First World Jamboree Poster
From: Laszlo Nagy, 250 Million Scouts,
Geneva, WOSM, 1985

1st World Jamboree
Olympia, England, 1920

Laszlo Nagy, was Chief Executive of the World Bureau (World Organization of the Scout Movement) throughout the 1970’s. His book 250 Million Scouts was published by the World Scout Foundation in 1985. It relates the growth of the Movement and of the World Organization. He describes the 1920’s as "ten decisive years" for Scouting, and writes of the 1st World Jamboree:

It is generally accepted that the 1920s were the most important period in Scouting history. With the end of the 1914-1918 war, the sympathetic but slightly mocking attitude of the public changed into respect and even admiration….

… This was the ideal time for B.P. to launch his project for the great international "Jamboree" – a rarely used expression he borrowed from American slang and meaning noisy revelry, carousel or spree. This is how he described his intentions: "I should like to explain that the word ‘international’ has been introduced into the description of Jamboree with the idea of showing that we welcome to it Scouts from all parts of the world, if they can come … not only those who were our close allies but also those who remained neutral and even those who were for the time being our enemies where they exist."

An enormous feat of organization, the first Jamboree was held from July 30, to August 8, 1920. B.P. himself played the key role as General Commissioner. The Organizing Secretary was A. G. Wade, a former Secretary of the Association back from the war with the rank of Commander. A first-class man, Wade stayed with Scouting for life. His wife Eileen also caught the Scouting bug and was private secretary to B.P. for 27 years.

Some 8,000 Scouts turned up from 21 independent countries and 12 British dependencies. About 5,000 camped, the rest lodging in makeshift boarding houses or at the vast Olympia Hall in London where the Jamboree took place. The festivities lasted for eight days. Hardly a Jamboree in the strict sense of the term, it was a combination of exhibition, fairground and parades on a vast scale with an infinite variety of games, sports, Scouting skills and singing, and stage shows. Despite the heavy rain, this first Jamboree was an impressive demonstration of international Scout fraternity. It proved that 12 years after the foundation of the Movement and only two years after the war’s end, Scouting could unite the nations in one uniform and in a common spirit of peace and friendship. The Jamboree was viewed well by the public. The presence of the reigning monarch and two heirs to the British throne gave it the seal of royal approval and proved that Scouting was taken seriously even in high places.

At the height of the festivities, an amusing suggestion was put forward by James E. West, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America who were present in force with a high-level contingent. An American lawyer, West was another who had recently accepted a so-called limited assignment of six months with the Scout Movement and found himself still there 32 years later. His proposal, made half in jest and half seriously, was that B.P. should be awarded the title of Great Indian Chief. B.P. found the idea amusing but during the initiation ceremony the following day, one of the young Scouts in the huge audience suddenly shouted "Long live the Chief Scout of the World." The cry was taken up by thousands, and on this memorable August 6, 1920, B.P. was officially acclaimed as Chief Scout of the World.

From: Laszlo Nagy, 250 Million Scouts, World Scout Foundation, 1985


Opening Review: American Scouts march past Baden-Powell
Opening Review: French Scouts salute Baden-Powell

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American Scouters saluting the colors at the 1st World Jamboree
link-1920-wj1-tjb-large.jpg (7762 bytes) space25.gif (58 bytes) The Boy Scout Association published The Jamboree Book, 1920 to commemorate the successful completion of the 1st World Jamboree at Olympia, London in the summer of 1920. It presents a record of preparations for and activities at the Jamboree along with a rich collection of seldom-seen photographs from this important Scouting milestone.

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1st World Jamboree
Contingent Badge
Boy Scouts of America
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Baden-Powell Photo Gallery
Baden-Powell at the World Jamborees
Links to the World Jamborees, 1920-1937
The Baden-Powell Home Page

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Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1998
Last Modified: 7:47 AM on December 26, 1998