‘Life without adventure would be deadly dull’ – Lord Baden-Powell.
If Scouting is about fulfilling your potential then Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (or BP) certainly fulfilled his.
BP, or ‘Stephe’ as he was known as a child, was born in Paddington, London, on 22 February 1857. He was the eighth of 10 children of the Reverend Baden-Powell, a professor at Oxford University.
BP preferred the outdoors to the classroom and spent much of his time sketching wildlife in the woods around his school. His irrepressible personality infuriated and impressed his teachers in equal measure.
After school, he went into the army, where he led a distinguished career through posts in countries including India, Afghanistan, Malta and various parts of Africa.
The most famous event in BP’s military career was the defence of Mafeking against the Boers in 1899, after which he became a Major-General at the age of only 43.
BP retired from the army in 1910 at the age of 53, on the advice of King Edward VII, who suggested he could provide more valuable service to his country by developing Scouting and its sister movement, Guiding.
In 1912, BP married Olave Soames and had three children (Peter, Heather and Betty).
Chief Scout of the World
BP wrote no less than 32 books, the earnings from which helped to pay for his Scouting travels. As with all his successors, he received no salary as Chief Scout. He received various honorary degrees and the freedom of a number of cities, along with 28 foreign orders and decorations and 19 foreign Scout awards.
In 1938, suffering ill-health, BP returned to Africa to live in semi-retirement in Nyeri, Kenya, where he died on 8 January 1941 at the age of 83. He is buried in a simple grave at Nyeri within sight of Mount Kenya. On his headstone are the words, ‘Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World’ alongside Scout and Guide emblems. He was later commemorated in Westminster Abbey, London.
BP is remembered on Founder’s Day, which is celebrated on his birthday (22 February) each year. To this day Scouts continue to enjoy activities in the outdoors and live out BP’s ideas.
As the great man once said, ‘life without adventure would be deadly dull.’
Information provided by Scout Association website