It is impossible to say with certainty which was the first Scout Troop to be formed.  Robert Baden-Powell had not initially planned to start a separate Scout Movement and it took a while for the infrastructure of the organisation to be formed, in the meantime Scouting was taking off all over the country.  For the first 11 years of the Movement local associations were registered at HQ and troops (and from 1914 Cub Packs) were registered locally.  It wasn’t until 1919 that troops and packs were registered at HQ.  This means that evidence of early troops and packs can be difficult to find and verify.

Returning in 1901 from the war in South Africa, he found that his book, ‘Aids to Scouting’, was being used by youth organisations all over England. The book had originally been written for soldiers. Urged on by Sir William Smith, Founder of the Boys’ Brigade, B.-P. decided to rewrite it with  an intended readership of young boys. Before doing so, however, he wanted to try out some of his ideas and it was with this in mind that he brought together 20 boys at a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, during the first week of August, 1907.

Having tried out his ideas, B.-P. set about writing his handbook.  He had selected Pearson’s as the publisher having been impressed with the charity work Arthur Pearson was already involved in.  Pearson’s saw the great potential in the Scouting scheme and prior to publication Baden-Powell travelled the country raising awareness and anticipation in advance of the launch.  For this reason some Scout Patrols were started before the handbook was even published.  The first issue of ‘Scouting for Boys’ went on sale in January 1908. It was published in fortnightly parts and at 4d a copy, its sales were terrific. Soon Scout Patrols, as suggested in ‘Scouting for Boys’, were emerging all over the country. On the 24 January 1908 B.P. publicly announced the launch of a specific Scouting Movement.  This occurred during a publicity visit to the Birkenhead branch of the YMCA.  In April of the same year, a special office had to be set up to deal with the large number of enquiries coming in concerning Scouting.

Plaque marking the location of the launch of the Scout Movement.

The following extracts from ‘Twenty-one Years of Scouting’ by Mrs E.K. Wade, for many years Secretary to the Chief Scout, records the first Troop that B.-P. visited and references to other early Troops:

The question as to which was actually the first Troop of Scouts to be formed – excluding, of course, the Brownsea Island Troop – is one which has often been raised in the Movement.  I should not like to say definitely that this honour belongs to any Troop, though many have claimed it.  The first Troop, however, which the Chief Scout notes in his diary as having been inspected by himself was at Sunderland. On February 22, 1908, he notes in his diary: ‘Inspected Boy Scouts at Sunderland’. This Troop became known as ‘Vaux’s Own’, after its co-Founder.  If this Troop was ready for inspection on February 22, one would infer that it had already been in existence for some days at any rate: and the present Scoutmaster of Vaux’s Own had kindly supplied the following notes based on his personal investigations.

Another ‘first Troop’ to vie for the title was the 1st Glasgow which has in its possession a registration certificate dated January 26, 1908, and was founded by Mr Robert Young.

In another entry in his diary, the Chief mentions that, on February 4, 1908, he arranged for the starting of three Scout Troops in Nottingham – under Mr Hemmingway of the YMCA – so the Nottingham Scouts ran the Sunderland and Glasgow ones pretty closely in the matter of ‘firstness’.

The Hampstead Troop, known as ‘The Firsts’ was another Troop very early in the field and they, with their Scout Leader Captain Colbron Pearce, took part, with the 1st SW London Troop, in the first inter-Troop competition to be held. This took place on Wimbledon Common in May 1908 and involved competitions in cooking, tent-pitching, fire-lighting and tree-felling.

These factors all prove how difficult it is to say exactly which was the first Troop to be formed. The spectacular growth of Scouting from a handful of boys at that first camp on Brownsea Island in 1907, to a world Membership of around 50million is a phenomenon unequalled in world history. The Movement has grown so fast that hours could have separated the formation of first Troops and records may not have kept pace with these developments.

Here is a list of Troops who are thought to have started in 1908:

1908 foundation Current status (2019)
1st Birkenhead (YMCA) Registration cancelled, April 1983
8th Stockport Cancelled 2009
8th Southport Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Henley-on-Thames Active, Thames Chiltern district
1st Newport (The Old Guard) Active, Saffron walden district
1st Parkstone (Lady B.-P.’s Own) Active, Poole district
1st Reading (YMCA) Active, Reading central district
1st Nottingham (YMCA) Cancelled 2007
6th Eccles (1st Worsley) Active, Ellesmere, Gt. Manchester West
1st Hunts (Hartford) Active, Hinchingbrooke, Cambs
1st Wolverton Active, Milton Keynes
1st Cheadle Hulme Active, Cheadle – Manchester East
1st SW Leeds (St. Luke’s) Registration cancelled, date unknown
3rd Epping Forest South

(originally registered as 1st Woodford)

Registration cancelled 2011
11th North London (1st Stoke Newington) Registration cancelled, date unknown
151st North London (1st Bounds Green) Registration cancelled, date unknown
3rd Sunderland (Vaux’s Own) Registration cancelled 2009
1st SW Herts (Countess of Clarendon’s Own, Watford) Active, now 1st Watford South (Countess of Clarendon’s Own), Watford South
3rd Portobello (St. James’ Church) Active, now 3rd Edinburth North East (St James’)  – South East Scotland
1st Don & Dearne (Goldthorpe) 6th Barnsely (Goldthorpe) registration cancelled 2005
1st Bishops Latimer (107th Birmingham Central) Registration cancelled, date unknown
13th Lanarkshire (1st Larkhall) Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Arundel (Earl of Arundel’s Own) Active, Arundel Littlehampton district
2nd Kensington Registration cancelled, date unknown
2nd SW Leeds (Wortley Parish Church) Registration cancelled, date unknown
3rd Grimsby Registration cancelled 2005
2nd Bristol (1st Ashton) Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st North Devon (Barnstaple) Active, North Devon district
1st New Cross (The Greys) Active, Lewisham district
1st Colchester Active, Colchester Estuary district
1st Jarrow (St. Pauls) Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Romsey Active, Romsey district
1st Croydon Active, Croydon district
1st Streatham Common Active, Lambeth district
1st Hednesford Active, Cannock district, Staffordshire
5th Wolverhampton Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Weybridge (Brookland’s Own) Active, Walton and Weybridge district
3rd Glasgow (Waverley) Active, South Western district
1st Hirst (Ashington, Northumberland) Active, Wansbeck district
1st Rochdale (St. James) Active, Pennine district, Gtr. Manchester North
1st South Lambeth (Blackstaves, West Norwood Brotherhood) Registration cancelled, date unknown
89th Lanarkshire (1st Coatbridge, Garturk) Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Toxteth (8th Liverpool, YMCA) Registration cancelled, date unknown
3rd Wallasey (Emmanuel) Active, Wallasey district, Merseyside
1st Hanwell (St. Mary) Active, Ealing and Hanwell district, GLMW
Duckworth Street Congregational Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Chiswick Registration cancelled 2002
2nd Chesterfield Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Hythe Active, Folkestone and Hythe district
90th Lanarkshire (2nd Coatbridge) Active, Calder, Clyde area
6th Lanarkshire (1st Carluke, St. John’s)

1st Isleworth

Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Stirlingshire Active, Stirling and Trossachs district, Forth area
1st Dereham Active, Central Norfolk district
1st Shanklin (Isle of Wight) Active – East Wight
4th Woking (Christchurch) Registration cancelled, date unknown
3rd Fulham Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Wigan Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st East Putney Active, Wandsworth district, Gt London South
1st Cleethorpes Active, Grimsby and Cleethorpes district
1st Westcliffe (Essex) Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Market Harborough Registration cancelled 2009
9th Edinburgh Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Buxton Active, High Peak district
1st Plymouth Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Islington Registration cancelled, date unknown
2nd Islington Registration cancelled, date unknown
3rd Islington Registration cancelled, date unknown
4th Islington Registration cancelled, date unknown
5th Islington. Active, North London district
12th North London Registration cancelled, date unknown
23rd North London Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st City of London Active, North London district
20th/28th Paddington Registration cancelled, date unknown
1st Malvern  Link Active, The Malverns district, Hereford and Worcester
1st Attleborough, Nuneaton Active, now 1st Nuneaton (Attleborough), Nuneaton district, Warwickshire
1st Tonbridge Active, Tonbridge district, Kent
1st Formby Active, Formby district, Merseyside
1st Elstree & Borehamwood Active, Elstree, East Herts
1st St Marylebone Active, City of Westminster distrcit
1st St. Helen’s YMCA, Merseyside Active, St Helens district, Merseyside
1st Cheshunt Active, East Herts district
1st Forest Hill Lewisham, registration cancelled 2009
1st Norwich Sea Scouts (Captain Bower’s Own) Active, Southern Norwich district
24th Birmingham / 1st Sparkhill Active, now 24th Birmingham (Manor Farm), Cole Valley South district
2nd / 8tth Stockport Registration cancelled 2009
1st Cheltenham (Highbury) Active, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire,
1st Longford (18th Manchester) Active, 1st Stretford (1st Longford, ) Stretford, Gt. Manchester West
3rd Macclesfield (Upton Priory)  Active, Macclesfield and Congleton, Cheshire
8th Holborn (Lady Peat’s Own) Active, North London district
1st Keynsham (St. John’s) Active, Wansdyke district, Avon