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Lord Robert Baden-Powell - The Modern Father of the Boys Scout

Darrach Bourke

· Boys Scout
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Lord Robert Baden-Powell was a British soldier, author, national hero, and creator of the Scouting Movement worldwide. The concepts he wrote down in his famous book, Scouting for Boys (1908), became the foundation for what scouting is today. He created the Boy Scouts in 1908 and co-created the Girl Guides in 1910.

Nick-named B-P, Robert was born on February 22, 1857, as the sixth of eight sons and the eighth of ten children. Robert’s father worked at Oxford University as the Savilian Professor of Geometry before he died in 1860. This unfortunate incident left his mother, Henrietta Powell, to raise the children alone.

His mother educated Robert during his early years, but he eventually earned a place at Charterhouse School through a scholarship. This was a good achievement because Charterhouse was known as one of the most prominent educational institutions in the United Kingdom at the time.

Robert’s mother encouraged her children to learn new skills, and Robert took up the violin and piano. He was also a talented and ambidextrous artist who also enjoyed acting. However, Baden-Powell became very interested in the outdoors while out at Charterhouse. He would hide in the nearby woods, which were off-limits to students, find and follow animals, trap and roast rabbits, all while avoiding the smoke to give away his location.

Robert and his brothers also spent many holidays out on sailing and canoeing adventures. They have gone sailing along the England south coast once and canoed up the River Thames to find its source on another occasion. B-P was studying the skills that would come in handy later in his life.

After school, Robert took the army entrance test, coming second out of hundreds of candidates. He was assigned to the 13th Hussars immediately after, circumventing the traditional path of officer training needed to get into the cavalry unit. Robert was subsequently promoted to the regiment’s Honorary Colonel.

From 1876 to 1910, Robert Baden-Powell served in the Army, completing assignments in India, the Balkans, Malta, and South Africa. He specialized in map-making, accounting, and reconnaissance, in his days as a young officer in the Army. Before long, Robert started to instruct tops in essential skills soldiers needed at the time. Robert’s tactics were unconventional; he organized small teams that functioned under one leader and ensured that those who performed well received praise.

In the Siege of Mafeking, Second Boer War, South Africa, 1899, Baden-Powell, as Lieutenant-General, made history and became known as a national hero. His forces were besieged by a Boer Army of almost 8,000 men. However, Robert and his men managed to fool the Boers into thinking the town was considerably more fortified than it truly was. He used brilliant military deceptions and tricks to keep the Boer at bay until reinforcement arrived 217 days later.

When Baden-Powell returned to England in 1903, he realized he had become a national hero. His little booklet, Aids to Scouting, he had written in 1899 to instruct soldiers, had become popular for teaching rangers and the skill of woodcraft.