Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell,
Place of birth
Place of death
Years of service
1876 – 1910
13th Hussars in India (1876);
Ashanti Star, 1895; Matabele Campaign, British South Africa Company Medal, 1896; Queen’s South Africa Medal, 1899; King’s South Africa Medal, 1902; Boy Scouts Silver Buffalo Award, 1926; World Scout Committee Bronze Wolf, 1935; Order of Merit, 1937; Order of St Michael and St George; Royal Victorian Order; Order of the Bath
Founder of the international Scouting movement; writer; artist
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB (22 February 1857 – 8 January 1941), also known as B-P, was a Lieutenant-General in the British Army, writer, and founder of the Scouting Movement. After having been educated at Charterhouse School, Baden-Powell joined the British Army in 1876, and was posted in India and Africa, and served three years in the British Secret Intelligence Service. In 1899, during the Second Boer War in South Africa, Baden-Powell successfully defended the city in the Siege of Mafeking. In 1910 he retired from the Army.
Baden-Powell was a prolific painter and writer. Several of his military books, written for military reconnaissance and scout training in his African years, were also used by boys. Based on those earlier books, he wrote Scouting for Boys, published in 1908 by Pearson, for youth readership. During writing, he tested his ideas through a camping trip on Brownsea Island in 1907, which is now seen as the beginning of Scouting. After his marriage with Olave St Clair Soames, he, his sister Agnes Baden-Powell and notably his wife actively gave guidance to the Scouting Movement and the Girl Guides Movement. Baden-Powell is buried in Nyeri, Kenya.
Nyeri is a town in Kenya about 180km north of the capital Nairobi. It lies at the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range that forms part of the eastern end of the Great Rift Valley and on the western side of Mount Kenya. Nyeri town is the administrative headquarters of Central Province and Nyeri District. The population was 98,908 in the 1999 census. The local scenery includes Mount Kenya. The main industry is farming. Coffee and tea are the main cash crops and maize is the staple food. There are many tourist destinations nearby.
In the early colonial days, Nyeri was a garrison, but it soon burgeoned into a trading centre for white farmers who produced cattle, wheat and coffee. They also came into town to drink and socialize. The White Rhino Hotel, Outspan Hotel, and the Aberdare Country Club at nearby Mweiga are living reminders of the old days. A number of renowned people have hailed from Nyeri, most notably Wangari Maathai Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2004, Mwai Kibaki Kenya’s third president, Dedan Kimathi, a general in the Mau Mau war against the British colonizers, and Catherine Ndereba Olympic marathon Silver Medalist, four time Boston Marathon winner and multiple time winner of Chicago and other marathons.
The Wajee Nature Park lies just south of the town. It is now the burial place of Lord Robert Baden-Powell a hero of the Boer War and the founder of the Scouting movement. He once wrote “the nearer to Nyeri the nearer to bliss”. Baden-Powell’s Paxtu cottage, now a small museum, stands on the grounds of the Outspan Hotel. He and his wife are buried in the town cemetery. About 5 km along the road from the site of Baden-Powell’s grave is the Mathari Mission settlement, which was constructed by Italian missionaries at the beginning of the 20th Century. The mission is home to a number of dwellings, stalls and the Consolata hospital and School of Nursing. The hospital provides free care to the people of the surrounding area free of charge, and has a private wing for more wealthy patients. It is staffed largely by nuns of the Consolata order. During the end of 1902, Richard Meinertzhagen marched a strong military column and although he met an equally spirited resistance from the Kikuyu warriors led by Wangombe Wa Ihura, who inhabited the area between Mount Kenya and the Aberdare ranges. The Kikuyu were defeated since their spears and arrows were no match for the European rifles. After Meinertzhagen’s victory, a decision was reached to site a British post close to a little hill at the slope of Mt Kenya. On December 18th 1902, Nyeri was born. The post took its name from the little hill. The Kikuyu called the hill Kia-Nyiri while their Maasai neighbors called the hill Na-aier.
Shortly after the establishment of the post, European settlers and missionaries and Indian merchants began to migrate into Nyeri.
Porwolls’ Scouting Pilgrimage to Kenya
During our family’s “vacation of a lifetime,” a three-week visit to Kenya, we included in our itinerary three Scouting-related diversions in the town of Nyeri that made the trip even more special:
- Visit to Baden-Powell’s gravesite
- Tour of “Paxtu,” B-P’s last home, at the Outspan Hotel
- Shopping at the Kenya Scouts Association regional Scout Shop
One of the largest towns in Kenya (the map says its population is between 100,000 and 500,000), Nyeri (pronounced “Near-ee”) is the administrative headquarters of the Central Province and one of the liveliest highland towns. A former military camp, it emerged as a market town for European coffee growers in the hills and for settlers on the ranching and wheat farms further north. Located beneath the Aberdare Range, a dense mountain forest home to lion, leopard, bongo, buffalo, rhino, and elephant, Nyeri was on the front line during the war for independence in the 1950s. We found the road leading from Mount Kenya to Nyeri the roughest one of our entire trip, and that’s saying a lot! We recorded the bumping and jostling in the Land Rover for posterity on the VCR; otherwise, no one would believe us.
Of more special interest, Nyeri was also the last home of Robert Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, whose Paxtu cottage, now a small museum, stands on the grounds of the Outspan Hotel. The Outspan, with its beautiful gardens, is the stately base of operations for those visiting Treetops, a famous lodge set on stilts in the forest nearby, whose salt-lick and lake attract wild animals for viewing at all times of the day and night. B-P’s grave and memorial are found on the north side of town. (Special thanks to our trusty travel guide, Kenya: The Rough Guide.)
B-P’s final resting place is located on the north side of town, in a small cemetery right off the main road into Nyeri. The entrance is marked by two 6’ tall, white, square, concrete pillars that support a black wrought iron gate. Tall trees border the cemetery, a burial ground for British colonials and others of years gone by.
Upon entering, a left turn takes you to the burial site of approximately 20 British soldiers who died fighting in the Mau Mau rebellion of the ‘50s. A right turn soon takes you to the gravesite of Baden-Powell and his wife Olave. A single white marble headstone marks the spot. At the top left, the Boy Scout fleur-de-lis emblem is etched into the stone, and at the top right, the international Girl Guides (Scouts) emblem. Engraved in black are the memorials:
CHIEF SCOUT OF THE WORLD
22ND FEBRUARY 1857
8TH JANUARY 1941
WORLD CHIEF GUIDE
22ND FEBRUARY 1889
25TH JUNE 1977
A bulls-eye is located at the bottom center of the marker. It represents an old Scout trail sign for “I have gone home.”
The headstone faces Mount Kenya, at 5200m (15,600’) the highest peak in the country and second highest in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro in nearby Tanzania. B-P recounted lovely views of his favorite Mount Kenya from Paxtu, and his gravesite with this view is more than fitting. Unfortunately, on the day of our visit the mountain was lost behind a dry afternoon haze. Like so many other public sites of interest to tourists, the cemetery was accompanied by a local who met us at the site and provided a factual narrative of B-P’s life at Paxtu and his burial site. The man said he was a teacher and a Scout leader, and we tipped him for his knowledge and trustworthiness. He is shown posing in the picture with Matt and Mike.
As the carved cedar plaque affixed to the outside back wall of the cottage indicates, Paxtu was the “cottage [that] was built for Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell O.M., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.C.B., founder of the Boy Scout movement who lived here from October 1938 until his death on 8th January 1941.” The KSA pamphlet “Paxtu: Baden-Powell’s Home at Nyeri, Kenya” provides an excellent history of the site. Although not dated, it appears to have been printed in the 1960s.
“B-P first visited East Africa – each of the present countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania – in 1906, and he recorded his impressions both in words and pictures in his book Sketches in Mafeking and East Africa, published in 1907.
“He did not come here again until late in 1935 when he carried out inspections of Scouts at rallies organized throughout the country. He then visited his old friend, Major E. Sherbrooke Walker, M.C., who had been B-P’s first private secretary after the founding of the Boy Scout Movement and who still has in his possession the first Scouter’s Warrant ever issued. After numerous adventures Eric Walker had built the Outspan Hotel in Nyeri and the still more famous Treetops. [The original Treetops burned to the ground in 1955; a larger building has replaced it.] B-P once again fell in love with ‘the wonderful views over the plains to the bold snow peak of Mount Kenya,’ described after his visit in 1906, and so when ordered by his doctor to rest in the winter of 1937 it was to Nyeri that he came.
“’When he left us,’ wrote Eric Walker in his book Treetops Hotel describing B-P’s departure from Kenya in 1938, ‘Lord Baden-Powell was getting on in years.’ (He was, in fact, 81.) ‘The nearer to Nyeri, the nearer to bliss,’ he said, ‘I am coming to spend the rest of my life at the Outspan.’
“’And he asked us to build him a cottage before he came back for what he said was to be the third and last time. He picked a site in the garden. ‘What,’ he said, ‘will it cost to build a little house with a sitting room, a large veranda, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two fireplaces?’
“’I made a rapid calculation. ‘Twelve hundred square feet at ten shillings per square foot,’ I replied, ‘comes to six hundred pounds.’ (Would that we could build for that cost now!)
“’He accordingly took up shares in our little company to that value, for which we built the house, furnished it, and made him a private garden, gay with flowers, and with a fountain, and bird-bath in front of the veranda. He had a discussion as to what he would call the cottage and thought of a number of names. Finally he said: ‘I named my home at Bentley ‘Pax’ because we bought it on Armistice Day after the First War. [Armistice Day was the day the war ended: November 11, 1918. Pax is the Latin word for “peace.”] I think I will call my cottage here ‘Pax,’ too.’
“’After that it was always known as ‘Paxtoo,’ or ‘Paxtu.’ “B-P and Lady B-P had celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their wedding in 1937 and Scouts and Guides all over the world had subscribed for a present for them.
“’We have utilized part of the Silver Wedding gift from Scouts and Guides,’ wrote B-P in The Scouter for May, 1938, ‘in building for ourselves a cottage at Nyeri. We have named it ‘Paxtu,’ since it will be a second ‘Pax’ to us, and a permanent reminder of the generous goodwill of the Movement.’
“In October, 1938, he came back to Nyeri to live in Paxtu, and never left East Africa again.
“A description of the house was given by B-P in a letter to the actor, Cyril Maude, in 1939:-
“’We sit here in incessant sunshine (with showers to water our garden) and never since we came, four months ago, have we failed to have brilliant sunshine for a breakfast on the veranda. I enclose a photo of the shack we had built for us and we find it in every way excellent. Sitting-room in the center with the whole front open, with folding glass doors. On each side of it a bedroom with dressing-room, bath, cloak-room, etc., and servants’ pantry at the back, with a covered way to the hotel 200 yards away, whence come all our meals. We have hot and cold water laid on, with electric light and heating, a delightful garden (much grown up since the photo) and a glorious view across the forest and plain up to Mount Kenya with its snowy top.’ “The cottage remains very much as it was when he first had it built, though the old makuti roof has been replaced by an iron one, and the garden which in recent years had got out-of-hand was rather drastically tidied up in 1964, but the fountain and bird-bath remain. The cottage is now joined to the main block of the hotel with a series of apartments.”
Additional insights on B-P at Paxtu can be found on page 412 of Baden-Powell: Two Lives of a Hero by William (”Green Bar Bill”) Hillcourt: For the first time in their many married years, B-P and Olave were completely alone together, without the interference and interruption of thousands of people. ‘We are utterly and supremely happy here,’ Olave wrote to her children, ‘and almost every other minute we keep saying to each other how heavenly it is and how lucky we are to be here.’
“For the first time in B-P’s life he was not under pressure of deadlines he must meet, appointments he must keep, conferences her must attend, rallies he must review, of things that needed to be done. When he finally accepted the fact that his enforced retirement was permanent [due to declining health], he pushed all anxiety aside and choked off all qualms of his conscience telling him he must do this and that. He could not be idle, though. When he no longer felt ill, he had a block and paper at his side at all times, so he could scribble things. He established a bird bath and a bird feeder in front of his verandah and spent hours watching the bright-coloured birds that descended on them. He adopted a couple of hyrax as pets and greatly enjoyed their antics.
“When he was well enough again to walk in the garden, to take short motor trips, to spend an occasional night at Tree Tops, he started to write up his experiences with African ‘birds and beasts’ and to make sketches and water-colours of the animals he saw on his excursions. Most of his articles he sent home to England where they were published in The Daily Mail or in The Scout. They were afterwards collected and edited by Eileen Wade and published in book form with reproductions of some of the water-colours: Birds and Beasts in Africa, Paddle Your Own Canoe, and More Sketches of Kenya.“
For 100 Kenyan shillings ($1.43) per person, we had the hotel open up Paxtu for a visit. The only rooms open to visitors are the main sitting-room and a tiny alcove immediately to the right of the entry door. The main room is quite small (perhaps 12’ x 12’) and is a shrine to B-P, with Scouting memorabilia of all kinds – especially neckerchiefs and framed photos – hanging from the fireplace mantel and walls. B-P’s old black telephone was resting on a high table stand near the fireplace, and even had a dial tone! One wall included some of B-P’s original pencil illustrations, a real thrill. The alcove was only as large as a good-sized walk-in closet in a new Atlanta house, but its walls also were decorated with interesting memorabilia left as gifts by grateful Scouts and Scouters. Five steps lead from the cottage to the garden, now fashioned in plants and flowers in the Boy Scout and Girl Guide emblems. In the nearly 60 years since B-P’s death, tall trees have grown up at the property line, cutting the view of Mount Kenya (although the haze may have prevented us from seeing it that day.)
In the main sitting-room, I placed on the mantel a red BSA neckerchief with gold embroidered piping on top of a group of 10 other scarves that had been arranged there from Scouts and Scouters from all over the world. The hotel attendant arranged two other neckerchiefs I brought with me (a green one and a black one – with the red one forming the Kenya national colors) on one of the walls. In a scrapbook lying on a center table, I inserted a business card with the notation, “From the Scouts and Scouters of BSA Troop 764, Dunwoody, Georgia,” an Atlanta Area Council shoulder patch, and a large oval patch bearing B-P’s likeness and the words, “Boy Scouts of America – Atlanta.”
In the guest book, we signed in, and when I turned the page back one page, I was astonished to read an entry made two days prior: “Joe Pugh, Atlanta, Georgia,” with the comments: “A Pilgrimage Fulfilled.” Joe was one of my instructors for Wood Badge course 92-36!
Of the limited items for sale, we bought the “Paxtu” brochure, two different postcards of B-P’s illustrations, and a Girl Guides patch (white square with red country-map and Girl Guide emblem inside, a giraffe, and the words “Karibuni (Welcome All) Kenya”). It was hard to believe that we were actually here. Prolonging our stay, not to mention feeding a big hunger now that it was 3:00, we ate lunch of pizza and Coke at an outdoor table at the Outspan Hotel.
The Scout Promise
On my honour I promise that I will do my best:-
To do my duty to God, and my Country,
To help other people at all times, and
To obey the Scout Law.
1. A SCOUT’S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED. If a scout says “On my honour it is so,” that means it is so, just as if he had taken a most solemn oath. Similarly, if a scout officer says to a scout, “I trust you on your honour to do this,” the Scout is bound to carry out the order to the very best of his ability, and to let nothing interfere with his doing so. If a scout were to break his honour by telling a lie, or by not carrying out an order exactly when trusted on his honour to do so, he would cease to be a scout, and must hand over his scout badge and never be allowed to wear it again—he loses his life.
2. A SCOUT IS LOYAL to the King, and to his officers, and to his country, and to his employers. He must stick to them through thick and thin against anyone who is their enemy, or who even talks badly of them.
3. A SCOUT’S DUTY IS TO BE USEFUL AND TO HELP OTHERS. And he is to do his duty before anything else, even though he gives up his own pleasure, or comfort, or safety to do it. When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, he must ask himself, “Which is my duty?” that is, “Which is best for other people?”—and do that one. He must Be Prepared at any time to save life, or to help injured persons. And he must do a good turn to somebody every day.
4. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ALL, AND A BROTHER TO EVERY OTHER SCOUT, NO MATTER TO WHAT SOCIAL CLASS THE OTHER BELONGS. If a scout meets another scout, even though a stranger to him, he must speak to him, and help him in any way that he can, either to carry out the duty he is then doing, or by giving him food, or, as far as possible, anything that he may be in want of. A scout must never be a SNOB. A snob is one who looks down upon another because he is poorer, or who is poor and resents another because he is rich. A scout accepts the other man as he finds him, and makes the best of him — “Kim,” the boy scout, was called by the Indians “Little friend of all the world,” and that is the name which every scout should earn for himself.
5. A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS: That is, he is polite to all–but especially to women and children and old people and invalids, cripples, etc. And he must not take any reward for being helpful or courteous.
6. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ANIMALS. He should save them as far as possible from pain, and should not kill any animal unnecessarily, even if it is only a fly—for it is one of God’s creatures.
7. A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS of his patrol-leader, or scout master without question. Even if he gets an order he does not like, he must do as soldiers and sailors do, he must carry it out all the same because it is his duty; and after he has done it he can come and state any reasons against it: but he must carry out the order at once. That is discipline.
8. A SCOUT SMILES AND WHISTLES under all circumstances. When he gets an order he should obey it cheerily and readily, not in a slow, hang-dog sort of way. Scouts never grouse at hardships, nor whine at each other, nor swear when put out. When you just miss a train, or some one treads on your favourite corn—not that a scout ought to have such things as corns— or under any annoying circumstances, you should force yourself to smile at once, and then whistle a tune, and you will be all right. A scout goes about with a smile on and whistling. It cheers him and cheers other people, especially in time of danger, for he keeps it up then all the same. The punishment for swearing or bad language is for each offence a mug of cold water to be poured down the offender’s sleeve by the other scouts.
9. A SCOUT IS THRIFTY, that is, he saves every penny he can, and puts it in the bank, so that he may have money to keep himself when out of work, and thus not make himself a burden to others; or that he may have money to give away to others when they need it.
These were written for the Scouts in the whole world, yet of course firstly focused on Scouting in the United Kingdom. As other groups started up Scouting organizations (often in other countries), each modified the laws, for instance ‘loyal to the King’ would be replaced by the equivalent text appropriate for each country.
During the years, Baden-Powell himself edited the text numerous times, notably in 1911 adding:
10. A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED. Decent Scouts look down upon silly youths who talk dirt, and they do not let themselves give way to temptation, either to talk it or to do anything dirty. A Scout is pure, and clean-minded, and manly.
The Scout Law Prayer
(This prayer is designed to demonstrate the Scout Law)
Dear Lord, Bless all those everywhere who contribute to shape the hearts, minds and bodies of young people. Let us remember what they have taught and apply it daily.
When facing deceit and dishonesty, let us be Trustworthy.
If we see hypocrisy and faithlessness, let us be Loyal.
Where disregard of others and mere materialism prevail, let us be Helpful.
When we find people in despair, let us be Friendly.
In an atmosphere of ill manner, let us be Courteous.
Where some measure manliness in brutality and crudeness, let us be Kind.
Though lawbreaking and rule-scoffing are common, let us be Obedient.
While others grumble and grouch, let us be Cheerful.
In an environment blighted by waste and extravagance, let us be Thrifty.
When confronted with danger and temptation, let us be Brave.
As we see filth and pollution everywhere, let us be Clean.
While witnessing impiety, let us remember to be Reverent.
In short, in a world that has for generation after generation lamented the lack of good examples, let us, as Scouts, stand out, grow up, and be real adults.
The Scouting part of our trip gave me pause to reflect on some very basic aspects of life. It reinforced the magnitude of Scouting throughout the world and the true greatness of the man who started this movement. Who would have thought that a general, who in his time achieved the same stature that Eisenhower did after World War II, would turn his attention when he was in his 50s to a completely new journey — and create a system to engage boys in purposeful fun at a time when so many were being offered only the mean streets of turn-of-the-century industrial England! To see how this great man lived in such simple, humble accommodations at Paxtu, surrounded by his version of wealth – nature — provides a stark contrast to our end-of-the-century obsession with material wealth.
If you want to read a book that will truly inspire you, whether you’re in Scouting or not, read Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero. It’s a great read but hard to find outside of amazon.com. I’ve used it as a gift at Wood Badge award ceremonies.
Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya, and the second-highest in Africa (after Mount Kilimanjaro). The highest peaks of the mountain are Batian (5,199 m), Nelion (5,188 m) and Lenana (4,985 m). Mount Kenya is located in central Kenya, just south of the equator, over 100 miles northeast of Nairobi.
The mountain is an extinct (dead) volcano standing alone, which last erupted between 2.6 and 3.1 million years ago. Its slopes include several different biomes; the lowest parts are dry upland forest, changing to montane forest of juniper and podocarpus at about 2,000 m, with a belt of bamboo at 2,500 m that changes to an upper forest of smaller trees covered with moss and “goat’s beard” lichen. Above a distinct timberline at about 3,500m (11,000 feet), there is an afroalpine zone, with its characteristic giant rosette plants. Twelve small (and rapidly shrinking) glaciers may be found scattered among the complex of seven named peaks, of which Batian and Nelion are the highest.
The area around the mountain is protected in the Mount Kenya National Park.
The missionary Johann Ludwig Krapf was the first European to report a sighting of Mount Kenya, in 1849. The first recorded ascent of Mount Kenya was made by Halford John Mackinder, C. Ollier and J. Brocherel on 13 September 1899. The highest point (Batian) is a technical climb; the classic Diamond Couloir climbing route is a Grade IV of about 20 pitches, up to YDS 5.9 in difficulty. Nelion was first climbed by Eric Shipton in 1929, and Shipton and Bill Tilman completed the traverse of the ridge between the two highest peaks. Point Lenana, at 4,985 metres (16,354 ft), can be reached by a hiking trail. Mount Kenya is best climbed in January or February on the south side and August or September on the north side.
Mount Kenya is home to one of the Global Atmosphere Watch’s atmospheric monitoring stations.
On July 21, 2003, a South African registered aircraft, carrying 12 passengers and two crew, crashed into Mount Kenya at Point Lenana: nobody survived. This was not the first aircraft lost on the mountain; there is also the wreckage of at least one helicopter that crashed before 1972.
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