Rover Scout Emblem, RS-04Rover Scouts (1928-52/65)

Rover Scouts were the most senior of all the Senior Scout programs.  Boys could become apprentice Rover Scouts at 17, becoming full members at 18.  Adult leaders had to be 25.  The program was intended as a service and leadership program for the oldest boys, in some ways similar to a college fraternity or service club.  The program was based on the ideas of B-P himself, who developed the program in England for older boys in 1918 and wrote a book for it called Rovering to Success in 1922.  The program had started in New England in 1929, through the efforts of Robert Hale, who produced an early Rover Scout booklet.  But in 1928 there were crews in Seattle, Detroit, Toledo, and elsewhere.  By 1932, there were 36 official experimental crews, with 27 of them in 15 New England councils.  Finally, in May of 1933 the National Council approved the program, and starting plans for development of literature and helps to leaders.  Apparently in 1935, a Rover Wood Badge course was run, probably following the British syllabus.  Am unaware of any other RWB course being run.

The 'demise' of Rover Scouts is unclear, but not unexpected.  The program was never very big, not helped by the fact that National didn't really 'sell' the program, preferring to push other Senior programs like Sea Scouts and Explorer Scouts. When much of the literature of the time mentioned Rovers, if at all, with a few paragraphs or a page or two that doesn't do much in explaining the program and getting people to want to join.  In 1952, National decided to stop chartering new Crews, and no longer recorded Rover membership after 1953. National also wanted to concentrate its efforts on the Explorer programs, rather then Rovers, thus its demise.  In 1965, when several other changes occurred in the Senior programs, that National stopped re-registering Rover Crews as Rover Crews.  Those that continued to exist where apparently re-registered as Exploring Posts (later Venturing Crews) instead, but continued to use the Rover program.

Up until very recently, there were a few Rover Crews still in existence in the BSA.  The B-P Rover Crew of Glasgow, KY, was considered the 'high church' of American Rovering.  Their leader, Jim Simmons, was involved with Rovers when it was an official part of the BSA.  Before it ended, they were registered as an Exploring Post.  However, Jim passed away about three years ago, and the group has ceased to exist.  There was also the Diamond Willow Crew in Chicago and the Kudu Rover Crew in Bardstown, Ky, both started by Jim and his nephew Ted.  Both have also ceased to exist.  The Queen City Rovers still exists as Venturing Crew #95, and has been in existence for over 30 years.  There is a recent Venturing Crew being organized as a Rover Crew, which are calling themselves the Dan Beard Crew.  A site with info on them is HERE.
B-P Rover Crew patch Diamond Willow Crew patch Kudu Rover Crew patch Dan Beard Crew

I have also learned about a group called the "B-P Rovers of Arizona", which is apparently associated with the various "B-P Scout Associations" that exist in other countries independently of the WOSM associations.  They are associated with BSA Troop 30 and comprise the leadership of this troop.  Here is their web site.  More recently I found another group associated with them called the "1st Colonial Rovers of Florida".  No other data on them as they don't appear to have a website.

In other Scouting Associations, Rovers still exist as their most senior section, usually for the ages of 17-25 or so.  It's too bad that the BSA doesn't see the value in bring back this program.  This would be a perfect program for college age youth (Rovers are usually co-ed in other countries, as is the BSA's older youth programs) to establish Rover Crews for service clubs and high adventure groups, as the present Venturing program ends their youth age at 21.  This can be problematic for a college based unit, as we see more and more college students who are older then 21.

A website with some good info on the early history and development of Rover Scouting in the UK can be found HERE.

The Rover Program
The program of Rover Scouts was one of leadership and service among older youth/young adults.  It was 'grownup scouting'.  Crews were expected to do service and leadership work as part of their program.  The highlight of their program was a "quest", which was intended as a large outdoor service work or project. This might include serving as adult Cub leaders for the Cub Pack associated with their Scouting Group and the like.  In many ways it corresponds to the work done by various service groups and clubs, as well as Alpha Phi Omega, a college service fraternity based on scouting principles.

Rover Scout Uniforms
Rover Scouts wore regular scout uniforms, but with a shirt strip that read "Rover Scouts BSA".  When they wore shorts, they were to wear red garter tabs.  From 1935-46, only Rovers wore the red tabs.  After 1946, Explorers would wear the red tabs.  Rover Scout insignia existed, which would be worn on the right sleeve about 2 in below the seam.  There were several versions over the years.  Also lapel pins existed as well.

Rover Scouts, BSA shirt strip, RS-01 Rover Scout, BSA shirt strip (modern one/UNOFFICIAL)
Rover Scout Insignia
Rover Scout Emblem, RS-04Rover Scout Emblem Rover Scout Emblem, 1938, RS-05Rover Scout Emblem Rover Scouts Emblem, RS-06Rover Scouts Emblem Rover Scout Pin, RS-08 Rover Scout label Pin, RS-09Rover Scout Pins

Rover Scout Advancement
There apparently was no distinctive Rover Scout advancement program. In some countries, Rovers worked on the Rambler award, and this award was offered in the Rover program here.   A Rambler award pin with the BSA logo exists, but was not official produced. Rovers could earn any of the Senior Scout/Explorer advancements, as there was no upper age limits for BSA programs at the time.  They could also earn Senior Scout Titles, as well as progress to Eagle Scout if they had earned First Class as a Boy Scout.

Rover Rambler badge with BSA logo

Rover Scout Units
Rover Scout units were called Crews.  If they were large enough, which was probably rare, they could be subdivided into Teams (some say these were called Sections) around like interests.  Rover Crews were under the leadership of a Rover Scout Mate, who would have been the equivalent to a Boy Scout Senior Patrol Leader or Explorer Scout Post Guide. There was an assistant Mate, or Rover Second as the position was also called. Teams were under the leadership of Team Leaders.  Another leadership position was Yeoman, which was equivalent to secretary. The adult leaders were simply called Rover Scout Leaders.  There existed a pin for the Rover Scout Mate, which consisted of the Rover Scout emblem superimposed over 2 bars.  No other office insignia is known.  However, the B-P Rover Crew did create their own Rover Mate patch.
Rover Scout Office Insignia
Rover Scout Leader   EXISTS?? Rover Scout Mate        NO PICTURE

UNOFFICIAL Rover Scout Mate patchRover Scout Mate patch UNOFFICIAL

Until recently, the only literature on the Rover Scouts I was aware of was the very brief mention of the program in manuals like the Adventures for Senior Scouts and the Senior Scout Guidebooks, and even briefer mention in books like the Scoutmaster Handbook or the How Book of Scouting of the time.

Most recently I learned that there was both a Rover Scout Handbook and a Rover Scout Leader Handbook.  No scouting literature reference had ever made mention of the existence of these works.  I have been supplied with a photocopy of an early (prehaps first) US Rover Scout book.  Title is Once a Scout, Always a Scout, it was written by Robert S. Hale as a Rover Leader Provisional Program guidebook, and approved by the BSA.  It is heavily based on the Rover Scout program as put forth by B-P.  I have yet to see other works, so don't know how much it will expand the knowledge of this early program.  If this locally produced work was approved by the BSA, prehaps others were the same. What DID they produce?  I do know that National Supply made available Rover materials from Britian, including Rovering to Success, the Gilcraft volume on Rovers and more.

There is, of course, B-P's work on the program: Rovering to Success.  This work is more of an inspirational volume on Rovering, then a program-focused work.

Starting in 1935, there was a Nationally published Rover newsletter called the Rover Record.  It produced regularly from Feb of 1935 to 1937, then intermittently from 1938 until the last issue on April 1941.
Rover Scout Literature
Rovering to Success
a 26th edition (printing) appeared in 1964 

written by Robert Stevenson Smith Baden-Powell
unaware of any American edition of this work, apart from recent reprints.

Rovering to Success
Rover Scout Handbook NO PICTURE
Rover Scout Leader Handbook NO PICTURE
Once a Scout, Always a Scout
1930, March First Edition
1930, December Second edition

written by Robert S. Hale, New England Commissioner for Rovering
approved by the BSA? but privetely published
Rover Leader Provisional Program Guidebook
paperback, 24pg

Rover Record
quarterly newsletter, 1935 to 1941
Rover Record #1, Feb 1935

year membership
1935 ---
1936 ---
1937 1337
1938 1832
1939 2247
1940 2153
1941 2060
1942 2047
1943 1410
1944 3099*
1945 3140*
1946 1338
1947 1635
1948 1615
1949 1329
1950 1113
1951 872
1952 909
1953 691
*- these numbers are wrong as they include Senior Scouts in troops that National's statistics did not break out.
Rover numbers combined with Explorers after 1953

Source: 1964 Annual Report of the BSA , as shown in Art Hyman's The Scout in Aviation.

Updated: 11/19/2003mrb