Bear Grylls history with the Scouts explained amid Russell Brand baptism controversy

Bear Grylls is the ultimate scout poster boy. Daring and adventurous, he has climbed Everest, been attacked by bees and hiked with former President Barack Obama.

The Eton-educated former soldier, a master of survival, was an easy pick to become the UK’s youngest-ever chief scout aged just 34.

But can his scouting legacy survive after reports emerged he would stand down as chief scout weeks after photos of him baptising controversial comedian Russell Brand became public?

On 17 May 2009, The Scout Association announced Grylls would be appointed chief scout following the end of Peter Duncan‘s five-year term in July 2009.

He was officially made chief scout in front of over 3,000 scouts.

He said: “When I became chief scout in 2009, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. With every passing day since, I’ve become even more inspired by the dedication of our leaders and volunteers, who tirelessly prepare young people with skills for life.

“Together, we have grown our movement, given young people the voice they deserve and welcomed so many new communities to the Scouts. It’s all about delivering chances to young people where they are needed most. My goal remains the same: to encourage and stand up for young people in all they do.”

He is the tenth person to hold the position and the youngest chief scout since the role was created for Robert Baden-Powell in 1920.

The House of Commons tabled a motion congratulating Bear Grylls on his appointment.


In 2015 the Scout Association announced that Grylls would continue as chief scout until 2018. Grylls wrote, “I am so proud that the largest youth movement on the planet has asked me to continue in my role.”

Grylls, in an interview with The Telegraph, praised the challenge of being Britain’s youngest chief scout, saying “Scouting humbles me every day”.

Three years later, Bear took on the additional role as the first Chief Ambassador of World Scouting, responsible for promoting the value of being a Scout to a global audience.

In 2020 it was reported that Grylls would be in the post until at least 2023.

He told scouts on a livestream at the time: “I couldn’t be more proud to continue as chief scout for at least the next three years, and my hope is that together we can steer and carry Scouting through this tough time and out the other side as a force for good across the whole nation.”

South Korea Disaster

Bear Grylls spoke to more than 40,000 young people from across the world as the huge Scout Jamboree kicked off in South Korea in August 2023.

British Scouts arrive at a hotel in central Seoul (EPA)
British Scouts arrive at a hotel in central Seoul (EPA)

But the event soon turned into a nightmare. Extreme heat resulted in hundreds of participants being taken ill, with snakes under beds and giant mosquitoes among the other challenges faced by participants. It all proved too much for the British contingent, who pulled their 4,000 participants from the campsite for the safety of the capital Seoul.

Hundreds of children were taken sick in the first few days as they struggled with the heat (AP)
Hundreds of children were taken sick in the first few days as they struggled with the heat (AP)

Olaf Clayton recounted the ordeal of his daughter 16-year-old Gabriela, who had travelled to the event with British Scouting Overseas.

“There was no shade, all activities were cancelled, and there were huge mosquitoes,” he said. “Gabriela is quite a tough cookie, but she said there were ‘funny things’ coming out of the ground. There was a snake under her bed - thankfully the Bangladeshi scouts knew just how to deal with snakes.”

Parents and the public alike criticised the organisers for not anticipating the heat. A mother told The Independent the heatwave was the “final part in the perfect storm” of failures, with its effects exacerbated by an apparent lack of medical facilities.

Social Media advice for young people and parents

The celebrity adventurer has said that children need to learn to “police” themselves and manage their own time on social media.

He said: “If I’m on it all day, that’s going to erode your heart a bit.”

Grylls added that he and his wife, Shara Grylls, did not set rules on how long their three sons – Jesse, 19, Marmaduke, 17, and Huckleberry, 14 – are allowed to spend on social media.

Every chief scout

Robert Baden-Powell – 1907 to 1941

Arthur Somers-Cocks – 1942 to 1945

Thomas Corbett – 1945 to 1959

Charles Maclean – 1959 to 1971

William Gladstone – 1972 to 1982

Michael J. H. Walsh – 1982 to 1988

Garth Morrison – 1988 to 1996

George Purdy – 1996 to 2004

Peter Duncan – 2004 to 2009

Bear Grylls – 2009 to present


Writing in the Independent he urged people to wake up to the dangers of global warming.

He wrote: “I’ve spent my life in the outdoors. I’ve seen the great forests of the Amazon; the mountains of Nepal. I’ve looked out at the world from the summit of Everest, and I know how much we have to lose. These are precious reminders of our planet’s majesty and beauty. Yet the power of incredible places is deceptive – we live on a fragile Earth, and we’re slowly choking it. It’s a tragic thing to destroy the only home we have.

“If we want a healthy world to pass on to our children and grandchildren, we cannot afford to ignore the facts. Put starkly, we are the last generation that can make a difference before it’s too late – before global warming slides out of control.”


Under Bear’s guidance, atheists were welcomed into the Scout movement for the first time in 105 years, the association has said.

The movement launched a consultation to see if members would support an alternative Scout Promise for those who feel unable to pledge a “duty to God”.

For more than 40 years, versions of the oath have existed for faith groups including Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, but this is the first time Scouts have considered an adaptation for atheists.

Russell Brand

The Scouting Association has issued a statement following reports Bear Grylls is to stand down as chief scout after photos emerged of him baptising Russell Brand.

The Daily Mail reported that the adventurer is standing down from the position after concerns emerged around his relationship with YouTuber Brand, less than a year after a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary reported allegations of sexual assault. Brand denies all the allegations against him.

Russell Brand being embraced by Bear Grylls (Russell Brand Instagram)
Russell Brand being embraced by Bear Grylls (Russell Brand Instagram)

A spokesperson for the Scouting Association told the Independent: “We are extremely proud that Bear Grylls is our chief scout. Bear was the UK’s youngest-ever chief scout when he was appointed in 2009, aged 34.

“He remains the public face of the Scouts in the UK. He inspired the movement through a period of unprecedented growth, he’s helped thousands of young people to gain new skills, try new things, and look to the future with optimism.”

They added: “More information will be available later in the year about Bear’s next steps.”