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How it all began...

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How it all began...

Post  Warloque on Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:21 pm

The place was Zululand, in the heart of a strange continent, Africa. The main army of Africa warriors had surrendered to the English forces, but a few hands were still to be rounded up. A young Army Captain was leading his men on one of these expeditions, using new methods of observation, camouglage and scouting.

At the time we're speaking of, the young Army Captain was lying face down on the top of a cliff, looking for native scouts; he was carefully keeping close to the ground, so that his outline might not be made out against the sky from below. Hos orderly waited well behind him in the bushes. No noise was heard, only the whisper of the wind. he young Army Captain was noting the countryside beneath, waiting for an enemy scout to betray himself by sudden movement.

Suddenly, a glinting spear rose behind the young officer who was still face down on the cliff. The spear revealed itself in the hand of a mighty, colourful plumed Usute warrior, just about to spring forward. A shout came from the orderly. The young officer, obviously alert and in first-class condition, sprang up, and around in one movement. The warrior was taken off balance. He sprang back into cover. The officer rushed towards the spot, revolver drawn - but did not shoot, though he could have done so successfully. Thinking quickly, he decided to track the native to his hide-out. This he did; and he found a gully in the great bulk of cliff where many natives were backed together. The officer moved towards them, and, as he did, women screamed, for they feared revenge. A small baby fell off a rock in all the confusion.

The young Army Captain - to everyone's surprise - picked up the baby, soothed it, and gave it his lanyard to play with. The noise died. Natives peered out and could not believe their eyes. Realising now the intention of the officer, and knowing his tribe's own needs, the Chief surrendered.

The Chief was none other than DINIZULU, the owner of the famous beads, of which Adult Leaders may wear copies when they complete their WOODBADGE. And the brave young officer was our own Robert Baden-Powell, whom we know as B.P.

His long life was studded with such events - events which would set the heart pounding and make us wish that we could have been there too. After about thirty years of Army life, B.P. turned all his knowledge to the game of SCOUTING and has left for us in books you may now read, the story of his life, and his ideas on how to "be happy and enjoy life". For this great man, the personal motto of "Be Prepared" had its start early in his life.



He was born in 1857, the son of a minister who died when B.P. was quite young. His mother therefore brought him up in the best way she could. She was generous and very talented, and taught him at home in his early years. He and his brothers had no money to buy their pleasures. They learned instead to be thrifty, making their own fun and enjoying it more because they could choose to do anything they wished in the woodlands and by the rivers. They built themselves a boat, grass huts, lookout towers. They caught fish, rabbits and birds, and taught themselves about nature.

B.P. proved to be an all-rounder at his school. which was called Charterhouse, and from it he graduated in 1876, to join the Army in India as a Lieutenant.


His Commander placed more value on personal initiative than on drill, and this suited B.P. He encouraged his men to accept leadership and responsibility, thinking already of working in patrols of men with their own particular calls and features, so that they could more easily know each other at any time.

While still a soldier, he always had time for social life and sport, and did not neglect his ability at writing and sketching. While in India, he made a special study of nature, and of native habits and customs. In 1884, he went to Natal, did much reconnaissance work and in this, his talent as an actor was of great assistance. It was not until later that the value of his work was fully appreciated.

Three years in England were followed by a return to South Africa and the campaign against DINIZULU. In 1890, as military secretary to his uncle, he was sent to Malta, later becoming Intelligence Officer for the Mediterranean region. There followed in 1895 the Ashanti Expedition against Prempeh; this proved a triumph of pioneering for B.P. Later, he went as Chief Staff Officer on the Matabele Expedition and his scouting skill earned him a great name. This was the expedition in which he experimented with uniform and found the practical value of the cowboy hat.

In 1897, he returned to India as Colonel, but two years later was sent to organise a police force in the North West frontier of Cape Colony. He was in Mafeking when war broke out and his success there became part of history; the relief of Mafeking released him to train the South African Constabulary for Lord Roberts. The training was on most unorthodox lines but very severe and practical, and it gave the lead to future Scout training.

Six years after the war, he returned home as Inspector-General of Cavalry where he reorganised training on the latest methods used on the continent. After five years, he became Lieutenant-General and his active Army career came to an end. At this time, a new idea, Boy Scouts, was growing, founded on his experiences at Mafeking. His military textbook "Aids to Scouting" caught the popular fancy in schools as a method of training in observation and deduction.

Baden-Powell felt that some of his Scouting practices might prove an additional attraction to youths in the Boys' Brigade, Y.M.C.A. and other organisations. This resulted in the publishing of "Scouting for Boys" in six parts. The book was essentially practical and the ideas had been tried out in a camp of twenty boys at Brownsea Island in 1907.

No sooner did the book appear than patrols formed of their own accord, and some organisation became necessary. At this stage, Baden-Powell had to make the difficult decision - Army or Boy Scouts. King Edward VII influenced him in making his choice for the latter. In spite of many critisms, many realised the value of his new discovery, Scouting, which stressed the importance of responsibility in spite of failures, gave a positive standard of conduct, brought in the love of romance and made use of the gang spirit. It required a B.P., however, to weld all these qualities together, and the man himself lived the part which contributed very largely to its success. He himself practised everything that he laid down in "Scouting for Boys".

He married in 1912, and his wife proved to be a very powerful assistant in his Scout and Guide work; the success of Guiding owes much to her initiative and inspiration.


Scouting celebrated its 21st birthday at a World Scout Jamboree at Arrowe Park, England. Forty-one countries were represented and heard B.P.'s stirring message when he buried the hatchet of war....

"From now on, the Scout Symbol of Peace is the Golden Arrow. Carry it fast and far, so that all men may know the brotherhood of man."


B.P. accepted a peerage from the King and became Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. Gilwell Park in England has since become an International Training Centre.

B.P. said, "I regard this an honour to Scouting. I should like to take the title of Baden-Powell of Gilwell."

B.P. saw Scouting as a way to help bring about world peace. To this end, Jamborees and Rover Moots are held throughout the world. Although B.P. is dead and his body rests in Kenya under the shadow of its mighty mountain, his spirit lives on in the heart of youth. Before he died, he left this message for his Scouts:

"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 the 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 note of good-bye. Remember it is the last you will hear from me, so think it over.

I have had a most happy life and I want each 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 bing 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 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 do it."

Your friend,
Baden-Powell of Gilwell
Chief Scout

- an extract from the Australian Boy Scouts' Handbook

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