An Excerpt from:
E.E. Reynolds, B-P: The Story of His Life,
London, Oxford University Press, 1943.


IT had been hoped that the tenth anniversary of the foundation of the movement could be celebrated in 1918, but the war made this impossible. Soon after the Armistice plans were discussed for a Rally in 1920. B.-P. had an instinct for choosing the right name for things, and he was anxious to avoid such well -known words as Display or Rally. It was at his suggestion that the word Jamboree was used for Scout gatherings on a large scale. He did not invent the word, but he gave it a new meaning and now it has come to mean to everyone a great Scout Camp combined with public displays. It was he too who suggested that Scouts from foreign countries should be invited, and so a Jamboree also means an international gathering of Scouts.

Olympia, London, was chosen as the site for this first Jamborees with a Camp in the Old Deer Park, Richmond, to sleep some 6,000 Scoutmasters and Scouts. Had the gathering been one of British Scouts alone it would have been remarkable, for all parts of the Empire were represented; but there were representatives of twenty-one other nationalities. During twelve years the movement had spread throughout the world, and Olympia saw Boy Scouts from the United States and China, from Norway and Siam, from Chile and Japan—all united by one code of conduct and practicing common activities. B.-P. was frequently reminded of his past adventures; thus amongst the South Africans were three boys whose fathers had been in the forces that besieged Mafeking.

Displays of all kinds were given in the vast arena; each day s events were opened with an impressive march past of the Scouts of all the nations represented; there were many side-shows giving glimpses of the varied activities of Scouts as craftsmen and lovers of the open air. Many of the thousands of visitors must have felt like saying, as Punch put it in a cartoon: "I was nearly losing hope, but the sight of all you boys gives it back to me."

The final scene crowned a wonderful week. A pageant of the nations, with standards held aloft, entered the arena, and B.-P. was proclaimed Chief Scout of the World. As he passed, each standard was dipped in his honour. Then he turned, and in his ever-youthful strong voice spoke to the vast assembly of Boy Scouts.

Brother Scouts, I ask you to make a solemn choice. Differences exist between the peoples of the world in thought and sentiment, just as they do in language and physique. The war has taught us that if one nation tries to impose its particular will upon others cruel reaction is bound to follow. The Jamboree has taught us that if we exercise mutual forbearance and give and take, then there is sympathy and harmony. If it be your will, let us go forth from here fully determined that we will develop among ourselves and our boys that comradeship, through the world-wide spirit of the Scout Brotherhood, so that we may help to develop peace and happiness in the world and goodwill among men. Brother Scouts, answer me. Will you join in this endeavour?

The answer came with no uncertainty; then the boys took charge. B.-P. was picked up and carried across the arena, and at length released as wave after wave of cheering brought the first Jamboree to a close.

One immediate outcome of the Jamboree was the formation of an International Committee and Bureau, make practicable by the generosity of an American citizen, Mr. F. F. Peabody. During the war an S.O.S. (Save Our Scouts) Fund had proved of great service in helping distressed Scouts in the devastated war areas, and the Jamboree proved that the comradeship thus shown was a very real thing.

It was therefore with B.-P.’s full support that the international work of Scouting was put on a more regular footing. When the first world census was taken in 1922 it was found that there were 1,019,905 Boy Scouts in thirty-two countries. By 1939 this figure had risen to 3,305,149.

Two years after the Olympia Jamboree, a Posse of Welcome was organized to greet the Prince of Wales on his return home from his Empire tour. The word ‘Posse’ came into use because, when the Scouts formed a Guard of Honour to the Prince at Buckingham Palace on a former occasion, they had broken out into cheers and had waved their hats on their staffs. King George V had been watching the arrival, and he felt that "Guard of Honour " was not the right word for such a youthful company. B.-P. suggested "posse"; he had in mind the sheriff’s posse of the Wild West, and also the "posse comitatus" which came to arrest Sir Robert, the Baron of Shurland, as recorded in the lngoldsby Legends.

On the 7th October, 1922, some 60,000 Scouts and 19,000 Wolf Cubs met at the Alexandra Palace to greet the Prince. Before the Rally, B.-P. was decorated with the French Legion of Honour. In previous years he had received many honours from foreign countries, and on this occasion he wrote to a friend:

Really, between ourselves—I wish they wouldn’t! I feel ashamed of the cheap way of winning them— when the whole work is a Joy to me and I only wish I could do more. At the same time, it means that they appreciate the Movement and its possibilities, and that is something.

It was an amazing spectacle. One of the Scouts who was there recalls the following incident:

I was only a young Scout and separated from the rest of the boys I knew—and probably looking frightened ! A crowd of us was moving along when what we thought was a Scoutmaster came along with us. He chatted freely to us, asking where we had come from, how long we had taken to travel there, if it were our first trip to London, and other such small talk, until we arrived inside the room. Then to the overwhelming surprise of each of us, he made a cheery parting and walked up on to the platform. He was the Chief Scout!

A spectator recorded the following impression:

Personally, I shall not easily forget those wonderful boy crowds, nor shall I forget the eagerness of the Prince, who apparently finds it so hard to leave boyhood behind, the smiling interest of the Duke of Connaught, the keen, humorous humanity of the Chief Scout, and the tireless eminently practical enthusiasm of his staff, most of them mature men leading busy professional lives.

When the Empire Exhibition was held at Wembley in 1924, it was suggested that an Empire Rally of Scouts should be organized at the same time. This was a project much after B.-P.’s heart, and he energetically set to work to arrange such a Jamboree. The response was immediate, and amongst the 12,500 Scouts in the camp in Wembley Paddocks were boys from all parts of the Empire. Echoes from his past must have sounded in B.-P.’s ears as he heard the Rhodesian Scouts shout:




Or when touring the Exhibition he met Scouts from the Gold Coast and Ashanti, sons of men who spoke of him still as Kantankye—"He of the Big Hat." With the Gold Coast natives was Captain R. S. Rattray, the head of the Anthropological Department in Ashanti. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Scouting, and he interested B.-P. in the use of the Ntumpane or talking drums, and with some Scouts he made use of them for sending messages in Morse. An African Boy Scout successfully sent messages to Captain Rattray through the dense forest country, and at Wembley an English Scout Troop learned how to use the drums.

Immediately after the Imperial Jamboree, the second World Jamboree was held near Copenhagen. Here were gathered boys from thirty-three nations; part of the time was spent in camp with the usual displays, pageants and competitions, and part was spent by the boys as guests in the homes of Danish Scouts.

Few men have been so hero-worshipped as B.-P. was at these Jamborees, but it had no visible effect on him; he remained as companionable as ever, and the youngest Scout could feel at ease in his presence. His sense of humour was too keen for him to stand on a pedestal. It was that sense of humour, too, that brought laughter at times when it was most needed. Thus, on the final day of the camp when the King of Denmark inspected the Scouts, the rain poured down and all were drenched. When the time came for B.-P. to announce the results of the competitions, he looked at the boys massed in front of him, and with a laugh said, "I have seen great numbers of Scouts in my life, but I have never seen any as wet as you!" Even those who did not understand English recognized the tone, and faces broke into smiles.

While these spectacular events attracted the public attention, other developments were quietly going on. Two in particular must be mentioned: the Rover Scouts, and Gilwell Park.

For some years B.-P. had been feeling the need for some kind of advanced training for those who would normally leave the Boy Scouts at the age of eighteen. He discussed the Problem with Commissioners and Scoutmasters, and at last the Rover Scouts were formed. The whole scheme was based on the idea of "Service"— all Scouting leads to that from the time when the Cub promises "to do a good turn to somebody every day and the Scout that he will "help other people at all times." The Rovers develop this idea still further, and for their help B.-P. wrote the book Rovering to Success.

Gilwell Park fulfilled one of B.-P.’s dreams. He wanted a permanent camp where Scouters could be trained. Towards the end of 1918 Mr. W. de Bois Maclaren, District Commissioner for Rosneath, offered to purchase a camping ground near enough to London to be accessible for East London Scouts. This at once pointed to Epping Forest as the most suitable area, but Maclaren thought it "too near chimney-pots" until the District Scout Commissioner took him up to High Beech. After several estates had been found unsuitable, Gilwell Park near Chingford was found to be just what was wanted. It was away from any main road; the forest bounded it on one side and was close to it on another; it stood high, with a fine view over the King George Reservoir.

A pioneer camp was held at Easter, 1919, by some Rover Scouts of East London, and shortly afterwards parties of local Scouts set to work to clear the gardens and grounds. The formal opening was on the 25th July, and on the 8th September the first Training Camp for Scoutmasters was held under the Camp Chief, Francis Gidney. In him B.-P. had found a man of exceptional personality who carried out the scheme of training as laid down by B.-P. with a touch of genius that ensured its success from the beginning.

B-P himself drew up the details of the training, and once more he showed his imagination in the badge he devised. He did not want anything showy, so he picked on a necklace he had captured from Dinuzulu in 1887; two of the wooden beads which formed this necklace were strung on a bootlace and called the "Wood Badge," and this is awarded to any Scouter who passes the training course.

Another romantic touch was provided by the koodoo horn used at Gilwell for the rousing of the camp and for Flag Down. This horn had been brought from Matabeleland by B.-P. in 1896, and he had used it himself at the first Scout Camp at Brownsea Island in I907.

In June, 1920, B.-P. held a Commissioners’ Camp at Gilwell. I was on the Staff that summer; it was my first close contact with him; previously he had been a figure at a Rally to me, and, like most Scoutmasters, I felt a natural awe of him. It came as a surprise to me to find how easily one could talk with him and how quickly one forgot his prestige and position. Others were also surprised that week-end. I recall how Commissioner after Commissioner arrived by car, or by the station horse-cab, with piles of luggage, and how B.-P. gently chaffed them about coming to camp burdened like Tommy the Tenderfoot. There were more knee-breeches and stiff collars than shorts and scarves. His own gear was small. He pitched his Ashanti hammock tent on the Training Ground, and strolled about in shirt and shorts ready for a chat or a laugh with anyone. Some—if they were awake—must have been amazed very early the next morning to see B.-P. doing his exercises outside his tent; here was a leader who actually practiced what he preached!

Whenever he camped at Gilwell he liked to wander round the Boys’ Camping Field, and to attend the Campfire on Saturday evenings. Many thousands of Scouts came to know him there. Here are some of the memories of one of those lucky Scouts.

"He had a wonderful trick of taking the stiffness out of a rather formal or ceremonial occasion. At a campfire at Gilwell a Troop were to give a display of tumbling, and were wearing brilliant orange shorts. When the Chief arrived, everybody stood in silence, but he suddenly said to this team: ‘ Where did you get those lovely pants?’

"On the following morning, he was wandering round the Boys’ camps with only his two dogs, and cine-camera, at about 8 a.m. He had just ‘ shot ‘ a Scout who was lying in the tent with his legs projecting outside, when the boy sat up looking rather embarrassed. The Chief said, ‘ I’ve got you for life.’ I was wondering whether I could get a ‘ snap ‘, when up ran another Scout with a camera, so I dashed for mine. B.-P. stopped, and ‘posed’ and arranged his two dogs at his feet, but then found that he had his back to the early morning sun, so insisted on turning right round, so as not to spoil the picture."

Gilwell was the first of many Boy Scout Camp Sites and B.-P. rejoiced as each one was opened, as he knew the happiness it would bring to thousands of boys.

  E. E. Reynolds, B-P: The Story of His Life is a major source of biographical information about B-P. It is one of several works by E. E. Reynolds documenting the life of the Chief Scout and the early days of the Scout Movement.
  The Baden-Powell Library. A Selection of excerpts from the works of Sir Robert Baden-Powell and works relating to his life and career
  Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the World Scout Movement, Chief Scout of the World. A Home Page for the Founder. Links Relating to Baden-Powell on the Pine Tree Web and elsewhere. Text Only Index.

  Return to the Pine Tree Web Home Page

Your feedback, comments and suggestions are appreciated.
Please write to:
Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1997
Last Modified: 4:24 PM on August 31, 1997

Site Created with Microsoft ® FrontPage TM