Improbable start and fearless founder of the Boy Scout movement

(AP Photo / Charles Krupa) In a photo from Thursday, March 1, 2018, Ian Weir, left, smiles as he stands with his twin sister Tatum after a Cub reunion in Madbury, NH Fifteen New Hampshire communities are part of an “early adopter” program to enable girls to become Cubs and eventually Scouts. The twins are already planning to become the first group of girl-boy siblings to become Eagle Scouts.

The Boy Scout movement began 110 years ago on a small island just off the south coast of England, where Robert Baden-Powell, a legendary cavalry officer with ‘keen eyes as a falcon’, as said one historian, took 22 curious boys. run in the woods he had explored as a child.

To the boys, Baden-Powell was like the Steve Jobs of the outdoors. While at war, boys in England obsessively read and rolled his book “Aids to Scouting,” a soldier’s manual on tracking, concealment and reconnaissance.

“Boy Scouts can go unnoticed where the holidays draw attention,” Baden-Powell wrote. “A pair of trained eyes is as good as a dozen untrained pairs. Scouts have the most important duties that can befall men in wartime, and they have the best chance of making a name for themselves in the field.

Baden-Powell became the father of the Boy Scout movement, a global phenomenon that took an unexpected turn this week in the United States. With the girls being welcomed into the fold for the first time, the Boy Scouts of America have announced a new gender-neutral name for the program: Scouts BSA.

Baden-Powell, of course, would not know what to think of that. In fact, he had no idea how popular his book was with boys until he returned home after the Second Boer War, in which a garrison he led drove back thousands of people. enemy soldiers in South Africa for 217 days. He rewrote “Aids to Scouting” for a younger audience, calling it “Scouting for Boys”.

And he decided to test his ideas on budding scouts, taking them to Brownsea Island where, according to the US Scouting Service Project, he divided them into four patrol groups: wolves, bulls, curlews. and crows. The days were long. Breakfast was at 6 a.m. – milk and cookies – followed by hours of scouting. Dinner was at 8 p.m., then the campfire wires, then the prayers, and finally the lights out in the tents.

They couldn’t have had a better teacher.

Harold Begbie, in his biography of Baden-Powell, described his sixth, seventh and possibly eighth sense:

“He once rode in the night with dispatches to the headquarters camp, guided by the stars,” Begbie wrote. “Arriving at where he thought the camp should be, he was surprised to find no sign of it. Descending from his saddle, he was thinking of going to bed for the night (rather than passing the mark) when a distant spark, for a fraction of a second, caught his attention. Hopping back into the saddle, he made his way to where the spark had flickered for a brief moment, and there he found a sentry smoking a pipe. The red glow of the baccy in the bowl had guided B.-P. with his dispatches to camp safely.

News of Baden-Powell’s experience, along with the publication of the new handbook, turned Scouting into a craze – like restless spinners, but with purpose.

The government and citizens believed it was the perfect antidote to “physical deterioration, moral degeneration, juvenile delinquency,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Also: “” the wasters “and the” lazy “.

Suddenly the Scout troops began to appear on their own. Baden-Powell opened an office to investigate the field. The Boy Scouts were now officially a thing, soon exported to the United States.

This happened in 1909. An Illinois journalist named William Boyce was in London on business and when he tried to give a boy a dime for giving him instructions the boy refused saying “I am a Boy Scout, ”according to Alvin Townley’s story. of the Eagle Scouts.

Boyce was like what?

So the Scout took him to headquarters, where he met Baden-Powell.

“In the course of a long conversation,” Townley wrote, “Baden-Powell’s ideas for strengthening the character of British youth captivated Boyce and set history in motion: Scouting was coming to America.”

Boyce was addicted.

“When Boyce boarded the transatlantic steamboat to return home, he had a suitcase full of information and ideas,” the Boy Scouts of America states in its official story.

He joined the group on February 8, 1910. Two years later, on March 12, 1912, the first Girl Scouts of America troop was organized in Savannah, Georgia, by Juliette Gordon Low. (By the way, Girl Scouts today are furious about stealing their daughters.)

“Help others at all times” is part of the Scout Oath. Their slogan: “Take a good trip every day!”

This is exactly what the Scout did in England that day, bringing Boyce to where he needed to go and putting him in contact with Baden-Powell.

But no one has had the chance to give the Scout any credit.

He disappeared in the London fog.

Derrick A. Anderson