Scouting History

The History of Scouting


Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, known as B-P, was born in London on 22nd February 1857. The name of Baden-Powell is known and respected throughout the world as that of a man who in his 83 years led two separate and complete lives, one as a soldier fighting for his country, and the other as a worker for peace through the brotherhood of the Scout Movement which he started in 1907.


In 1910 Baden-Powell asked his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell who was born in 1858 to help him form a similar movement for girls which became the Girl Guide Movement.



Later on Baden-Powell met Olave St Clair Soames who was also born on 22nd February in 1889. Olave married Baden-Powell on 30th October 1912. In September of 1914 she offered her services to Agnes Baden-Powell. She was turned down, and believed it was due to her age. Even though she was disappointed she continued to help her husband by typing up his correspondence.

Then one day in Guide Headquarters, she asked about Guiding in Sussex.  She was put in touch with two other ladies in that area and without a warrant and a small knowledge of Guiding, she set about starting Guiding committees all over the district.

Early in 1918 she was appointed Chief Guide. In 1920 the Royal Family sent for Olave to enrol H.R.H. Princess Mary, before she became Guide President.

Olave was presented with the Silver Wolf award by the Scout Association for her  work in caring for their  beloved Founder and Chief. She was also awarded the Grand Cross of the British Empire by the King in 1932.

For their lifetime commitment to Scouting Baden-Powell became known as Chief Scout of the World whilst Olave is known as the World Chief Guide.

Baden-Powell in the British Army
In 1876 Baden-Powell joined the British army and was positioned in Indian and Africa where he later became the youngest colonel in the British army. He specialised in scouting, map-making and reconnaissance.

His success soon led to him training other soldiers. B-P’s methods were unorthodox for those days; small units or patrols working together under one leader. This process is still used by the majority of the scouting groups around today. He gave his trainees badges that resembled the north compass. Today’s universal Scout badge is very similar.

Later he was stationed in the Balkans, South Africa and Malta. He returned to Africa to help defend Mafeking during its 217-day siege at the start of the Boer war. The courage and resourcefulness shown by the boys in the corps of messengers at Mafeking made a lasting impression on him. In turn, his deeds made a lasting impression in England.

Returning home in 1903 he found that he had become a national hero. He also found that the small handbook he had written for soldiers (“Aids to Scouting”) was being used by youth leaders and teachers all over the country.

Brownsea Island
In 1907 he held an experimental camp on Brownsea Island, Poole, Dorset, to try out his ideas. He brought together 22 boys, some from private schools and some from working class homes, and took them camping under his leadership.

The boys took part in many activities including learning camping skills, cooking skills, first aid, studying animals, signalling, hiked and played games. This was the first ever Scout Camp and signaled the birth of Scouting.

Following the camp Baden-Powell started to write his ideas in a book. “Scouting for Boys” was published in 1908 in six fortnightly parts. Sales of the book were tremendous. Boys formed themselves into Scout Patrols to try out ideas. B-P’s great understanding of boys obviously touched something fundamental in the youth of England and worldwide.

Chief Scout
He retired from the army in 1910, at the age of 53, on the advice of King Edward VII who suggested that he could now do more valuable service for his country within the Scout Movement. Across the United Kingdom boys and girls spontaneously formed Scout troops and the Scouting movement had started to develop and soon spread internationally.

In 1909 a rally of 11,000 Scouts was held at Crystal Palace in London. It was here that Baden-Powell discovered the first Girl Scouts which lead to starting of Girl Guides with the aid of Baden-Powell’s sister, Agnes Baden-Powell. The Crystal Palace rally also marks the time that Baden-Powell became known as Chief Scout.

Wolf Cubs
By As the popularity of Scouts increased, younger boys were also wanting to join in and so in 1916, Baden-Powell started the Wolf Cubs providing fun and adventure for boy’s aged between eight to eleven. Activities included lighting fires, how to use a compass, give first aid, how to look after themselves and many other things. In 1967 Wolf Cubs had their name changed to Cub Scouts but the fun and excitement remained.

World Wide
By 1920 the Scout Movement had spread to many countries including Australia, Canada, France, South Africa and The United Sates of America. Later that year there was a huge gathering of 8000 Scouts from 34 different Countries at Olympia, London, this was the first ever World Jamboree.
The last world Jamboree took part in 2007 to celebrate 100 years of scouting which took part in Hylands Park, Chelmsford in the United Kingdom.

Lord Baden-Powell
At the 3rd World Scout Jamboree that was held at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, England in 1929 Baden-Powell became Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. Gilwell Park which is on the edge of Epping Forest was given to the Scout Association in 1919 by William De Bois Maclaren to be used as a camping venue and international training centre for Scout leaders. It is still used for this purpose today and is the official home to the Scout Association in the United Kingdom.

Lord Baden-Powell travelled all over the World for many years afterwards visiting Scouts of all nationalities until 1937 when at the age of 80 he settled down in Kenya with is wife Olive where lived for the rest of his Scouting days.

On January 8, 1941, Baden-Powell died. He was 83 years of age. He is buried in a simple grave at Nyeri within sight of Mount Kenya. On his headstone are the words, ‘Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World’ surmounted by the Boy Scout and Girl Guide Badges. His memory remains for all time in the hearts of millions of men and women, boys and girls. It is up to those who are, or have been, Scouts or Guides to see that the two Movements he so firmly established continue for all time as living memorials to their Founder.