Magazine Sneak Peek: The Marvelous Origin of the Boy Scouts
While we've never been Boy Scouts, the story of how Robert Baden-Powell recruited and employed teenage boys to help the British fight a war is incredible. Baden-Powell's entire biography is pretty fascinating, but his ingenuity in the time of war really struck us. Here's a peek:
When the Second Boer War erupted in October, the Colonel and his 500 troops found themselves surrounded by 8000 Boer soldiers. With little else in his arsenal, Baden-Powell engaged the art of deception. If he could make the Boers believe that Mafeking was better defended than it really was, he thought he could keep them at bay. And so the theatrics began. The 42-year-old Colonel ordered his troops to look as though they were planting minefields, although they had no mines. He ordered them to create gun turrets, although they had neither the manpower nor the artillery to arm them. To make the perimeter seem well-guarded, Baden-Powell made his men pretend to avoid barbed wire along the edge of town. He even had them parade around at night with a fake searchlight, made from a lamp and a biscuit tin.
While many of Baden-Powell's stratagems were rooted in make-believe, at least one of his tactics was rooted in reality. He recruited a troop of boys, ages 12 to 15 from the town, and christened them the Mafeking Cadet Corps"¦"