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Robert Baden-Powell

Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell of Gilwell, O.M., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.C.B. (February 22, 1857 - January 8, 1941) was a soldier, writer and founder of the world scouting movement.

Baden-Powell was born in London in 1857. He was the seventh son of a Savilian professor[?] of geometry at Oxford. In 1876, Baden-Powell joined the 13th Hussars in India. In 1895 he held special service in Africa and returned to India in 1897 to command the 5th Dragoon Guards.

Baden-Powell acquired and honed his scouting skills amist the Zulu tribesmen in the early 1880s in the Natal province of South Africa where his regiment had been posted. His skills impressed and he was soon transferred to the British secret service. He was subsequently posted as intelligence officer for the Mediterranean. At about this time he wrote a small manual entitled "Aids to Scouting", a summary of lectures he had given on the subject.

He returned to South Africa prior to the Boer War and was engaged in a number of actions against the Zulus. Promoted by the time of the Boer War to the rank of colonel, he was responsible for the organisation of a force of frontiersmen to assist the regular army. Whilst arranging this, he was trapped in the siege of Mafeking, and surrounded by a Boer army of in excess of 8,000 men. Although wholly outnumbered, the garrison withstood the siege for 217 days, and much of this is attributable to some of the cunning military deceptions instituted at Baden-Powell's behest as commander of the garrison. Fake minefields were planted and his soldiers were ordered to simulate avoiding barbed wire (non-existent) when moving between trenches. Baden-Powell did most of the reconnaissance work himself and built up a team of native boys to carry messages around the garrison for him; Baden-Powell was much impressed with their courage and the equanimity with which they performed their tasks and it was later to set him to thinking. The siege was raised in the Relief of Mafeking on May 16, 1900.

Promoted to Major-General, Baden-Powell returned to England a hero. His book "Aids to Scouting" had become something of a best-seller. A meeting with the founder of the Boys' Brigade, Sir William Smith[?], was to serve as the touchstone for the formation of the scouting movement. The scouting movement was to grow up in friendly parallel relations with the Boys's Brigade. With the publication of "Scouting for Boys[?]" in 1908, the scouting movement was to become a national, and soon, an international obsession.

The Girl Guides[?] movement was founded in 1910 under the auspices of Baden-Powell's sister, Agnes Baden-Powell[?].

Baden-Powell married Olive Soames in 1911 whom he met on an international tour in his capacity as Chief Scout.

On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Baden-Powell put himself at the disposal of the War Office. No command, however, was given him, for, as Lord Kitchener said: "he could lay his hand on several competent divisional generals but could find no one who could carry on the invaluable work of the Boy Scouts." It was widely rumoured that Baden-Powell was engaged in spying, and intelligence officers took great care to foster and inculcate the myth.

Baden-Powell was made a Baronet in 1922, a Baron in 1929 and he was appointed to the Order of Merit[?] in 1937.

Under his dedicated command the world scouting movement grew. By 1922 there were more than a million scouts in 32 countries; by 1939 the number of scouts was in excess of 3.3 million.

He died in Nyeri, Kenya on January 8, 1941.

External links and references

  • Robert Baden-Powell "Scouting for Boys", London, 1907
  • Hilary Saint George Saunders, "The Left Handshake", London, 1948



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