About > Army career

Army Career

From the start, his Army career was outstanding. With the 13th Hussars he served in India, Afghanistan and South Africa and was mentioned in dispatches for his work in Zululand. Next came three years service in Malta as Assistant Military Secretary; then he went to Ashanti in Africa, to lead the campaign against Prempeh. Success led to his being promoted at the age of 40 to command the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1897. They benefited from their commanders first training in Scouting, and he awarded soldiers reaching certain standards a badge based on the north point of the compass. Today's Scout Membership badge is very similar.



National Hero


In 1899 came the successful defence of the town of Mafeking, from the Boers in South Africa. This was the most notable episode in his outstanding military career; he became a Major-General at the age of only 43. Robert Baden-Powell became famous and the hero of every boy, although he always minimised both his own part and the value of his inspiring leadership. He learned how well young people responded to a challenge by using boys for responsible jobs during the 217 day siege. Baden-Powell's book, 'Aids to Scouting', was published during the siege and reached a far wider readership than the military one for which it was intended.



Baden-Powell - a nation's hero


Following Mafeking, B-P was given the task of organising the South African Constabulary. On his return to England in 1903 as Inspector General of Cavalry, he found his book was being used by youth leaders and teachers all over the country. He spoke at meetings and rallies and was asked by founder of the Boys Brigade, Sir William Smith, to work out a scheme to provide greater variety in the training of boys in good citizenship.

Click here for The Birth of Scouting

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