Interviewer: Que, what are those wooden beads that you have around your neck?
Que: These beads are known as “wood beads” and are part of the “wood badge”, whose centenary we are celebrating.
Interviewer: How did these come about?
Que: At the end of the first adult training and development course at Gilwell in 1919, Baden Powell gave each person a wooden bead on a leather thong, to be hung from the uniform shirt buttonhole. The wooden beads were from the original Zulu Chief Dinizulu’s necklace, which Baden Powell had acquired in South Africa.
Interviewer: Did every scout leader get these wooden beads?
Que: Initially, only those adult leaders on scout section courses got the wooden beads, and those on the cub section courses got a wolf fang. By 1925, it was decided that there would only be one type of insignia for completion of leader training, and only the wooden bead wood badge was retained.
Interviewer: I notice you have 3 beads, what do they represent?
Que: The number of wooden beads a person wears does have a meaning. Originally, completion of Basic Training was symbolised with 1 bead, and completion of Advanced Training, a complete wood badge which is 2 beads. Those who were appointed Assistant Leader Trainers, whose job was to run Basic Courses, had 3 beads, and Leader Trainers who usually ran Advanced Courses, and also Leader Trainer Courses had 4 beads. You may see one person in Australia wearing 5 beads, this is the National Commissioner (Adult Training and Development). Today 6 wooden beads are worn by the Camp Chief, Gilwell Park, UK.
Interviewer: What has become of the wooden beads from the original Dinizulu’s necklace?
Que: Most of the beads have been lost, however 3 are still somewhere in Australia, and I was fortunate to see 1 of the original wood beads which makes up the 5th bead on the National Commissioner (Adult Training and Development)’s wood badge necklace. If you see him in uniform, take a close look. Occasionally, you may also see him and some of the other Leader Trainers wearing a pair of Gumnuts on a leader thong, ask them what these are…………….