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


IT is sometimes said that the best part of travelling is arriving back home, and however often B.-P. and Lady B.-P. set off on one of their tours, they were glad to enjoy their own home again. As B.-P. once wrote:

"It is good to be back, and on such a typical spring day as yesterday was—with the scent of wallflowers and primroses, and the rooks cawing, and the trees budding—so English after the glaring hot sun and hard outlines of South Africa. But all the same we loved the warmth and brightness of it all and were—all five of us—awfully sorry to leave it."

Soon the call would come again, from India perhaps, or one of the Dominions, and once more the Chiefs would be off on their journeys of goodwill. People marvelled at B.-P.’s amazing energy, which seemed in no way to decrease as the years passed. At the age of seventy-seven, the Chiefs and their daughters set off on a world tour which took them to Australia and New Zealand and back by way of America and Canada. The Scouts of the United States were always glad to welcome the man who had created the movement which has developed so wonderfully in that country. This was his fifth, and proved to be his last Scouting visit to Canada, and it ended a quarter of a century after the first French-Canadian Scout had greeted him in Quebec when he arrived there with a party of Boy Scouts in 1910.

The year 1935 was a busy one. There was an International Rover Moot in Sweden, and this was followed by a call to South Africa—one which he always found it difficult to resist. He was most anxious that Scouting should continue to play its part in bringing together his old friends the Boers and those of English descent; there were, too, possibilities of developing better relationships between the native Africans and the white people. It was a great joy to him that he was able to do something towards these objects. Unfortunately he had an attack of malaria which prevented him from doing all he had planned.

One of the pleasures of travel in Africa was seeing places which had meant so much to him in his early life, nor did the passage of years lessen his enjoyment of the wonderful scenery. Here is a note he wrote when visiting the Victoria Falls.

"Livingstone and Cotton Oswell saw this same phenomenon eighty years ago, and heard the roar when they were yet ten miles from it. ‘Moos-itunya’, the natives called it, ‘ The smoke that sounds ‘. Both explorers were sick with fever, and had to be carried away south again without seeing the wonder of the Falls themselves. That joy was postponed till a couple of years later.

"But for us to-day it is open to all to see. Too much so in my mind. Thirty years ago I came here to stay in the few huts which formed the lodging for travellers, and to wander through the tangled bush where still the hippos, buck and baboons abounded, and suddenly to find oneself faced with a wall of falling water over a mile long and hurling itself with deafening roar into the dark, misty depths of a great chasm 370 feet down under one’s feet.

"To-day man has done his best to mar the majesty and mystery of it all by erecting a most up-to-date hotel (whose luxury I am none the less enjoying!), laying down paths, and putting up sign-posts at every turn, and running trolleys to the various viewpoints, and so on. Still, in spite of all these artificial tinkerings, the natural grandeur of the Falls is too powerful to be really affected.

"To see them at closer range as I did last night under the light of the full moon, is an experience that is far, far above any emotion that can be evoked by man’s effort even in a Cathedral service, however impressive."

He sent this message to the Scouts at the end of his visit.

"On leaving South Africa (and I hate going away!) I want you to keep two points in mind and to carry them out as well as you can.

"The first point is to make friends with Scouts in other places just as those of you did who were at the East London Jamboree. And I want you to keep up those friendships when you grow up, because at present there are too many quarrels and jealousies between the people in South Africa, and therefore the country does not get along so well as it should. But if you, when men, play together like a team, to make the country great and prosperous, you will do a big national service. It will be a game. So play in your place, play fair, and play flat out for your country and not only for yourself—your country will then win through to success.

"The second point I want of you is to go in for more Camping and Hiking. By so doing you will make yourselves healthy and strong, and also you will be doing things for yourselves, such as carrying your kit, making your shelters, cutting your firewood, cooking your grub, and all the other little chores about the camp. In this way you won’t be like some South African boys who are helpless without a native boy to do such things for them; they ‘Pass the Buck’ and ‘Leave it to George’, as your American cousins would say.

"Life in the bush brings you in touch with the wonders and beauties of Nature, the birds and the animals, the plants and the views, so that you become their comrade as being put there by God the Creator."

The few months he spent in England during 1936 saw the marriage of his daughter Betty, who later left with her husband for Rhodesia, B.-P.’s Matabeleland, where her brother Peter was already settled. Later in the year the Chiefs, with Heather, set off for India, where the Scouts were to hold their first All-India Jamboree at Delhi. This was like a dream come true, for Indian Scouts of all creeds and castes came together under the one banner of Scouting to greet their Chief. The Scouts of that vast country had already proved the value of their training in citizenship by the health campaigns they carried out in the villages and at the religious festivals; and the dreadful Quetta earthquake showed that they could forget the differences of creed and caste in the common work for the relief of suffering.

It was a particular satisfaction to B.-P. that he was able to spend his eightieth birthday with his own regiment, the 13th/18th Hussars, which was then stationed in India. Once more he wore his Hussar uniform at a Ceremonial Parade at which he presented new drum banners. "I felt forty years younger on the spot" he wrote. "It was for me my last mounted parade."

A heavy programme faced B.-P. on his return to England. He attended the St. George’s Day Service for Scouts at Windsor. Then followed the Coronation, when the Scouts won praise for the way in which they organized the sale of the Programme, and the Rover Scouts for the work they did in controlling the crowds.

Honours were bestowed on this wonderful man of eighty. The King conferred upon him the rare Order of Merit, and the President of the French Republic the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour, while from America came the Wateler Peace Prize—fitting recognitions of his great achievements in bringing together the boys and girls of the world.

In August the World Jamboree was held in Holland at Vogelenzang, when 28,000 Scouts of thirty-one nations camped together. Once more the youth of the world gave a message of hope, but it could be but a faint beam in a darkening sky. At the conclusion B.-P. gave his last Jamboree message; all there must have realized that the sands of his life were running out, and his final, "Now good-bye. God bless you all," was charged with a deep emotion of affection which made itself felt throughout the vast assembly.

"The Emblem of our Jamboree is the Jacobstaff. This was the instrument by which the navigators in old days found their way across the seas. Let it also for us to-day be an instrument of guidance in our life. It is the Cross which for all who are Christians points the way; but it is also a cross with many arms; these are held out to embrace all creeds. Those eight arms, together with the head and foot of the emblem, remind us of our ten Scout Laws.

"Go forth with this emblem to spread the spirit of goodwill….

"Now the time has come for me to say good-bye. I want you to lead happy lives. You know that many of us will never meet again in this world. I am in my eighty-first year and am nearing the end of my life. Most of you are at the beginning and I want your lives to be happy and successful. You can make them so by doing your best to carry out the Scout Law all your days, whatever your station and wherever you are. I want you all to preserve this badge of the Jamboree which is on your uniform. I suggest that you keep it and treasure it and try to remember for what it stands. It will be a reminder of the happy times you have had in camp; it will remind you to take the ten points of your Scout Law as your guide in life; and it will remind you of the many friends to whom you have held out the hand of friendship and so helped through goodwill to bring about God’s reign of peace among men.

"Now good-bye. God bless you all."

Many who listened to him then must have realized that it was the last Jamboree at which they would hear his voice, and the depth of feeling with which he spoke suggested that he felt that this was indeed his last Jamboree.

In September the Chiefs camped at Gilwell for the Reunion—an event he never missed unless out of the country or ill. Once again the ‘Jam-Roll’ with ‘ Eccles’ the caravan was drawn up on his usual camp site in front of the house, and hundreds of Scouters had the joy of meeting him as he strolled about with his dogs amongst the tents.

In October he was present on board R.R.S. Discovery, Captain Scott’s old ship, to meet the Duke of Kent when the ship was handed over to the Boy Scouts Association. This was followed soon afterwards by a pleasing ceremony when, at a gathering of Scouters and Guiders, a Silver Wedding Present was made to the Chiefs. Soon after he sailed once more for South Africa; he had hoped to see how the various Scout organizations were settling down in the Federation, but his strength failed him, and instead he went to Kenya and rested for the winter at Nyeri; the country so suited him that they decided to build a cottage, which was named ‘Paxtu’, as an offshoot, as it were, of Pax Hill, Bentley. There was, however, one outstanding incident when Peter Baden-Powell, his wife, and son, Robert, came down to meet the boat at Beira.

"The Chief Guide had already stayed with them in their charming house at Inyanga, but this was my direct sight of what she had described to me as the finest baby in the world.

"When I asked the little imp if this description was true he, with a self-conscious grin, rammed his fist down my mouth, as if to say, ‘Oh, go on!’"

During 1937 an appeal had been launched for a Boy Scout Fund to safeguard the Movement. This was well in hand when B.-P. returned in May, 1938, but he was a sick man. A traveller on the same boat has said what a deep impression was made on him by the gatherings of Scouts and Guides who assembled on the quay-sides to pay tribute to their Chief: they had been warned that he was too ill to see them, but they were content to see the boat which was taking him back to England.

In August he accompanied some Scouters and Guiders on a cruise to Iceland, but he was unable to land, and later he and Lady Baden-Powell left England for the last time to set up a winter home in Kenya. His days were pleasantly occupied—sketching, reading, going out on expeditions to see the wild animals, gardening, and of course letter-writing. B.-P. was an industrious correspondent; his friendship once given was not allowed to rust.

He began a series of pictures of wild animals in their natural haunts. He also produced three books for boys and girls mainly about animals, Birds and Beasts in Africa (1938), Paddle Tour Own Canoe (1939), and More Sketches in Kenya (1940). These contained many of his sketches of men and beasts in colour and in line, and there is a pleasant vein of happiness running through the pages as he talks of his pet hyrax, or the antics of the birds as he watches from his veranda, or of beasts of the surrounding country.

There were expeditions by car to observe wild life. On one of these he met a farmer whose boyhood had been spent at Gilwell Park; on another occasion a friend took him farther afield and once more he saw the beloved veldt; "And I thought," he exclaimed, "that I was never going to see it again!"

But as the months passed so his strength slowly ebbed. The coming of the War may have seemed to some that much of his work had been destroyed, but he knew better. During his more than eighty years he had seen so much that his faith in the future never weakened. He thought of that last Jamboree in Holland, and he sent this message of hope to Scouts everywhere.

"Though the war may have killed very many of our dear comrades and companions, it has not killed all, and it has not killed the spirit. You Scouters and Scouts who still live will carry on that same spirit, and will now develop it with all the greater force when you realize that you are taking up the torch which was dropped by those who have been struck down.

"Few of those comrades of ours could have foreseen that within a short time they would be fighting and giving their lives for their country, but we do know that through ‘Being Prepared’ as Scouts they were the better able to face their fate with courage and good cheer. As your tribute to their memory it is open to you to make goodwill and friendship for brother Scouts abroad your aim more directly than ever before."

The end came on 8th January, 1941. He was escorted on his last journey by soldiers and Scouts, and they laid him in view of Mount Kenya in the country which he loved so much. On the gravestone is the plain inscription between the carved badges of the Scouts and the Guides:


  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