From: Hilary Saint George Saunders, The Left Handshake, London, 1948. Chapter II, ENTERPRISE, Lord Baden-Powell
This short biography of B-P is much the idealized version of his life. Written shortly after World War Two, it forms part of a testimony to the contribution of Scouts in Occupied Europe and England during the dark days of the war. While occasionally relying more on drama than on fact, this chapter on B-P provides a good capsule biography and introduction to his "Two Lives."
DUSK HAD gathered in the nave of Westminster Abbey and the side chapels were dark, when a Royal Duke, at the head of a huge congregation, took his place before the altar. It was the evening of Wednesday, April 23rd, 1947, St. George’s Day-the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and of the raid on the Zeebrugge. Before the altar stood the Dean, and as the hymn "Lord God of Hosts," borne on voices keen and clear, rose up into the vaulted roof, boys and girls wearing a uniform known throughout the world for nearly four decades, moved slowly forward from the great West Door bearing Colours which they laid in the hands of the Dean, who placed them upon the altar. The Dean addressed them, saying that they had come there to pay honour to the memory of a great man, and to renew promises to remain true to an ideal of duty and service which he had been the first to clothe with words and to teach in every country and in every clime.
When the service was ended, a second
procession was formed. It passed round the ambulatory and
down the south aisle until it reached the Chapel of St.
George. Here upon the floor beneath the Screen was a
tablet of stone, covered with the flag of St. George
which the Duke removed as trumpeters of the Royal Hussars
sounded a fanfare. Upon the stone was written:
Who was this man to whom such signal honour had been paid and whose name had been inscribed among those of poets, and great captains, of explorers and men of science, of statesmen and kings? It had become a household word many years before he died, and was set there upon the tablet, as the Duke of Gloucester, who uncovered it, said, "In gratitude for his life of service to the youth of the world." Who, then, was this man? Robert, Lord Baden-Powell, O.M., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.C.B., was born at 6 Stanhope Gardens, London, in 1857, the year of the Mutiny, and he was the fifth son of a parson and a scientist. His mother, a friend of such eminent Victorians as Jowett, Dean Stanley, Ruskin, Browning and Thackeray, introduced him when still very young to "the art of inductive reasoning." At the same time she was careful to bring him up in those moral principles which exercised so potent an influence on her generation. The effect they had on the young Baden-Powell was to thrust him in the direction of Christian Socialism, a development not without significance. "I will have the poor people to be as rich as we are," he wrote at the age of eight, "… and I can tell you how to be good. Now I will tell you. You must pray to God whenever you can but you cannot be good with only praying but you must try very hard to be good." His grandfather, a Spartan admiral of the old school, maintained that such sentiments savoured of the doctrines of Jack Cade and hastened to remind his grandson of the fate which befell that reformer.
The self-taught training and discipline he acquired at Charterhouse, where he preferred long walks and rambles through woods full of wild life whose habits he delighted to observe, were soon to stand him in good stead. Having passed brilliantly into the army-"he was not quite up to Balliol form," opined Jowett, shewing in this instance a singular lack of judgment-he found himself in India, a subaltern of cavalry. Young soldiers, many of them illiterate, became, after passing through his hands, expert trackers and scouts, and he used them for his purpose to play unorthodox but extremely valuable games. At the same time he did not neglect regimental soldiering, and at the age of twenty-six became a captain and adjutant. His interest in animals, which never abated throughout his long life, did not compete with his instincts as a sportsman. A good shot, a "bold and successful pig-sticker"-he won the Kadir Cup in 1883-he was also a first-class horseman with a wonderful eye for country. But he was always apt to slip away from the companionship of his fellow officers to go for long tramps into the jungle of the countryside where he could watch animals and learn their habits. Refreshed by these expeditions, he would return, to plunge once more into the social life of the station, taking part in plays or operas-for he had a good singing voice-painting scenery and bearing a hand in making the costumes. Once at a regimental concert he dressed up as a general and "so deceived his colonel that he was given the place of honour. To the hardly concealed surprise of the officers he said that he preferred the platform and, leaping on it, burst into the major-general’s song from the latest Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Pirates of Penzance."
In 1884 his regiment was recalled to England, and on the way home touched at South Africa, for trouble was brewing in Natal, and it might be needed. Baden-Powell was not, however, destined to see fighting on this occasion, and spent his time travelling through Natal on horseback. In this way he learned something of the habits of the Zulus, and perfected his scouting technique.The next two years were devoted to work in the Secret Service, and it was during that period, and a later time in 1889 when he was Intelligence Officer for the Mediterranean, that he met with adventures of which some are described in the book Adventures of a Spy. His tasks were many and varied. He examined and reported on fortifications in the Balkans and Turkey-he discovered the secrets of the forts guarding the Dardenelles which in 1915 were to prove too tough a nut for even the Royal Navy-he attended the manoeuvres of Austrian mountain troops in the high Alps, he explored the recesses of the basket attached to a captive military balloon, and he was present, very unofficially, at the secret trials of a new searchlight about to be used by the Russian army. It was at these that he was finally caught, but escaped through the quick-wittedness of another agent, a waiter in the hotel St. Petersburg to which he had been sent under police supervision while his papers were being examined. The waiter made arrangements for Baden-Powell and his brother to elude the detectives watching them, reach the river and go on board a small British vessel whose captain was willing to allow them to pose as two members of his crew. All went well, and they arrived safely at the ship which had steam up, but at the last moment their departure was delayed by Baden-Powell’s brother who started a fierce argument with the boatman taking them out to the ship and who was, he said, demanding too high a fare. Disregarding Baden-Powell’s protests, he continued to argue until he had induced the man to accept a fair price, pointing out when they were safely below and the ship under way, that his conduct was precisely that which would be expected from a sailor returning to his ship after a riotous night on shore during which he had presumably spent most of his money.
In all these missions Baden-Powell’s ability to sketch with rapid accuracy and, when the subject was suitable, admirable humour, was of great value to him. Time and again he used the gift as "cover," posing as a harmless tourist with a strong British accent and an interest in cathedrals, butterflies, wild flowers and trout. True, his drawings of ivy leaves or Red Admirals and Camberwell Beauties, beautifully executed in colour, would reveal to the expert eye the silhouette of a fort with the exact location of its guns, or the outlines of a fixed defensive position with the howitzer cupolas carefully marked; but to the eyes of the local police, if they troubled to look at them, they were leaves and butterflies and nothing more.
Though he confesses that these missions were a strain on the nerves and on the mind, which had to be constantly alert and as fertile as that of Ulysses, the greatest of his profession, Baden-Powell obviously enjoyed them. Yet they were not all child’s play-mere fun and games in a foreign country at Government expense. Had he been caught, that same Government would have immediately disowned him and left him to pay the penalty for detection and capture, five years in a fortress. Baden-Powell always vigorously defended spying, which, he said, was a profession far from dishonourable and indeed immensely patriotic; but he drew careful distinction between professional spies such as Lieutenant Carl Lody, who was referred to in the House of Commons as "a patriot who had died for his country as much as any soldier who fell in the field," and traitors who sold their country’s secrets for money and for whom he had no mercy.These adventures of his with gun, butterfly net or fishing rod, and with the seemingly innocent sketch-book tucked away in pocket or creel, were the natural sequence to the training in woodcraft which had occupied so much of his leisure hours at school. He knew that trait in human nature, especially in a boy’s nature, which takes delight in being part of a mystery, in dressing up, and deluding his fellows. He knew it well because it was part of his own nature and he turned it into excellent account. This instinct, which in criminals is twisted and turned to evil purposes-men were deceivers ever-is in Scouts developed for the improvement and strengthening of character so that they become alert, quick-minded, observant and therefore of increased value as citizens.
In 1887 Baden-Powell returned to Africa as aide-de-camp to his uncle and saw active service for the first time against the Zulus. With the perspicacity of the wild man they named him "M’hlala Panzi"-"The man who lies down to shoot"-that is, the man who takes careful aim and thinks before he acts. One day he was lying down in this manner examining the approach to Dinuzulu’s last stronghold, when, happening to turn, he saw before him a native warrior "in all the glory of glistening brown skin with his great shield of ox-hide and his bright assegai." Most men would have felt the situation to be too tense to notice such details. Not so Baden-Powell who, as Ruskin said of genius, saw "with the eyes of children in perpetual wonder." On the approach of Baden-Powell’s servant, the warrior made off. Baden-Powell pursued him to a gully and was soon inducing the natives he found there to surrender, winning their immediate confidence by unconcernedly playing with one of their children. It was during this short and not very important campaign that he heard for the first time ten thousand men acclaiming full-throated their Chief in a ritual chant-"Een Gonyama"-"a wonderful anthem"-which he never forgot and was afterwards to teach to the Scouts.
In the year 1895 the King of Ashanti began to cause trouble, and Baden-Powell was a member of the Expedition which marched a hundred and fifty miles through dense bush and forest to his chastisement. It was then that he received further lessons in thinking things out before taking action, or, as the natives of those parts expressed it, "Softlee softlee catchee monkey," a phrase which was ever afterwards on his lips. The wild tribes of the Gold Coast were, like the Zulus in the south, to give him a new nickname, "Kantankye"-"He of the big hat," an allusion to the cowboy sombrero he always wore, and to teach him a new war song which appealed to his soldiering instinct.
"If I go forward, I die,
In this campaign he became friendly with a captain of engineers, whose practice of carrying a long staff, marked off in feet and inches, Baden-Powell was to remember and copy long afterwards when devising the equipment of the Boy Scout; and it was then, too, that he learnt the secret of the left handshake. A chief of the Ashanti people offered his left hand to Baden-Powell, saying, "In my country the bravest of the brave shake with the left hand." This form of salute was in fact a secret sign of an order of chivalry among these brave people.
Hardly was this expedition finished when he found himself a lieutenant-colonel en route for what he called "the best adventure of my life," the Matabele war. By then his abilities as a scout were known and recognised, and he was in charge of all the scouting work of the expedition. Prowling at night among moon-washed boulders, he had to match his laboriously acquired skill against the native cunning of the Matabeles, and his success may be judged by a new nickname, his third, which they gave him, "Impeesa"-"Wolf who never sleeps." On one occasion a blade or two of bruised grass and a leaf smelling of Kaffir beer, picked up ten miles away from the nearest tree, enabled him to attack and surprise a party of the enemy.
The Matabele campaign completed his education in the art of scouting and when he assumed command of the Fifth Dragoon Guards, then stationed in India, he immediately began to teach it to others. Rating, very rightly, the barrack square manoeuvre to be of secondary importance, he concentrated on scouting. The men were divided into small units under a non-commissioned officer and became imbued with the enthusiasm of their colonel for these strange new methods. That they would enhance the value of a cavalryman whose prime duty was reconnaissance was soon regarded beyond doubt; and the men vied with each other in acquiring in as short a time as possible the arrowhead showing the north point of a compass, which was the special badge Baden-Powell devised to mark the trained scout.
Up till then his life, though he did not consciously realise it, had been shaped for one purpose, aimed at one target, the practice of scouting in the widest and most liberal interpretation of the word. First he learned it himself; then he had taught it to trained cavalrymen. Soon he was to teach it to the youth of every nation. The idea was already in his mind when in 1899 he returned to England on leave, bearing with him the manuscript of a small book which he called Aids to Scouting. It was no more than a summary of the lectures, illustrated by examples, which he had delivered to his men, and he intended to publish it in the hope of arousing a wider interest. Before he could do so, however, he was off to accomplish the greatest achievement of his life-one which on a May evening in the first year of the century was to plunge the citizens of London into a wild riot of rejoicing and to add a word to the English language.
In the autumn of 1899 war broke out with the Boers in South Africa, and Colonel Baden-Powell was ordered to organise a frontier force to aid the British regular army. He was in the midst of this task and had already collected a number of men when he found himself cut off in the small town of Mafeking and surrounded by a Boer army nine thousand strong. The garrison was greatly outnumbered, but held out for the space of two hundred and seventeen days, during which Baden-Powell was the mainspring and inspiration of the defence. At this moment of crisis his long years of self-imposed training were at last able to bear full fruit. The enemy was courageous, cunning and resourceful, qualities which he himself possessed in high degree. He speedily infused them not only into the men he was commanding, but also into the citizens of the little town, who presently found themselves putting into practice many strange devices which he adopted to conceal the nakedness of his own position from the besiegers. "Bluff the enemy with a show of force as much as you like," runs a passage in his general instruction to the garrison, "but don’t let yourself get too far out of touch with your own side. …Don’t be afraid to act for fear of making a mistake. A man who never made a mistake never made anything."
The principles he preached, he practiced. There were above eight thousand natives in Mafeking, and by no means all of them could be trusted. The place, in fact, swarmed with spies, a situation of which Baden-Powell took every advantage. He sent out beyond the perimeter numbers of natives carrying wooden boxes which, he told them, would instantly explode if they were dropped. These were carefully buried and some, he announced, would be tested between noon and 2 p.m. During those two hours every one went under cover while he and a companion sallied forth and exploded a stick of dynamite in an ant-bear hole. "Out of the dust emerged a man with a bike who happened to be passing, and he pedaled off as hard as he could go for the Transvaal." The Boers were convinced that a wide minefield had been sown. The buried boxes contained sand. A public competition supplied life-like dummy figures which were set up in the improvised forts and drew the fire of Boer snipers, and a portable searchlight made out of biscuit tins was carried from fort to fort and flashed at irregular intervals to give the impression that a chain of searchlights existed to illuminate night attacks. On Sundays there was always a truce-for this was before the days of "total war"-and observing that the Boers stepped warily out of their trenches to avoid the barbed wire, Baden-Powell ordered his men to put up posts and do likewise when they walked between them. There was no barbed wire to trip them, but the Boers, observing their cautious behaviour, were deceived and thought the defences to be much stronger than they were.
Much of the scouting necessary to keep the Commander of the besieged town well informed of the enemy’s movements Baden-Powell carried out himself, and to aid him in the quick transmission of messages he presently founded a messenger corps recruited from the boys of Mafeking. They were quick to learn, full of pluck and determination under fire, and ready at all times to rise to the occasion. Their intelligent and courageous behaviour came as somewhat of a surprise even to Baden-Powell whose protegees they were, and he never forgot their bearing, which was soon to have a far-reaching effect on thousands of their kind in every country. These boys moving cheerfully about their dangerous duties, were by their example, as much a tonic to the defenders as was Baden-Powell himself, who displayed not only military skill of the highest order, but a quick and contagious humour which caused him naturally and without a thought to exchange the helmet for the fool’s cap at improvised concerts or merry evenings. At last, on May 16th, 1900, Colonel Mahon, commanding a flying column detached from the main force under Lord Roberts, raised the siege.
Up till then a comparatively unknown colonel, a man of shrewd worth to his superiors and to his companions-in-arms an excellent fellow with an odd habit of being able to tell you at a glance where you had been and what you had been doing the night before, Baden-Powell found himself overnight the youngest major-general of the army, acclaimed throughout the English-speaking world, and the particular hero of that part of the population between the ages of eight and eighteen. From them countless letters poured in asking for his help and advice, for the secret of his success with his messenger corps, and on setting foot in England, fresh from the task of organising the South African Constabulary for Lord Milner, he was amazed to discover that his short recently published manual, Aids to Scouting, had become the vade-mecum of youth and the teachers throughout the country.
It was at this critical moment in his career that he met the founder of the Boys’ Brigade, Sir William Smith, whose ideas and enthusiasms he instantly shared. At his suggestion, scouting and other outdoor pursuits were added to the activities of the Brigade in an effort to increase the numbers. Baden-Powell undertook to explain these new activities in print, and in 1908 began the publication in fortnightly parts of the book now famous, Scouting for Boys. The result at once exceeded and confounded his expectations. Boys everywhere bought it in their thousands, and, ignoring the Boys’ Brigade, began immediately to form themselves into patrols of their own. By the end of that year they numbered more than sixty thousands, and had found Scoutmasters ready to take charge of Troops. Far from resenting this development, whose strength was not foreseen, Sir William Smith gave the new Scouts every encouragement. Relations with the Boys’ Brigade were cordial from the beginning, and they remain so. Both have grown up side by side with mutual goodwill.
Baden-Powell was soon struggling to find badges, uniforms, enrolment cards, and other necessary adjuncts for an organisation which had created itself. What was his own position to be? Should he continue a career in the army, which would almost certainly bring him to the highest rank, or should he place himself at the head of this new spontaneously generated organisation for which his own book and his own method of life were responsible? The gourd of the prophet Jonah had not grown faster. In December, 1908, two rooms in Henrietta Street housed the headquarters of the new Movement. It had almost no staff; its equipment and that of its recruits, increasing by hundreds daily, was described as "haphazard," and there was no official recognition. In December, 1909-a year later-ten rooms in Victoria Street did not suffice to house headquarters, and the number of Boy Scouts enrolled exceeded one hundred thousand. Local committees had sprung up everywhere; the patronage of Majesty had been secured, and the founder had been knighted. Baden-Powell could no longer delay his decision. Putting aside all thought of his career in the army, this spare, wiry figure with the strong, resonant voice, placed himself at the head of a movement unique of its kind and which, though now more than forty years old, has not yet attained its full stature. For thirty-three years of them he remained at his post, stimulating its growth and directing its energies.
From the very beginning Baden-Powell adopted the principle of leaving as much as possible to the local Scoutmasters and Scout leaders on the spot. Decentralisation was his principle and he sought no more than to give general guidance through the medium, mainly, of Scouting for Boys. Such a scheme threw a great responsibility on the local Scoutmaster who, of necessity, had to make use of all the powers of initiative and leadership which he possessed. A very few fell by the wayside, but the vast majority, by their acts, their enthusiasm and what might be termed their instructed loyalty, proved finally and overwhelmingly the wisdom of the Chief Scout. B.-P., as we had now become known to millions, was here, there and everywhere. Leaving the details to be handled by capable men of experience and an independent habit of mind, he set himself to win recruits by the oldest and soundest of methods-preaching the faith. In this he was tireless. By the spring of 1910 he was delivering an average of twelve lectures on Scouting a month, in places as far apart as Exeter and Aberdeen.
Nor were his visits limited to the United Kingdom. In that year he visited the Cadet School at Moscow, where a Troop of Scouts had been formed. They were subject to the rigid, set discipline which was the pride of the Imperial Household Troops. Baden-Powell was conducted round the school by its headmaster, an aged colonel girded with a sword, who displayed with pride the wonderful precision which the cadets had attained at drill, the spotless condition of their dormitories, the exact and meticulous order of their lives. Outside the railway station at his departure, a Guard of Honour mounted from the Scouts among the cadets was drawn up. "Rigid as stone," he records, "they stood in their ranks," but as he passed them, each boy staring at him with his soul in his eyes, the occasion was too much for him; in a moment it became too much for them, for, as he turned back and walked along the unbending line shaking hands with every boy in turn, "there was a sudden cry, they broke their ranks and were all over me in a second, shaking my hand, kissing my clothes, every one bent on giving me some sort of keepsake." Scarcely less enthusiasm was displayed everywhere else, and the climax seemed to be reached next year when, after the appearance in Windsor Great Park of thirty thousand Scouts, Punch gave its blessing to the movement by publishing a cartoon which showed a Boy Scout cheering from the battlements of the Castle.
Such universal fervour inevitably engendered a spirit of jealousy and criticism in the breasts of those who in every generation regard enthusiasm with suspicion, and the desire to be of public service with loathing. A certain gentleman hiding himself behind the pseudonym of Captain Nemo burst into print and among other complaints maintained that the new movement smacked of militarism-a heinous crime in 1912. Baden-Powell’s retort was simple and complete. "Scouting," he said, "is not drums and flags but life in the woods and the open." At the other end of the scale were those who complained bitterly that the Boy Scouts were pacifists, an accusation which has been repeated at intervals ever since and with as little justification. The truth was, of course, that Scouting was neither the one nor the other. It was plain but exciting common sense.
Such niggling critics were but small fry. A new development was more formidable and far more welcome. The opposite sex began to take an interest in Scouting. For girls to appear in shorts in 1910 was unheard of, and they were compelled to were skirts. Despite this handicap, some eight thousand had registered themselves as Scouts by the beginning of that year. They were given the name of Girl Guides and put in charge of the Chief Scout’s sister-Agnes Baden-Powell-whose handbook, published two years later, became their official guide.
By the end of 1911 Great Britain had become too small a place for the Boy Scouts. They had spread throughout the world and Baden-Powell set off on a tour to visit them. The ship taking him to Jamaica was new, the seas were rough, the decks leaked, and the driest place on board proved to be the empty swimming bath. B.-P. could not be induced to leave her, however, and at every port they touched obstinately remained on board. The reason was Miss Olive Soames, to whom he had first become attracted by the determination of her walk. He had seen her two years before in Knightsbridge with a brown and white spaniel at her heels. Now they were fellow passengers and he presently summoned up courage to address her. "Were you ever in London near Knightsbridge Barracks?" "Yes," was the reply, "two years ago." "So we married and lived happily ever after," he records.
During this tour Baden-Powell was greatly impressed by the rapid growth of the movement in the United States of America, but before it ended visits to China and Japan convinced him that in those countries too the same phenomenon was apparent-enthusiasm and determination to spread the new gospel. Spread it did, and Baden-Powell, with that charming sense of humour which never deserted him, depicted its growth in a sketch showing an enormously corpulent Boy Scout with the caption, "Scouting is developing steadily."
The years before the outbreak of the First World War culminated in 1913 with an exhibition of Scout craft at Birmingham when, for the first time, the eyes of the general public were opened to the value of the work accomplished. By then it was evident even to its few enemies that the movement was no mushroom growth but an acorn from which a strong sapling, in the course of time to become a mighty oak, had sprung.
The outbreak of war in 1914 might well have destroyed the Boy Scout Organisation. Scoutmasters volunteered for the Army and the Navy in thousands and it seemed that many Troops would have to be disbanded. The exact contrary happened. Far from losing their occupation, the patch Scouts found it enhanced. Before the first year of war was out they were performing every kind of National Service. They were messengers in Government offices; they patrolled railway lines; the guarded bridges; they helped in the hospitals; they collected salvage; they harvested flax, and when the Zeppelins came it was their bugles, more musical than the sirens of which they were the forbears, that sounded the "All Clear."
Perhaps the finest work was performed by the Sea Scouts, whose formation had been suggested by Lord Kitchener himself. Before the end of the war some thirty thousand boys and young men had passed through this Service. They were constantly visited by B.-P., who took great delight in watching them at their duties. These were many and various. At one station, he reported, the log showed that the Sea Scouts had "warned a destroyer off the rocks in a fog, sighted and reported airship going S.S.E. five miles distant, provided night guard over damaged seaplane which was towed ashore by drifter." Other items of note were: "Light shown near…at 3.15 a.m. for seven minutes and again from apparently the same spot at 4.35 a.m. Trawler No. … came ashore. Permits all in order except J. … M. … who had none. Took his name and address to Police Superintendent at … Floating mine reported by fishing boat No. … Proceeded with the patrol boat which located and blew up the mine. Provided guard over wreck and stores three days and nights in … Bay."
Although as soon as war was declared the Chief Scout had placed himself unreservedly at the disposal of the War Office, no Command was given to him, for Kitchener very wisely decided that "he could lay his hand on several competent divisional generals but could find no one who could carry on the invaluable work of the Boy Scouts." Such a decision merely increased the activities of the Chief Scout, who spared himself not a whit throughout those four grim years. Occasionally his existence of endless inspections, office work and general duties of organisation was enlivened by the discovery that others thought him to be engaged on a very different kind of work. It was whispered that he was in Germany on Secret Service, and a naval officer went so far as to emphasize the care with which he had conveyed B.-P. across the North Sea upon his dangerous and secret mission. Others, however, took a different view and maintained that he was in the Tower of London, and an enterprising American published a graphic account of his execution as a spy, ending with the observation that "England has put into his last sleep one of the bravest soldiers who ever headed her armies." "It was really worth while being shot as a spy to gain so sweet an epitaph as that," was Baden-Powell’s comment.
The advent of uneasy years of peace meant a greater and still greater expansion of the Boy Scout Movement. The keenness of the younger brothers of Scouts to participate in Scouting led to the formation of a junior section known as Wolf Cubs, which sought to instill the beginnings of Scouting by means of games based on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books. The general term of Scouter was adopted to cover the activities of all adults engaged in training Boy Scouts. It was then, too, that the Rover Scout scheme was evolved and launched to meet the desire of those boys, grown to manhood, who still wished to be connected as closely as they could with Scouting and all that it implied.
In 1920 the first jamboree was held at Olympia. The word is of uncertain origin, but the Oxford English Dictionary now defines it as "a collection of Boy Scouts." It has become the highest expression of the movement, and at such functions Scouts from all over the world meet and join together in brotherhood. At that first jamboree Dr. Lang, Archbishop of York, conducted a service in the arena, preaching to a congregation of eight thousand of the youth of many nations seated in a circle about him, their arms round their knees, their young faces uplifted. "You are now a great power," he said, "which can make for peace. I exhort you to take this as your aim…. This is my message to you Boy Scouts. Keep the trust." A very important result of this jamboree was the naming of B-P. as Chief Scout of the World-by unanimous consent-and the formation of the International Committee which, as its name implies, put Scouting officially on an international basis. Two years later a census showed that there were 1,019,205 Scouts in thirty-two countries. In I939 the numbers had reached 3,305,149. As will presently become apparent, the spread of Scouting throughout the world was to bear noble fruit in the dark years of the Second World War.
So the years went by, bringing with them many honours. In 1923 Baden-Powell became a Grand Commander of the Victorian Order. In 1929 a Barony was conferred upon him, in 1937 the Order of Merit. But though the ribbons on his chest multiplied. he remained the simplest of men and the easiest to approach. Thousands of Scouts now middle-aged will remember him wandering about boys’ camps and talking to their inhabitants with the art that conceals art-or was it just the spontaneous utterance of a nature which in more Christian times would have been hailed as that of a saint? He would sit down by a fire and begin a yarn, and more and more would crowd round to listen. As he told of his adventures, the kindly trees of an English wood would change their magic for that of tropic palms, their shade for the shaggy depths of the West African jungle, the meadow beyond them would become the sand and burning rocks of the Sind Desert, and that half-seen boy and his friend, off with a bucket to draw water for the camp, the trackers who had once followed a stolen camel from Karachi to Sehwan. Stalking, how to hide yourself, the habits of animals, the ways of birds and reptiles, of fishes and insects, he would talk of these and other things for hours, and then turn to speak of trees and their growth and from that easily enough to the growth of man and how to keep fit and keen. Dryden’s advice–
"Better to hunt in fields for health
–was ever on his simple yet so persuasive tongue, together with the Scout Law which he drew up and which became that creed of undying inspiration to thousands.
The years went by full of honour and hard work, of promise and fulfillment. The war of 1914 to 1918 was a severe but, as he and his fellow leaders saw it, a preliminary test of the strength and value of the Scout Organisation. From it, it emerged in triumph, only to meet a sterner time of testing twenty years later. By then the Chief Scout was more than eighty years of age and was no longer strong enough to carry out those tours and visits to his Scouts the world over, in which he took such delight. By then, too, he had formed the habit of spending much of his time in the lovely uplands of Kenya; and it was there that he died on the 8th January, 1941. Soldiers and Scouts, white men and black, bore him to his grave.
It is written "Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions"-Baden-Powell did both. He died in the midst of a world-wide convulsion, but his work, far from being overwhelmed, was thereby to be strengthened and fortified. How this came about must now be told.
From: Hilary Saint George Saunders, The Left Handshake, London, 1948. Chapter II, ENTERPRISE, Lord Baden-Powell
© Lewis P. Orans, 1997