THOSE WOOD BADGE BEADS
TWO WOODEN BEADS given in recognition for completion of one of Scouting's
greatest training experiences have a story behind them. In the fall of 1919,
Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder, held the first training course
for Scoutmasters at Gilwell Park, near London. The land had just been given
to the British Boy Scouts by a Scottish district commissioner, W. F. deBois
Nineteen men had completed Scouting's first leader training. What should
they be given as a token of having finished their training camp? Rummaging
among his old army trophies and souvenirs for a suggestion, B-P pulled out a
necklace, about 12 feet long, consisting of a thousand or more wooden beads
strung on a rawhide lace.
The necklace had belonged to an African King, Dinizulu, King of the Zulus.
B-P had found it in 1888 in the Ceza bush while attempting to capture the
fleeing ruler. The bead necklace was a distinction conferred on royalty and
Searching further among his memorabilia, the former army leader came across
a simple leather thong given him by an elderly African who, finding him in a
depressed mood during the Siege of Mafeking, insisted he accept the leather
thong. "My mother gave it to me for luck," he had said. "Now it will bring
you luck," he promised, pressing the thong into B-P's hand.
What better "certificate" than beads from this royal necklace strung on a
leather thong? Taking two beads from the necklace, he knotted them on a
thong - - creating the now famous Wood Badge.
To a mauve neckerchief, the tartan of Maclaren was attached, a gesture of
gratitude to Gilwell's donor. This neckerchief with the Wood Badge beads is
worn only by those completing the training now known as Wood Badge.
Today, tens of thousands of men and women in more than a hundred countries
wear the two Wood Badge beads. Members of the training team wear three or
four beads. The camp chief at Gilwell wears six of the original beads.
Recently, the family of" Dinizulu's late son asked whether the necklace
could be returned to the family. When they were told how the beads had been
used, they were more than satisfied.
Now the story comes full circle. The present Paramount Chief of the Zulu
Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangaziwe, the grandson of Dinizulu, took the Scout
Promise in September 1965 before a gathering of thousands of Zulu Scouts at
Kwakhetho-thandayo, the Zulu Royal Kraal, near Nongoma in Zululand. The
42-year-old chief is himself serving boyhood through Scouting.
In 1967 European Rover Scouts in Natal and Zulu Scouts from Natal troops
made four authentic reproductions - after much research. One of them was
presented to the Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America as a
token of friendship at the 12th World Jamboree in Idaho.