Second Class, First Class, Cords, Thongs and Kings

Cambridge District Scout Archives

Boy Scout Awards and Badges

From the beginning of Scouting until the Advance report in 1966 the stages in a Scouts training were shown by various insignia.  Baden-Powell’s original Scout training aimed to encourage personal achievement and provide a framework for the activities of the Scout Troop.

The specific details altered over time but the core stages and awards were as follows.

  • Scout Badge                Initial membership and investiture
  • 2nd Class Scout            
  • 1st Class Scout
    • Bushman’s Thong
  • Kings Scout                 

These were tests in a wide variety of skills associated with the outdoors, health, good citizenship and the personal achievements.

Ken North, later to be awarded the Silver Wolf, retained his badge and award slips

Further skills were recognized by proficiency badges.  Accumulated badges earned All Round Cords.  The cords were worn on the right shoulder usually suspended from the pocket flap button. The one below from 1920 is apparently pinned to the tunic top.

C T Wood album c. 1920

The requirements altered with time; the number of badges required remained the same. The example below is 1953 by which date only one, green, cord was achievable.

Cord under right shoulder epaulet and displayed through right pocket flap.
  • Level 1             2nd Class Scout and 6  Proficiency badges                 Green and Yellow
  • Level 2             1st Class Scout and 12 Proficiency badges                  Red and white
  • Level 3             1st Class Scout and 18 Proficiency badges                  Gold
  • Level 4             Silver Wolf

In the very earliest proposals a level 4 for 24 proficiency badges was proposed – the Silver Wolf.  This moved to being either 24 Proficiency badges or 12 badges and extraordinary performance or repeated acts of bravery, endurance or self sacrifice.   Later it became purely an award for the extraordinary acts, and the badge connection was dropped.

1911       A terrible shock has been dealt to scouts in Cambridge by the death of Scoutmaster William Wright, a second year undergraduate of Queens’ College. Joining when he first came to Cambridge he worked with Scoutmaster Spiller of the 7th and Scoutmaster Curzon of the 1st and had already attained the 24 highest honours badges which secured him the title of ‘Silver Wolf’.                       Cambridge News 29/09/1911

Bushman’s Thong        The Bushman’s Thong was a slightly later addition to the insignia and focussed on Outdoor skills.  To gain the thong a Scout first needed to be a 1st Class Scout. 

The first recorded Bushman’s Thong in Cambridge was 1927 – 28. Only one cord was worn at a time, but a cord and Bushman’s Thong could be worn together.

Kings Scout      By contrast the Kings Scout requirements were more Service based and to retain the title badges should be retaken every 12 months.  It became a requirement that a King’s Scout hold a Bushman’s thong.

The first Cambridge King’s Scout was O. Webb, possibly Oliver Webb, named as achieving this by 1911 and in the front rank of those inspected at the Windsor Rally that year. See Local History/ Outstanding Events/ 1911 Windsor Rally

Signatures        In early POR the following were permitted

  • Kings Scouts were entitled to add a Crown
  • All Round Cords a Stafford knot after his signature
  • Silver Wolf a wolf after his signature                                  

1946:   Scouts and Senior Scouts

With the advent of Senior Scouts as a separate section the awards system was partially altered.

The three stages of Cord were replaced by a single braided lanyard in Scout Green presented for holding six proficiency badges. 

Of these

  • one must be    Backwoodsman, Explorer or Pioneer and
  • one                  Backwoodsman, Camper, Cook, Stalker, Weatherman, Woodcrafts.

The Cord had to be gained before the age of 15 but could be worn after that age.

The Senior Scout of 16½ – 17 was expected to have achieved the Bushman’s Thong on the way to a Queens Scout Badge. The thong arrived as a length of leather and a set of instructions to make the knots.

1966:   and all that

The shape and the paraphernalia of training were given a thorough overhaul following the Advance Report of 1966. 

Only 30% of Scouts reached 2nd Class Scout and only 10% reached 1st Class Scout.  A very high dropout rate was observed between the ages of 12 and 13.  The existing scheme was deemed cumbersome and expensive. It was observed that the standards expected were too low in the public service sections with little emphasis on active service.  The changes were implemented in October 1967.

A four stage progression through Scouts was retained; the secondary markers of achievement, Scout Cord and Bushman’s Thong, stopped.  This simplified the whole.

  • Scout Badge
  • Scout Standard
  • Advanced Scout Standard
  • Chief Scouts Award

Proficiency Badges

The badge system was given flexible categories.  The need to cater for Senior Scout badges stopped as Venture Scouts started at 16 and had their own system.  Previously Senior Scouts, who could be either separate Troops or be Patrols within a Troop, had a sub set of badges within the Scout whole.

The new badge categories were

  • Interest            (elementary standard)            12 – 13 years of age
  • Pursuit             (practical)                               13 – 15 years of age
  • Service             (higher standard: practice and theory)
  • Instruction      (higher standard: for those specialising)

The badges themselves were reduced in size and the service stars stopped.  It is not clear to what extent these subsets were used in practice.

Venture Scouts

  • Venture Award
  • Queens Scout Award

These focussed on long-term service and commitment as well as the completion of an expedition lasting four days and fifty miles.


Scout Standards were replaced with four new categories

  • Scout Award
  • Pathfinder Award
  • Explorer Award
  • Chief Scout Award (fully revised)

Cub badges were reviewed in 1991.

2002:   Programme Review

Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Queens Scout

In 2003 the ladder of awards was extended to cover all sections, one rung in each of the first three sections, the last three spread over the Explorer and Network Sections.

Programme Zones linked to Challenge Badges and covered the core training requirements.  All of the Challenge Badges must be completed to achieve the highest award in that Section.

BeaverChallenge Award Bronze Chief Scout Award
CubsChallenge Award Silver Chief Scout Award
ScoutsChallenge Award Gold Chief Scout Award
ExplorersPlatinum Chief Scout Award
Diamond Chief Scout Award
NetworkQueens Scout Award

The Explorer Belt was introduced in 2013 as an additional Challenge.

The last three stages are aligned with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

  • Platinum Chief Scout Award             ≈          Bronze Duke of Edinburgh
  • Diamond Chief Scout Award             ≈          Silver Duke of Edinburgh
  • Queens Scout Award                          ≈          Gold Duke of Edinburgh

Recipients of the Queens Scout Award and/or the Gold Duke of Edinburgh receive the award in the presence of a member of the Royal Family or their representative.

Proficiency Badges were renamed Activity Badges

2015:   Programme Refresh

The programme was given a general makeover in ‘Programme Refresh’.  The structure of Challenge Badges and Chief Scout’s Awards has been retained but the content has been revised and made “more challenging”.

The previous Programme Zones have been replaced by three themes, being

  • outdoor and adventure
  • world
  • skills

The Challenge awards expanded to

BeaverChallenge Award 6Bronze Chief Scout Award
CubsChallenge Award 7Silver Chief Scout Award
ScoutsChallenge Award 9Gold Chief Scout Award
ExplorersPlatinum Chief Scout Award
Diamond Chief Scout Award
NetworkQueens Scout Award

Cambridge Archives

1951                5th Cambridge             ‘too many are not even first class, a sorry record after a year or more of membership.’

1952                5th Cambridge             ‘ it would be pleasant to record that once again all PLs are First Class Scouts.  But alas it is not so,’

1952                5th Cambridge             ‘it is disappointing that so many Scouts have been in the Troop for a year without gaining second class.  How much longer are you going to let your name appear on the Black List?’    

2020 13th Cambridge ‘There was an award after the bushmen’s thong for Rover Scouts which was the BP award. I believe that those of us in the 13th Rover Crew were some of the last to receive that award before Rover Scouts finished’. Tony Claydon responding to 2020 Facebook entry.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019