Scout Handshake

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The Scout handshake is made with the left hand – ‘a warm left clasp’.  Some national variations are recorded.  In the early years small variations occasionally developed in procedures and dress within a District. Within Cambridge archives there are no records of any variations in the handshake or the occasions or manner in which they are used.

As with the Scout Salute few Cambridge photographs exist of the Scout handshake. The following are from significant visitors; BP in 1922 and the Prince of Wales in 1921, in town to receive an Honourary degree and to inspect Boy Scouts and Girl Guides at Queens’ College.

Prince of Wales in Cambridge 1921; inspecting Scouts at Queens’ College
BP in Cambridge 1922; inspecting Scouts at Queens’ College

The frequent use of Queens’ College, Cambridge, was facilitated by C T Wood, CC during these years. He was Dean at Queens’ College and Scouting was well supported by the Master. 

Handshakes were an everyday event and in the absence of any outlet for a photograph it is not surprising that the expense of a photograph was avoided.

Examples of the handshake between local members are captured at major events such as the award of a Silver Acorn or Silver Wolf.  Often an element of more personal pleasure in the congratulation, between long term colleagues and friends, may be read into the wholehearted shake, some with a secondary clasp to the shoulder or upper arm.

Ken North on award of his Silver Acorn 1973. He later received the Silver Wolf

Lest criticism of the handshakes of notable visitors be read into this observation it should be observed that some years ago the Duke of Edinburgh stopped shaking hands completely after experiencing repetitive strain injury.  A life time of this formal greeting by BP, the Prince of Wales or any other major public figure does initiate some self protective modification.

The use of a handshake in wider use has varied over time. The Scout handshake remains as a strong and distinctive act, whether as novel in its variation or novel just as a handshake. It is a very positive welcome (back) into Scouting, particularly for ex Scouts who return at a later date as leaders. As a formal recognition of a Scouting act well done it is a step beyond words when congratulating a Cub or Scout. On moving up between sections it is a very personal act, one to one, that welcomes the individual, even when they move as a crowd.

JWR Archivist Feb 2021