Baden Powell got his fame from two totally differently accomplishments. While he were serving in the British Army during the Boer War (1899-1902), he led the defense of Mafikeng for 217 day’s against a greatly outnumbered 1,200 Boers he became a hero.
In 1907 when Baden-Powell learned that his text book ‘Aids to scouting’ (1899) was being used for training boys in woodcraft, Baden-Powel established a boys’ camp, this led to the scouting movement the Boy’s Scouts, and he published the manual ‘Scouting for Boys’ (1908). In 1910, Baden-Powel and his sister Agnes Baden-Powel (1858-1945) founded the Girl Guides. In the beginning of 1912 this movement became known as the Girl Guides in the United States.
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was born on Feb. 22, 1857, in London. He was educated at Charterhouse, a public school for boys. After joining the Army, he served in India and Afghanistan. In 1884-85 he became noted for his use of observation balloons in warfare in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and the Sudan. From 1900 to 1903 he recruited and trained the South African constabulary. He served later as the Army’s inspector general of cavalry and as commanding general of the Northumberland (England) Territorial Division. From 1910 he devoted his time to the growing Boy Scout movement. He was made a baronet in 1922 and a baron in 1929. His publications included `Cavalry Instruction’ (1895), `The Matabele Campaign’ (1896), `Sport in War’ (1900), and `Sketches in Mafeking and East Africa’ (1907). He died in Kenya on Jan. 8, 1941.
Baden-Powell: The Man
Baden-Powel’s Alert, slightly build figure and strong surprisingly strong voice were familiar to many. Many people came to know him in the movement, in camp or in his home.
The characteristic that struck people first was his sense for fun. Fist as a boy and the later as a office Robert were always ready for fun. As an old Sergeant said “On Parade he was On Parade, but off Parade e, he was up to all kinds of devilment.” Even in his return from South Africa after the Relief of Mafikeng he could not resist the temptation to play a joke on the passengers.
The other characteristic that was soon apparent to anyone was that he could do many different things, and do it well. This didn’t man that he was a Jack of all trades. He was a master of his own profession- soldering – and particularly everything that is covered in the word scouting. He preferred to so thing for himself and look after himself were ever he were. He had remarkable skill as artist especially scotching people and animals in action. Another art form he liked was modeling.
He was humanly glad when people were interested in what he was doing, but himself were also interested in what others were doing, this was part of his charm. If you explained something to him, he would act as if hit were the only subject he were interested in although he could maybe do it better than yourself. He never stopped learning and liked to visit a factory to see how things were made and in his later years he took up cine-photography and produced some delightful films.
His sports as a soldier were polo and pigsticking, in both he were an expert the attraction to this sports was the horsemanship needed and of course in pigsticking the risks. You may expected that such a fine horseman would enjoy foxhunting but as he one said: “I could never bring myself to shoot an elephant. I would as soon blow up the Tower of London as shoot him.” Although he did a amount of big-game hunting he did not like to kill wild animals he would rather sit at a pool and watch the animals drink water and sketch them. His main sport became fishing. One of his friends writes:
“I think his chief joy in fishing was that it took him away from the ordinary business of life more effectively than anything else, particularly when the formalities too often connected with sport were bypassed. He was always entranced with the beauty of river life, especially in the Highlands in the autumn, with its gorgeous coloring.
“Even the Boy Scouts had to give place to science and philosophy when the day’s work was finished on the river. I don’t think he was ever so supremely happy as he was when wading deep and waiting for that electrical thrill of taking fish.”
His interest were mainly outdoors and it was the kind of life he preferred. His house itself were a museum if treasures and momentous but it was also a house of laughter and good fun.
Baden Powell got very quickly in good terms with children some examples follow.
“The Chief and Lady B.-P. spent a night or two as my parents’ guests during some Scout Rally. It was after lunch that I, aged five, and my brother, aged three, were brought in to pay our respects to the visitors. The Chief was in uniform and standing with his back to the fireplace. My stolid young brother, who at that age hated getting himself dirty, strode straight up to the Chief and, placing a pudgy finger on one of his freckled knees, said in an accusing tone, ‘What those dirty spots?’ The Chief rocked with laughter, and then proceeded to hold us enthralled for some time with animal stories and the like. This first meeting with him made a very vivid and lasting impression on me, very young though I was.”
Many a Boy Scout and Girl Guide can recall meetings with B.-P. which they treasure in their memories. Here is one example out of thousands.
“The Chief was to land at Southampton, and the local Troops, etc., were line up outside the dock gates to welcome him. As a callow youth of seventeen, I had to stand in front of our school contingent, and to my joy when he came along the Chief stopped, shook hands with me and began speaking. I found myself looking into those kindly eyes of his and telling him that before long I was to leave school, etc. etc. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘whatever you do, don’t leave the boys,’ and he repeated seriously several times, ‘Stick to the boys’.”
Another incident also illustrates his extraordinary memory for people and places – his long training in observation developed this power.
“In the summer of 1925 two village boys who belonged to my just-started small Troop at Drayton St. Leonard, near Oxford, were walking down the street at Dorchester during their school lunch-hour; they had Scout buttonhole badges. A touring car pulled up near them on the kerb, and the man driving called to them and said, ‘I don’t suppose you know who I am.’ When they replied that they did not, he said, ‘Well, go and have a look on the front of my radiator.’ There they saw a mascot with ‘Presented to Sir Robert and Lady Baden-Powell on the occasion of their marriage’. They came back to the side of the car, and B.-P. shook hands with them, asked them how long they had been Scouts, whether they had been to camp yet, what Troop they belonged to, and many other questions. Of course they were thrilled, and for some time this chance meeting was the talk of the village. Over six months later I happened to have the good fortune to meet B.-P. for the first time, in Oxford, on the evening of the day on which he laid the foundation stone of Youlbury. When he heard I came from Drayton St. Leonard, he at once said, ‘How’s your Troop getting on? I was so glad to meet those two Scouts of yours last summer,’ and sent them messages of good luck.”
B.-P. could remember people by their back-view, by the way they walked, and by their voices – again the result of his experiences as a scout. The following example bears this out.
“I recall the Friday evening of the 1937 Gilwell Reunion. It was fairly late when I had eaten my supper and washed out my billy-can, and I was walking up the drive towards the house in the dark when I overtook two figures just inside the gates, and said ‘Good evening’ as I passed them. In answer, a torch was flashed on my back, and to my astonishment I heard a well-known voice say ‘It’s Brown, isn’t it?’ I turned, and by the light of their own torch could see that it was the two Chiefs.
“Now I had been introduced to him at the Reunion the year before, but had had the chance to say little more than ‘how d’you do’ to him, so that it is little short of amazing that he should have been able at once to put the right name to my back-view and my voice.”
Is it surprising that such a man had innumerable friends? But the winning of new friends did not mean forgetting old ones. An officer who served under him in India before the Mafeking days writes:
“His friends of course must have been as the sands of the sea. In his last letter to me written from Kenya early in 1940 he apologizes for its brevity but says he has over 80 letters besides hundreds of cards that require answers, yet he gives me all the news of his family and of several mutual friends out there. I do not know if I was especially favored, or if so why, but I always marveled that, among his world-wide activities, he could find the time for private letters; but one of the characteristics of B.-P. was that among his multitude of young friends he never forgot his old ones.”
The marvel is that he could find time for all his activities and interests and for such a wide correspondence. He managed it by making use of every spare moment. Amongst his papers are many notes scribbled on odd sheets; he may have been waiting for a train and some idea came to him; down it went to be passed on and discussed, and often the result would be some fresh development in Scouting.
But he was never satisfied with the amount of work he did, and as the years passed and the natural limitations of age set in, he felt that he could not do all he should to encourage the men and women in the movements; he even went so far as to suggest that he should resign from being Chief Scout of this country and appoint someone else, while he would remain Chief Scout for the movement outside Great Britain. The suggestion was received with such horror by the few who were consulted that he went no farther with the proposal. But the fact that he could seriously think of such an idea shows two things: his sense of duty was highly developed and he had no use for passengers; secondly, in spite of Jamborees and Rallies with their rapturous receptions, he did not realize how deep was the personal affection all Scouts had for him; he thought himself as a Leader of a Movement in an almost impersonal way, and he argued quite simply that if the Leader could no longer do his job, then someone else should take his place.
He had, in fact, that simplicity and sincerity of character which are the marks of all truly great men.
Baden-Powell’s Last Message to Scouts
The following message was found among B.-P.’s papers after his death.
To Boy Scouts:
If you have ever seen the play Peter Pan you will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying speech because he was afraid that possibly when the time came for him to die he might not have time to get it off his chest. It is much the same with me, and so, although I am not at this moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want to send you a parting word of good-bye.
Remember, it is the last you will ever hear from me, so think it over.
I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have as happy a life too.
I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.
Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.
But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. “Be Prepared” in this way, to live happy and to die happy – stick to your Scout promise always – even after you have ceased to be a boy – and God help you to do it.