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TOPIC: Robert Baden-Powell: Allegations and the Truth

Robert Baden-Powell: Allegations and the Truth 2 weeks 3 days ago #70139

  • djb
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I am indebted to Colin Walker for this article on BP


It is an accepted principle in the study of history that you cannot judge people of past through the standards of today. There is much in the past that we would not see as acceptable to us today and, by the same token, much that we do today that would not be acceptable to our forebears and ancestors. The historical failings of Imperialism are well documented and cannot be denied. We carry a collective responsibility for them, to learn from them and to move forward. Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) carries no more accountability than any other person of his time. On occasion there have been misinformed attacks on his character and reputation which are distortions of the truth and falsehoods.

The purpose of this document is to provide the facts and place the evidence in its correct context.

ALLEGATION: Baden-Powell was homophobic because he would not allow homosexuals to join the Scout Movement.
THE TRUTH: Quite simply homosexuality at that time was against the law and was not legalised in England until 1967.

ALLEGATION: B-P was Pro-Nazi ‘and would have visited Hitler if the Second World War had not intervened’.
THE TRUTH: Von Ribbontrop was the German Ambassador in Britain from 1936-38 and, like Baden-Powell, was invited to many functions where they happened to meet. He later wrote to Baden-Powell suggesting that the Hitler Youth Movement and the Scout Movement should work together. In reply Baden-Powell said that the young people of the world should work together to avoid war. There was no offer or suggestion, then or later, to arrange meetings or camps. Baden-Powell went on to suggest that Scouts who camp together are less likely to shoot each other. By 1938 Baden-Powell, already a sick man, had retired from public life and emigrated, on health grounds, to Kenya and where he died in 1941. It is also a fact that Baden-Powell’s name, and those of other Scouters were on the list of the first people that the Nazis would have wanted to arrest if they had seized control of Britain in WW2.

ALLEGATION: Baden-Powell liked reading Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’.
THE TRUTH: Baden-Powell wrote in his diary on 6 October 1939: ‘Lay up all day. Read “Mein Kampf”. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organization etc.’ But he continues the sentence ‘… ideals which Hitler does not practise himself.’
It is interesting that B-P’s detractors should have omitted this qualifying clause from their ‘evidence’.

ALLEGATION: Baden-Powell was a repressed homosexual.
THE TRUTH: The allegation is based on a Harley Street doctor’s (not a psychologist) notes who had become interested in Freudian psycho-analysis (which is based on sexual motivations and is now largely discredited). B-P had consulted him after a series of headaches that he suffered from in the late 1920’s when he was over 70 years old. However, another study examples of Baden-Powell’s handwriting by a leading graphologist, made in the late 1990s led her to conclude that ‘without doubt Baden-Powell was heterosexual.’ Baden-Powell had numerous female friends, (before his marriage he wrote to some in exceedingly flirtatious terms!) He wed Olave St Clare Soames in 1912, in what has been described as a blissfully happy marriage which lasted till his death.

ALLEGATION: Baden-Powell was a Fascist because he supported Mussolini.
THE TRUTH: Baden-Powell was initially a supporter of Mussolini and met him, out of courtesy as he was the head of the Italian state, when he went to Rome to meet Pope Pius XI. Like many others at that time, Baden-Powell believed that Mussolini had saved Italy from Communism. In 1926 Mussolini had formed his own youth organisation, the ‘Opera Nationale Balilla’, incorporating into it the existing Italian Scout Movement. Baden-Powell was led to believe that this organisation was based on the principles of Scouting. (It is acknowledged that both the Hitler Youth and the Balilla were ‘perversions’ of what Scouting stood for.) Baden-Powell was impressed that the Balilla’s teachings were part of the national school curriculum, in much the same way as Scouting is part of the school curriculum in some countries today. However, when Baden-Powell discovered the awful truth that it was merely a Fascist cadet corps with none of the attributes of Scouting, he changed his mind and in 1935 publicly criticised both Hitler and Mussolini. It is also a fact that when any communist or fascist dictatorship seized power, one of their first acts is always to ban Scouting.

ALLEGATION: During the Siege of Mafeking in the Second Boer War, Baden-Powell sent starving black Africans out of the town so that he could feed his soldiers.
THE TRUTH: It is well documented that Baden-Powell opened soup and porridge kitchens and had all his cavalry horses shot so that he could feed everyone caught up in the siege, no matter whether they were black or white. They were all issued with ration tickets! The Barolong people who lived in the native Stadt on the edge of Mafeking are on record as showing their appreciation of B-P at the end of the Siege. The Boers however encouraged nomadic tribal people into Mafeking in the hope that their aim of starving the town into submission would be more be more quickly realised. B-P, using a Heliograph, signalled General Plumer, his senior officer outside Mafeking, to set up a food dump. It was these newly arrived refugees (900 of them) who at night, who after being fed, were escorted out the town to the food dump. B-P warned the Boers that this exodus was to take place and not to interfere as these refugees had played no part in the hostilities. The Boers fired on the column ‘scattering them to the wind’ causing casualties. Had B-P been forced to surrender, the Boers were on record on as saying they would ‘make the streets of Mafeking run with blood’ and they had a very bad record on their treatment of native peoples. Some mistaken authors have criticised Bade-Powell for ordering ‘the Exoxdus’ , but there has never been any criticism of the Boer’s actions! By his heroic defence of Mafeking Baden- Powell saved a large number of both black and white lives (excepting of course those of the enemy!) These facts are documented in the Mafeking Siege Diary of Sol Plaatje a Barolong Court Interpreter who later became the first Secretary of the African National Congress, He was one of the escorting group of black and white soldiers and officials.

ALLEGATION: Baden-Powell was a war criminal.
THE TRUTH: Early in his military, in 1888, career Baden-Powell was involved in an operation to track down Zulu rebels in 1888 which led to three deaths. But even if he had given orders to spare the rebels’ lives, it is highly unlikely that his Zulu mercenaries would have obeyed. Baden-Powell has also been accused of executing an African chief in 1897. White settlers had been killed in a remote part of Matabeleland so Baden-Powell had orders to capture the chief, Uwini, Uwini was wounded during capture and unlikely to survive the long journey to the Cape to face a civil court, Baden-Powell court-martialled him on the spot. After a fair trial the verdict was guilty for which the sentence required by law was death, and so Uwini was executed. Baden-Powell was later exonerated for his actions. He wrote a letter to his mother in which he stated: “I should do exactly the same thing again …… it was the means of saving a large number of white lives as well as black” This opinion was held by B-Ps commanding Officer , Sir Frederick Carrington and other senior officers.

ALLEGATION: Baden-Powell was a racist.
THE TRUTH: There is no truth whatsoever in this allegation, and no evidence has ever been offered. In fact, in 1937 Baden-Powell was awarded the Wateler Peace Prize and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on ten occasions. He was a man of his time but also ahead of his time. It makes no sense at all therefore to pick on a man who challenged the norms of the society of his time. At his experimental camp on Brownsea Island in 1907, the sons of Lords and millionaires slept in the same tents as ‘town boys’. Baden-Powell said of this, ‘I mixed them up like plums in a pudding’, embedding the idea of social inclusion as a key principle of Scouting at its outset. In Scout Law and Promise, he included the sentence: A Scout is … a brother to every other Scout no matter what Country, Class or Creed the other may belong. Since that date more than 500,000,000 young people and adults have taken that Law and Promise to guide their lives. B-P wrote roughly the same number of books as Charles Dickens (34), countless articles and letters and his lifetime diaries and journals, most of which survive. The authors of this fact sheet have yet to encounter any that could be construed as racist. Many contain positive examples of B-P’s pro -equality and inclusivity stance.

OTHER FACTS OF NOTE:

- Throughout the years of apartheid in South Africa, Scouting there has been multi-racial.
- Throughout the troubles in Northern Ireland, Scout Groups have included Catholic and Protestant young people, happily working and playing with each other.
- When the Scout Association in Palestine sought membership of the World Scout Conference, it was proposed for acceptance by the Scouts of Israel.[/li]

So, rather than accepting unsubstantiated allegations about Baden-Powell, we invite you instead to embrace the truth and question the motives of those who are spreading the falsehoods.

Colin Walker, Scout Historian, Author of 12 books on Scouting including three on the Siege of Mafeking, Member of the Thane Rover Crew, Lord Baden-Powell’s Own.
Paul Moynihan, former Archivist, The Scout Association, 1993-2008, Author, ‘An Official History of Scouting’.

For further information please contact Colin Walker: scouting.milestones@btinternet.com

Dr David Biggins
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Robert Baden-Powell: Allegations and the Truth 2 weeks 3 days ago #70142

  • LinneyI
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David
Thank you very much for presenting Colin Walker's rebuttal of the snide remarks one sometimes hears about BP. It is quite clear that revisionists love selectively quoting and distorting to suit their agenda. BP was the right man at the right place at the right time. As much cannot be said about his detractors.
In case any reader has not made the connection from several posts I have contributed concerning the Mafeking siege, Colin Walker published The Mafeking Siege Register and the Siege Slips. He was a researcher par excellence and a great bloke with it.
Thanks again, David
Best regards
IL

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