The Rover program had its origins in two different schemes. The first, aimed at Boy Scouts in the United Kingdom who were aged between 15 and 18 years old, was called “Senior Scouts” which was launched in March 1917 during World War I. It quickly became apparent that there weren’t enough adult male leaders available in wartime, and it was several decades before the Senior Scout program was established. The second scheme was the series of ‘Battlefield Scout Huts’ provided for the recreation of British and Empire soldiers in rear areas of the Western Front. Related to these was the St George’s Scout Club for servicemen, which operated in the English garrison town of Colchester under the leadership of “Uncle” H. Geoffrey Elwes. From these projects, it became apparent that there was a need for a Scouting-related program that catered for young men, many of whom would shortly be returning from the war.
The first mention of the term “Rover Scouts” was by Sir Robert Baden-Powell in the The Boy Scouts Headquarters Gazette in August 1918, and the scheme was fully established by November 1919. Baden-Powell set about writing a handbook for the new scheme, which was published in 1922 as Rovering to Success. It contained Baden-Powell’s philosophy for a happy adult life as well as ideas for activities that Rover Scouts could organise for themselves. It remained in print in various editions in English until 1964 and was translated into many other languages.