Ian Hislop's Scouting for Boys


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Ian Hislop's Scouting for Boys

Ian Hislop uncovers the story behind the book which kick-started the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell's handbook Scouting for Boys, written in 1908.


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At the beginning of the Edwardian era, boys of Britain were in danger.

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Unhealthy, unmotivated and under bad influences.

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They were in trouble and needed help.

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Many feared that if they didn't get it, the nation's morality would be fatally undermined

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and the Empire would rapidly decline and fall.

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Salvation came in the unlikely shape of a book.

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It was written by a war hero but was a manual for peace.

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It aimed to mould men but celebrated being a boy.

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It influenced the lives of millions, and it introduced a code of common values around the globe.

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Its name was Scouting For Boys.

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The Scouts are a British institution,

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so much part of the national consciousness that we imagine they've been going forever.

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But actually, scouting didn't win over the nation's affections gradually.

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It was an overnight sensation.

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It all began in 1908 with a best-selling handbook.

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In the 20th century, only the Bible, the Koran

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and the thoughts of Chairman Mao sold more copies than Scouting for Boys.

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How to make buttons out of bootlaces.

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How to fly Britain's flag.

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The boy who apes the man by smoking will never be much good.

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The book is definitely not the expression of a systematic ideology.

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Instead, it is a ragbag of disparate ideas

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held together only by the personality and experiences of one man,

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scouting's maverick founder and Boar War hero, Robert Baden Powell.

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He is pro British Empire but anti men with waxed moustaches.

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And he's completely obsessed by boots.

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It's surprising how much meaning you can read from the boot.

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To wear your heels down on the outside, means that you're a man of imagination and lover of adventure.

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But heels worn down on the inside signify weakness and indecision of character.

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He may have had some peculiar ideas, but Baden Powell was also very charismatic.

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Hello, you boy in the corner there, you ought to be a boy scout.

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You're a fine looking fellow and I know you'd make a jolly good backwoodsman, by the look of you.

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You're ugly enough, anyway.

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Actually, I was never in the Boy Scouts.

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I think at that age I was probably too busy making jokes about Baden Powell's Scouting for Boys...is he?

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Naughty old Baden Powell! Not realising that wasn't a very new joke,

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and that it's always been easy to laugh at Baden Powell and at the Scouts,

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and it's become something of a national tradition to do exactly that.

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But I found re-reading Scouting For Boys, it is an extraordinary book.

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It's very radical and it addresses all sorts of issues that we think

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of as modern - citizenship, what to do with disaffected youth, social responsibility.

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But it's very eccentric, very Edwardian and very English,

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and that's what appealed then, and that's what appeals to me now.

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To try and get the measure of the man behind the movement, I'm off to see the current Lord Baden Powell.

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-Hello.

-Hello, how nice to see you.

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Do come in.

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-Here it comes.

-Very old fashioned, isn't it?

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What's he doing?

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He's doing his daily exercises.

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I mean, there's no question he was quite a nutcase, really in some ways!

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Throughout his life he'd always got

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this thing he'd got to keep himself up to scratch, as he called it.

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And he was quite preoccupied by personal health all the time.

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And you knew him?

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Well, yes. I was a very little boy.

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-Is that you?

-That's me at the age of four.

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When my mother was having her second child I was shovelled off to Kenya and I spend three months with them.

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All I remember is, like a lot of children,

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I was like a rattling cage, I was always asking questions and it was "shut up, shut up, go and play."

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But for the first time in my life somebody said, "Oh yes, I'll explain that to you"

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and I do remember this incredible interest in little boys,

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and I mean that in the nicest way.

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-Yes, well, it's almost impossible to say it now.

-Absolutely.

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He could mentally bring himself down to their level and explain things to them in words of one syllable.

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Simple as that, really.

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The first step towards success in training your boy is to know something about boys in general.

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It is well to recall so far as possible what your ideas were when a boy yourself.

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Robert Baden Powell was born in 1857,

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the son of a professor of geometry at Oxford University and the eighth in a family of 10 children.

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The kind of person who was going to invent the Boy Scout which was a very odd institution, I think

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is the sort of boy who would have been thrown on his own resources

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in a way at an early age.

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Baden Powell, when he was only three, lost his father.

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And he became obsessed with the idea of what was said that fathers say to boys that makes them manly later on.

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His widowed mother was, however, pushy enough to get him the best available training as a man.

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He was accepted on a scholarship to one of England's leading public schools, Charterhouse.

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Life here offered Baden Powell a wealth of new experiences.

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Most of them, however, well away from the classroom.

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Outside the school walls was the copse.

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It was here I used to imagine myself a backwoodsman trapper and scout.

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I used to creep about warily looking for signs

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and getting close-up observation of rabbits, squirrels, rats and birds.

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At Charterhouse, Baden Powell also witnessed a well-established scheme

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for turning feckless boys into responsible men.

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Baden Powell was influenced by the prefect system here, but it's not called prefects, is it?

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-It's a monitorial system.

-A monitorial system, right.

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So tell me, what is your role? What do you do?

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It is our duty to almost act as quasi teachers

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when teachers are not there.

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So it's our job to look after children

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and make sure that they are feeling comfortable within the school.

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We don't look at ourselves as policemen, we look at ourselves as carers.

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Oh right, that sounds a very thought-through line. Have you said it before?

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I've never said that before, no.

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In the Scouts, Baden Powell would transform prefects into patrol leaders.

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Give full responsibility

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and show full confidence in your patrol leaders.

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Expect a great deal from them, and you'll get it.

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The whole ulterior object of the scheme is to form character in the boys.

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To make the manly,

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good citizens.

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Baden Powell would devise other ways to introduce the public school ethos into the Scouts.

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England's young gentlemen had long been taught that good sportsmanship was not just for the playing field.

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It was an attitude for the whole of life.

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This sentiment was expressed in a popular poem, Vitae Lampada by Henry Newbolt.

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Scouting for Boys gives instructions for acting it out in a show.

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The sand of the desert is sodden red.

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Red with the wreck of the square that's broke.

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The gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead, and the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

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The river of death has brimmed its banks and England's fire and honour remain.

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The voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks.

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Play up, play up, and play the game!

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It's the ultimate Victorian public school poem - the equation of playing field and battlefield.

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The Empire as a great game.

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All wrapped up in as sentimental hymn to decent, understated patriotism.

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It is ridiculous, of course.

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But hugely effective.

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Baden Powell wanted to use it to inspire boys of every class.

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Many Edwardians assumed public school values were the privilege of public schoolboys.

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But Baden Powell was more ambitious.

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Baden Powell wanted scouting to cross to traditional class divides,

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which he called artificial, anyway.

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His vision was not just for boys from the cloister, but boys from the inner-cities.

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The fourth Scout law states that "a scout is a friend to all"

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and underneath that it says, in big letters, "a scout must never be a snob".

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For a man of his class, Baden Powell's insistence that all scouts

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were equal may have been surprising, but it was genuine.

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At this time, cricketers at Lords went in through different entrances -

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players and gentlemen.

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And " It's not cricket" is a phrase that denotes everything

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that we like to think of as British fairness but, society in Edwardian England was anything but fair.

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And he had a pretty good gut feeling that that was so.

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At the same time he was frightened by the Labour Party.

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So he had these two sort of almost schizophrenic, opposite ideas to motivate him.

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We are all socialists, in that we want to see the abolition of the existing brutal anachronism of war

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and of extreme poverty and misery shivering alongside superabundant wealth, and so on,

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but we do not quite agree as to how it is to be brought about.

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Baden Powell was very worried by what he called

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professional agitators, going round, stirring up trouble.

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He writes, "there are a lot of men howling about their rights,

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who have never done anything to earn their rights.

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Do your duty first, and you will get your rights afterwards.

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I was once accused of mistrusting men with waxed moustaches.

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Well, so, to a certain extent, I do.

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It often means vanity, and sometimes drink.

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But why should anyone listen to the thoughts of Baden Powell?

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Well, because he was the most famous man in Britain.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg of all the merchandise devoted to celebrating Baden Powell.

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It is all here - there is the Baden Powell alarm clock, Baden Powell shaving mirror,

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Baden Powell spoons ,

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Baden Powell egg cup.

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There is an ostrich egg,

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painted with the face of Baden Powell.

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The Baden Powell's cigars.

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He would have hated that, because he hated smoking.

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And it wasn't just artefacts - there was music to accompany them.

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Here we have the Baden Powell March - "a patriotic song for Our Hero, BP."

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Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, whizz-bang, whizz-bang.

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Lots of rhyming of the word "fought" with "jolly good sort".

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Why was he so ridiculously famous?

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Well, he was the heroic defender of Mafeking,

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a small town in South Africa.

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# Hurrah, oh be free for who they have fought

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# Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah

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# He's just the right sort

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# Our hero, BP

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# Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! #

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Baden Powell was the surprised recipient of national fame and military glory.

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After school, he joined the Army and for over 20 years served diligently, right across the empire.

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He was never a standard-issue military man.

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Instead he was fascinated by a form of reconnaissance work, known as scouting.

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The covert scrutiny of an area, to gather information.

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It needed initiative, observation skills, and self-reliance,

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and Baden Powell excelled at all of them.

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He gained a reputation as a bit of a maverick.

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But became one of the army's youngest colonels.

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In 1899, the Boer war broke out.

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Baden Powell was sent to South Africa,

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under orders to engage the enemy in the north of the region, with the help of local recruits.

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It soon became clear that the advancing Boers had superior manpower,

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so Baden Powell decided to hold out in the town of Mafeking.

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Even 70 years later, Baden Powell's exploits at Mafeking can inspire small boys.

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Including me - I wrote a project about the Boer War when I was 11.

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I wrote, "Baden Powell, though remembered for the Boy Scouts,

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"is hardly ever given credit for his defence of Mafeking."

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Not strictly true.

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But controversial openings are very important in histories.

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"He got the men to obey him to the letter, and they succeeded, doing as they were told.

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"He baffled the enemy with bluff and tactics."

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And here he is.

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About to do it.

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Right from the outset, Baden Powell was heavily outnumbered.

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There were about 2,000 armed men in Mafeking.

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1,100 of them white, the rest, native.

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Only about a quarter of all of them had any sort of military training.

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These lot were facing 6,000 Boers.

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This was no ordinary engagement.

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And it tested Baden Powell as a leader and as a strategist.

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It also crystallised the ideas that would later form the core of Scouting for Boys.

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Baden Powell was assisted in his defence of the town by an unlikely force, a group of boys,

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gathered together before the siege started.

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They became a sort of unofficial cadet corps.

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They performed a vital role, taking messages between the various defenders.

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Often on bicycles and under fire.

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In later life Baden Powell would recount the stirring story

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of the cadets at Mafeking to inspire English boys.

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I said to one of these boys on one occasion,

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"You will get hit one of these days riding about like that when shells are flying."

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And he replied, "I pedal so quick, sir, they'd never catch me."

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Could any of you do that?

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Much of Baden Powell's subsequent reputation

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was based not on his complex military strategies, but on his use of tricks and ruses,

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to try and fool the Boers into thinking the British were better equipped than they were.

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They didn't have any mines, but Baden Powell got these men

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to walk out beyond the perimeter carrying big black boxes.

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Then to bury them deep in the sand at intervals.

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Then, later on, he let off a stick of dynamite in the same area,

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and the Boers were convinced they were laying a minefield.

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Another of his tricks was to stake out all these posts along the front,

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and then to have men moving between them as if they were laying barbed wire.

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They weren't, because they didn't have any barbed wire.

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But the Boers couldn't see that, and so, they believed that the whole of this front was fortified.

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Again, it was slightly bonkers but a brilliantly effective ruse.

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Despite such daring innovations, Baden Powell's problems magnified.

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The town was shelled.

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Many were injured or died.

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Horses were killed for meat,

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and food was heavily rationed.

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Yet convinced he must lead by example, Baden Powell's positive attitude remained unshaken.

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People expect you to be able to give them an idea of how long the food's going to hold out.

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And you have to, effectively, pretend to be omniscient.

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You have to be ultra-calm.

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And Baden Powell had been a very successful amateur actor and he knew what was required.

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He could act really cool.

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The siege lasted 216 days but, throughout it,

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Baden Powell's performance - because, in a sense, that's what it was - was extraordinary.

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He managed to maintain not only a stiff upper lip but a smile, as well.

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When he wasn't pulling stunts against the Boers,

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he was putting on plays in the town or staging games,

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and when the public at home heard of his exploits, they glowed with pride. This was true British grit.

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# Bravos for BP

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# Ring, ring the bells, ring

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# Bravos, bravos, bravos

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# For Mafeking's king

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# Our hero... #

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When Mafeking was finally relieved in May 1901, the nation erupted with joy.

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Baden Powell was proclaimed a national hero.

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# ..To die for our duty

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# And we'll never give in

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# Said BP! #

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The British may have been the ultimate victors, but the Boer War left the nation badly shaken.

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Mafeking was one redeeming highlight in an otherwise undistinguished colonial war.

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One of the reasons the British army performed so badly was that, compared to the Boers,

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the healthy outdoor farmers-turned-soldiers,

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the British troops had been weak and sickly.

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The director general of the War Office had even issued a memo warning that between 40% - 60%

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of the men trying to enlist, had been declared unfit for service.

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The Edwardian establishment was terrified that, after a century of rapid industrialisation,

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Western society might be, in their words, "degenerating".

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A deeply influential book at the time was Max Nordau's Degeneration,

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which saw, in modern urban culture,

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a kind of frantic pace that he believed would lead to the decline of the West.

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The dead, carried off by heart and nerve diseases, are the victims of civilisation,

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the consequences of states of fatigue and exhaustion,

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of the vertigo and whirl of our frenzied life.

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The Victorian factories had made the nation wealthy,

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but they had also manufactured a urban underclass.

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Undernourished and underexercised, their offspring were now the Edwardians' problem.

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Some thinkers suggested that degeneracy was hereditary,

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and should be eradicated by enforced sterilisation.

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But Baden Powell was no pessimist.

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And he was not prepared to write off the nation's youth.

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When somebody's a great national hero, they're a great national hero to boys,

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and quite spontaneously, little boys' groups,

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they might be choirs, they might be little local clubs,

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who had asked him to be their patron, he sent them advice.

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When ordinary people began to buy a book he'd written called "Aids to Scouting"

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he realised that, although they were originally designed for soldiers,

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the same techniques could work for civilian boys.

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Scouting is a character-building exercise.

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It teaches self-discipline,

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observation, inquisitiveness, these are all, to Baden Powell, good qualities.

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Baden Powell agreed to use Aids to Scouting as the basis for a new work,

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which would promote the health and well-being of British youth.

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The Edwardians were the first generation to go football-crazy.

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But then, as now, not everybody approved.

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The idea of being a fan, of spectating

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rather than participating, did not appeal to Baden Powell.

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He believed in a healthy mind in a healthy body.

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Mens sano in corpore sano.

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That was the real goal for a boy.

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My heart sickens at thousands of boys and young men,

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pale and narrow-chested, hunched up miserable specimens,

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smoking endless cigarettes, numbers of them betting.

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All of them learning to be hysterical, as they groan or cheer in panic unison with their neighbours.

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For Baden Powell, physical and moral health went hand in hand.

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And when the men of Britain were strong, so was the country itself.

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No body part was neglected in the quest for national vitality.

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To be healthy and strong,

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you must keep your blood healthy and clean inside you.

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This is done by breathing in lots of pure, fresh air

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and by clearing out all dirty matter from inside your stomach.

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Which is done by having a rear, daily, without fail.

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If there is any difficulty about it one day, drink plenty of good water

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and practice body twisting exercises. And all should be well.

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What struck me, editing the book,

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was the number of times Baden Powell talks about orifices.

0:25:000:25:06

Mouths, anuses,

0:25:060:25:08

eyes, ears, all the openings of the body.

0:25:080:25:11

It seems to me that this reflects Baden Powell's concern with national self-defence,

0:25:110:25:19

with the keeping the body of the nation disciplined and controlled.

0:25:190:25:25

Not allowing any inroads to disease and infection.

0:25:250:25:29

Unlike traditional educationalists, Baden Powell believed it was in the national interest

0:25:310:25:36

for boys to show initiative.

0:25:360:25:39

And he charged each scout with doing a good turn every day.

0:25:390:25:43

Do you need a hand with that box?

0:25:470:25:51

There we go.

0:25:550:25:57

Good morning. Would you like some help crossing the road?

0:25:590:26:02

'Despite his best efforts, many of the issues a century ago are still high on the social agenda today.'

0:26:020:26:09

I'm going to see David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, in London,

0:26:130:26:17

Minister for Culture, and more importantly,

0:26:170:26:20

former cub scout, to discuss Baden Powell's influence on New Labour.

0:26:200:26:26

At what age did they get you?

0:26:260:26:29

-Oh God! Seven?

-Seven. Right.

0:26:290:26:32

And you, All joking apart,

0:26:320:26:34

a pretty formative four years at that time?

0:26:340:26:38

Oh yeah. I remember...

0:26:380:26:41

a particular week in which the whole purpose

0:26:410:26:46

was to knock on people's doors, to say, "Can we wash your car?"

0:26:460:26:51

in a Cubs' uniform.

0:26:510:26:53

You would get money...

0:26:530:26:54

It was Bob-A-Job Week.

0:26:540:26:57

You would get money for doing that.

0:26:570:27:00

But it was also, this was bringing you into contact with the neighbourhood.

0:27:000:27:05

It was that, or Knock Down Ginger - knock the door up and run away.

0:27:050:27:08

But this time you knocked on the door, you got some money and you did something useful. It's a great thing.

0:27:080:27:14

The subtitle for Scouting for Boys, is actually "a handbook for instruction in good citizenship".

0:27:140:27:21

He says "Indifferent citizenship is and always has been the progeny of indifferent government."

0:27:210:27:27

Yeah... I...

0:27:300:27:33

I suspect what Baden Powell would say is that citizenship

0:27:330:27:38

is not just something that is kind of learned in the classroom.

0:27:380:27:42

It is something about being a citizen and learning that,

0:27:440:27:48

with a group of other people, and with a wider community.

0:27:480:27:53

At one point, he's talking about socialism.

0:27:530:27:57

I hope he's nice about socialism...

0:27:580:28:00

Well, he claims to be a socialist at one point, which, again, I think would surprise a lot of people.

0:28:000:28:06

He is less the sort of Tory...

0:28:060:28:09

hate-figure that people imagined.

0:28:090:28:12

What Baden Powell was keen on was community.

0:28:120:28:15

I suspect that he had a kind of Gordon Brown sense of prudence

0:28:150:28:21

and hard work...

0:28:210:28:24

Oh yes! It's all in there.

0:28:240:28:26

And of thrift, and of duty.

0:28:260:28:28

So there's a lot there for Labour folk, but there's a lot there, also,

0:28:280:28:34

for the kind of One-Nation Tory.

0:28:340:28:36

But, are the virtues Baden Powell encouraged in Scouts really as highly valued today?

0:28:360:28:43

Baden Powell writes about boys sort of loafing around on street corners, smoking, doing nothing.

0:28:440:28:50

He said he wanted to teach them something useful. Do you do first aid?

0:28:500:28:54

Yeah, on a number of camps, everyone has to know a certain amount of first aid, on camp.

0:28:540:29:00

In here, he describes an incident.

0:29:000:29:02

A woman was drowning in a pond and there were five useless boys on the side,

0:29:020:29:07

who didn't save her, because they couldn't swim, and couldn't do first aid.

0:29:070:29:11

-That wouldn't be you, would it?

-I've been trained in first aid, to a fairly moderate level,

0:29:110:29:16

but we're given the skills so that we know what to do...

0:29:160:29:19

Right, if I had a heart attack now, could one of you save my life?

0:29:190:29:23

-Probably.

-I'm hoping.

0:29:230:29:26

By 1906, Baden-Powell was convinced that his scheme could turn dissolute boys into decent citizens.

0:29:300:29:37

And he began to write a version of what would become Scouting For Boys.

0:29:370:29:41

But it took the help of a hard-nosed salesman to galvanise him

0:29:420:29:46

and turn his modest proposal into a national sensation.

0:29:460:29:50

Arthur Pearson was proprietor of the Daily Express, and a media magnate of his day.

0:29:500:29:56

Baden-Powell, who had a suspicion of business people,

0:29:560:29:59

also knew how the world worked, that he needed a man like Pearson.

0:29:590:30:03

He didn't want to need him.

0:30:030:30:05

In fact, he hated the idea of it, but without him, it couldn't happen.

0:30:050:30:10

By summer 1907, Baden-Powell had completed a first draft.

0:30:120:30:18

He was now ready to put his theories into practice.

0:30:190:30:23

He invited 20 boys for a camping holiday off the coast of Dorset,

0:30:280:30:32

on Brownsea Island.

0:30:320:30:35

Some came from public schools, others, already working, were from local church boys' clubs.

0:30:370:30:43

But for all of them, it was a unique opportunity.

0:30:490:30:53

For Edwardian boys, the idea of camping on a small island

0:30:560:31:00

conjured up images of exoticism and intrigue.

0:31:000:31:03

They were following in the footsteps of Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.

0:31:030:31:07

And Baden-Powell wanted to reinforce this idea of being cut off from civilisation

0:31:070:31:12

and forced to depend on their own resources.

0:31:120:31:14

So he didn't have them camp here, within sight of Poole,

0:31:140:31:18

but he had them camp a mile away, on the wildest, furthest side of the island.

0:31:180:31:24

The native boys of the Zulu and Zwazi tribes

0:31:270:31:31

learned to be scouts before they're allowed to be considered men.

0:31:330:31:37

When a boy is about 15 or 16, he is taken by the men of his village,

0:31:370:31:42

stripped of all his clothes...

0:31:420:31:45

and painted white from head to foot.

0:31:450:31:48

He is given a shield and small spear,

0:31:480:31:51

and he is turned out of the village

0:31:510:31:53

and told that he will be killed if anyone catches him

0:31:530:31:56

while he is still painted white.

0:31:560:31:59

Many Edwardians had only a superior curiosity about other races, but some, like Baden-Powell,

0:32:020:32:09

had a genuine admiration for those they ruled.

0:32:090:32:13

Within British imperial law,

0:32:130:32:15

there was a social, Darwinist ranking of the nations,

0:32:150:32:20

in which, of course, British were at the top,

0:32:200:32:25

but they were recognised to be a certain noble tribe's noble peoples

0:32:250:32:29

who distinguished themselves by their muscle on the battlefield.

0:32:290:32:33

Despite his admiration for some African traditions,

0:32:370:32:40

Baden-Powell thought better of sending British boys naked into the Dorset woods.

0:32:400:32:46

Instead, he'd arranged for basic amenities to be provided on a small campsite.

0:32:460:32:51

The trip was covered by a lot of the local newspapers

0:32:530:32:56

and, clearly, their editors were thrilled to have a national hero operating on their patch.

0:32:560:33:01

This is the Bournemouth Guardian.

0:33:010:33:03

It explains how the camp was set up, and then says,

0:33:030:33:06

"The boys are to learn how the experienced scout can find life wherever he may find himself,

0:33:060:33:11

"to taste the delights of wild adventure and to track Red Indians."

0:33:110:33:17

This being Dorset, there weren't any red Indians, but there were pheasants.

0:33:170:33:22

The idea was the boys had to track the pheasants,

0:33:220:33:25

get close enough to them, not to kill them, but to photograph them, then report back to camp.

0:33:250:33:30

And this was a classic Baden-Powell technique -

0:33:300:33:33

to relocate the thrills of the Wild West in the South West.

0:33:330:33:37

This is a set of extraordinary photographs, taken on that first camp in 1907,

0:33:470:33:54

and it shows the boys literally here,

0:33:540:33:56

taking part in the various exercises that Baden-Powell had dreamt up.

0:33:560:34:00

Now, that looks like a game boys would enjoy.

0:34:000:34:04

Jump head first out of a tree and see if anyone catches you.

0:34:040:34:09

That does look fun!

0:34:090:34:11

This is a manly game.

0:34:140:34:16

This one's called The Struggle.

0:34:160:34:17

It does look quite peculiar, but it's basically people pushing their chests against each other.

0:34:170:34:23

It's meant to get the heart pounding, according to Baden-Powell.

0:34:230:34:27

First aid.

0:34:290:34:30

This one is called Dragging An Insensible Man,

0:34:300:34:34

but in this case it's a boy sitting up and laughing, which ruins it.

0:34:340:34:38

They're clearly enjoying being outdoors,

0:34:380:34:42

playing games, dangerous games, and learning practical skills.

0:34:420:34:47

When they were camping, Baden-Powell needed to collect the boys together,

0:34:500:34:54

so what did he use? A whistle?

0:34:540:34:56

No, he used this, which is a kudu horn,

0:34:560:35:00

made from antelope, which he picked up when he was a soldier in the Matabele Campaign, in 1896.

0:35:000:35:07

The Ndebele people use it for generating fearsome war cries,

0:35:070:35:11

but it's very good for collecting together small boys.

0:35:110:35:14

LONG, DEEP NOTE

0:35:140:35:16

THEY SPEAK ZULU IN UNISON

0:35:210:35:26

At night, Baden-Powell taught the boys Zulu war chants

0:35:310:35:34

and enthralled them with tales of his overseas adventures.

0:35:340:35:39

Once, I went butterfly-hunting in Dalmatia.

0:35:390:35:42

Batteries had been built upon these mountain tops and it was my business

0:35:420:35:46

to investigate their positions, strength and armaments.

0:35:460:35:50

I took a sketch book, a colour box and a butterfly net in my hand,

0:35:500:35:56

and I was above all suspicion to anyone who met me.

0:35:560:36:01

They did not look sufficiently closely into the sketches of butterflies

0:36:010:36:06

to notice that the delicately drawn veins of the wings

0:36:060:36:09

were exact representations in plan of their own fort.

0:36:090:36:14

In Scouting For Boys, Baden-Powell concludes a letter

0:36:180:36:21

that one of the boys had written to him after the camp.

0:36:210:36:24

"The most important thing that a great many boys need to learn is to look at the bright side of things

0:36:240:36:30

"and to take everything by the smooth handle. I, myself,

0:36:300:36:33

"found that a great lesson. I shall never find words enough to thank you for teaching me it."

0:36:330:36:38

And that ethic of keep smiling through became a cornerstone of scouting.

0:36:380:36:44

Invigorated by the success of Brownsea,

0:36:480:36:50

Baden-Powell returned to civilisation and to completing Scouting For Boys.

0:36:500:36:56

His original manuscript is now kept here, at the Scout Association's headquarters

0:37:000:37:05

at Gilwell Park, in Essex.

0:37:050:37:08

So this is it? The book that launched the entire movement?

0:37:110:37:15

The manuscript for the book that launched...

0:37:150:37:18

There it is, handwritten.

0:37:180:37:21

I must say, I thought it would be more organised than this.

0:37:230:37:26

I thought Baden-Powell would have taken his motto, and been more prepared.

0:37:260:37:30

I get the impression that he was just jotting down things as they came to him.

0:37:300:37:35

I don't think he actually sat down and mapped out

0:37:350:37:39

what he was going to do before he put pen to paper.

0:37:390:37:43

These are the chapter headings here, and it says, "Chapter 3 -

0:37:430:37:46

"campaigning, camp life, resourcefulness, colonial life etc."

0:37:460:37:51

Not terribly linked, are they?

0:37:510:37:53

-I mean, it is more or less, will there be a bit of this and a bit of that?

-Yes,

0:37:530:37:57

and, to some extent, that helps the readability of the book. The boys could dip in and dip out of it...

0:37:570:38:03

Yes.

0:38:030:38:04

..as they fancied.

0:38:040:38:06

This is a bit he's just torn out.

0:38:060:38:08

Think he's borrowed a bit of President Roosevelt's speech.

0:38:080:38:13

It's about the qualities of good soldier. Baden-Powell's crossed out "soldier" and written "Scout".

0:38:130:38:18

It's a very wide selection of material that he's read from, and cross-referenced into this book.

0:38:180:38:24

There's even Greek philosophers he's quoting.

0:38:240:38:27

He's quoting American pioneers. He's lifting chunks from Kipling.

0:38:270:38:31

Here we are, we've got knots.

0:38:310:38:33

"To tie a knot seems to be a simple thing, and yet there are right ways and wrong ways of doing it."

0:38:330:38:40

He's written something else in over the top.

0:38:400:38:42

"Lives depend on an knot being properly tied," is his afterthought.

0:38:420:38:47

Which is so very true!

0:38:470:38:50

-And these are his drawings?

-They are his drawings.

0:38:500:38:53

It's quite difficult to actually draw a knot that people can follow and copy.

0:38:530:38:59

-Yes.

-There's terrible clarity. You could follow that.

0:38:590:39:02

-Do you think?

-Yes, I do.

0:39:020:39:05

Two half hitches. That one looks hard, doesn't it?

0:39:050:39:08

-No.

-Even in diagram form.

0:39:080:39:11

When you open this, your job, your movement, everything here

0:39:110:39:16

comes from his notes on some bits of lined paper, doesn't it?

0:39:160:39:19

From these pages. It is quite amazing to think that the whole Scout movement

0:39:190:39:24

has flowed from him sitting down and scribbling these notes.

0:39:240:39:30

A bit like the Ten Commandments in the Christian tradition.

0:39:300:39:33

I'm sure he'd be flattered by that.

0:39:330:39:35

In January 1908, when Scouting For Boys was set for publication,

0:39:390:39:43

Arthur Pearson orchestrated the marketing.

0:39:430:39:46

He decided that, rather than publish it as a single volume,

0:39:480:39:51

it should first be serialised in separate parts, which you had to wait for and could collect.

0:39:510:39:57

Scouting For Boys was a success virtually from day one.

0:39:580:40:02

By the time the sixth fortnightly instalment came out, boys were queuing to buy it.

0:40:020:40:09

Baden-Powell's original idea was that Scouting would piggyback on existing boys' movements.

0:40:090:40:16

But then, when the book came out, Scouting appealed in such a way

0:40:160:40:22

that boys wanted to Scout themselves.

0:40:220:40:25

So, Baden-Powell had more or less to scramble

0:40:250:40:29

to catch up with the wildfire success of the book,

0:40:290:40:33

so the movement followed the book.

0:40:330:40:36

It's one of the few, if not only, instances, I think,

0:40:360:40:39

in world history, of a book having generated a movement.

0:40:390:40:45

And one of the secrets of the movement's success is right there, in the opening section.

0:40:470:40:53

This is a very famous painting of a Scout, and it shows a boy in that classic Scout uniform.

0:40:570:41:02

I think we've all seen it so often that you forget how very odd it is.

0:41:020:41:07

The hat is a South African hat from the constabulary where Baden-Powell was serving.

0:41:070:41:14

Then the shirt, which is a long army shirt worn in India and Afghanistan.

0:41:140:41:19

Basically, the Army had fashioned it on the traditional Muslim shirt.

0:41:190:41:24

Shorts - which no-one in this country wore at all.

0:41:240:41:27

Parents had to cut off long trousers to make them fit.

0:41:270:41:31

So it's an odd collection of things,

0:41:310:41:33

but Baden-Powell always claimed they were all practical.

0:41:330:41:37

The hat, you could carry water in.

0:41:370:41:40

The shirt, if you put two of the shirts together,

0:41:400:41:43

shoved the staves that the scouts carry, they turn into a stretcher. The scarf turned into a sling.

0:41:430:41:50

Again, for emergencies.

0:41:500:41:52

The figure here on the right isn't a Scout.

0:41:540:41:57

The suggestion is, in a fairly obvious way, that he's blessing the entire Scout movement.

0:41:570:42:02

Baden-Powell also ordained a hierarchy of officers,

0:42:050:42:09

invented a Scout salute...

0:42:090:42:11

..and he composed a Scout oath.

0:42:130:42:15

On my honour, I promise to do my duty to God and the King.

0:42:150:42:20

I will try to help others, whatever it costs me.

0:42:200:42:23

I know the Scout law, and WILL obey it.

0:42:230:42:26

Crucially, the Scout law wasn't a list of forbidden acts, but one of positive aims.

0:42:280:42:33

A Scout's honour is to be trusted.

0:42:350:42:38

A Scout is loyal.

0:42:380:42:40

A Scout's duty is to be useful and to help others.

0:42:400:42:44

A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout.

0:42:440:42:49

In Scouting For Boys, Baden-Powell also gave the movement something critical -

0:42:490:42:54

the impression it already had a history.

0:42:540:42:58

The British Empire had quite a propensity for inventing traditions.

0:42:580:43:02

In other words, for making up a movement, an idea, an organisation,

0:43:020:43:08

and then passing it off, or indeed marketing it,

0:43:080:43:11

as something traditional and conventional

0:43:110:43:15

and steeped in the past.

0:43:150:43:17

Scouting, of course, does so by harking back to what Baden-Powell calls "the scouts of history".

0:43:170:43:23

In the old days, the knights were the scouts of Britain,

0:43:250:43:29

and their rules were very much the same as the Scout law, which we have now.

0:43:290:43:33

We are their descendants and we ought to keep up their good name

0:43:330:43:38

and follow in their steps.

0:43:380:43:40

Baden-Powell even suggested that Scouting had a lineage that led all the way to the king.

0:43:430:43:49

He noted that the King signs himself RI - Rex Imperator, the emperor.

0:43:490:43:54

He says "Imperator" comes from two Roman words, "Im" and "Perare",

0:43:540:44:01

which together mean "prepare for", that is, to be prepared,

0:44:010:44:05

which, rather neatly, makes the King the Chief Scout.

0:44:050:44:09

It's neat, but it isn't true.

0:44:090:44:11

"Imperator" just means he who rules, but no-one was going to object, and certainly not the King.

0:44:110:44:18

Edward VII returned the favour in autumn 1909, when he knighted Baden-Powell.

0:44:210:44:26

By now, the Scout movement had over 100,000 members.

0:44:290:44:34

Scout troops were patrolling across the country.

0:44:340:44:38

And a spin-off magazine was flying off the newsstands.

0:44:390:44:43

Scout fever had gripped the nation.

0:44:460:44:49

Scouting offered something special that other groups didn't.

0:44:530:44:56

At its core was a belief in the positive power of playing and make-believe.

0:44:560:45:01

Scouting For Boys is peppered with ideas for staging little plays,

0:45:010:45:06

dramatising poems, putting on a show.

0:45:060:45:09

It encouraged each boy to imagine himself as a potential hero on the bigger stage of life.

0:45:090:45:16

Playing and playacting had always been central to Baden-Powell's understanding of the world.

0:45:200:45:27

Peter Pan, one of the most popular shows of the age, was especially dear to him.

0:45:270:45:32

Baden-Powell was particularly fixated on it, even more so than its standard enthusiastic audience.

0:45:360:45:43

I think that was because the figure of the boy who never grows up,

0:45:430:45:49

who never loses his milk teeth,

0:45:490:45:51

who never has to confront the horrors of sexuality,

0:45:510:45:55

was to him a very, very compelling image.

0:45:550:45:59

The idea that Scouts were boys on the brink of sexual maturity was a problem for Baden-Powell.

0:46:010:46:08

And the thought that they might be tempted to indulge in self-abuse,

0:46:090:46:14

as the Edwardians termed it, horrified him.

0:46:140:46:17

But, in typically forthright manner, he drafted a section of Scouting For Boys to confront it directly.

0:46:190:46:25

No prudish sentimentality for him.

0:46:250:46:30

He even checked his copy with his mother.

0:46:300:46:32

Pearson, his publisher, however, was much more coy.

0:46:340:46:38

He rejected the original, and Baden-Powell was forced to replace it

0:46:380:46:42

with a watered-down version for instructors only.

0:46:420:46:47

This is from the appendix on masturbation, and this is what he wants to say.

0:46:470:46:53

"Now the result of self-abuse is always..." Mind you, always!

0:46:530:46:56

"..that the boy, after a time, becomes weak and nervous and shy.

0:46:560:47:00

"He gets headaches, palpitations of the heart,

0:47:000:47:02

-"and if he carries on too far, he very often goes out of his mind and becomes an idiot."

-Yes.

0:47:020:47:08

-It's quite extreme, isn't it?

-It's very extreme.

0:47:080:47:10

It's more extreme than even fairly conservative medical authority

0:47:100:47:15

would have gone in the early 20th century.

0:47:150:47:20

But there was a huge amount of anxiety about masturbation.

0:47:200:47:23

Huge anxiety around masturbation, because, on the one hand, it caused all these problems with health -

0:47:230:47:30

it led to consumption, insanity, etc - and, on the other hand, there's an argument that

0:47:300:47:36

it's a manifestation of a lack of self-discipline, it erodes the willpower.

0:47:360:47:41

If a boy gets into this habit, he will not be a fit person to govern the Empire.

0:47:410:47:48

Part of me thinks Baden-Powell is trying to do something healthy by saying,

0:47:480:47:52

"We're far too prudish about this."

0:47:520:47:54

I think it's good that he's actually ventilating, he's talking about it.

0:47:540:47:58

We want to get this out in the open, out into the healthy fresh air and sunlight.

0:47:580:48:03

Why do you think his publisher wouldn't put it in?

0:48:030:48:06

There is this concern in saying, "Oh, God, there's this terrible habit that boys get into at school,

0:48:060:48:13

"in adolescence, and they learn it from their evil companions."

0:48:130:48:17

Yadda, yadda...

0:48:170:48:18

"..We should warn them about it."

0:48:180:48:21

And then others will come back and say, "No, they are pure innocent little lambs.

0:48:210:48:25

"You will just put this evil thought into their minds."

0:48:250:48:28

It's like the sex education debate,

0:48:280:48:31

about whether you tell them, or whether you tell them about it and they go and do it!

0:48:310:48:37

Don't lark about with a girl who you wouldn't like your mother or sister to see you with.

0:48:380:48:44

Don't make love to any girl unless you mean to marry her.

0:48:440:48:49

Despite his confident assertions, Baden-Powell was no expert on the charms of the opposite sex.

0:48:490:48:56

Whereas he would often apply the word "beautiful" to a man, he would never apply it to a woman.

0:48:570:49:04

She might be good-looking, but he would then often qualify it

0:49:040:49:08

with a word like "heavy-ish" or some sort of slightly derogatory remark.

0:49:080:49:12

I obviously read Baden-Powell's diary remarkably carefully.

0:49:120:49:16

There was an entry in the diary which said, just, "Went to Charterhouse,

0:49:160:49:20

"saw Todd's photograph album, naked boys in trees - excellent."

0:49:200:49:25

I'm sure it was nothing sort of overtly sexual.

0:49:250:49:30

But, clearly, Baden-Powell did very much enjoy looking at these naked boys.

0:49:300:49:36

For Edwardian society, an aesthetic appreciation of the young male form

0:49:390:49:44

was distinct from finding it sexually arousing.

0:49:440:49:47

Whilst works like these were being exhibited in public,

0:49:490:49:53

no-one saw Baden-Powell's interest in boys' bodies as evidence of paedophilia, or even homosexuality,

0:49:540:49:59

least of all, Baden-Powell himself.

0:49:590:50:02

Times have changed.

0:50:030:50:05

If Baden-Powell tried to start Scouting today, I don't think he'd have got very far.

0:50:070:50:12

Media interest in a national hero no longer stops at the bedroom door.

0:50:120:50:16

And an unmarried, unattached, confirmed bachelor

0:50:160:50:19

who admired pictures of naked boys would be unlikely to be allowed to be in charge of a youth movement.

0:50:190:50:26

However, Baden-Powell scholars still don't agree on his true inclinations.

0:50:260:50:32

It should be possible to speak of a sexual preference that is, in a way, a non preference.

0:50:320:50:38

"I don't want to do this sex thing!"

0:50:380:50:41

I genuinely believe that Baden-Powell was the eternal Peter Pan,

0:50:410:50:47

and that, rather than being a repressed gay man, he was in fact asexual.

0:50:470:50:53

He thought that, actually, men who did commit too early

0:50:530:50:57

to sexual relationships with women were contaminated.

0:50:570:51:00

Which I think, in a way, is...

0:51:000:51:02

You don't think that unless you're gay.

0:51:020:51:05

Baden-Powell may have backed away from women, but they didn't shy away from him.

0:51:070:51:12

Yet he didn't give marriage any serious thought until his mother began to put him under pressure.

0:51:120:51:18

Olave Soames was only 23 to Baden-Powell's 54

0:51:180:51:23

when he met her in 1912.

0:51:230:51:26

She was a tomboy, interested in sports and games,

0:51:270:51:31

and they shared an instant rapport, marrying less than a year later.

0:51:310:51:36

She was completely un-clothes-conscious, never painted her face, as it was described.

0:51:360:51:43

Baden-Powell thought the best women weren't very much interested in sex,

0:51:430:51:47

and I think that that would be true of her.

0:51:470:51:50

He did get her pregnant with Peter,

0:51:500:51:53

and he managed subsequent pregnancies,

0:51:530:51:57

but after that, he slept out on a balcony for the rest of his life.

0:51:570:52:01

There was a single bed on a veranda outside the front of their house.

0:52:010:52:06

It was an open veranda, and he would go upstairs to bed,

0:52:060:52:10

having sat around a fire, sat almost on the embers to keep warm,

0:52:100:52:14

then go upstairs, climb into bed with two blankets and a pillow,

0:52:140:52:18

and they'd come out in the morning, in the winter, and dust the snow off him!

0:52:180:52:22

Quite extraordinary!

0:52:220:52:24

The boys of Britain at the start of the 20th century

0:52:290:52:32

had no interest in the romantic life of the Chief Scout.

0:52:320:52:35

They were just thrilled that, unlike most Edwardian adults, he refused to patronise them.

0:52:350:52:41

He entrusted them with civic tasks, like giving first aid,

0:52:430:52:47

or directing people in fog.

0:52:470:52:49

Responsibility, he believed, developed character.

0:52:490:52:53

Of course, this had its funny side, and Baden-Powell was the first to admit

0:52:550:52:59

that his fad of Scouting might appear ridiculous,

0:52:590:53:03

and others were quick to join in the joke.

0:53:030:53:05

This is a Punch cartoon from as early as 1909,

0:53:050:53:09

which seems to be laughing at the idea of the Scouts coming to the rescue.

0:53:090:53:13

It shows a very small boy attempting to help a rather large lady across the beach.

0:53:130:53:18

And he says, "Fear not, Grandma!

0:53:180:53:21

"No danger can befall you now - I'M with you!"

0:53:210:53:24

Yet, crucially, its titled Our Youngest Line Of Defence.

0:53:240:53:29

And this isn't any old lady.

0:53:290:53:30

This is Mrs Britannia, who stands for the entire British Empire,

0:53:300:53:34

which the Scouts have been charged with saving.

0:53:340:53:38

Remember that the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago

0:53:390:53:43

was comparatively just as great as the British Empire of today.

0:53:430:53:48

It fell at last chiefly because the young Romans

0:53:480:53:52

gave up soldiering and manliness altogether.

0:53:520:53:56

Don't be disgraced like the young Romans,

0:53:580:54:01

who lost the empire of their forefathers

0:54:010:54:03

by being wishy-washy slackers, without any go or patriotism in them.

0:54:030:54:09

EXPLOSION

0:54:090:54:11

Edwardians were obsessed with the idea of losing the British Empire.

0:54:130:54:18

When thinking of a really serious enemy, like the Germans,

0:54:190:54:22

most senior Army officers were convinced that we might lose,

0:54:220:54:27

and it would be the loss of the Empire, our country, our national wealth.

0:54:270:54:30

It would have been really a catastrophe.

0:54:300:54:33

By 1914, a generation of boys had been immersed in the book's patriotism,

0:54:360:54:42

and primed to see themselves as literal protectors of the nation.

0:54:420:54:46

Every boy ought to learn how to shoot and to obey orders,

0:54:480:54:53

else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman,

0:54:530:54:57

and merely gets killed like a squealing rabbit,

0:54:570:55:00

unable to defend himself.

0:55:000:55:02

So it might seem that the First World War was the call to arms

0:55:050:55:09

which Baden-Powell had been preparing for all along.

0:55:090:55:12

Baden-Powell insisted that every boy be able to handle a weapon.

0:55:200:55:24

But he refused to see his Scout movement as a sort of military cadet force.

0:55:240:55:29

Indeed, Baden-Powell defended himself against charges of militarism in Scouting For Boys.

0:55:290:55:34

He said there was a world of difference between self-defence,

0:55:340:55:38

standing up to bullies on the international stage, and bloodthirsty warmongering.

0:55:380:55:42

When an eminent public man wrote to me

0:55:450:55:47

that I ought not to teach boys soldiering

0:55:470:55:50

because, as he puts it, he hates war like the devil,

0:55:500:55:54

I felt bound to reply that, had he seen anything of war himself,

0:55:540:55:59

he would, like most soldiers, hate it WORSE than the devil!

0:55:590:56:03

Rather than see his Scouts become a branch of the armed forces,

0:56:060:56:10

the Chief Scout offered his boys for civilian duties -

0:56:100:56:13

running errands, working in Red Cross centres,

0:56:130:56:17

and coast-watching.

0:56:170:56:20

But the war inevitably took its toll on the Scouting movement.

0:56:200:56:25

A quarter-of-a-million former Scouts and Scout masters fought for King and country,

0:56:260:56:31

of whom 10,000 died.

0:56:310:56:34

Among the fatalities were five of the 20 boys

0:56:360:56:40

who joined Baden-Powell on Brownsea Island back in 1907.

0:56:400:56:44

After the catastrophe of world war, Baden-Powell decided that Scouting

0:56:520:56:56

had to become a force for world peace.

0:56:560:56:59

The imperialism of the original handbook was soon eclipsed

0:56:590:57:03

by the internationalist message of global Scouting.

0:57:030:57:07

That's what we're after -

0:57:080:57:10

to try and breed, in the next oncoming generation,

0:57:100:57:13

that spirit of friendship, comradeship and goodwill,

0:57:130:57:17

which is the true foundation for peace in the world.

0:57:170:57:21

That hope proved illusory, but the Scouting ideal continued throughout the 20th century,

0:57:230:57:29

even though other youth movements with less worthy aims borrowed heavily from its trappings.

0:57:290:57:35

The communist Soviet Pioneers.

0:57:350:57:37

The Italian young fascists.

0:57:370:57:39

And, infamously, the Hitler Youth.

0:57:390:57:42

But to assume that all boys in shorts are brainwashed storm troopers in waiting

0:57:470:57:52

does a grave injustice to Baden-Powell's Edwardian experiment.

0:57:520:57:57

After all, which of these movements didn't mind what religion you were?

0:57:570:58:01

Or what colour? Or what class?

0:58:010:58:05

And which of them instructed their members to smile and whistle under all circumstances?

0:58:050:58:11

One of Baden-Powell's favourite mottos was, "get a laugh on."

0:58:130:58:18

His movement was always a mixture of earnestness and playfulness.

0:58:180:58:21

He wanted to instruct boys how to cut down trees,

0:58:210:58:25

but he couldn't resist adding, "Don't chop your leg off!"

0:58:250:58:28

That's why the book is still so engaging.

0:58:280:58:31

And despite being firmly rooted in the Edwardian era,

0:58:310:58:34

he was trying to address issues that still resonate today.

0:58:340:58:38

Inner-city deprivation, boys without role models, unhealthy lifestyles,

0:58:380:58:42

the need for citizenship.

0:58:420:58:44

Amazingly, it's all in there.

0:58:440:58:47

Which is why, 100 years later, I think it's still worth saluting.

0:58:470:58:51

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd - 2007

0:59:140:59:18

E-mail [email protected]

0:59:180:59:22

Robert Baden-Powell's handbook Scouting for Boys, written in 1908, may be largely forgotten today, but it is one of the most influential and best-selling books of all time. In the 20th century, only the Bible, the Koran and the Thoughts of Chairman Mao sold more. But they had fewer jokes, no pictures and were useless at important stuff like tying knots.

In this entertaining and affectionate film, Ian Hislop uncovers the story behind the book which kick-started the Scout Movement - a work which is very eccentric, very Edwardian and very British.

Ian discovers that the book is actually very radical and addresses all sorts of issues that we think of as modern, such as citizenship, disaffected youth and social responsibility. He explores the maverick brilliance of Baden-Powell, a national celebrity after his heroism in the Boer War, and considers the book's candid focus on health and wellbeing - from the importance of what Baden-Powell called a 'daily rear' to his infamous warning on the dangers of masturbation.

Contributors include his grandson Lord Baden-Powell, minister for culture and former cub scout David Lammy, biographer Tim Jeal and Elleke Boehmer, editor of the re-issue of the original Scouting for Boys.