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The founder of scouting: Baden Powell of Gilwell

[Picture of BP]
Click on picture for larger version.

Part of the portrait of Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell painted by David Jagger which now hangs in the World Scout Bureau, Geneva. This is one of the most favourable paintings of BP. The painting was to commemorate the 3rd world jamboree, which was also "The Camp of Age" to celebrate the twenty-one years of Scouting.

The Story of "BP"
Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell 1857-1941
Founder of the Boy Scout Movement
Chief Scout of the Would

      Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was born in London, England, on February 22, 1857-the day on which Americans celebrated the 125th birthday of George Washington. His father was the Reverend H.G. Baden-Powell, Professor at Oxford. His mother was the daughter of the British Admiral W.T. Smyth. His great-grandfather, Joseph Brewer Smyth, had gone to America as a colonist in New Jersey, he had returned to England and was shipwrecked on his way home. Baden-Powell was thus the descendant of a minister on one side, and of adventurous colonist of the New World on the other.

BP as a Boy
      His father died when Robert was about three years old, leaving his mother with seven children under fourteen years of age. There were often hard times for the large family, but the mutual love of the mother for her children and of the children for their mother always carried them through. Robert lived a glorious outdoor life with his four brothers, hiking and camping with them in many parts of England.
      In 1870 BP entered Charterhouse School in London on a scholarship. He was not an especially outstanding scholar; but he was one of the liveliest. He was always in the thick of it when something was going on in the schoolyard, and soon became known for his ability as a goalkeeper on the Charterhouse soccer football team. His upon, he would pit on a performance that would have the whole school in stitches. He was also musically inclined, and his gift for sketching later made it possible for him to illustrate his own writings.

BP in India
      At 19, BP graduated from Charterhouse and immediately accepted a chance to go to India, as a sub-lieutenant, to join the regiment which had formed the right of the cavalry line in the famous "Charge of the Light Brigade" in the Crimean War.
      Besides performing excellent military service - he was Captain at the age of twenty-six - he won the most desired sports trophy in all India - that for "pig-sticking", wild boar hunting on horseback with a short lance as the only weapon. You will realize how dangerous that sport is when you know that the wild boar is often spoken in as the "only animal that dares drink at the same water hole with a tiger".

Fighting in Africa
      In 1887 we find BP in Africa, taking part in the campaigns against Zulus, and later against the fierce tribes of Ashanti and the savage Matabele warriors. The natives feared him so much that they gave him the name of "Impeesa", the "wolf-that-never-sleeps", because of his courage and amazing tracking abilities.
      Baden-Powell's advancement in rank was almost automatic, so regularly did it occur-until suddenly he stepped into fame. It was the year 1899, and BP has risen to Colonel.
      Trouble was brewing in South Africa. The relations between the British and the government of the Transvaal republic had reached the breaking point. Baden-Powell was directed to raise two battalions of mounted rifles and proceed to Mafeking, a town in the heart of South Africa. "Who holds Mafeking, holds the reins of South Africa" was a saying among the natives, which proved to be true.

The Siege at Mafeking
      War came, and for 217 days - from October 13, 1899 - BP held Mafeking in a siege against overwhelming number of the enemy, until relief forces finally fought their way to his help on the eighteenth day of May, 1900.
      Great Britain had been holding its breath these long months. When finally the news came: "Mafeking has been relieved", it went mad with joy. Look up "Mafeking" in your English dictionary, and you will find next to it two words created on that wild day from the name of the African town: "maffick" and "maffication" - meaning "riot-like celebration".
      BP now raised to the rank of Major-General, found himself a hero in the eyes of his countrymen.

Scouting is Born
      It was as a hero of men and boys that he returned to England from South Africa in 1901, to be showered with honors and to discover, to his amazement, that his personal popularity had given popularity to his book for army men - Aids to Scouting. It was being used as a textbook in boys' school.
      BP saw a great challenge in this. He realized that here was his opportunity to help the boys of his country to grow into strong manhood. If a book for men on scouting practices could appeal to boys and inspire them, how much more would a book written for the boys themselves!
      He set to work adapting his experiences in India, and in Africa among the Zulus and other savage tribes. He gathered a special library of books and rad of the training of boys of all ages. From the Spartan boys, the ancient British, the Red Indians, to our own day.
      Slowly and carefully BP developed the Scouting idea. He wanted to be sure that it would work, so in the summer of 1907 he took a group of twenty boys with him to Brownsea Island in the English Channel for the first Boy Scout camp the world had ever seen. The camp was a great success.

"Scouting for Boys"
      And then, in the early months of 1908, he brought out in six fortnightly parts, illustrated by himself, his handbook for training, Scouting for Boys. Without dreaming that this book would set in motion a movement which was to affect the boyhood of the entire world.
      Scouting for Boys had hardly started to appear in book shops and on the newsstands before Scout Patrols and Troops began to spring up. Not just in England, but in numerous other countries.

BP's Second Life
      The Movement grew and grew and in 1910, reached such proportions that BP realized that Scouting was to be his life job. He had the vision and faith to recognize that he could do more for his country by training a few men for possible future fighting. So he resigned from the army where he had become a Lieutenant-General and embarked upon his "second life", as he called it - his life of service to the world through Scouting.
      He reaped his reward in the growth of the Scout Movement and in the love and respect of boys around the globe.

World Brotherhood
      In 1912 he set out on a trip around the world to meet scouts I many countries. This was the earliest beginning of Scouting as a World Brotherhood. World War 1 came and interrupted the work for a while, but with the end of hostilities it resumed, and in 1920 Scouts form all parts of the world met in London for the first international Scout gathering - the first World jamboree.
      On the last night of this Jamboree, on August 6, BP was proclaimed "Chief Scout of the World" by the cheering crowd of boys.
      The Scout Movement continued its growth. The day it reached its twenty-first birthday and thus became "of age", it had mounted to more than two million members in practically all civilized countries of the earth. On that occasion, BP Chief Scout of the World.
      The original World Jamboree was followed by others: in 1924 in Denmark, 1929 in England, 1933 in Hungary, 1937 in Holland. At each of these Jamborees, Baden-Powell was the main figure, greeted tumultuously by "his" boys wherever he went. But the Jamborees were only a part of the effort for a Word Brotherhood of Scouting. BP traveled extensively in the interest of Scouting, he kept up a correspondence with Scout leaders in numerous countries and continued to write one Scouting subjects, illustrating his articles and books with his own sketches.

BP's Last Years
      When finally, after reaching the age of eighty, his strength began to wane, he returned to his beloved Africa with his wife, Lady Baden-Powell, who had been his enthusiastic helper in all his efforts and who herself was the Chief of the world's Girl Guides (Girl Scouts) - a Movement also started by Baden-Powell.
      They settled in Kenya, in a peaceful spot, with a glorious view across miles of forests toward snow-covered mountain peaks. There BP died on January 8th, 1941-a little more than a month before his eighty-fourth birthday.

BP's Last message
Dear 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 goodbye.
      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 form being successful in your career, not 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.

Your friend,
Baden Powell of Gilwell

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