • 20th/28th Paddington - Registration cancelled, date unknown
  • 1st Malvern Link - Active, The Malverns district, Hereford and Worcester
  • 1st Attleborough, Nuneaton - Active, now 1st Nuneaton (Attleborough), Nuneaton District, Warwickshire
  • 1st Tonbridge - Active, Tonbridge district, Kent
  • 1st Formby - Active, Formby district, Merseyside
  • 1st Elstree & Borehamwood - Active, Esltree, East Herts
  • 1st St Marylebone - Active, City of Westminster district
  • 1st St. Helen’s YMCA, Merseyside - Active, St Helens district, Merseyside
  • 1st Cheshunt - Active, East Herts district
  • 1st Forest Hill - Lewisham, registration cancelled 2009
  • 1st Norwich Sea Scouts (Captain Bower’s Own) - Active, Southern Norwich district
  • 24th Birmingham / 1st Sparkhill - Active, now 24th Birmingham (Manor Farm), Cole Valley South District
  • 2nd / 8tth Stockport - Registration, cancelled 2009
  • 1st Cheltenham (Highbury) - Active, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • 1st Longford (18th Manchester) - Active, 1st Stretford (1st Longford), Stretford, Greater Manchester West
  • 3rd Macclesfield (Upton Priory) - Active, Macclesfield and Congleton, Chesire
  • 8th Holborn (Lady Peat’s Own) - Active, North London district
  • 1st Keynsham (St. John’s) - Active, Wansdyke district, Avon