Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell OM, GCMG], GCVO, KCB (22 February 1857 – 8 January 1941), also known as B-P, was a lieutenant-general in the British Army, writer, and founder of the Scout Movement.
After having been educated at Charterhouse School, Baden-Powell served in the British Army from 1876 until 1910 in India and Africa. In 1899, during the Second Boer War in South Africa, Baden-Powell successfully defended the city in the Siege of Mafeking. Several of his military books, written for military reconnaissance and scout training in his African years, were also read by boys. Based on those earlier books, he wrote Scouting for Boys, published in 1908 by Sir Arthur Pearson, for youth readership. During writing, he tested his ideas through a Brownsea Island camping trip that began on August 1, 1907, which is now seen as the beginning of Scouting.
After his marriage with Olave St Clair Soames, Baden-Powell, his sister Agnes Baden-Powell and notably his wife actively gave guidance to the Scouting Movement and the Girl Guides Movement]]. Baden-Powell lived his last years in Nyeri, Kenya, where he died in 1941.
Baden-Powell was born as Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell, or more familiarly as Stephe Powell, at 6 Stanhope Street (now 11 Stanhope Terrace), Paddington in London, England, UK on 22 February 1857. His father Reverend Baden Powell, a Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University, already had four teenage children from the second of his two previous marriages. On 10 March 1846 at St Luke's Church, Chelsea, Reverend Powell married Henrietta Grace Smyth (3 September 1824 – 13 October 1914), eldest daughter of Admiral William Henry Smyth and 28 years his junior. Quickly they had Warington (early 1847), George (late 1847), Augustus (1849) and Francis (1850). After three further children who died when very young, they had Stephe, Agnes (1858) and Baden (1860). The three youngest children and the often ill Augustus were close friends. Reverend Powell died when Stephe was three, and as tribute to his father and to set her own children apart from their half-siblings and cousins, the mother changed the family name to Baden-Powell. Subsequently, Stephe was raised by his mother, a strong woman who was determined that her children would succeed. Baden-Powell would say of her in 1933 "The whole secret of my getting on lay with my mother."
After attending Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells, during which his favourite brother Augustus died, Stephe Baden-Powell was awarded a scholarship to Charterhouse, a prestigious public school. His first introduction to Scouting skills was through stalking and cooking game while avoiding teachers in the nearby woods, which were strictly out-of-bounds. He also played the piano and violin, was an ambidextrous artist, and enjoyed acting. Holidays were spent on yachting or canoeing expeditions with his brothers.
In 1876, R.S.S. Baden-Powell, as he styled himself then, joined the 13th Hussars in India with the rank of lieutenant. He enhanced and honed his military scouting skills during Britains invasion of the Zulu kingdom in the early 1880s from the Natal province of South Africa, where his regiment had been posted, and where he was Mentioned in Despatches. During one of his travels, he came across a large string of wooden beads, worn by the Zulu king Dinizulu, which was later incorporated into the Wood Badge training programme he started after he founded the Scouting Movement. Baden-Powell's skills impressed his superiors and he was Brevetted Major as Military Secretary and senior Aide-de-camp of the Commander-in-Chief and Governor of Malta, his uncle General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth. He was posted in Malta for three years, also working as intelligence officer for the Mediterranean for the Director of Military Intelligence. He frequently travelled disguised as a butterfly collector, incorporating plans of military installations into his drawings of butterfly wings.
Baden-Powell returned to Africa in 1896 to aid British South Africa Company officials besieged by Africans in Bulawayo during the Second Matabele War. This was a formative experience for him not only because he had the time of his life commanding reconnaissance missions into enemy territory in Matobo Hills, but because many of his later Boy Scout ideas took hold here. It was during this campaign that he first met and befriended the American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, who introduced Baden-Powell to the American Old West and woodcraft (i.e., scoutcraft), and here that he wore his signature Stetson campaign hat and kerchief for the first time. After Rhodesia, Baden-Powell took part in a successful British invasion of Ashanti, West Africa, and at the age of 40 was promoted to lead the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1897 in India. A few years later he wrote a small manual, entitled Aids to Scouting, a summary of lectures he had given on the subject of military scouting, to help train recruits. Using this and other methods he was able to train them to think independently, use their initiative, and survive in the wilderness.
He returned to South Africa prior to the Second Boer War and was engaged in further military action against the Zulu. By this time, he had been promoted and was the youngest colonel in the British Army. He was responsible for the organisation of a force of frontiersmen to assist the regular army. While arranging this, he was trapped in the Siege of Mafeking, and surrounded by a Boer army, at times in excess of 8,000 men. Although wholly outnumbered, the garrison withstood the siege for 217 days. Much of this is attributable to 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 non-existent barbed wire while moving between trenches. Baden-Powell did most of the reconnaissance work himself.
A more critical analysis of Baden-Powells performance during the Siege of Mafeking suggests that his success in resisting the Boers was secured only at considerable cost in the lives of African soldiers and civilians - including members his own African garrison. Pakenham states that Baden-Powell drastically reduced the rations to the African garrison. Towards the final stage of the siege, this policy of cutting their rations was further tightened. This became known as "The leave-here-or-starve-here" policy. Which forced a mass exodus of the natives through the Boers lines with predictable results.
"You have only to sacrfice the nigger absolutely and the game is easy..."
Jeal refutes these views— Baden-Powell was ordered by Lord Kitchener to prepare for four months of siege and to evacuate the African population on the best opportunity. Baden-Powell drew up plans to move the indigenous refugees to Kanya and had supplies set up in Moshwane and Bechuanaland in preparation for the evacuation. After much advance notice, the Africans did not leave and Baden-Powell was forced to stop the sale of food to the refugee camp in order to press the issue. He then provided patrols to guide and protect the evacuees. After most of the African refugees had left, Baden-Powell found that people from outlying communities had been ostracized and had received little food. He had soup kitchens set up to feed the poor and starving, providing free meals for up to 1,500 people a day.
During the siege, a cadet corps, consisting of white boys below fighting age, was used to stand guard, carry messages, assist in hospitals and so on, freeing the men for military service. Although Baden-Powell did not form this cadet corps himself, and there is no evidence that he took much notice of them during the Siege, he was sufficiently impressed with both their courage and the equanimity with which they performed their tasks to use them later as an object lesson in the first chapter of Scouting for Boys. The siege was lifted in the Relief of Mafeking on 16 May 1900. Promoted to major-general, Baden-Powell became a national hero. After organising the South African Constabulary, the national police force, he returned to England to take up a post as Inspector General of Cavalry in 1903.
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 inculcate the myth.
| Pronunciation of Baden-Powell|
| Man, Nation, Maiden|
Please call it Baden.
Further, for Powell
Rhyme it with Noel
|Verse by B-P|
On his return from Africa in 1903, Baden-Powell found that his military training manual, Aids to Scouting, had become a best-seller, and was being used by teachers and youth organisations. Following his involvement in the Boys' Brigade as Brigade Secretary and Officer in charge of its scouting section, with encouragement from his friend, William Alexander Smith, Baden-Powell decided to re-write Aids to Scouting to suit a youth readership. In August 1907 he held a camp on Brownsea Island for twenty-two boys of mixed social background to test out the applicability of his ideas. Baden-Powell was also influenced by Ernest Thompson Seton, who founded the Woodcraft Indians. Seton gave Baden-Powell a copy of his book The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians and they met in 1906. Scouting for Boys was subsequently published in six instalments in 1908.
Boys and girls spontaneously formed Scout troops and the Scouting Movement had inadvertently started, first as a national, and soon an international obsession. The Scouting Movement was to grow up in friendly parallel relations with the Boys' Brigade. A rally for all Scouts was held at Crystal Palace in London in 1909, at which Baden-Powell discovered the first Girl Scouts. The Girl Guide Movement was subsequently founded in 1910 under the auspices of Baden-Powell's sister, Agnes Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell's friend, Juliette Gordon Low, was encouraged by him to bring the Movement to America, where she founded the Girl Scouts of the USA.
In 1920, the 1st World Scout Jamboree took place in Olympia, and Baden-Powell was acclaimed Chief Scout of the World. Baden-Powell was created a Baronet in the 1921 New Year Honours and Baron Baden-Powell, of Gilwell, in the County of Essex, on 17 September 1929, Gilwell Park being the International Scout Leader training centre. After receiving this honour, Baden-Powell mostly styled himself "Baden-Powell of Gilwell".
In 1929, during the 3rd World Scout Jamboree, he received as a present a new Rolls-Royce car and an Eccles Caravan. This combination well served the Baden-Powells in their further travels around Europe. Baden-Powell also had a positive impact on improvements in youth education. 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.
At the 5th World Scout Jamboree in 1937, Baden-Powell gave his farewell to Scouting, and retired from public Scouting life. 22 February, the joint birthday of Robert and Olave Baden-Powell, continues to be marked as Founder's Day by Scouts and Thinking Day by Guides to remember and celebrate the work of the Chief Scout and Chief Guide of the World.
In his final letter to the Scouts, Baden-Powell wrote:
- ...I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely 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 you 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.
In January 1912, Baden-Powell met the woman who would be his future wife, Olave St Clair Soames, on the ocean liner, Arcadian, heading for New York to start one of his Scouting World Tours. She was a young woman of 23, while he was 55, a not uncommon age difference in that time, and they shared the same birthday. They became engaged in September of the same year, causing a media sensation due to Baden-Powell's fame. To avoid press intrusion, they married in secret on 30 October 1912. The Scouts of England each donated a penny to buy Baden-Powell a wedding gift, a car (note that this is not the Rolls-Royce they were presented with in 1929). There is a monument to their marriage inside St Mary's Church, Brownsea Island.
Baden-Powell and Olave lived in Pax Hill near Bentley, Hampshire and Chapel Farm, Ripley, Surrey from about 1919 until 1939. The Bentley house was a gift of her father. Directly after he had married, Baden-Powell had begun to have problems with his health, suffering bouts of illness. He complained of persistent headaches, which were considered by his doctor to be of psychosomatic origin and treated with dream analysis. The headaches subsided upon his moving into a makeshift bedroom set up on his balcony.
In 1939, he and his wife moved to a cottage he had commissioned in Nyeri, Kenya, near Mount Kenya, where he had previously been to recuperate. The small one-room house, which he named Paxtu, was located on the grounds of the Outspan Hotel, owned by Eric Sherbrooke Walker, Baden-Powell's first private secretary and one of the first Scout inspectors. Walker also owned the Treetops Hotel, approx 17 km out in the Aberdare Mountains, often visited by Baden-Powell and people of the Happy Valley set. The Paxtu cottage is integrated into the Outspan Hotel buildings and serves as a small Scouting museum.
Jeal argues that Baden-Powell's distrust of communism led to his implicit support, through naïveté, of fascism. In 1939 Baden-Powell noted in his diary: "Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organization etc.—and ideals which Hitler does not practice himself." He also admired Mussolini, and some early Scouting badges had a swastika symbol on them. According to his biographer Rosenthal, Baden-Powell used the swastika because he was a Nazi sympathizer. Jeal, however, argues that Baden-Powell was naïve of the symbol's growing association with fascism and maintained that his use of the symbol related to its earlier, original meaning of "good luck" in Sanskrit, for which purpose the symbol had been used for centuries prior to the rise of fascism. Despite these early sympathies, Baden-Powell was a target of the Nazi regime in the Black Book, which listed individuals which were to be arrested during and after an invasion of Great Britain as part of Operation Sealion. Scouting was regarded as a dangerous spy organization by the Nazis.
Baden-Powell died on 8 January 1941 and is buried in Nyeri, in St. Peter's Cemetery (Template:Coord). His gravestone bears a circle with a dot in the centre, which is the trail sign for "Going home", or "I have gone home": Image:Going home symbol.svg When his wife Olave died, her ashes were sent to Kenya and interred beside her husband. Kenya has declared Baden-Powell's grave a national monument.
The Baden-Powells had three children, one son and two daughters, who all acquired the courtesy title of "The Honourable" in 1929 as children of a baron. The son succeeded his father in 1941 to the Baden-Powell Baronetcy and the title of Baron Baden-Powell.
- Arthur Robert Peter (Peter), later 2nd Baron Baden-Powell (1913–1962). He married Carine Crause-Boardman in 1936, and had three children: Robert Crause, later 3rd Baron Baden-Powell; David Michael (Michael), current heir to the titles, and Wendy.
- Heather (1915–1986), who married John King and had two children: Michael and Timothy,
- Betty (1917–2004), who married Gervase Charles Robert Clay in 1936 and had three sons and one daughter: Robin, Chispin, Gillian and Nigel.
Artist and writer
Baden-Powell made paintings and drawings, almost every day of his life. Most have a humorous or informative character. He published books and other texts during his years of military service to both finance his life and to educate his men.
Baden-Powell was regarded as an excellent storyteller. During his whole life he told 'ripping yarns' to audiences. After having published Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell kept on writing more handbooks and educative materials for all Scouts, as well as directives for Scout Leaders. In his later years, he also wrote about the Scout Movement and his ideas for its future. He spent the last decade of his life in Africa, and many of this later books had African themes.
- 1908: Scouting for Boys
- 1912: Handbook for Girl Guides (co-authored with Agnes Baden-Powell)
- 1916: The Wolf Cub's handbook
- 1918: Girl Guiding
- 1919: Aids To Scoutmastership
- 1929: Scouting and Youth Movements
- 1935: Scouting Round the World
The Bronze Wolf, the only distinction of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, awarded by the World Scout Committee for exceptional services to world Scouting, was first awarded to Baden-Powell by a unanimous decision of the then International Committee on the day of the institution of the Bronze Wolf in Stockholm in 1935. He was also the first recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award in 1926, the highest award conferred by the Boy Scouts of America.
In 1931, Major Frederick Russell Burnham dedicated Mount Baden-Powell (Template:Coord) in California to his old Scouting friend from forty years before. Today their friendship is honoured in perpetuity with the dedication of the adjoining peak, Mount Burnham (Template:Coord).