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Monday, 9 January 2012

Robert Baden-Powell

Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) 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.

Baden-Powell joined the army in 1876 and served in India, Afghanistan and South Africa. He was accused of illegally executing a prisoner of war, Matabele chief Uwini, in 1896, 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.

Baden-Powell in 1896

He won fame during the Boer War as commander of the garrison during the 217-day siege of Mafeking in the Second South African War (1899–1900). Colonel Robert Baden-Powell and his forces had held firm for 217 days.

After the end of the Boer War, Baden-Powell remained in Africa and organised the South African Constabulary, the national police force.

Baden-Powell set up the first ever scout encampment for 20 boys on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbor on the south coast of England on July 29, 1907. The camp ran from August 1st to August 8th of that year.

Robert Baden-Powell with future Scouts on Brownsea Island

Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts as an organization on January 24, 1908, a few months after he held the first scout encampment.

Baden-Powell published Scouting for Boys (1908) and about 30 other books. Scouting for Boys has sold approximately 150 million copies  and was the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century.

With his sister Agnes (1858–1945) he founded the Girl Guides in 1910 (known as Girl Scouts in the USA).

In January 1912, Baden-Powell met Plave St Clair Soames on the ocean liner, Arcadian, heading for New York to start one of his Scouting World Tours. She was 23, while he was 55. Their relationship caused a media sensation due to Baden-Powell's fame. To avoid press intrusion, they married in secret on October 30, 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.

Robert Baden-Powell was convinced he could analyses any person's character by the way they walked. He claimed that 50 per cent of women were adventurous with one leg but more hesitant with the other, which indicated they were likely to act on impulse, He first met his wife while admiring her distinctive strides on board the Arcadian.

In 1916 he organised the Wolf Cubs in Britain (known as Cub Scouts in the USA) for boys under the age of 11.

Baden-Powell was made world chief scout at the first international Boy Scout Jamboree.

Baden-Powell was an ambidextrous artist and made paintings and drawings almost every day of his life. Most have a humorous or informative character.

Baden-Powell lived his last years in Nyeri, Kenya, where he died aged 83 on January 8, 1941. He is buried there, in St. Peter's Cemetery. His gravestone bears a circle with a dot in the centre "☉", which is the trail sign for "Going home", or "I have gone home."

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