Our history

Our History

Celebrating 80 years of Outward Bound

Outward Bound was founded in 1941 to save young lives directly threatened in World War II. 80 years later we find ourselves in an entirely different type of war against a very different enemy. Once again we refuse to sit back, inspiring and empowering young people so they leave our courses with the determination they need to overcome the challenges ahead of them.

Scroll through our timeline and stories below to see how our history has helped shape our future.

Jog and dip

Jog and Dip has its roots in nautical technique. To help young seaman learn survival skills during WWII, watches of 12 would imitate submersion off the Aberdovey coast to build experience of harsh conditions when capsized. It was thought that if groups of 12 huddled together, they could float for up to 12 hours. The first senior warden at Aberdovey was Captain ‘Freddie’ Fuller, a veteran of the Battle of the Atlantic and two torpedo attacks, who commanded an open lifeboat in the Atlantic for 35 days without losing a single crew member. He developed the practice of ‘drown-proofing’ at Outward Bound, a technique he learnt in Puerto Rico whilst training the American Peace Corps.


HRH Duke of Edinburgh longest standing charitable commitment was with The Outward Bound Trust, spanning seven decades. The Duke of Edinburgh had been taught and mentored by Kurt Hahn at Gordonstoun School. He remained close to Hahn and his philosophies, and as a Naval Officer had an additional interest in the work of Outward Bound. The Duke of Edinburgh became involved at the charity’s inception as a supporter, before joining our board as Patron in 1953. His involvement included being an active Chairman for many years. He formally retired in 2019.


During World War II young men were dying at sea because they didn’t have the skills to escape from their sinking ship and into a lifeboat. Ropes courses were practice ground to develop this life saving skill. Ropes strung between trees simulated a flapping rope over a rough sea, smooth climbing walls replicated a steel hull or slippery dock. As well as practical knowledge, confidence and teamwork were required to complete these tasks – and ropes courses became standard at all Outward Bound schools – long after the basic survival lessons were required.

Kurt Hahn

In 1913 Kurt Hahn, a young Jewish German, travelled to Scotland’s Moray coast to recover from surgery. 20 years later, now a progressive educationalist, he was released from Nazi imprisonment and once again sought sanctuary on the Moray Firth. In 1934, he opened Gordonstoun school. As the Moray Firth was a potential target for invasion during World War II, Gordonstoun was evacuated to Wales. And it was there that in 1941 Hahn and Lawrence Holt launched what would become Outward Bound.

Prince Louis

From 1942 – 1968 an expedition on a sail ship was core to Outward Bound schools in Aberdovey and Scotland. The most famous being the Prince Louis.

But did you know there were two Prince Louis? The first was damaged after she had been sold and sadly ended up burnt out. The second was ceremoniously named by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in Glasgow in 1955. Fondly known as the ‘Spewy Louis’ she was sailed by Moray students until 1968 when she was sold to the French Sailing Association.

Jog and Dip at Aberdovey today
HRH visiting Ullswater in 2014
A rope course at Eskdale
Prince Louis at Arbroath in 1959

Make a donation

The challenges facing young people have been made much worse by the pandemic. And the hardest to reach are hardest hit. If you've benefitted from an Outward Bound course in the past - will you pay it forward and help a young person today?

Join our Alumni Community

Outward Bound Alumni was launched in 2009, as a way for us to reconnect with our former participants. If you're one of the 1.2 million people who have benefitted from an Outward Bound course we'd love to keep in touch.