BP - Spy? Scouting Trivia
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sun, 23 Feb 1997 05:25:40 -0500
For the better part of eighty years there have been rumors and question
as to whether Baden-Powell was a spy during World War I. E.E. Reynolds
in his book "Baden-Powell: A Biography of Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell,
Oxford University Press: London (1942) sheds some light on the issue.
Apparently there was a lot of speculation as to why B-P wasn't given an
active commission in charge of a division. Lord Kitchner publically
stated that B-P's work with Scouting was too important, that he had lots
of generals to assign, but nobody else was qualified to lead Scouting in
the good work it was doing.
Early in the War he visited the Front several times and wrote a book called "Quick Training for War" to help
new recruits. About 1915 he wrote another book entitled "My Adventures
as a Spy" (later retitled "The Adventures of a Spy"). [In 1889 B-P had
served as Intelligence Officer for the Mediterranean. Earlier in 1986
he had been engaged in espionage in Russia, where he was arrested and
taken to St. Petersburg, where with the help of a German officer he
escaped by ship.]
During these war years traveled often raising money to be used for
building huts for soldiers on the front and organized the Sea Scouts to do
coast watching with the Navy.
In 1916 a Chicago newspaper reported that B-P had been executed for
spying for the Germans. A Pittsburg newspaper got the story a little
differently and reported that B-P was in the Tower of London. When
informed of the report, B-P wrote back:
I regret that the report that I am sojourning in the Tower of London,
under a charge of espionage, cannot be correct, as I was taken out and
shot over a month ago (according to a Chicago newspaper). I am not clear
which country I was spying for, but at the moment I am fairly busy on
work for Great Britain."
And during the last year of the war (1918) he did visit Spain to look
over the Scouting Movement and in the process managed to make some
inquiries into the use German submarines were making of Spanish ports.
I would suspect that the foregoing was sufficient to make Hitler believe
that B-P was a spy and dangerous.
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
Dep.Dist.Commissioner-Training, G.W.Dist., NCAC, BSA (Virginia)
U. S. Scouting Service Project FTP Site Administrator (PC Area)
ftp1 or ftp2.scouter.com/usscouts E-mail: email@example.com
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