In 1899 Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Baden-Powell published Aids to Scouting, a manual of reconnaissance skills based on his military experiences in South Africa. That same year, Baden-Powell commanded a force of European and African irregulars who were loyal to Britain during the seven-month Siege at Mafeking, where he witnessed the role of a group of a cadet corps of young boys.

He returned to England in 1903 to find that he was a national hero and consequently Aids to Scouting had become a best-seller. Noting that some teachers and youth-group leaders made use of the manual in training their young charges, Baden-Powell decided to rewrite his book aiming it at a younger audience. Drawing on his experience as officer in the Boy’s Brigade, influenced by the American youth-organisation the Woodcraft Indians, and extolling the virtues of the cadet corps at Mafeking, Baden-Powell began work on Scouting for Boys.

To test the applicability of the content of the book, Baden-Powell took a group of twenty-one boys from mixed backgrounds on a camping expedition on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, off the south coast of England. Between the 1st and 9th August 1907, the boys developed a variety of skills in camping, cooking, boating, tracking, wood-craft and first-aid. The training also involved an ideological element, Baden-Powell extolled the virtues of chivalry, honour, unselfishness, courage, and patriotism.

The first instalment of Scouting for Boys appeared in 1908, with five more fortnightly instalments following. That same year, Baden-Powell opened an office for his Boy Scouts movement in London to administer the troops that sprang up across the country. In spite of teething troubles caused by personality clashes within the organisation, the movement quickly grew and developed with the creation the Girl Guide movement in 1910 and establishment a section for younger boys – the ‘Wolf Cubs’ – six years later. By 1950, there were five-million scouts in fifty nations.

To read more about the 1907 Brownsea Island camp see ‘Johnny’ Walker’s article at his Scouting Milestones site.

By andrei