Book review: Scout Tests and How to Pass Them by Scout Association

Scout Tests and How to Pass Them by Scout Association
Scout Tests and How to Pass Them by Scout Association

Adventure, development and achievement… the character-building bedrocks of the Scout movement have been lighting up youngsters’ lives for over 100 years.

Robert Baden-Powell, a lieutenant general in the British Army who founded the organisation, wrote his ground-breaking book, Scouting for Boys, in 1908 and since then, millions of boys – and girls – have enjoyed the fun of outdoor adventure, Jamborees, summer camps, badges, scarves and gang shows.

Scouting is still the largest co-educational youth movement in the UK and every year helps 400,000 young people to experience the outdoors, interact with others, gain confidence and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Be Prepared has always been their motto even if the old Scout Law rules that a boy should be ‘pure as the rustling wind’ and force himself to smile even when someone treads on his ‘favourite corn’ may long have gone by the book.

And what a book it was, that classic 1914 edition of Scout Tests and How to Pass Them, with its simply amazing range of the legendary badges which aimed to promote self-sufficiency and resourcefulness and inspire Scouts to continue learning, teach others and develop new skills.

To celebrate the coming centenary of what was a 700-page manual, this fascinating and entertaining, shorter and more user-friendly version gives us a tantalising taste of Scouting in its earliest days.

Scout Tests and How to Pass Them offers a wonderfully authentic flavour of Scouting in the days when young people spent much of their leisure time outdoors and were encouraged to build, construct and make their own repairs.

From the Coast Watchman and Poultry Farmer badges to the Woodman and Pathfinder badges, the array of subjects is simply breathtaking in its scope and depth.

The Cook Badge was not obtained by simply boiling an egg or brewing tea but involved knocking up a sea pie for 16 people, roasting a savoury goose for six and skinning, cleaning and washing a rabbit before stewing it.

The Sea Fisherman badge demanded experience of catching fish at sea using trawls, nets and lines, the Miner badge required the Scout to work ‘below the surface for not less than six months’ and the Boatman badge encouraged young people to familiarise themselves with the names of the 47 sails of a tall ship.

This superbly packaged book is a nostalgic window onto a very different age and a delightful reminder that youthful aspiration is much the same as it always was… the desire for adventure, the opportunity to try new things and the chance to excel.

The perfect gift for Scouts young and old…

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £14.99)