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


AT Gilwell Park, the Boy Scout Camp and Training Centre near Epping Forest, there is a statuette of a Buffalo with this inscription:

"To the Unknown Scout, whose faithfulness in the performance of the Daily Good Turn brought the Scout Movement to the United States of America."

This Daily Good Turn was done on a foggy day in London in 1909 two years after the camp at Brownsea Island. An American publisher, William D. Boyce, had lost himself in the fog when a boy came up and offered to help him. Mr. Boyce explained where he wanted to go, and the boy showed him the way, but when he was offered a tip he refused it, because, as he said, "A Scout does not accept tips for doing his Good Turn." Mr. Boyce was so surprised that he exclaimed, "What did you say?" "I am a Scout. Haven’t you heard of the Boy Scouts ? Wouldn’t you like to know more about them?" Mr. Boyce said he certainly would, so as soon as he had finished his immediate business, the boy went with him to the offices, and there Mr. Boyce heard all about the scheme of training. He took back to America with him the pamphlets he had been given, and he was so impressed that he started the movement in the United States.

That is but one example of how the young movement quickly spread to other countries. It has already been noted that Scouts were organized in Chile in 1909, and in November, 1909, it was possible to record that "There are now Scout organizations formed or forming in Germany, Sweden, France, Norway, Hungary, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Singapore and India."

At home the movement was developing at a most astonishing speed, and this kept B.-P. very busy. He was constantly on the move, inspecting Scouts, speaking at public meetings and getting into touch with anyone who could help. For instance, during the second half of March, 1910, he visited Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Edinburgh, Perth, Aberdeen, Harwich and Leicester. No wonder he wrote, "Although I have travelled hard and have economized time to the best of my power, I find it is quite impossible to visit all the different places to which I have been asked and to which I should like to go." He soon made it clear that he had no use for formal parades, but preferred to see Scouts doing things. He devised a new kind of Rally, which now seems commonplace to us, but was a startling affair in 1910. This was the rush in of Scouts from concealed positions; yelling their Patrol cries and brandishing their staffs, they arrived at an arranged semi-circular line and there stood in dead silence.

This Rally was to have been seen on a large scale on June 18th, 1910, at Windsor Great Park before King Edward VII, but his death on May 6th made this impossible On May 5th B.-P. had been to Buckingham Palace to receive the king’s final approval for the plans. King George V, however, was equally interested in the progress of the movement, and m the following year, on 4th July, 1911, the Rally was held, when 30,000 Scouts were gathered together. An onlookers account is worth quoting because it contains B.-P.’s own summary of the position the movement had reached.

"I see a picture of the Chief Scout sitting in a deck-chair, on the eve of the Rally, beneath the trees of the officials’ quarters in the great camp, writing a letter in pencil with his left hand. It is something important, as he seems not to see you though you go ever so close; and so you wisely go away.

Two copies were taken of the letter or memorandum— one went straight to the King through his Secretary Major Wigram, the other I was given to re-copy here. The document following will be read with interest for what is between the lines—the King’s desire for information, on the eve of the Rally, about the Scouts, especially for information which would enable him to recognize badges and distinctions of honour; and the brilliancy of the dispatch written in a few moments amid the distractions of camp stir and bustle—not a word wasted, and a complete guide achieved to the whole Scout Movement and the Rally in a nutshell

There will be between thirty and forty thousand Scouts on parade out of our 200,000. These have all passed some tests in tracking, cooking, first-aid, ambulance, missioner, signalling, field telegraph, pioneering, and other such work.

Numerous cases have occurred of public work being performed by Scouts in aid of police or in accidents, notably last week in the Coronation accident at Barnstaple, and in the arrest of an armed murderer at Red Deer, Alberta.

The Scouts present include 100 from Canada, detachments from Malta, Gibraltar, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as well as – from all parts of England.

All Scouts wearing medals have saved life. Of these there are 229. King’s Scouts wear a crown on the left arm; of these there are 2,397. Badges on the left arm stand for tests passed in various handicrafts. Of these, over 137,000 have been issued. A cord round the shoulder means that the wearer holds at least six efficiency badges. A silver wolf round the neck means at least twenty-four proficiency badges have been gained.

We have Scouts in all Oversea Dominions. Boy Scouts have been started also in most European countries, as well as in the United States, Chile, Argentine, etc. Sea Scouts form a branch of the Boy Scouts, for coastguard work and seamanship, and some Troops specialize in fire brigade work.

Messages of loyalty and regret at inability to attend the Rally have been received from Troops in the Orange Free State, Natal and Australia.

"As the morning wore on visitors by the thousand wandered through the great camp, and informally inspected the Scouts as they gradually assembled on their respective grounds. At every turn one ran against old friends of the young Scout world. Troops rested under the trees in every kind of picturesque and Scout-like attitude, munching provender at intervals. Prince Christian rode round about with curiosity and interest. The Chief Scout went here and there on his fine black horse, the gift of New Zealand admirers. General Sir Herbert Plumer kept an eye on everyone; and wherever one looked Commissioner Everett’s long figure was seen while he went about making sure that every detail of his careful plans was properly carried out. Noon saw most Troops in their temporary positions on the nine assembly grounds, and presently the grand movement to the parade-ground set in without any visible confusion."

Later came the inspection and the Rush-in.

"Back at last, on his black horse, in his original position, Sir Robert sounded his whistle again, and then came the great moment of the day, the charge of the thirty thousand. It was magnificently done; the roaring of the Patrol cries suggested that the zoos of the world had been let loose, the thirty thousand closed in on the King as a great foaming wave, and it seemed that nothing would stop it; spectators trembled lest the King should be enveloped. But at a line, which none but the Scouts knew, the wave stopped dead, as if suddenly frozen—the shouting and the tumult died, and then—silence."

It was a magnificent tribute to the soundness of the new movement; and although such sights were to be repeated in after years, the thrill of Windsor has never been lost by those who were there.

Many leading men of the country gave their support, and amongst them was Lord Kitchener, who, in speaking at a Rally in Leicestershire, used words which have often been quoted:

"There is one thought I would like to impress upon you—ONCE A SCOUT ALWAYS A SCOUT. YOU will find the Scout Law and Scout training very useful through life, so never allow Scouting to be looked upon as a game that is over."

B.-P. was invited in 1910 to visit Russia for the purpose of explaining the Scout method of training. He inspected the boys of the Moscow Cadet School, but was very critical of the harsh discipline and military atmosphere of the institution. There were some Boy Scouts—but really almost the same as Cadets—who realized what kind of man he was, and as the following incident shows, found a way of expressing their admiration.

"A Guard of Honour of the Russian Boy Scouts was formed up at the station to see me off; rigid as stone they stood in their ranks, but one could see the life and soul of the boy blazing in those excited eyes as one walked down the line.

"It struck me so much that I could not leave them with a mere glance, so I walked back, shaking hands with each. As I neared the finish their feelings became too much for them. There was a sudden cry, they broke their ranks and were all over me in a second, shaking hands, kissing my clothes, and everyone bent on giving me some sort of keepsake out of his pocket. The eager enthusiasm of boyhood was there, ready to respond even to a stranger and a foreigner."

Meantime the girls were demanding that they too should be allowed to join in the game of Scouting. Some turned up at the Crystal Palace Rally in 1909 and explained that they were Girl Scouts! So B.-P. had to do something about them. They were allowed to register at Boy Scout Headquarters, and within a year some 8,ooo did so. Then B.-P. persuaded his sister Agnes to organize a separate movement, and so the Girl Guides came into being.

In January, 1912, B.-P. set off on his first world tour to see how the movement was developing. He saw Boy Scouts in the Dominions and Colonies, in America, and in the East. Wherever he went he was received with enthusiasm; former officers and men who had served under him were anxious to meet him again, and he seized such opportunities to urge the value of Scouting.

There was one unplanned part of the tour that was to bring a great change in his life. On board the Arcadian, crossing the Atlantic, he met Miss Olave St. Clair Soames, and before the voyage ended he asked her to marry him. It was agreed not to make an official announcement until he had returned from his tour. The wedding took place on October 30th, 1912, and the Boy Scouts organized a penny collection for a motor-car—perhaps this was one way of saying that they hoped marriage would not prevent the Chief from touring the country to see the Troops. The honeymoon was spent camping in North Africa, and Lady B.-P. soon proved herself a first-class camper.

In after years thousands of Scouters and Guiders, as well as Scouts and Guides, were to enjoy the hospitality of the B.-P.s’ home, and all fully appreciated the happiness and friendliness of their hosts.

There was rejoicing in the movements at the birth of Peter in 1913, and in 1915, when Heather was born, and again in 1917 for Betty.

The chief event of 1913 was the Birmingham Exhibition and Rally. This showed people something of the variety of things Scouts could do, and there was general surprise at the extraordinary range of activities displayed. The Rally of 20,000 Scouts included boys from ten foreign countries. The event was also notable for the fact that B.-P. was wearing shorts as Chief Scout. Up to that date he had, on official occasions, worn breeches, and sometimes General’s uniform; his example was quickly followed by Commissioners and Scoutmasters.

At this period he was exceptionally busy, as he had become Master of the Mercers’ Company, to which many generations of his family had belonged. He fortunately had the capacity of making full use of every waking moment, and in this way he was able to do more work than two men usually got through. But even he could not stand such a strain for ever, and his doctor ordered a complete change and rest for the summer of 1914; B.-P. planned to go to South Africa and see something of his old haunts, and then to introduce Lady B.-P. to the delights of the veldt.

  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