History of the Scout uniform

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The South African Constabulary's uniform

The very first Scout uniform was modelled on a uniform used by the South African Constabulary.

After the siege of Mafeking and the end of the Anglo-Boer War, Britain had control of the former Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The South African Constabulary was established to be a peace-time army, somewhere between a police and a military force, to pacify the former republics which were now part of a united South Africa under British rule.

Baden-Powell was put in charge of the South African Constabulary, as a leader with exceptional ability to organize the force from scratch in a short time. He quickly recruited a force from the two British colonies, the Cape and Natal, which were now part of the Union of South Africa. He also recruited officers and men from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Ceylon, England and Ireland.

B-P himself designed the uniform: an informal khaki shirt and his favourite 'Boss of the Plains' broad-brimmed hat. It was less formal and more practical than the army uniform. B-P had always preferred comfortable frontier clothes.

Later when he established Scouting for boys, B-P used a very similar uniform, with khaki shirt and shorts, a scarf, and the famous broad-brimmed hat.

The original colours of the Scout emblem - gold on green - also came from the colours of the Transvaal.

Thousands of Scouts around the world wore this uniform, although there are very few who wear the same uniform today. Until the late 1990s, South African contingents at World Jamborees wore the traditional broad-brimmed Scout hat with their khaki uniform, springbok skin woggle and green-and-gold scarf.

Uniform in the 1980s


  • Hillcourt, Baden-Powell: the two lives of a hero
  • Pakenham, The Anglo Boer War