Patrol Carries On




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The Life of the Patrol

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The training you give your Patrol Leaders through the Green Bar Patrol is intended to teach them to turn their gangs into real Scout Patrols.

And a real Scout Patrol is a group of boys who enjoy being together, doing Scouting together, learning from each other, helping each other in the spirit of the Three Musketeers: "All for one, one for all!"

The spirit of such a gang is not built overnight.  It is nursed along in a lot of ways-some small, like winning or losing a game; some large, like working hard On a Patrol Good Turn; some obvious, like giving an ear-splitting Patrol yell; some hidden, like the voice that whispers: "Keep on! Don't let the gang down!"

A true Patrol spirit will do much to shape the character of the boys in the gang.  

Developing Patrol Spirit

A good Patrol Leader and the right make-up of the gang are the two biggest factors in developing Patrol spirit.

Once a boy becomes a member of a Patrol he ordinarily remains in that Patrol until he leaves the Troop or becomes a leader.  A boy needs this feeling of knowing that he is "there to stay."  That is why there is little chance for Patrol spirit in a Troop where the Scoutmaster shuffles the boys together at frequent intervals and deals them out into new Patrols.  Under such a system they have no sense of belonging anywhere.

The Patrol Name is important.  Instead of being merely a boy, the new Scout on entering his Patrol becomes a Buffalo, a Beaver, or a Falcon.  He learns to give his Patrol Call and sets out to learn the habits of his Patrol animal or bird.  He uses the Patrol Signature whenever he signs his name.  He wears the Patrol's totem in the Patrol Medallion on his sleeve.  His Patrol Flag, carried on the hike and planted in front of the Patrol tents in camp, comes to mean something to him  (see Handbook for Patrol Leaders, Chapter Two).

Encourage your Patrol Leader to develop Patrol Spirit by all means available. Challenge each Patrol to produce the best possible homemade Patrol Flag, then call for its use at all Troop and Patrol functions.  Make certain that a boy secures his Patrol Medallion as soon as he joins a Patrol.

Use these features of a good Patrol whenever you can.  At Troop meetings, let Patrol Leaders report "Beavers all present, sir," instead of "All present, sir. "  Have a Patrol indicate that it has finished in relay game by giving its call.   Ask for the Patrol Signature on the hike report.  Give the Patrol Flag a prominent place at Troop meetings and in camp.

Each Patrol should, as far as possible, have a corner of the Troop meeting room to call its own.  Let the boys decorate the Patrol Corners themselves with knot boards, nature exhibits, pictures, hike souvenirs and the hike.  If the Troop does not have its own quarters but meets in a church or school room, Patrol Screens that can be folded up and put away between meetings will do the trick.  Besides, encourage the Patrols to find Patrol Dens of their own for their Patrol meetings, and to make their own Patrol Equipment.

All these things help to build Patrol spirit.  But when everything is said and done, it is DOING THINGS TOGETHER that counts the most.  It is the Patrol's own meetings, hikes and camps and special activities that make up the life of the Patrol.

Patrol Meetings

When we speak of Patrol meetings, we mean meetings of the Patrol with no adult present; where the Patrol Leader gets his chance to use leadership ability and the training you have given him.

A Patrol meeting once a week seems to get the best results.  Many up-and-coming Patrols with boys of the same neighborhood or school get together almost daily to train in Scoutcraft.

A new Patrol often meets at the home of one of the members--usually a different home each week.  While some mothers may like to serve refreshments, others. will welcome Patrol meetings more readily if it is made clear that "eats" are not expected.   As a Patrol grows older, it should aim to have its own regular meeting place.

The ingredients of good Patrol meetings are the 3 C's:

bulletshort and impressive ceremonies,
bulletchecking on attendance, dues and advancement,
bulletcoaching in Scoutcraft requirements;

and the 3 P's:

bulletplanning future activities,
bulletworking on service, money-earning and other projects,
bulletand play: games, songs and stunts. (See Chapter 5 of the Handbook for Patrol Leaders.)

How will you know that your Patrols have successful meetings?  Certainly not by a formal inspection.  Certainly not by sitting in the corner listening while an embarrassed Patrol Leader tries to carry on.

A better way is to watch what happens.

bulletIf a Patrol has a rousing good stunt ready for Troop meeting, you can be pretty sure that it had a busy Patrol meeting.
bulletIf a Patrol brings a carefully made knot board or a number of exhibits for its corner, you know it has been working.
bulletAlso, the spirit of the Patrol is reflected in the way the boys react--whether they volunteer when there's a job to be done--whether they are full of ideas of things to do when you ask for suggestions.

Patrol Hikes and Camps

When the weather is good, a Patrol meeting can take the form of a hike.

Patrols are ready to go hiking and camping on their own just as soon as the Patrol Leader has been trained, and the Scouts have learned to take care of themselves, have learned to respect growing crops and live trees, to avoid unnecessary danger, and in all ways conduct themselves as Scouts.  Until they arrive at this point, a responsible Troop leader should accompany the Patrol.

Trained Patrol Leaders mean profitable Patrol meetings.  The time you spend in training your boy leaders bears rich fruit.

Or a Patrol dad may go along to provide the maturity of judgment the Patrol Leader may lack.

It should be your goal to get your Patrol Leaders qualified for hike and camp leadership at an early stage.  So let's see what should be expected of a Patrol Leader before he can be considered ready to take his Patrol hiking or camping.   Something along these lines serves as a good basis for judgment:


The Patrol Leader should be a First Class Scout.  He should have experienced at least three Troop hikes and one hike of the Leaders' Patrol.  He should have the written consent of the parents of each boy (some Troops arrange to get a written consent which does for a whole season).  He must be reasonably familiar with the country to be covered on the hike, and he must have permission of the property owner to build fires and cook.


The Patrol Leader should, in addition to the above, have taken part in at least two Troop overnight camps and one Green Bar Patrol Overnight Camp.  He must be familiar with the camp site and must have secured the necessary permission to make camp.

These are not hard and fast "requirements," but rather a measuring stick for the Scoutmaster's use.  One of your Patrol Leaders, not yet a First Class Scout, may have enough judgment to be trusted to make a Patrol hike a success, while another needs still stricter requirements before he is allowed to take his Scouts out alone.  Use these "requirements" with a grain of salt for the good of the Troop--and the boy leaders themselves.

You should be the one to approve all plans for Patrol hikes and camps, since, in the last analysis, parents look to you for the safety of their boys.

Patrol hikes are built around such Scout activities as orientation, mapping, exploring, use of knife and hatchet, fire building, cooking, signaling, tracking, nature lore, pioneering.

On Patrol overnight camps the Scouts have the opportunity to practice what they have learned on hikes and to become good all-round campers.

It's when hiking and camping that the Patrol Leader has his best chance to train his boys in Scoutcraft and to help them advance in Scout Rank.  The details of Patrol hikes and camps are described in the Handbook for Patrol Leaders, Chapters Six and Seven.

Patrol Advancement

The good Patrol Leader will strive to have his boys step ahead through the Second Class and First Class Scout Ranks as fast as is consistent with thoroughness.  This naturally means that he must be stepping, too!

It is customary to have the Patrol Leader examine his boys toward a rank which he has already reached himself.

Patrol Good Turns

Many Patrols have become a closer knit team by taking on a continuous job of helpfulness-such as caring for an elderly cripple or a blind person, directing traffic at a school corner, running games in a children's playground, helping to train the boys in a newly organized Troop.

Patrols that meet in churches and schools can give very practical help to these institutions. Keeping the church lawn cut, painting the basement, distributing posters for church affairs, are only a few of the many useful services that Scouts can render.

Patrol Specialization

Sometimes a Patrol decides to concentrate on a particular specialty.

bulletFirst aid, pioneering and signaling are popular, but there are a number of other activities:
bulletA group of good swimmers may train themselves as a life savings corps. 
bulletA Patrol interested in nature may work together to make a nature collection. 
bulletOr a Patrol may specialize in long-distance hikes, primitive camping, or some similar outdoor hobby. 
bulletAll your Patrols may work for Standard Patrol rating (HPL, p. 362).

The Patrol and the Troop

In placing so much emphasis on Patrols, the idea is not that each Patrol should run off in a different direction, independent of the others.  On the contrary.  A Patrol is a gang living its own life and at the same time the life of a larger group, the Troop: just as a family lives its own life and also the life of the community.  If boys understand this there will be little chance of Patrols developing into cliques.

It is only natural for each Patrol to want to be top Patrol in the Troop, but the best relation between Patrols seems to be the result of mixing cooperation and competition in about equal parts.

There is nothing contradictory in this.

The sound of one lone tuba, cornet, saxophone, or bass drum may not in itself be very pleasing, yet in an orchestra, the combined result is good music--which certainly doesn't prevent the cornet player, for example, from trying to become the best musician in the outfit.  In the Troop orchestra the aim is to make each Patrol player as nearly perfect as possible.

At Troop meetings let each Patrol have its regular place in the Troop line-up, each Patrol its own sessions during the meeting in its own corner.  Games and contests are conducted on a Patrol basis, with the Patrol the team.  Each Patrol has a chance to bring in a new game and lead the others in playing it, or put on a demonstration of its specialty, or challenge the others in a competition.

On Troop hikes each Patrol takes care of its own commissary.  The Patrols outdo each other in hunts for hidden "treasures," they compete with each other in cross-country games, test each other's ability in signaling, axemanship, cooking and other Scout accomplishments.

In Troop camp each Patrol has its share of the work. Tents are grouped by Patrols, cooking is done by Patrols, games and activities are run by Patrol teams.

Let Them Lead!

Again and again we come back to the important point that you can't expect a gang of boys to build a good Patrol without a boy leader who has been trained to lead.  And, as Baden-Powell says, "To get the best results, you must give the leader real freehanded responsibility.  If you only give partial responsibility, you will only get partial results."

Let Patrol Leaders take over in practically everything.  Let them work out their own problems, with the boys in their Patrols.  Interfere as little as possible but always be there to give guidance when they ask for it.  Mistakes are bound to be made-therefore, be ready in a friendly spirit to urge the boy leader and his gang to try again.

"'Train 'em, trust 'em, and let 'em Lead!" That is the formula for success in using Patrol Leaders and for building strong Patrols.

Hillcourt Essays






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
The Boy's Game ] The Game of Scouting ] Let 'em Lead! ] The ONLY Method ] Character ] Are the Patrols Patrols? ] [ Patrol Carries On ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Object of Camping ] Patrol Camping ] Patrol Hikes ] Gilcraft Patrol System ] The Patrol System ] Court of Honor (PLC) ] Gilwell PL Training ] Philipps' Patrol System ] Golden Arrow PL Training ] Patrol Leader's Creed ] PL's Promise Ceremony ] Patrol Competition Awards ] Informal Scout Signals ] Ten Essentials ] Story Telling ] JLT Skits: Leadership ] Master & Commander ] Patrol Activities ] Patrol Motivation ] Troop Meeting Hints ] Troop Meetings ] Patrol Leader Training ] Essays ] Patrol Flags ] Training Patrol Leaders ] Troop Brainstorming ] Menus ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.