The worst disaster could easily have occurred at Mafeking, right on the boundary where the British Cape Colony and the Boer Transvaal met. During this Siege of Mafeking, Colonel Baden-Powell and his 2,000 men defended the town as best they could from the 5,000 Boers who continued to shell the town and tried to starve it into surrender. Siege was the correct word. It lasted for six horrible months in 1899-1900.
Col Baden Powell
Second Boer War
The Mafeking Cadet Corps, 1899-1900
When did the city’s Cadet Force start? The town's newspaper, the Mafeking Mail, was already discussing the local Cadet Force well before Col Baden Powell entered the town with his soldiers in September 1899.
As it turned out, the Siege of Mafeking was the most famous and unexpected British victory in the Second Boer War. People across the British Empire celebrated wildly; people who had never heard of Col. Robert Baden-Powell now considered him a national hero. The Relief of Mafeking was not due to the Cadets, of course, but by the end of the siege, dozens of the Cadets were awarded the Defence of Mafeking military bar.
Baden-Powell had never been married and had known nothing about caring for adolescent boys. But he was clearly very impressed by the Cadets and often used them in his military books as an example of bravery in war time. And at home he had also been familiar with the organisation called The Boys' Brigade, founded by his friend William Alexander Smith back in 1883. Members of the Boys’ Brigade were encouraged to combine drill and fun activities with Christian values.
Yet it was only on his return to Britain in 1903 that Baden-Powell found that one particular military manual, Aids to Scouting, had done very well sales-wise and was being used in Britain by teachers and adult leaders of youth organisations. With encouragement from William Alexander Smith, Baden-Powell decided to re-write Aids to Scouting to suit a younger market. This final document described outdoor activities, character development, citizenship and personal fitness as the core values of boy scouts. And it omitted all military content.
Scouting for Boys
written by Baden Powell
in 1903 and again in 1908
Two important events happened in 1907. Firstly Baden-Powell went on an extensive speaking tour arranged by his publisher, Arthur Pearson, to promote the new book. He was well received wherever he travelled in Britain. Secondly Baden-Powell organised a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour Dorset to test out his ideas for a Boy Scout Movement. Only 20 lads turned up: half from local Boys' Brigade companies and half school boys whose fathers knew Baden Powell. But in a very important sense, this camp marked the formal beginning of the scouting movement.
The next year, 1908, scout packs were established across the country, all following the principles laid out in Baden-Powell's book. I don't think the ex-colonel from Mafeking and the Boer War had expected to be so successful, so quickly, in Britain. The first national Scout Rally was held at Crystal Palace in 1909.
In 1920, the first worldwide Scout Jamboree took place in Olympia in West Kensington, under Baden-Powell’s leadership. Soon after, Baden-Powell was created a Baronet.