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


ALL aspects of Scouting were dear to the heart of B.-P., but perhaps none attracted him more than the spreading of the movement overseas, especially in the British Dominions and Colonies. The Fourth Scout Law reminds us that Scouting knows no differences of "country, class or creed". This was the great message to the world of the Jamborees, and at each B.-P. seized the opportunity to bring that message home to every Scout. Thus at the Jamboree in Hungary in 1933 his final words, before the boys of sixteen parts of the British Empire and of thirty-two countries left for their widely-scattered homes, were on this subject of friendliness with all. The symbol of that Jamboree was the White Stag of Hungary, and B.-P. used this as his text.

"My brothers,—Those of you who were at the last Jamboree in England will remember how the Golden Arrow was handed out to each country as a symbol of Goodwill flying forth to all the ends of the earth through the Brotherhood of Scouting. Now at Godollo we have another symbol. Each one of you wears the badge of the White Stag of Hungary. I want you to treasure that badge when you go from here and to remember that, like the Golden Arrow, it also has its message and its meaning for you.

"The Hungarian hunters of old pursued the miraculous Stag, not because they expected to kill it, but because It led them on in the joy of the chase to new trails and fresh adventures, and so to capture happiness. You may look on that White Stag as the pure spirit of Scouting, springing forward and upward, ever leading you onward and upward to leap over difficulties, to face new adventures in your active pursuit of the higher aims of Scouting—aims which bring you happiness. Those aims are to do your duty to God, to your Country, and to your fellow-men by carrying out the Scout Law. In that way you will, each one of you, help to bring about God’s kingdom upon earth—the reign of peace and goodwill.

"Therefore, before leaving you, I ask you Scouts this question—Will you do your best to make friends with others and peace in the world?"

The British Dominions and Colonies are themselves a world within a world of various races and religions, and B.-P. saw the importance of the British setting the example of how, in spite of differences of colour and creed, men can live happily together in peace.

Few men have known the countries of the British Empire as thoroughly as he did. His soldier’s life had included many years in India and in different parts of Africa, and his love of travel was later to take him to every part of the Empire. It was perhaps significant that the first British Scouts who greeted him outside Great Britain were the French-Canadians of Quebec Canada itself is a wonderful mixture of peoples, and many Scout Troops include boys of several racial origins. Scouting in that great Dominion is doing its part in bringing together these very varied elements.

When young men consulted him, as thousands did about their future, he often urged them to look for a new beginning in one of the Dominions or Colonies. He was particularly glad when it was possible to establish a Migration Department at Scout Headquarters, but he took care to warn the Scouts who went out to the Dominions that they would have to work hard. Here is one message he sent to a party going out to Australia.

"Some fellows seem to think that by going to Australia they will find a country in which they are bound to get on after they have failed in England. It is true that Australia has more room for men and opens out greater possibilities for them; but it means just as hard work there to gain success as anywhere else. The waster in England will be a waster in Australia. The fellow who is a hard worker and can stick it out through difficult times until the sun shines again is more certain to succeed in Australia than he would be in England.

"So when you get there don’t be rebuffed by difficulties or disappointments. They are bound to come now and then; but be determined to stick it out and see the bad time through and you are sure to come out on top in the end.

"The great thing is that, being Scouts, you are not going to a land of strangers; you will find brother Scouts there ready to give you the hand of friendship and helpfulness when you want it.

"I urge you to remember the old saying, ‘Once a Scout always a Scout’, and to stick to and carry out the Scout Law as well as you can, even when you are grown up and working far away from Scouting influences. We shall all be glad to hear from you as to how you get on, and your news will be helpful to other fellows wanting to go out there.

"In the meantime from my heart I wish you God Speed."

Few things pleased him more than when any of these Scouts wrote to say that they were enjoying their new life.

Whenever an opportunity came, he liked to send messages to Scouts m distant parts of the Empire. Here is but one example. When General C. G. Bruce, a boyhood friend of B.-P., was going out to organize the Mount Everest Expedition in 1922 he carried with him a message from the Chief Scout to the Troop at the Kalimpong Himalayan Home. They already possessed a portrait he had given them when he himself had visited the Troop; on this he had written,

"As topmost Troop in India—on the map, I see, Be topmost also in your Scout efficiency."

As General Bruce would go through Kalimpong, B.-P. sent the following message by him:

"Scouts! General Bruce and his party will pass near you on their way to try, once more, to climb Mount Everest. I know they will have your warm interest and admiration and good wishes on their Scout-like adventure. They are tackling the biggest mountain in the world with cheery pluck and determination. They have already tried various sides of it in vain, but they mean to try again until they succeed.

"I hope that you too will imitate their example. Whenever a difficulty comes in your way, even if it be the biggest difficulty in the world, tackle it cheerily and pluckily, and if you can’t get over it one way, try another and stick to it till you are successful.

"Best of good wishes and good camping to you."

A very big book would have to be written to describe all B.-P.’s journeyings about the Empire. Fortunately he wrote accounts of his experiences in The Scout, and in such books as Scouting Round the World. Here it is only possible to give a few typical incidents, but these will show how his presence, and that of Lady Baden-Powell, increased enthusiasm and at the same time added to the host of the boys and girls who thought of them as friends.

In the autumn of 1925 the Chiefs with the three children set off for South Africa, and while B.-P. and Lady Baden-Powell travelled about inspecting Scouts and Guides, the children went to school; but they were all together at Christmas, and the following note by B.-P. gives a delightful glimpse of the family reunion.

"I write this on Christmas morning, when my thoughts run to you all at home.

"In the early, early dawn I woke with a feeling of ‘Where am I?’ The sea was washing among the rocks just below my window, a pink glow was in the sky, and joyous voices were shouting to each other in a strange tongue.

"The voices were those of a passing party of Dutch young men and maidens, rucksack on back, going out camping.

"From my bed I look out over an expanse of calm sea under a cloudless sky to the distant outline of Table Mountain, twenty miles across the bay. His upper heights are glowing red in the rising sunlight, while his base is still in the violet shadows of night.

"My first step is to make a hurried sketch to catch the quickly changing hues of dawn. My second to grab a peach from the basket, feeling it almost a sin to break into the lovely bloom and to exchange the delightful scent for the luscious flavour. But the deed is done all the same.

"Peter and I have had an argument, as to whether in dealing with these peaches you eat them or drink them, but we agreed that in any case you need a basin of water and a towel handy!

"Presently the bumping of feet and the hushed chatter of small voices in the neighbouring room of our shack shows that the youngsters are awake, in fact very wide awake, to the fact that it is Christmas morn. And although there are only sprigs of sugarbush in place of holly on the walls, and though there are no chimneys for Father Christmas to enter by, still, stockings have been hung up in all good faithand the presents are there.

"In a few minutes we are all assembled on one broad bed in a state of tense excitement and feverish unpacking of many parcels.

"Later in the day, cooking the Christmas dinner absorbs the time and inspires the ingenuities of each of us. Apart from Peter, who fancies himself as chef in the department of fried eggs, Heather and Betty also do their share, even though it involves standing on a chair in order to reach up to the kitchen range."

A few extracts from B.-P.’s report will give his general impressions.

"Perhaps I ought to have known, but I certainly did not realize fully, what a re-visit to my old haunts meant. It was not merely the enthusiastic crowds of Scouts and Guides that one met, but at every place one came to there were ex-members of my old force, the South African Constabulary, to revive old memories. Then there were the members of the Mafeking garrison now scattered and living in different parts of the country.

"There were old friends of the times when I lived at the Cape; and everywhere, especially among gangers on the railways, were old comrades, disreputable-looking old rascals, some of them, who had served with me in Matabeleland, or in Zululand, in the days of long ago.

"And those who could not come to see me (and some came many hundreds of miles to do so) all wrote to me and required answering, and you may imagine what that meant—with no office, no secretary, beyond a hard-worked wife with a pocket typewriter in the train!"

The doctor intervened when B.-P. once more suffered from one of his relapses from overwork.

"Under doctor’s orders I was not allowed to go to South-West Africa, and the Chief Guide went there in my stead, another three thousand miles over very hot desert country. Meantime I, in more cowardly fashion, took a few days off in the beautiful Maclear country—trout-fishing.

"The atmosphere and scenery of this district were exactly like those of Cumberland; a grand sheep country in a grand climate. A delightful farm was offered me at a rock-bottom price. I was sorely tempted to buy. Had I had the wherewithal I should probably now be a South African citizen. Indeed, if I were only a young man starting out in life—but that’s another story."

Now for a glimpse from Australia. Here is part of a newspaper report of B.-P.’s visit in I931. After the more formal Rallies, B.-P. visited the Scouts in camp.

"The sun was setting when he arrived. As he went from one to the other of the forty-eight different camp sites, here and there fires glinted through the gathering gloom, blue smoke curled into the still air. And the smell of frying sausages was wafted through the bush. Billies of boiling water bubbled merrily. Thick slices of bread were toasted at the ends of sticks held by brown little hands. Smiling boyish faces shone in the flickering light of fires.

"It was all delightfully informal. Many of the Scouts seemed unaware that the Big Chief was among them. ‘Hey, Jack, I dodged you!’ yelled one youngster from the top of a rock to a mate who chased him. They did not see the keen-eyed Big Chief watching them from a path above them. ‘Hey, Jacky, you can’t cat—’ Suddenly he saw Lord Baden-Powell—stopped in the middle of a word, and came as nearly to attention as he could on his precarious perch.

"In the centre of a large cleared space stood a heap of firewood. He was asked to light it—around it, later in the evening, was to be a ‘wood badge’ investiture. Now no Scout must use more than two matches in lighting a fire. B.-P. took several, and in the end had to invoke the aid of a Herald representative’s copy-paper. At that moment the Chief Guide appeared.

"’I took more than two matches,’ said B.-P. shamefacedly.

"’Awful! ‘ replied the Chief Guide, and B.-P. true Scout that he is, did not excuse himself by saving, as he could have said, that the laying of the fire was not kits doing, nor did he blame the dampness of the wood.

"In a very happy speech, Lord Baden-Powell said that when he had seen the Scouts marching on Friday and Saturday, he had had just a doubt whether they were not too much ‘parlour Scouts’— but the visit to the camp had impressed him with their knowledge of woodcraft and the true Scouting attributes."

Innumerable little incidents can be recalled by thousands of Scouts from these visits of the Chief. As long as the witnesses live they will treasure such memories as the following episode which occurred at the Australian Jamboree at the end of 1934.

"The Chief had been visiting camps and, as he returned up the road, it occurred to me that if we could get him to pose for a photo beside our gateway it would make a wonderful souvenir for all Troops in our District. Well, nothing venture nothing win, so, adopting a traffic-cop air, I placed myself in the centre of the road and made my request. Smilingly the Chief complied, and soon some thirty or forty cameras were using up spools of films on him at full speed. In the rush I nearly got left, but managed to secure a photograph.

"Just beneath the Chief’s horse in the snap is a man’s foot encased in plaster. It belonged to our District Commissioner, Boss’ Currey, who had the misfortune to break a bone early in the camp. Some of the boys had, in sport, autographed the plaster bandage. During the photo episode the Chief noticed these autographs, and chipped ‘Boss’ on being an autograph hunter—autograph hunting was the curse of this Jamboree, and the Chief had publicly dubbed autograph-hunting Scouts as ‘Cissie Scouts’. ‘Boss’ retorted that he wished he had the cheek to ask the Chief for his! With that, I and another Scouter hoisted ‘Boss’ on to our shoulders and there he was, head down, legs waving wildly, the bandaged foot under B.-P.’s nose, while someone dug up a pencil and we secured the only official autograph of the camp."

There was of course a serious side to these visits. B.-P. was a keen-eyed observer, and he quickly spotted the good things as well as the bad. Anything at all original, particularly if it showed a touch of humorous imagination, won his warm praise. The routine kind of Rally bored him; he wanted to see the Scouts in action showing that they could look after themselves as true Scouts. The Reports he wrote summing up his observations were always helpful though sometimes critical, and one of the great values of his extensive travels in Scoutland was that he could pass on ideas from place to place, and encourage those in difficulties by telling them how others—perhaps thousands of miles away—had solved similar problems.

  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