Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell

Feb 22, 1857 to Jan 8, 1941

Baden PowellRobert Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement, was born at 6 Stanhope Street, Paddington in London to Reverend Baden Powell, a Geometry Professor at Oxford University and Henrietta Grace Smyth, eldest daughter of Admiral William Henry Smyth. The Reverend Powell had four children by previous marriages and eight with Henrietta, four of whom died at an early age. Reverend Powell was 28 years senior to Henrietta and died when Robert was only three.As a tribute to her husband, Henrietta changed the family name to Baden-Powell. A strong women, she was determined that her children would succeed. Robert attended Rose Hill School at Tunbridge Wells before attending the prestigious public school Charterhouse on winning a scholarship. It was here that he got his first introduction to scouting skills while stalking and cooking game in the nearby woods. He played piano and violin was an ambidextrous artist and also enjoyed acting. During the holidays he would go on yachting and canoeing expeditions with his brothers.In 1876, Baden-Powell joined the 13th Hussars in India with the rank of lieutenant.

In the early 1880’s his regiment was posted to Natal Province in South Africa where he further enhanced his military scouting amidst the Zulu. His skills impressed his superiors and he became Military Secretary and Aide-de-camp of the Governor of Malta, his uncle General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth. He was posted in Malta for three years where he also worked as Intelligence Officer for the Mediterranean for the Director of Military Intelligence.By 1896 Baden-Powell was back in Africa to aid the British South Africa Company colonials under siege in Bulawayo at the Second Matabele War where he commanded reconnaissance missions into enemy territory. It was here that many of his Boy Scout ideas took hold. Several of his military books on military reconnaissance and scout training in his African years were also read by boys.

After taking part in the successful British invasion of Ashanti, West Africa, in 1897 at the age of forty, Baden Powell was promoted to lead the 5th Dragoon Guards in India.Returning to Africa prior to the Second Boar War, Robert was engaged in further military actions against the Zulu having being promoted to the youngest colonel in the British Army. He was responsible for the organization of a force of Legion of Frontiersmen to assist the regular army and while arranging this was trapped in the Siege of Mafeking surrounded and totally outnumbered by a Boer army at times in excess of 8000 men. In spite of this the garrison withstood the siege for 217 days largely due to the military deceptions instituted by Baden Powell. The siege was lifted on May 16, 1900 and Baden-Powell, now promoted to major-general became a national hero.After organizing the South African Constabulary, Baden-Powell returned to England to take up the post of Inspector General of Cavalry in 1903 and in 1907 was appointed to command a division of the newly formed Territorial Force envisaged as a home defense force.

On his return to England in 1903, Baden-Powell found that his military training manual, Aids to Scouting, had become a best seller and was being used by teachers and youth organizations. He decided to re-write the book to suit a youth readership. The first book on the Scout Movement, Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys was published in six installments in 1908, and has sold approximately 150 million copies as the fourth bestselling book of the 20th century.In 1910 Baden-Powell retired reputedly on the advice of Edward VII who suggested he could better serve his country by promoting scouting. Two years later he met his future wife, Olave St Clair Soames on the ocean liner Arcadian, heading for New York to start one of his Scouting World Tours. He was 32 years her senior. Baden-Powell and Olave had three children and in 1919 they moved to a house in Pax Hill near Bentley, Hampshire, a gift of her father.