Sir Robert Baden Powell Chief Scout Of The WorldThe Scout Movement was founded by Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden–Powell, or BP as we call him.

BP was born in London, England on February 22, 1857. His father died when he was only three years old.

As a school pupil he was very good at acting, singing, orchestra, sports, and art. He was particularly very good at drawing and could draw equally well with either right or left hand.

During school holidays, BP and his older brothers enjoyed travelling far and wide on camping and boating trips. As the youngest he learnt much about the outdoors and looking after himself on these trips. At Charterhouse School where he was a boarder he also learned how to trap animals and cook them over open fires in an area of bush nearby.

After school BP joined the army as an officer in the 13 Hussars (a cavalry regiment) and was sent to India in 1876. BP proved to be an outstanding soldier and served in India, Afghanistan, South Africa and several other countries.

Sir Robert Baden Powell - ArmyIn 1897 BP was given command of his own regiment, the 5th Dragoon Guards. He introduced new training methods to make life more interesting for the men in the regiment and presented a badge to those that successfully completed the course. The badge was in the form of an arrowhead: the north point of the compass. We use a version of it today as a symbol of our Scout Movement.

BP wrote a book about his training methods called, “Aids to Scouting”. In 1889 BP was posted to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. He was in the town of Mafeking with 1,000 men when it was surrounded by 9,000 Boers.

BP used all sorts of tricks to defend the town for seven months until help came, like using candles and biscuit tins as search lights which he moved from place to place to make the Boers think there were many searchlights guarding the town. He also made grenades from old tin cans, put up imaginary barbed wire and buried dummy mines. He also used the young boys of the town to carry messages to the men fighting. When Mafeking was rescued BP found himself a national hero and at 43 was promoted to Major–General: the youngest Major–General in the British Army.

Scouting For Boys BookBP was surprised on returning to England to find his book ‘Aids to Scouting” was being read by many people and was being used in schools. He thought that his ideas might be useful to youth organisations and began rewriting it for boys.

To test his ideas he held a camp on Brownsea Island for 20 boys from different backgrounds. The boys were placed in four groups or Patrols and learned about camping, hiking, stalking, boating and many other things. The camp was a great success and BP went on to write his book, “Scouting for Boys”.

When the book appeared, patrols of Scouts formed of their own accord all over Britain and soon around the World. King Edward VII influenced BP into leaving the army and working full time to organise the Scout Movement in 1909. At that time he was knighted and became Sir Robert Baden–Powell.


NZ Scouts in 1908In the early 1900s, copies of ‘Scouting for Boys’ had already reached New Zealand and patrols of Scouts were beginning to be formed. The first patrol to be officially part of the Scout Movement in New Zealand was formed in early 1908 in Kaiapoi by Mr T Mallasch. It consisted of four boys plus the Scout Leader, Mr Mallasch. The patrol was officially sworn in by Major Cossgrove on July 3, 1908.

By 1909, there were 500 troops registered in New Zealand. The first Scout Jamboree was held in London in 1920. Scouts from around the world proclaimed BP “Chief Scout of the World”.

In 1929 BP received a peerage for his work for Scouting. He took the title Lord Baden–Powell of Gilwell, which was taken from Gilwell Park, the international Scout training centre near London.

In 1938, suffering from ill–health, B–P returned to Africa, which had meant so much in his life, to live in semi–retirement in Nyeri, Kenya. On January 8, 1941, BP died at the age of 83. He is buried in a simple grave at Nyeri within sight of Mt Kenya. On his headstone are the words, ‘Robert Baden–Powell, Chief Scout of the World’.

Today his life is celebrated every year by Scouts around the world on Founder’s Day, the 22nd February.