Earning the Top Award is often the highlight for many in Scouting – whether that be the Chief Scout’s Bronze award for a Beaver or the Queen’s Scout Award for Explorers or Networkers. In 2019/2020 some 935 Top Awards were earned by young people in South East Scotland which is a great achievement – but we can do better.

Therefore, Simon Cocker, Deputy Regional District Commissioner has set up a Working Group to look at how we can encourage and support more Young People to achieve their Top Awards, right across from the junior to the senior sections. This will include how we can show the benefits of doing the awards to young people, equip and enable the leaders to add the elements as part of the programme as well as work together to deliver certain elements (such as expeditions) and look at the whole process and infrastructure to see if it supports the participants and their leaders. We hope to have a series of recommendations available in the Summer.  

Top Awards achievement have been part of Scouting from the beginning and so we asked a couple of members of our Regional Executive Committee to recollect their Top Awards experiences and memories 

John Cannon’s memories of working towards the Chief Scout’s Award in 1975

Recalling what was involved in achieving the Chief Scout’s Award, the highest award in the Scout section, takes me back to working in small groups in my Scout hall with a leader explaining to us what the award was about and what would be required to cover all the activities required to meet the criteria.  The main difference I remember from the Advanced Scout Standard as it was called then, was a lot of the activity was self-led and would need to planned and carried out by ourselves rather than being laid on at a camp or in the hall.  I was also made very aware that this was the top award in the Scout section and was the culmination of all I had done in my time as a cub and a scout.  This was something to really aim for! 

The one activity I remember above all, was completing a 2-day hike across the Pentland hills with my friend and fellow Chief Scout’s Award wannabe, Martin Browne, now ARC Communications! I remember sitting down with him with a map of the Pentlands, working out a route and places to camp overnight and then talking to leaders about getting access to some necessary equipment to take with us.  My memory is vivid here as I still remember walking into the unknown, pretty heavily laden, with our rucksacks on our backs as two 14 year old boys, pitching our small white two man canvas tent, with no sewn-in groundsheet high in the Pentland hills (twice!) and using a basic primus stove to cook our meals. 

With no mobile phones, our parents and leaders had to trust our map reading ability and time management skills to follow the route safely and accurately ensuring we arrived at the agreed rendezvous point two days later! 

We did meet the challenge and from memory, all went to plan. I can still recall how cold it was with the wind blowing under the tent walls but we both felt a real feeling of achievement for doing this ourselves. We both went on to complete the Chief Scouts’ award and still feel a sense of pride from what we had accomplished.  The wee white hike tent, as Martin called it, ended its life as a store tent at summer camp and we both often looked at it thinking, we actually camped out in that! 

John would like to thank Martin Browne for supplying the picture with the hike tent.


John Cannon 
Regional Chair


John Bruce’s memories of completing his First-Class badge in the 60’s

Alas I never managed to complete my Queen’s Scout badge having moved as a “senior scout” to a special needs group to support their efforts.  I did however manage to complete my First-Class badge which was replaced by the system mentioned by John Cannon.  The steps in those days (1950’s and early 60’s) started with the Tenderfoot badge, you then aspired to be a Second-Class scout then First-Class.  These presented lots of challenges and I recall spending weeks at the local swimming pool learning to complete 50 yards without drowning.  A real achievement for me.

When I was invited to present badges to our local Group, I referred to the two cap badges that we earned as Wolf Cubs.  These were stars and related to the story of a wolf cub being born with their eyes shut.  As they grow up their eyes open and they can see the world around them.  This equated to Cub Scouts passing their tests and gaining an understanding of the environment. 

John has provided a photograph taken in 1964 when he attended a summer camp with the 133rd (Physically Handicapped) Scout Troop at Gilwell Park. You can see the First-Class Badge on his left arm. 

John Bruce
Regional Secretary


So, achieving top awards has always been core to what we do in Scouting and goes towards creating lifetime memories and achievements as well as being integral to our motto of “skills for life” Our plan in SES region is to try and create a lot more! If you are a Leader interested in learning more about how to help your Young People achieve more Top Awards please contact

Simon Cocker
Deputy Regional Commissioner