by Melvyn Gallagher
From the earliest days of Scouting the hand axe was an essential piece of equipment with many uses and, when I was a young Scout, passing the "axe and knife test" was a right of passage.
Back in 1909 "official pattern" leather axe pouches to carry on a belt cost 6 pence (old money) and axes were carried by many Boy Scouts as an essential piece of kit, as seen on many early postcards and the cigarette cards issued by Ogden's and Gallaher's in 1911.
Nowadays here in Britain with less emphasis on cooking over wood and more health and safety rules, axes are not used so much. B-P's early illustrations and his humorous picture of "Tommy the Tenderfoot" trying to use a blunt axe are well known.
Many early Scout hand axes had a spike tool on the butt as well as the cutting edge, but today's Scouts wearing axes would probably be arrested for carrying an offensive weapon.
A 1982, 135F stamp from Togo show a Scout wearing an axe in full uniform, but perhaps the earliest depiction of Scouts using axes is an postcard No. 4 from the set issued by "The Scout" in 1908 entitled "Tree Cutting Competition" on which most of today's safety rules are broken!