Baden-Powell's Last Messages
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Thu, 22 Sep 1994 00:48:08 -0400
Chuck Bramlet in his posting on Tue, 20 Sep 1994 quoted a reading at a
Scoutmastership Fundamentals course in Thunderbird District, Grand Canyon
Council. Since his posting there have been some questions about its date.
After doing a little research, I found that the message Chuck requoted
from his trainers was one of several last messages written by Baden-Powell
in his 83rd year of life, that the requoted message was part of longer
message to Scouters and Guides, that the requoted message dropped
references to Guiders (Girl Guides Leaders) and that some of the requoted
sections were reworded and/or omitted key phrases.
The circumstances of the message are these: Baden-Powell's health was
seriously deteriorating and by September 1940, he was acutely aware that
the end was in sight. While Olave was in Nairobi on Girl Guide business,
he pulled out his old battered suitcase and withdrew an envelope that
carried the instruction "In the event of my death . . ." Realizing that
he might not have another chance, he penned his four last messages and
added them to the contents of that envelope. They included a last message
to the Boy Scouts, to the Girl Guides, to My Brother Scouters and Guides,
and to the General Public. These messages remained in the envelope until
after his death on January 8, 1941 at 5:45 A.M. (local time in Kenya).
Those messages were released shortly after his death in 1941 and have
since been attributed to him in 1941, although they were written in
The actual text of the last message that Chuck's trainers were attempting to
quote is as follows:
"To MY BROTHER SCOUTERS AND GUIDES: Cecil Rhodes said at the end of his
life (and I, in my turn feel the truth of it), 'So much to do and so
little time to do it.'
"No one can hope to see the consumation, as well as the start, of a big
venture within the short span of one life-time.
"I have had an extraordinary experience in seeing the development of
Scouting from its beginning up to its present stage.
"But there is a vast job before it. The Movement is only now getting into
its stride. (When I speak of Scouting I include in it Guiding also.)
"The one part which I can claim as mine towards promoting the Movement is
that I have been lucky enough to find you men and women to form a group of
the right stamp who can be relied upon to carry it on to its goal.
"You will do well to keep your eyes open, in your turn, for worthy
successors to whom you can with confidence, hand on the torch. Don't let
it become a salaried organization: keep it a voluntary movement of
"The Movement has already, in the comparatively short period of its
existence, established itself onto a wide and so strong a footing as to
show most encouraging promise of what may be possible to it in the coming
"Its aim is to produce healthy, happy, healthful citizens, of both sexes,
to eradicate the prevailing narrow self interest, personal, political,
sectarian and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of self-
sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity; and thus to develop mutual
goodwill and cooperation not only within our own country, but abroad,
between all countries.
"Experience shows that this consummation is no idle or fantastic dream, but
is a practical possibility - if we work for it; and it means, when
attained, peace, prosperity, and happiness for all.
"The 'encouraging promise' lies in the fact that the hundreds of thousands
of boys and girls who are learning our ideals to-day will be the fathers
and mothers of millions in the future, in whom they will in turn
inculcate the same ideals -- provided that these are really and unmistakenly
impressed upon them by their leaders of to-day.
"Therefore you, who are Scouters and Guiders, are not only doing a great work
for your neighbors' children but also helping in a practical fashion to pass
God's Kingdom of peace and goodwill upon earth.
"So, from my heart, I wish you God-speed in your effort."
Source: Hillcourt, William, Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero, 80th
Birthday Ed. BSA (1985).
It is unfortunate that someone decided to edit Baden-Powell's message. By
so doing, that individual has short-changed many Scouters and altered the
full meaning behind the message. Perhaps someone thought it unpolitic to
quote the section admonishing Scouters against a salaried organization,
given BSA's professional staff of paid Scouters. Whatever the reason, I
think that it was reprehensible and in poor taste. However well-
intentioned, the person that altered B-P's last message in this manner
acted in a way that is not much different than the communist pseudo-historians
that rewrote Soviet history with the ascent of each new leader. If this
be regarded as a flame to the "editor" then it should be borne with shame.
Chuck, I am sorry that someone along the line decided that he/she had a
better pen than B-P and that you only got half the message from your
trainers as a consequence. But you were right to offer the idea of B-P's
messages as candidates for a Scoutmaster's or Commissioner's minute. Read in
their entirety and proper context, they are very inspirational. Please
don't take offense that I launched on the "editor." My comments are not
directed at you, but instead at the unknown "editor." I'm just
old-fashioned enough that I still like to see things done right and
Yours in Scouting, Michael F. Bowman, a/k/a Professor Beaver
Deputy District Commissioner Exploring, GW Dist., NCAC, BSA
Speaking only for myself, but with Scouting Spirit . . .
____ mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU ____
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City