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A Story Of Robert Baden-Powell

Robert Baden-PowellWho Is Robert Baden-Powell?

Although the Boy Scouts are normally considered very American, the founder was British. Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was an extraordinary person, whose whole life can be described as an incredible adventure. Baden-Powell was a British soldier, a spy, an actor, a naturalist, a very good watercolor artist, and even a female impersonator. During his life he wrote 32 books and received honorary degrees from Edinburgh, Toronto, Montreal, Oxford, Liverpool and Cambridge Universities.

Oh, yes, he also founded the largest-youth movement ever created.


Robert Baden-Powell was born in London on February 22, 1857. He was the eighth of ten children of the Reverend Baden-Powell, a Professor at Oxford University. His father died when Robert was only three years old and the family was left not very well off. Robert was given his first lessons by his mother, but later he gained a scholarship for admittance to Charterhouse School. After school he served in British army from 1876 -1910.

A Spy Or A Writer?

Baden-Powell’s military career was interesting and outstanding from the start. In 1876, he joined the 13th Hussars in India.

In the early 1880s Baden-Powell together with his regiment were posted to South Africa, where amidst Zulu tribesmen he strengthened and honed his scouting skills. His skills were mentioned in dispatches and he was soon transferred to the British secret service. His favorite disguise was that of a mad butterfly enthusiast. He dashed, net in hand, around military forts in Germany, French Tunisia, and Algeria. At the end of each “sporting” day, Baden-Powell drew pictures of what at first glance looked like captured pets. In reality they were accurate layouts of forts with the size and location of its’ guns skillfully hidden in the sketches.

During the Boer war (1899-1900) Baden-Powell became a national hero when, with a small garrison he commandeered the defense of Mafeking. After this episode he became a Major-General at the age of only 43! During the Boer war he wrote a small manual entitled “Aids to Scouting”. Initially meant for military purposes the book reached a far wider readership than it was intended. When after 3 years Baden-Powell returned to England to his surprise he found that his book was being used by youth leaders all over the country.

The Birth of Scouting

In July 1907, Baden-Powell gathered 22 boys from different social backgrounds on Brownsea Island, where they camped under his leadership. The camp was a success and a year later Baden-Powell published his next book “Scouting for boys” in six installments.

He never imagined that his book would become the best-seller of the century and help to change the lives of millions of young people all over the world. A year after the publication of the book there were already 50,000 Scouts in England and soon Scouting turned into international “obsession”.

In 1910 the Girl Guides movement was founded under the auspices of  Baden-Powell’s sister Agnes. The same year Baden-Powell left army to fully devote himself to the spreading Scouting movement. He traveled to all parts of the world to encourage the growth of Scouting and to give young people inspiration and the support that they needed. Drawing on his personal experiences, he invited youngsters all over the world to take charge of their own lives and be responsible for their destiny.

Life Changing Encounter

In January 1912 on the ocean liner, Arcadian, Baden-Powell met a girl Olave St Clair Soames. She was 23, he was 55. And they shared the same birthday. 8 months later they became engaged, causing a media sensation. To avoid further publicity they married in secret on October 20th, 1912 and later had three children (Peter, Heather and Betty).

How To Become A Baron?

During the First World War the Scout movements were temporary suspended. However, in 1920, the first international Scout Jamboree took place at Olympia, London, where Baden Powell was declared Chief Scout.
In 1929, during the 3rd World Jamboree held in Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, the Prince of Wales announced that Baden-Powell had been created Baron Baden-Powell, of Gilwell in the County of Essex (Gilwell Park being the International Scout Leader training centre).

Last Years of Robert Baden-Powell…

In 1939, suffering from ill-health, Baden-Powell moved to Africa, to live in semi-retirement in Nyeri, Kenya. But even there he found it difficult to curb his energies. He continued to write books and sketch. On January 8, 1941, at the age of 83 Baden-Powell died. He is buried in a simple grave at Nyeri within sight of Mount Kenya. His headstone reads, ‘Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World'.

Up to this day it is surmounted by the Boy Scout and Girl Guide Badges. Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, died in 1977, at Birtley House, Bramley in Surrey, UK. Her ashes were taken to Kenya to be placed next to her husband's.

Scouts and Guides all over the world mark February 22 as Thinking Day or Baden-Powell day to celebrate the work of two remarkable people – Robert and Olave Baden-Powell.

During the centenary of Scouting (2007), it was estimated that there were 38 million members of the Scouts and Guides in over 216 countries. And all of it started with a single man!

Baden-Powell’s Famous Quotes

Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence… 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. – from Baden – Powell’ Last Message.

I have always believed: That if there is the right spirit, we can kick out the “im” from “impossible”

The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.

While you are living your life on earth, try to do something good which may remain after you.

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.

Correcting bad habits cannot be done by forbidding or punishment.

The secret of sound education is to get each pupil to learn for himself, instead of instructing him by driving knowledge into him on a stereotyped system.

Happiness is not mere pleasure not the outcome of wealth. It is the result of active work rather than passive enjoyment of pleasure.

Religion seems a very simple thing – First: Love and Serve God, Second: Love and Serve your neighbour.

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  • Loseney
    October 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Well it’s so thoughtful and educative am glad that I cam across this biography because it have an impact in my life from today. I wish I had to read it over again and again

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    October 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm

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