Dutch (Netherlands) Boy Scouts

Figure 1.--The Dutch Scouts in this undated photograph all have their hiking sticks. A Durch reader believes that photograph was taken about 1920, but on later than 1925. Note the traditional hat and the colored bands on their kneesocks.

The European Scout movement is a case study in international relations. In the Netherlands, like many other European countries, there is, unlike the United States, no national Scout association. The major associations are generally divided by Catholics and protestants, but in many countries there are other complications.


Scouting in Holland started in 1910. That year the first Scout troops were formed in a few cities. The first national association was the Nederlandse Padvinders Organisatie (NPO--Netherlands Pathfinder Organisation (1910) Pathfinder was a common word for scouting in Germany as well. As was tge basic pattern, it was a group for boys only. The NPO merged with the Nederlandse Padvinders Bond and became known as De Nederlandse Padvinders (NPV) (1915). In the next decades Scouting organisations were established for boys and two for girls. Scouting quickly becamevthe most popular activity for Dutch boys. The movement was, however, disrupted during the World War II German occupation when the NAZIs at first discouraged and then outlawed Scouting. An excellent history of scouting in the Netherlands and other occupied countries is available. The NAZIs tried to organize a rival organization, but fe Dutch boys joined. Some Scouting was continued clandestinely, but Scouts could not wear their uniforms. The Scouting movement was quickly restablished after liberation. Since 1973 all five Dutch Scout groups are united in one organisation called: Scouting Nederland. Scouting Nederland has the objective: to promote the Scouting programme in The Netherlands, based on the ideas of Lord Baden-Powell, in order to offer to boys and girls pleasant leisure activities, through which a contribution is made to the development of their personality. The total membership figure (all ages) of 1992 is, according to the annual report: nearly 115,000; i.e. 85,000 juniors and 30,000 adults (not all adults are leaders, so please don't interpret the figure as a 3:1 rate!). Scouting Nederland is a member of both WOSM and WAGGGS.


The ethos and lore of Dutch Scouting as far as we know was based on Baden-Powell work on England, although he was influenced by Thomas Raton Seaton who introduced Indian lore into American Scouting. The Cownoy and Indian legends of the american Wildwest caught he unterest of Dutch and other European boys. Some Dutch Scouts have shown an interest in Indian lore. One such group are the Tecumseh Scouts. The group explains, "Tecumseh started in May 1945, just after the liberation of the Netherland. Tecumseh is also an old indian leader who lived in the eitheenth century in North-America and who tried to unite the different indian tribes in their struggle for survival. Some indian names are still used in our group. For instance, our groupbuilding is called Chillicothe (Tecumseh's village), our patrols have the names of animals who were living in Amerika in Tecumseh's days and the Wampum is both a scoutingpaper and an indian piece of fabric with beads used for communication."


The Dutch Boy Ccouts adopted many Afrikaans words like verkenner = scout, voortrekker = rover or pioneer, and oubaas = scout leader.


Dutch Boy Scouts engage in all the basic activities that Scouts are so well known for around the world. We note Scouts involved in tradition activities like archery, band, camping, community service, cooking, first aid, games, hiking, knot tieing, orientiering, signaling, swimming, and much more. Given the Netherlands gepgrraphic loction along the North Sea coast and the country's maritime traditiins, activities like boating and sailing tend to be more important than with Scouting in many other countries. Sea Scouting is especially important in the Netherlands. These activities have varied over time. And modern Scouts have updated the program with many new activities.


The NPO merged in 1915 with the Nederlandse Padvinders Bond and the combined organization was the De Nederlandse Padvinders (NPV). The NPO and NPV accepted boys of all religions groups. The Roman Catholic Church founded their own sparate Scout association (1938). The Catholic association was the Katholieke Verkenners (Catholic Scouts). It was quite common in Europe for Catholics to form separate Scout associations. The two Dutch Scout associations cooperated in many areas.



The structure of Scouting Nederland (as an organisation) is: 1. Landelijk Bestuur (the National Board), 2. Gewestelijk niveau (Regional-level), 3.Districts niveau (District-level), 4. Groepen (Troop-level), and 5. Speltakken (Units).


Scouting for Dutch girls began with the foundation of the Nederlands Meisjes Gilde (NMG--Dutch Girls Guild) (1916). The NMG was renamed the Nederlands Padvindsters Gilde (NPG--Dutch Girl-pathfinders Guild). The Catholic Church also founded a separate girl guide group--the Nederlandse Gidsen Beweging (Dutch Guide Movement). All NPV, NPG, KV and NGB merged to form a single Dutch Scouting association--Scouting Nederland (1973). Intereatingly, the English term for Scouting was chosen so as to show no favortism to the to the various original Scouting associations. Almost all troops and units in The Netherlands are mixed boys and girls.


All troops have a name, not just a number; even when there are several troops in the same city.

Figure 2.---Scouts for many years placed considerable emphasis on the uniform. Dutch Scouts, like many European Scouts, now give little attention to uniform, generally considering it an unimportant part of the program..


Scouting in Holland is divided into seven sections. The various sections appeared at different times. The newest section is the Beavers.
Bevers (Beavers): Beavers are a relatively sew section of Scouting. They are 5-7 years old. The Bevers play in a fantasy world: The World of Tall Do-All (Lange Doener in Dutch). Tall Do-All is one of the main characters in the Bever-programme, and he lives in a house called Hotsjietonia on the rim of a village. Now and then Tall Do-All invites some friends to come around and play a part in the meeting. These friends have typical fields of interest: e.g. Pompedomp (nature and music), Hippe Springveer (games and sport), Frederik euremaar (creativity), etc. These characters are, like Tall Do-All, played by the leaders. The Bevers are encouraged to play and explore the world around them. Bevers are mixed boys and girls and they have a red sweater as uniform. A Bever-unit consists of maximally 16 Bevers.
Welpen (Cub Scouts): Welpen are 7-10 years old. Single: `Welp', plural: `Welpen'). The Welpen or Cub program is, like British scouting based on the Jungle Book-stories from Rudyard Kipling. Because all of you have read these stories at least once, I have nothing to add here. Although the majority of Cub-Packs consists of boys only, we have mixed Packs too. The uniform of the Welpen is a green blouse. A Pack ('Horde' in Dutch) consists of a maximum of 24 Welpen.
Esta's: Estas are 7-10 years old. Esta's (no translation possible) play in a fantasy world: 'The Land of Esta'. It is based on the book 'The Child With The Tall Hat' ('t Kind Met De Hoge Hoed in Dutch), which was especially written for Scouting by Simone Schell in 1991. The Idea behind the story is that you change your clothes to ... (e.g. pirate, princess, cook, wolf, wizard, or *anything* else) and then play that role. This programme is considered most suitable for mixed units. A lot of mixed Cub-Packs and Brownie-units have changed to the Esta-theme since the introduction in 1991. The uniform of the Esta's is a green blouse. An Esta-unit ('Estar' in Dutch) consists of maximum of 24 Esta's.
Kabouters (Brownies): Kabouters are 7-10 years old. The Kabouters play in a fantasy world: `Bambilie'. Bambilie is a country with some villages and a number of vaguely described area's, which leave space for their own imagination. In each village lives a different community ('Volkje' in Dutch) with its own characteristics. Most of the Kabouter-units consist of girls only but, like some of the Welpen-Hordes mentioned above, there are mixed ones. The uniform of the Kabouters is a green blouse. A Kabouter-unit (`Kring' in Dutch) consists of maximum of 24 Kabouters.
Scouts: Scouts are 10-15 years old. Scouts is the overall-name for members of the age 10-15. They are divided into `Verkenners' (was Boy Scouts, but used for both boys and girls now), `Padvindsters' (Girl Scouts) and `Gidsen' (Guides). The Scout-programme has no specific central theme (unlike the younger age-groups), but often the activities are integrated in some theme or project in order to increase the value and to put it in a context. More emphasis is laid on techniques, skills and knowledge than at the younger ages. We have Scout-units that are boys only, Scout-units that are girls only and mixed Scout-units (and, of course, mixed patrols just as well). This often depends on the troop's history and/or parental preference (alas, in some areas of Holland the latter is the main reason to keep separate boys and girls troops). The uniform of the Scouts is a khaki blouse and a unit consists of 16 up to 28 Scouts.
Explorers: Explorers are 14-17 years of age. Explorers is the name for the age-group 14-17. A boy in an Explorer-unit is called `Rowan' and a girl is called `Sherpa'. The Explorers are considered to be able to plan and carry out the activities and projects on their own. They are supported by one or two adults. Most Explorer-units are mixed boys and girls. The uniform of the Explorers is a brique (red) blouse and most units consist of 6-16 Explorers.
Jongerentak (Rover Scouts): Jongerentaks are 17-23 years old. The age-group called `Jongerentak', which can be translated to `Youth-branch'. A member of the Jongerentak is called a Pivo (plural: Pivo's), and that's short for `Pionier' and Voortrekker', which were the old names for the boys and girls in the age-group 17-23 before the union of the five Scouting organisations in 1973. A group of Pivo's is called a `Stam'. They are, for their activities and projects, completely on their own. There is no continuous `adult'-leader support or supervision (since all members of 18+ are adults themselves), but if needed, they can ask advice from a `Stam-Adviseur' (i.e. someone with a lot of (Scouting related) experience). Pivo's are mixed boys and girls. The basic uniform of the Pivo's is a brique (red) blouse, like the Explorers. A lot of the Pivo-units Stamen') develop their own logo and silk-print it on a sweater, and use it as uniform.

Note that the age-group 7-10 is often referred to as the acronym: 'KWESTA'. The age limits of the sections are official, but sometimes they can be adjusted in individual cases.

Figure 3.- Sea Scouting is popular in the Netherlands and is a very important part of the overall Scouting movement.

Sea Scouts

Sea Scouting is still popular in the Netherlands. Welcome! The 2nd FOS Sea Scouts in Westhinder is one Dutch Sea Scout group. They meet every Sunday afternoon in the town of Oostende, at the coast of Belgium. One Dutch Sea Scout describes his group: "Our scout group is named 'Westhinder' after the lightship Westhinder, which served as a floating beacon at the coastline of Oostende. Our group is a member of FOS, a pluralistic organisation of scouts; this basically means everyone is welcome in our group, no matter what gender, race, colour or religion. What do we do? Every Sunday afternoon at two we gather and do all kinds of scouting and youth activities, of course all things we do are adapted to the age of the kids. We have four groups:
The Cubs: The Cubs are age 7 to 11. They work along Rudyard Kipling's Junglebook. The leaders have names of animals in the Junglebook (Akela, Baloo), most of the time is spent on playing in the woods and doing small indoor activities. Only a few times a year do the cubs come to our 'Naval base' to row or sail -under close supervision of course.
The Venturers: The Venturers are age 12 to 14. Playing still is the main thing to do when you're a venturer, but while playing a lot of typical scouting techniques are learned: knots, hiking, navigating and perhaps most important: handling an commanding a rowboat.
The Scouts: The Scouts or Juniors, as they are called them are age 14 to 16. Sailing and other water activities take up most of their Sunday afternoons. Teamwork, responsibility and 'green' thinking are the key words here.
The Seniors: The age are 16 to 18. Sailing at sea or in the Schelde-delta in the Netherlands and other adventurous activities is what they do here. The Seniors are often responsible for their own activities, which sometimes leads to the most zany and creative games you've ever seen.
The Leaders: The Seniors are 18 on. About 15 enthusiastic leaders lead this bunch of kids, together with our master--the big chief.

Figure 4.--This Dutch band competed at a British Scout band tournament in the 1980s. This looks to be the traditionl Dutch uniform with cord shorts.


Dutch Scout uniforms were initilly sinilar to British uniforms. Short pants were usually worn through the mid-1960s. Beginning in the late 1960s, Scout units tended to move away from uniforms. Few Dutch Scout units, like other Europeans Scouts, now take uniform seriously. Most now wear jeans with their Scout shirts. A few units, however, have retained the old traditions. One such unit pertformed in a British Scout band competition. The uniform is one way in which yje bands were evaluated. The British give considerable attention to uniform. And the Dutch band was very carefully iniformed, giving a very good appearance for the competition. A Dutch reader reports that his Cuband scout uniform in the 1960s was very similar to the British uniform. The major difference was that Dutch Scouts wore brown corduroy shorts.

Scout Band

Dutch Scout groups have, like British Scouts formed bands. I don't think bands were nearly as popular as in England, but they did exist. Some Dutch bands have even participated in British Scout band competitions.

Current Attitudes

Some Dutch and other modern youth are critical of Scouting. One of the most important elements of Scouting often criticized is the uniform. Many youth object to the conformity of uniforms and what they refer to as the military nature of Scouting.

An example of the controvery is the fpllowing discussion in which a Dutch scouter defends Scouting:
Cor (a scout in the Netherlands who is now 24 and has been in scouting since age 7): He is amazed that some people still think that scouting is militaristic. This, he says, is only to consider the outward appearances--the uniform. He points out that footballers wear a uniform and nobody thinks that militaristic.
Kees: Kees disagrees. He says football does actually make him think of a crowd shouting under the influence of Hitler's provocative speeches and degenerating into hysterical crowd behaviour.
Cor: He asserts that he is completely against discrimination, fascism and militarism and finds scouting perfectly in tune with these beliefs and with his ideal of equality. He points out that you get all sorts of people in scouting, rich and poor, primary school and high school. He admits that there are relatively few coloured people but that, he says, is a question of cultural differences and certainly not discrimination. It's true, he says, that some scout groups adopt a rather militaristic manner, but he hates that. Many others are completely opposed to this, and forbid "Rambo" clothing. Cor adds that his father used to take the attitude Kees is putting forward now, until he spent some time at a summer camp, where he completely changed his view - and he (the father) is a pacifist.
Kees: He retorts that in his view scouting is a militaristic organisation whose aim is to make kids accustomed to marching in formation and wearing uniforms. Scouts like Cor who dissent from these views are just like critical members of Mao's Red Guards--praiseworthy, but a contradiction in terms.
Cor: He offers to show Kees what scouting is really like in either of the two groups to which he belongs in the Netherlands. But it turns out that Kees lives in Vancouver. He says he is familiar with scouts because he walks the Baden-Powell trail in the mountains there.

Additional Information

Dutch Scouting Museum

We note an on-line Dutch Scouting museum. The site is in Dutch, but appears to have a great deal of information about Dutch Scouting and Sutch Scout uniforms. The museum notes, "Het museum heeft een grote collectie uniformen in bezit, van kabouters en welpen tot en met leiding. Deze collectie omvat naast complete uniformen ook hoofddeksels, evenementen t-shirts en accessoires." Perhaps our Dutch readers will tell us more about the Museum.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 3:08 AM 3/15/2009