Scout Hats and Berets

Cambridge District Scout Archives

Scout Hat

B-P wrote’…the broad brimmed khaki hat is a good protection from sun and rain’, and in his advice in Part 1 wrote ‘If your Patrol does not belong to any uniformed corps it should dress as nearly as possible thus:  Flat brimmed hat if possible, or wide awake hat’.  It was assumed that many existing uniformed corps such as the Boys Brigade, would start Scout patrols as a subset of their organisation.

Cambridgeshire Chronicle series 1921

Widely imitated by Scout associations in many countries the ‘wide awake’ hat was an expensive item.  In the very first issue of the Headquarters Gazette in 1909 an article on how to get a uniform as cheaply as possible achieved a sum of 1/10½d (one shilling, ten and a half pence) the hat was an irreducible 1/- (one shilling).  Average wages for an agricultural worker were 15/4d a week (fifteen shillings and four pence a week) in 1910 and spare money was scarce.  By 1915 the cost of a hat had risen to 2/6.

Many of the hats worn by younger scouts are old or battered with limp brims. They were probably a cheaper option. By contrast the Scouters generally wore a hat with a sharper brim and fittings.

C T Wood’s album

Cambridge Archives

1920District Minute book ‘The D.C. gave a ruling that it was Cambridge custom to wear three dents in the hat for Scouts,  four for Patrol Leaders and Scoutmasters, but that this was not compulsory.’  Four dents became the standard format for all hats in later PORs.


4 dents and two threes? C T Wood’s album 1920’s 

Most Scout hats in the album (c. 1914 – 1928) were shapeless mounds, a few suggested three dents, but only two so clearly as to warrant copying here.

1923    District Minutes          ‘discussed if it was compulsory to wear a Scout Hat and came to a decision that ‘it was not compulsory to wear a Scout Hat on Association Parades’

1930    BP wrote in The Scouter ‘Those Hats’            ‘To be bareheaded was better than to be wrongly lidded, but at the same time left them incorrectly lidded’  ‘The hat is essentially the part of the Scout Uniform that distinguishes him as a Scout’.

1932      The Camp Rules for Abington Camping Grounds stated – ‘No. 18  DRESS.  All Scouts … but may wear any dress in camp, except fancy and highly coloured headgear such as berets.’  An attempt to overturn this later in the year narrowly failed.

1941        A Commission on Post War Scouting sought views including ‘are any changes (in uniform) desirable (e.g. hat)’.  The overall review included how to reduce the cost of the uniform.

1947      The Cambridge Scout Section minute book records a discussion initiated by IHQ concerning possible changes to uniforms. 

‘Hats    Considerable discussion took place, suggestions included; two hats, present for parade, beret for camp etc., Afrika Corp hat and berets.  On a proposal to abolish the current scout hat:           8 voted in favour         4 for its retention for ceremonial use

It was then unanimously agreed to recommend that a Tank Corp type beret be adopted.’

1949       In 1949 the new section ‘Senior Scouts’, the Rover Scouts and Scouters were given permission to wear a beret.  The beret was seen as practical, cheaper, came in any colour and was strongly associated with the more adventurous elements of the Allied Forces in the recent War – the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps , the maroon of the Parachute Regiment  and the green  of the Commandos

National Headgear Census – the Cambridge vote

1954        In 1954 Headquarters ran a census concerning a move to berets for those under 15.  Three questions were asked of Courts of Honour, Group Committees, DC’s and CC’s. 

Q.1      Should the Scout Hat be the only headgear permissible for Scouts under 15?

Q.2      Should Scouts under 15 be permitted to wear Scout Hats or Berets (provided that all in the Troop under 15 wear the same)?

Q.3      Should the Scout Hat be abolished and replaced by a beret?

Answers from Cambridge Groups;     (No change = 1,           Choice = 2,      Change = 3)

GroupCourt of HonourGroup Committee
1st33
5th22
7th32
8th31
9th22
11th12
12th33
13th11
14th23
17th22
19th33
23rd22
26th11
27th22
28th11
29th11
44th11
51st33
53rd11
54th12
60th22
Q. 1 Q.2 Q.3
DC’s Cambridgeshire 0 6 2

Comments attached to the DC’s replies suggested; ’berets for camping, hiking, orienteering etc’, ‘will come but not yet’; uniformity but not ‘some Troops with and some without as it is now…’ and ‘berets are cheaper’. The Cambridge DC voted for Q 2, that is, either/ or, by Troop. Numbers from Cambridgeshire Groups Scout Hat – 21,   Choice – 67,         Beret – 30          

A green beret became an option for the Boy Scout section in 1954. 

54th Cambridge Court of Honour records      

  • 1954    ‘It was decided that we wear Scout Hats and not berets’
    • 1955    ‘The matter of berets was raised and it was agreed that PL’s should have a vote in their patrols.’           ‘Pigeon and Owls agreed that they wished to continue in scout hats’          (two of three patrols, the third not mentioned)
    • 1956    ‘The troop will wear berets instead of scout hats from September’
    • 1956    ‘Skipper told us how to wear beret’s
The Scouter October 1955

Scouts (Green beret) and Senior Scouts (Maroon beret) are seen in a Pathe newsreel of 1963.  The Scout leader also wore a beret in this film.

The Scout Hat was finally abolished in the Scout Association in 1967.

1975    26th Cambridge were seeking to borrow 2nd hand berets for their trip to Jersey where it was compulsory for it to be worn.

The beret was abolished in 1989.

Cub Caps

The first descriptions of Cub Caps were that they should be green, peaked with yellow piping.  B-P described them as a cricket cap.  Unlike the Scout ‘wide awake’ or lemon squeezer hat, caps were in common use when adopted in 1916.

14th Cambridge 1928

The style and colour remained throughout. 


1962, worn with service star

Hats were abolished for all sections, other than Sea Scouts and Air Scouts, in 1989

Both Sea Scouts and Air Scouts retain their headgear.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019