Robert Stephen Baden-Powell

As a youth, Robert Baden-Powell (pronounced “poe-ll”) greatly enjoyed the outdoors.  He had a highly successful military career (eventually retiring as a Lieutenant General), but was most well known as “The Hero of Mafeking” for his exploits as a regimental commander during the siege of Mafeking, where he used his brains, rather than the blood of his men, to keep a significantly larger Boer army at bay.

After returning as a military hero from service in Africa, Baden-Powell discovered that English boys were reading the manual on stalking and survival in the wilderness he had written for his military regiment.

Gathering ideas from Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard, and others, he rewrote the manual as a nonmilitary nature skill book and called it Scouting for Boys. To test his ideas, Baden-Powell brought together 22 boys to camp at Brownsea Island, off the coast of England. This historic campout was a success and resulted in the advent of Scouting.

Thus began his second “career”- that of the Chief Scout of the World.

Seeing the need for more rigorous training and higher standards, B-P (as he became known) took a very active hand in the newly emerging Scouting movement, working closely with others who had similar ideas to his, as well as taking an active role in developing new training for youth leaders as well as adult volunteers.  B-P created the first advanced adult leader training which came to be known as “The Wood Badge”.

An accomplished artist and prolific writer, Baden-Powell made paintings and drawings almost every day of his active life.   Many were used to illustrate his works, and most have a humorous or informative character.  His drawings continue to amuse and educate even today!   While on active duty, he published books and other texts to both finance his life and to educate his men, and one of the more famous British recruitment posters during the First World War was drawn by him (right).

After having published Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell kept on writing more handbooks and educative materials for Scouts and Scout Leaders as the Scouting movement grew– in spite of his failing health.   In his later years, he also wrote about the Scout Movement and his ideas for its future.

He spent the last decade of his life in Africa, and many of this later books had African themes.  He died on January 8, 1941, and is buried in the mountains of his beloved Kenya, buried next to his wife Olave.

In his final letter to the Scouts, Baden-Powell had written:

…I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man.   Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.
But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy – stick to your Scout Promise always – even after you have ceased to be a boy – and God help you to do it.