Who 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.