Woggles and Knots

Cambridge District Scout Archive


Early Scouts tied a knot in their scarf to fasten it around the neck. In photographs and paintings they appear as neat and soft laid un-tucked tie knots. However, before woggles

‘they used to knot their scarves, which used to get creased and stick out at the ends.’

See the paintings of Ernest Stafford Carlos for depictions of knotted scarves c. 1910 – 1917

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 9-e1578996688642.png
From 1923

POR required scarves to be knotted at the throat and the ends until 1928.  This photograph of 1930 shows a woggle and the scarf ends knotted together.

Alternative knotting to complete a circle of the scarf has been recorded.  The knot at the end survived long after the introduction of woggles.

1955    54th      Court of Honour          ‘We decided not have knots in our scarves’

An overhand knot in the bottom of the scarf, to which this entry most likely refers, is to remind the wearer to do a good turn that day.


The earliest date for the name woggle is generally given as June 1923 in The Scout. This refered to the leather 4×3 Turks Head woggle designed by WD Shankley and awarded to recipients of a Woodbadge.

It is acknowledged that some form of ring, slide or slip on was used prior to this date.  Scarf rings are neither a unique Scouting invention nor a difficult concept to master.  It would be surprising if they were not adopted in many places at many times each invention being a standalone ‘discovery’. In the United States, experiments were made with rings made from bone, rope or wood before this date – the formal Gilwell Woggle and the adoption of the term more widely being developments of these initiatives. 

The following have come to my attention, in order of my discovery.

  1. A photograph of a French Scout with a scarf ring, acting as local guide to troops in the 1914 – 1918 war.  I was unable to copy this photograph at the time and missed the opportunity.
  2. A enlarged print from Headquarters Gazette August 1913 contrasting a tie, a knotted scarf and what appears to be a cinched scarf in the middle (below).
  3. Headquarters Gazette 1921         ‘A special scarf and scarf ring for those Officers who passed Training Group Course 1921.’

The term woggle was quickly applied to other designs of fastener, of many shapes and sizes, and is today used around the world. As seen below by 1929 the term woggle was being used by BP to cover all forms.

In July 1927 the use of a woggle was approved, providing all the members of the troop used one. Locally we have the following photographs and dates.

1922 The photograph above is dated 1922 or 1919. The strike through suggests that the date was added after the event and that a member or element ‘proved’ the later date. The boys were born in between 1903 and 1905 which suggests 1922 as a likely date. It is 5th Cambridge and shows 5 of 6 Rovers wearing a very thin ring like woggles. The Scout master wore a tie and the last a traditionally knotted scarf. It is the thin, metal like form that is noteworthy.

1924 In October the University Scouts had adopted the Triple Turks head knot as the Troop woggle and suggested that a supply of leather laces be purchased and issued, untied, with the badge. The recorder expressed some uncertainty that the description of a Triple Turks Head would be understood by all.

1925 13th Cambridge adopted the woggle between 1924 and 1925 troop camps.

7th Cambridge (County School) Court of Honour proposed and carried (5 : 3) ‘that in future the troop will wear woggles‘. These were made by the troop of dark brown leather and stamped with ‘a cluster of small logs burning‘.

1926 5th Cambridge Perse annual photograph from 1926 (undated but within an album of sports teams for the school at this date) shows the large troop all wearing woggles.

1928 7th purchased 2 doz(en) woggles @ 2/6 (per doz.) That is 12 for 30d.

23rd Troop pictured with a variety of woggles, similar but not identical

Uniformly bewoggled 14th Cambridge 1928

The word ring was used in editions of the Scouting handbook ‘Scouting for Boys’ until 1929 when Baden-Powell changed it in the 14th edition: It [the scarf] may be fastened at the throat by a knot or woggle, which is some form of ring made of cord, metal or bone, or anything.’ 

One entry of a woggle being specified by colour alongside the scarf has been recorded from the 56th Cambridge (Haslingfield) Troop in 1934, who wore a gold scarf with a purple woggle. (Harston Log Book)

1944 The 13th Cambridge Senior Patrol records contain a proposed Troop tradition. It is not known if this was adopted.

  • Plain woggle until you have camped 15 nights
  • red turks head 15 + nights
  • white lanyard 30 + nights
  • Scarlet lanyard 60+ nights

In 1970’s CSL Elizabeth Gardner Smith was known to have used a hair curler as a woggle. This informal practice is not unusual, if less often at the formal occasions that photographs generally record.

The term slide is used in America.   It was also known as a ‘slip on’. Later POR’s list the woggle as part of the uniform not an optional variant.


The Advance Report 1967 recommended sea scouts wore a scarf, no woggle, but tied.  By 1989 POR a woggle was uniform for Sea Scouts.

The Scouter Jan 1945 showed the Square knot or Timber Rustlers knot and noted that it was also used in place of a woggle on a scarf.

Friendship Knot

It was again shown on a scarf as a Rustlers knot in Scouting 1977. More recently the knot has been reintroduced or re-popularised as the Friendship Knot.  It sits at the bottom of the scarf and should by convention be tied by someone other than the wearer. 

The knot predates Scouting and is also known as a square knot or Chinese Cross Knot, the basis for these names coming from either side of this knot, rustlers knot and now the friendship knot.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019