Lord Baden Powell Biography
Lord Baden Powell (1857-1941) was a British general and founder of the modern Scouting movement.
He studied at Charterhouse school and served in the British army from 1876 -1910. He became a national hero during the Boer war of 1899-1900 when, with a small garrison, he commandered the defence of Mafeking.
It was during the Boer war that Baden Powell wrote down a guide to Scouting. Initially meant for military purposes, after the war he felt it could be used as a focus for young boys to give them more meaning in life.
First Scout Camp and Foundation of Scouting Movement
In August 1907, Baden Powell organised a trial scouting camp to be made up of 20 boys from a diverse social background. They spent a week on Brownsea island and it proved to be a great success.
From this initial starting point, the scouting movement soon blossomed and within a few years had become a national institution. In 1910, a parallel organisation, Girl Guides, was founded and later run by his sister. The Scouting movement also became an international phenomena with scouting groups forming around the world. Unfortunately, the First World War temporarily destroyed much of this international feeling; instead the Scouts used much of their training in the trenches on the Western Front. However, in 1920, two years after the end of the First World War, an international scouting convention was held in Olympia where Baden Powell was declared Chief Scout.
Personal Life of Baden Powell
Baden Powell met his future wife, Olave St Clair Soames, on the ocean liner, Arcadian, in 1912. She was 23, he was 55. The marriage gained a lot of media publicity due to the high profile nature of Baden Powell. They were married in secret and later had three children.
Some biographers, such as Tim Jeal, have argued Baden Powell was a repressed homosexual being attracted to young men and boys, although never acting out on his tendencies. Other biographers such as William Hillcourt found no evidence of this.
Baden Powell also held some pro fascist sympathies. He read Mein Kampf in 1939 and said there were some good ideas in it. He also admired the Italian dictator Mussolini. It is said his fascism was rooted in a steep anti communist bias. His scouting movement was also black listed by Hitler and the Nazi party as a ‘dangerous spy organisation’
Legacy of Baden Powell
In 2007, during the centenary of Scouting it was estimated that their were 38 million members of the Scouts and Guides in over 216 countries.