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Robert Baden-Powell

Lord Lieutenant-General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell of Gilwell is the founder of the Scouting Movement.He was born in London, England as the sixth son and eighth child of Reverend Baden Powell and Henrietta Grace Smyth Powell on February 22, 1857. His father died while he was three. In honor of her husband, Henrietta, changed the family name "Powell" to "Baden-Powell".

Robert was first educated in the home before moving to Rose Hill School. Later moved into a local school named Charterhouse through a scholarship at the age of 13. Although a scholar, Robert himself admitted that he did not performed well in school. At the age of 19, he entered the British army after his application was rejected in Oxford University.

The army sent him to India to join the 13th Hussar regiment (1876). He was stationed successively in India, Afghanistan, Zululand, and Ashanti. He served as Chief Staff Officer or Military Secretary to his uncle during the British campaign in Matabeleland (1867-1897), as Colonel of Irregular Horse, South Africa, and Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Dragoon Guards (1897-1899).

While serving as Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Dragoon Guards he noticed how difficult it was for soldiers to cope with the colonial life. It was quite noticeable that, despite their academic training, the soldiers were too reliant to their officers and are unable to carry themselves, as they should. He instituted a system of training soldiers as "Army Scouts" - placing emphasis on self-reliance and small groups under the leadership of non-commissioned officers. This practice was considered unorthodox during his time. Later, when his efforts were recognized, he wrote a book entitled, "Aids to Scouting" that was published by the British Army as one of their manuals for training.

He was again reassigned, and this time to Mafeking (now Mafikeng) - a small town in South Africa (1899-1900). On October 11, 1899 a war broke out between the British and the Dutch farmer descendants known as the Boers. This war was known as the "Boer War". The Boers surrounded the town and Robert was out-manned and out-gunned. His courageous defense of the town earned him the respect and awe of his countrymen and in recognition he was promoted to Major General.

Towards the end of the Boer War he organized the South African Constabulary and also became the Inspector General of the British Cavalry. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General (1908) and retired from the military service (1910) upon the influence of King Edward VII, telling him to devote his time on Scouting instead of the military. Later, despite his retirement, he served in the British Intelligence during World War I as a spy. In 1912, he married Olave St. Claire Soames, who was 32 years younger than he was. Olave was born February 22, 1889 to parents Harold and Katherine Soames.

Scouting honored Robert Baden-Powell by conferring upon him the title, "Chief Scout of World" (1920) during the First World Jamboree. He was awarded the Silver Wolf of the British Scout Association (1909), Silver Buffalo of the Boy Scouts of America (1926), and the Bronze Wolf of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (1935).

He was given the honor of Knighthood (1909) and then given peerage becoming the 1st Baron of Gilwell (1929). He likewise received decorations and orders from England and foreign nations such as: Afghanistan, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. He received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Cambridge University, Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, McGill University in Montreal, University of Toronto, and the from Oxford University - the University that once rejected him as a student.

Robert Baden-Powell died on January 8, 1941 in Kenya, South Africa.

From "History of Scouting" from the "Notes on Scouting" series of handouts by Jay Lee.

For a more detailed biography of Robert Baden-Powell visit the Pine Tree Web.

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