How Scouting Began

The founder of Scouting Lord Baden–Powell of Gilwell, (BP) was born in 1857 in England. He lived a busy and adventurous life, and as a boy spent much of his spare time in open–air pursuits hunting in the woods, joining his brothers in expeditions by land and in their boats. Thus he developed his powers of observation and resourcefulness and was helped to acquire many useful skills.

He won a scholarship which gave him entry into the Army, where he was sent to India and served for many years. He tried out his ideas about training soldiers in "Scouting" and taught them how to develop experience in stalking and fending for themselves, and to be observant of all signs that would give them an advantage as soldiers. He set down his ideas in the book "Aids to Scouting", which was used as a textbook for many years.

As a soldier, BP rose to public prominence during the war against the Boers in Africa at the end of the 1800s. Most noteworthy was BP's leadership of the defending force in seige of the South African town of Mafeking. Baden-Powell returned to England as a national hero in 1899 having successfully defended the town against the Boers.

The First Scout Camp

BP was encouraged to set down his views on how he would apply Scouting to the training of boys, so he first conducted an experimental camp in 1907 on Brownsea Island off the Dorset coast. Here, with some 20 boys from all walks of life and suitable adult leaders, Baden–Powell taught the boys what he meant by Scouting. They lived in tents and cooked their own food and learned many valuable skills through games.

A Best Seller!

The camp was a great success and proved Baden-Powell's ideas, so he tackled the task of writing down his experience in a book. "Scouting for Boys" was first published in fortnightly parts, beginning January 15, 1908. Every issue sold out as soon as it hit the news stands, despite the cover price of 4d which was expensive at the time. In fact, "Scouting for Boys ranks third in the world's best sellers after the Bible and Shakespeare.

Although the year 1908 marks the official beginning of the Scouting Movement, Scouting really commenced with the Brownsea Island Camp in August 1907.

Every other Wednesday until the end of March, boys (and girls) all over England eagerly awaited the next issue of Scouting for Boys.

The Movement is born

It was suggested that boys form themselves into patrols within other organisations. But boys didn't want to be school-scouts, cadet-scouts or brigade-scouts, they wanted to be simply "Scouts". Long before the last installment had hit the book stands, Scout patrols and troops had magically appeared all over Britain. Baden-Powell finally bowed to the inevitable and accepted that Scouting would have to become a movement in its own right.

Two years, later Baden-Powell retired from the army as a General to devote his life to this new movement called Scouting. A rally at the Crystal Palace, London drew together 10,000 boys.

Scouting expands and grows

The Girl Guides were formed in 1910 after which in quick succession came the Sea Scout Branch in the same year, Wolf Cubs in 1916, Rover Scouts in 1918 and the Special Test (now "Extension") Department in 1926. The Group system of Cub Scouts, Scouts and Rovers under the leadership of the Group Scoutmaster was established in 1927, Deep Sea Scouts in 1928, Air Scouts in 1941 and Senior Scouts in 1946 (now known as Venturer Scouts).

Meanwhile Scouting spread to Australia, New Zealand, and India in 1908 and other countries followed shortly after. Chile, in 1909 was the first country outside the Empire to start, followed closely by France, the Scandinavian countries and the United States in 1910. In 1937, 2,500,000 Scouts from nearly 50 countries were affiliated with the International Bureau, which was set up to safeguard Scouting and to prevent control drifting into the hands of the purely religious, political or military bodies. Wood Badge Training of Leaders commenced in 1919 at Gilwell Park, England and has over the years become established as the method of Leader Training throughout the Scouting World.

World Chief Scout

Lord Baden-Powell was proclaimed World Chief Scout at the first Jamboree at Olympia in 1920; he was raised to the peerage in 1929 and was awarded the order of Merit in the Coronation Orders in 1937. He travelled widely, encouraging Scouting in every country he visited. He came to Australia three times, in 1912, 1931 and 1934-35 to the first Australian Jamboree.

Meanwhile Scouting had become established as a most successful scheme for the training of boys and in many countries including Australia, it spread rapidly because it was what boys wanted to do. Soon a headquarters was set up and leadership provided by recognised leaders in the community. Honours were showered upon the Founder by many countries, but his last acclaim was the World Jamboree in Holland in 1937. He retired to Kenya, where he spent several happy years with his family. He died there on 8th January 1941.

He was described as The Piper of Pax because of his tremendous contribution to boyhood and world peace.

Today, the world's largest youth organisation

From its English origins Scouting struck an enthusiastic chord among boys in so many countries that we now have a World Scout Committee. The World Scout Committee provides unity amongst the National Associations with a World Bureau operating from Geneva, and independent National organisations in 216 countries and territories with a Scout membership of over 25 million. Adapting to the general changes in Australian society, Scouting admitted girls and young women to its Venturer Scout and Rover Sections in 1973 and its Cub Scout and Scout sections in 1988. The Joey Scout Section commenced 1 July 1990 and is open to boys and girls aged between six and eight years.


Further Reading

The best on-line resource on Baden-Powell is maintained by Lewis P Orans at Pine Tree Web.

SCOUTING FOR BOYS is still in print today and is recommended reading.

BADEN-POWELL The Man Who Lived Twice by Mary Drewery (Hodder and Stoughton) is an excellent account of BP's life.

See also:

Scouting comes to Australia

BP's Last Message