History of Scouting

The history of the Boy Scouts movement can be traced back to the Siege of Mafeking, the most famous British action in the Second Boer War. It took place at the Town of Mafeking (now Mafikeng) in South Africa over a period of 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900. The lifting of the Siege of Mafeking was a decisive victory for the British and a crushing defeat for the Boers.

The victory turned the Commanding Chief BP (Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell) into a national hero in Britain. Mafeking was a difficult area to defend, as he was under siege by 9000 Boer troops, with only 1000 English men to protect the town.

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Because of the shortage of manpower in the town, boys were used to support the troops, carry messages, signallers, help in the hospital, and most important to warn the townsfolk when the big Boer siege gun was aimed at the town, to give them a chance to take cover before the shell arrived.

These boys called themselves Mafeking Cadet Corps. The cadets consisted of 38 boys, youngest cadets on the nominal roll were aged 11., their leader was the 13 year old Warner Goodyear, who became their Sergeant-Major. They were given khaki uniforms and a wide-brimmed hat which they wore with one side turned up, and a Glengarry cap, and the towns people often commented on their smartness. At the end of the siege, 38 Cadets were awarded the Defence of Mafeking bar to the Queen’s South Africa Medal.

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By the time Baden-Powell was heading to South Africa for the defence of Mafeking in 1899, he had written a book “Aids to Scouting”. aidstoscoutingThis book was intended as a military training manual, teaching soldiers techniques such as observation, tracking, initiative… When Baden-Powell returned to England as a hero, his book “Aids to Scouting” became the most popular book for the teenagers, British schools had been using his books to teach boys lessons on observation and deduction. Then he decided to revise his military books into a book for boys. Several personal friends supported Baden-Powell in this idea, including Sir William Alexander Smith, founder of the Boys Brigade, and Cyril Arthur Pearson, who owned several newspapers and printing presses.

From late 1906 and during 1907 Baden-Powell spent a lot of his time writing on “Scouting for Boys” scoutingforboysas well as on the advancement of the Boys Scout Scheme. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship is the first book on the Scout Movement, published in 1908. It was written and illustrated by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement. It is based on his boyhood experiences, his experience with the Mafeking Cadet Corps during the Second Boer War at the Siege of Mafeking, and on his experimental camp on Brownsea Island, England. “Scouting for Boys” is now in fourth place in the all time best sellers list, behind the Bible, the Koran and Mao-Tse-Tung’s Little Red Book.



Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell

22 February 1857 – 8 January 1941