Robert Baden-Powell, in uniform [Attr: Public domain, wikimedia]
Youth hostelling taught me the ins and outs of making beds, cooking a modest meal (eggs and bacon!), and how to use a map to find one’s way around the countryside. Scouting was similar but broader: camping in tents during the summer, and the annual bob-a-job week when scouts and guides would go knocking, door to door, offering to perform such menial chores as cleaning windows, mowing the lawn, or putting a shine on the family car. One ‘bob’ = one shilling = one twentieth of a pound. It wouldn’t break the bank.
This week in the war, on 8 January 1941, the hero of Mafeking, Lord Robert Baden-Powell died in Kenya.
Princess Mary with girl guides, 1922 [Attr: Public domain, wikimedia]
He had founded the boy scouts movement in 1907 to encourage community service and physical fitness in boys from all classes and religions. His sister, Agnes, founded the girl guides soon after.
With their motto of ‘Be prepared’, the scouts were ready for anything. I once owned a scout knife. It had blades that folded into the handle and a pointy gadget specially designed, I was told, to remove stones from horses hooves. I dreamed of finding an obliging horse.
Alas, I never did. The horses were gradually replaced by cars and disappeared before I had chance to help them out.
Boy scouts in Kabul, Afghanistan, 2011 [Attr: author: Stacey Haga, isamedia]