Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell
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|Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell|
Founder of Scouting
|Born||22 February 1857
Paddington, London, England
|Died||8 January 1941 (aged 83)
|Years of service||1876–1910|
|Other work||Founder of the international Scouting Movement; writer; artist|
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB (pron.: / /; 22 February 1857 – 8 January 1941), also known as B-P or Lord Baden-Powell, was a lieutenant-general in the British Army, writer, founder of the Scout Movement and first Chief Scout of The Boy Scouts Association.
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 town 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. In 1907, he held the first Brownsea Island Scout camp, which is now seen as the beginning of Scouting.
After his marriage to 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 and was buried 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, on 22 February 1857. He was named after his godfather, Robert Stephenson, the railway and civil engineer; his third name was his mother's maiden name. 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 amidst the Zulu in the early 1880s in 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, and served in the Second Matabele War, in the expedition to relieve British South Africa Company personnel under siege in Bulawayo. This was a formative experience for him not only because he had the time of his life commanding reconnaissance missions into enemy territory in the Matopos 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 neckerchief for the first time.
Baden-Powell was accused of illegally executing a prisoner of war in 1896, the Matabele chief Uwini, who had been promised his life would be spared if he surrendered. Uwini was shot by firing squad under Baden-Powell's instructions. Baden-Powell was cleared by an inquiry, and later claimed he was "released without a stain on my character."
After Rhodesia, Baden-Powell served in the Fourth Ashanti War in Gold Coast. In 1897, at the age of 40, he was brevetted colonel (the youngest colonel in the British Army) and given command of the 5th Dragoon Guards 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.
Baden-Powell returned to South Africa prior to the Second Boer War and was engaged in further military actions against the Zulus. He organised the Legion of Frontiersmen to assist the regular army. While engaged in this, he was at Mafeking when it was surrounded by a Boer army, at times in excess of 8,000 men.
Baden-Powell became garrison commander during the subsequent Siege of Mafeking, which lasted 217 days. Although greatly outnumbered, the garrison held out until relieved, in part thanks to cunning deceptions devised by Baden-Powell. Fake minefields were planted and his soldiers pretended to avoid non-existent barbed wire while moving between trenches. Baden-Powell did most of the reconnaissance work himself. In one instance noting that the Boers had not removed the rail line, Baden-Powell loaded an armoured locomotive with sharpshooters and successfully sent it down the rails into the heart of the Boer encampment and back again in a strategic attempt to decapitate the Boer leadership.
Contrary views of Baden-Powell's actions during the siege argue that his success in resisting the Boers was secured at the expense of the lives of the native African soldiers and civilians, including members of his own African garrison. Pakenham stated that Baden-Powell drastically reduced the rations to the native garrison. However, in 2001, after subsequent research, Pakenham decidedly retreated from this position.
During the siege, the Mafeking Cadet Corps of white boys below fighting age stood guard, carried messages, assisted in hospitals, and so on, freeing grown men to fight. Baden-Powell did not form the Cadet Corps himself, and there is no evidence that he took much notice of them during the Siege. But 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 on 16 May 1900. Baden-Powell was promoted to Major-General, and 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. While holding this point, Baden-Powell was instrumental in reforming reconnaissance training in British cavalry, giving the force an important advantage in scouting ability over continental rivals. In 1907 he was appointed to command a division in the newly-formed Territorial Force.
In 1910 Lieutenant-General Baden-Powell decided to retire from the Army, reputedly on the advice of King Edward VII, who suggested that he could better serve his country by promoting Scouting.
On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Baden-Powell put himself at the disposal of the War Office. No command 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 spread the myth.
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 to test out his ideas. About twenty boys attended: eight from local Boys' Brigade companies, and about twelve public school boys, mostly sons of his friends.
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. The first book on the Scout Movement, Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys was published in six instalments in 1908, and has sold approximately 150 million copies as the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century.
Boys and girls spontaneously formed Scout troops and the Scouting Movement had inadvertently started, first as a national, and soon an international phenomenon. 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 formalised 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 the United States, 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 1921 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 20-horsepower Rolls-Royce car (chassis number GVO-40, registration OU 2938) and an Eccles Caravan. This combination well served the Baden-Powells in their further travels around Europe. The caravan was nicknamed Eccles and is now on display at Gilwell Park. The car, nicknamed Jam Roll, was sold after his death by Olave Baden-Powell in 1945. Jam Roll and Eccles were reunited at Gilwell for the 21st World Scout Jamboree in 2007. Recently it has been purchased on behalf of Scouting and is owned by a charity, B-P Jam Roll Ltd. Funds are being raised to repay the loan that was used to purchase the car. 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 was en route to New York on a Scouting World Tour, on the ocean liner Arcadian, when he met Olave St Clair Soames. She was 23, while he was 55; they shared the same birthday, 22 February. 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 31 October 1912, at St Peter's Church in Parkstone. 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 from about 1919 until 1939. The Bentley house was a gift of her father. Directly after he had married, Baden-Powell began to suffer persistent headaches, which were considered by his doctor to be of psychosomatic origin and treated with dream analysis. The headaches disappeared upon his moving into a makeshift bedroom set up on his balcony.
The Baden-Powells had three children, one son (Peter) and two daughters. Peter succeeded in 1941 to the Baden-Powell barony.
- 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 Grace (1915–1986), who married John King and had two children: Michael, who died in the sinking of SS Heraklion, and Timothy;
- Betty (1917–2004), who married Gervas Charles Robert Clay in 1936 and had a daughter: Gillian, and three sons: Robin, Nigel and Crispin.
In addition, when Olave's sister Auriol Davidson née Soames died in 1919, Olave and Robert took her three nieces, Christian (1912–1975), Clare (1913–1980), and Yvonne, (1918–1995?), into their family and brought them up as their own children.
In 1939, Baden-Powell and Olave 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.
Baden-Powell died on 8 January 1941 and is buried in Nyeri, in St. Peter's Cemetery His gravestone bears a circle with a dot in the centre "ʘ", which is the trail sign for "Going home", or "I have gone home": 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.
Tim Jeal, who wrote the biography Baden-Powell, argued 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, organisation etc. – and ideals which Hitler does not practise himself." Baden-Powell admired Benito Mussolini early in the Italian fascist leader's career.
Some very early Scouting "Thanks" badges had a swastika symbol on them. According to biographer Michael Rosenthal, Baden-Powell used the swastika because he was a Nazi sympathiser. Jeal, however, argues that Baden-Powell was ignorant of the symbol's growing association with Nazism and that he used the symbol for its centuries-old meaning of "good luck" in India. Also, Baden-Powell was named by the Nazis in " The Black Book of people to be arrested during the conquest of Great Britain. Scouting was regarded as a dangerous spy organisation by the Nazis. Finally, when Nazi use of the swastika became well-known, the Scouts stopped using it.
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 both to 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 his later books had African themes. Currently, many pages of his field diary, complete with drawings, are on display at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas.
Early discussion of Baden-Powell's sexuality focused on his relationship with his close friend Kenneth McLaren. Tim Jeal's later biography discusses the relationship and finds that there is no conclusive evidence that this friendship was physical. Jeal then examines Baden-Powell's views on women, his appreciation of the male form, his military relationships, and his marriage, concluding that Baden-Powell might have been a repressed homosexual. Jeal's conclusion is shared by some biographers and disputed by others, but is not yet examined in any detail by other scholars.
In 1937 Baden-Powell was appointed to the Order of Merit, one of the most exclusive awards in the British honours system, and he was also awarded 28 decorations by foreign states, including the Grand Officer of the Portuguese Order of Christ, the Grand Commander of the Greek Order of the Redeemer (1920), the Commander of the French Légion d'honneur (1925), the First Class of the Hungarian Order of Merit (1929), the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog of Denmark, the Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix, and the Order of Polonia Restituta.
The Silver Wolf Award worn by Robert Baden-Powell is handed down the line of his successors, with the current Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, wearing this original award.
The Bronze Wolf Award, 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 1927, at the Swedish National Jamboree he was awarded by the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund with the "Großes Dankabzeichen des ÖPB.
In 1931 Baden-Powell received the highest award of the First Austrian Republic (Großes Ehrenzeichen der Republik am Bande) out of the hands of President Wilhelm Miklas. Baden-Powell was also one of the first and few recipients of the Goldene Gemse, the highest award conferred by the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund.
In 1931, Major Frederick Russell Burnham dedicated Mount Baden-Powell 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.
Baden-Powell was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on numerous occasions, including 10 separate nominations in 1928.
In 2002, Baden-Powell was named in the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote.
As part of the Scouting 2007 Centenary, Nepal renamed Urkema Peak to Baden-Powell Peak.
- Commissioned Sub-Lieutenant - 11 September 1876 (retroactively granted the rank of Lieutenant from the same date on 17 September 1878)
- Captain - 16 May 1883
- Major - 1 July 1892
- Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel - 25 March 1896
- Lieutenant-Colonel - 25 April 1897
- Brevet Colonel - 8 May 1897
- Major-General - 23 May 1900
- Lieutenant-General - 10 June 1907
- Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) - 9 November 1909 (CB: 1901)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) - 1 January 1923 (KCVO: 3 October 1909)
- Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of St. John (KStJ) - 23 May 1912
- Baronet - 1 January 1921 (dated 21 February 1923)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (GCMG) - 3 June 1927
- Baron Baden-Powell, of Gilwell in the County of Essex - 17 September 1929
- Member of the Order of Merit (OM) - 11 May 1937
- Grand Officer of the Order of Christ of Portugal (GOC) - 7 October 1919
- Grand Commander of the Order of the Redeemer of the Kingdom of Greece - 21 October 1920
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog of Denmark - 11 October 1921
Related readings: biographies
- Begbie, Harold (1900). * The story of Baden-Powell: The Wolf that never Sleeps at Project Gutenberg. London: Grant Richards.
- Kiernan, R.H. (1939). Baden-Powell. London: Harrap.
- Saunders, Hilary St George (1948). The Left Handshake.
- Palstra, Theo P.M. (April 1967). Baden-Powel, zijn leven en werk. Den Haag: De Nationale Padvindersraad.
- Drewery, Mary (1975). Baden-Powell: the man who lived twice. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-18102-8.
- Brendon, Piers (1980). Eminent Edwardians. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-29195-X.
- Jeal, Tim (1989). Baden-Powell. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-170670-X.
- Hillcourt, William; Olave, Lady Baden-Powell (1992). Baden-Powell: The Two Lives Of A Hero. New York: Gilwellian Press d/b/a Scouter's Journal Magazine. ISBN 0-8395-3594-5.
- "Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the World Scout Movement, Chief Scout of the World". Pine Tree Web. http://www.pinetreeweb.com/B-P.htm. Retrieved 29 July 2007.