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Robert Baden-Powell (Hardback)

A Biography

P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History P&S History > Social Science & Culture > Politics

By Lorraine Gibson, Foreword by Bear Grylls OBE
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399009300
Published: 21st September 2022



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Robert Baden-Powell was Britain’s first celebrity.

A conflicted character - militarist and pacifist, macho man and drag artist, elitist and socialist - he was one of the 20th century’s most influential and, latterly, controversial Englishmen, finding fame not once, but twice – and for two very different reasons.

Before donning his trademark shorts, the man known for inventing the Scouts is hailed a hero of the Second Boer War, the first military conflict covered in great detail by the media.

Reports of his unconventional methods of holding a Boer army at bay, despite being woefully outnumbered, at the South African town of Mafeking, make global headlines and when he returns home to England, hordes of adoring fans pack London’s streets, waving flags and declaring him the Hero of Mafeking.

The same ingenuity, reconnaissance skills and spectacular eccentricity that win him this military acclaim become the foundations of his second mission, that of saving Victorian boys from poverty and despair, and himself from having to grow up, by teaching them scouting.

A youth movement is born which today boasts 54 million members throughout the world.

This book examines Baden-Powell’s dual personality, or his ‘two lives’ as he called them, including his difficult childhood with a domineering and unaffectionate mother whom he loved even after she forced him into the army at 19, dashing his dreams of becoming an artist.

It looks at his military career and his love of drama and at why protesters wanted to topple his statue on Poole Quay in the pandemic summer of 2020.

It also considers a recently-discovered telegraph that adds fuel to the speculation over the nature of his relationship with a fellow-soldier that endured for 30 years - until he married a 22-year-old woman in secret when he was 55.

Baden-Powell achieved great prominence, as well as notoriety, in both his military and scouting lives, driven largely by a constant yearning to win his mother’s approval.

As featured in the Bournemouth Directory.

The Bournemouth Directory

'Famed for his actions as the garrison commander during the Siege of Mafeking in the Boer War and for founding the world’s largest youth movement, Baden-Powell is an unorthodox yet deeply fascinating figure. Weaving together the fundamental theme of Baden-Powell’s life – that of possessing ‘two lives’ – author Lorraine Gibson charts the journey of the chief scout from boyhood to war hero across 11 chapters.
'Gibson does not shy from detailing the more controversial aspects of Baden-Powell’s life – to whit, the Matabele Incident, a contentious and sensitive event that saw Baden-Powell summarily executing a surrendered war chief after giving him the promise of safe passage. Written in expert prose, this is a gripping dive into the life of one of Britain’s most divisive yet celebrated characters.'
As featured by Britain At War magazine

Tom Baker, Britain At War

Featured on Blackmore Vale Podcast

Blackmore Vale Podcast

Article: Robert Baden-Powell: A Biography


Article:'Scouting Legend Was A Real High Flier'

The New Stour and Avon Magazine

As seen in Blackmore Vale Magazine

Blackmore Vale Magazine

Excellent biography of the man who helped shape some of the world's youngsters into behaving properly, helping others as a matter of course, and achieving some kind of independence from their parents. It never appealed to me, but two of my cousins and their father were deeply involved, and I can understand why.

Books Monthly

Thought provoking analysis - an insightful, fresh look at the life of a challenging character who lived through changing times but never fully left his boyhood behind.

Amazon customer

Whatever view one may hold of the man we cannot deny the fact that he was instrumental in founding one of the greatest ever youth movements. Lorraine Gibson is to be commended on this her first book in choosing such an eccentric and complex personality with an equally intricate life along with the many traits and themes associated with Baden-Powell and the era. Deeply researched, very readable, with a neutral path that allows the reader to reach their own conclusions about this very complex personality this work is a valuable addition to the historiography of the period and the person.

The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

A really good read and one of the better biographies I have read of the man.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

Ever since the 1930s, when I was a cub Scout in Dover, Robert Baden-Powell has been one of my heroes. This view of the founder of the international Boy Scout movement increased when I discovered he served in the army's 13th Hussars (later merged with the 18th Hussars 13th/18th in which I too served). He fighting in the Boer Wars: me as a fed-up conscript in 1947-49!
There's no doubt Baden-Powell was a complex controversial character. Some consider him as the moist influential Englishman of the twentieth century with his reputation built on his defence of Mafeking during the Second Boer War and the forming of the Boy Scout movement which today claims 50 million members in 223 countries across the world.
He died in Africa in January 1941 and is buried in a churchyard in Nyeri in Kenya with his grave marked with a simple white headstone.
As is usual there are those who put heroes on a pedestal only waiting to knock them down as soon as they die. It's a journalists' old trick.
There are those who allege Baden-Powell had fascist tendencies, was racist, a militarist, anti-Semitist, and a sadist. His critics point out that at one stage he was in favour of Hitler's Nazi policies and thought Mein Kampf was a "wonderful book".
A new biography, by Lorraine Gibson, raises the question about Baden-Powell's relationship with another young army officer with whom he at one time shared a home. They enjoyed shared experiences.
But, despite all the doubts, Baden-Powell today is still held in the highest esteem by millions of people around the world.
And I am one of them.

Terry Sutton MBE 

Article: 'The two lives of Baden-Powell'

The Purbeck Gazette

As featured in

The Bookseller

As featured in

The Bookseller

As featured in Dorset Biz News

Andrew Diprose

About Lorraine Gibson

LORRAINE GIBSON is an award-winning journalist of more than twenty years, who cut her writing teeth on her local newspaper. She is widely published in both regional and national titles and is now a freelance writer. She is also the author of Robert Baden-Powell: A Biography (Pen & Sword History, 2022).

Elvis: The King of Fashion arises from childhood memories of her parents playing Elvis records and of watching his films through the school holidays. The films ignited Lorraine’s fascination with the colourful outfits that he wore. Who needed a Sindy doll when you had a singing, dancing Elvis in Hawaiian shirts, Latin boleros, uniforms, sharp suits and prison outfits? Later, it was the iconic fashion looks that Elvis wore through the decades that captured her imagination. So, when pressed by her family about who she would write about after Baden-Powell, she decided it had to be Elvis.

She travelled to Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis suddenly leapt to fame in the early 1950s. She soaked up its unique atmosphere, walked in Elvis’s footsteps, visited his old haunts and his homes and met endless interesting, welcoming and helpful people, many of whom contributed to her book. Elvis: The King of Fashion is the result.

Lorraine lives in Dorset with her husband, two teenage daughters and Florence, the cat.

Born on this day - Robert Baden-Powell

22nd February 1857

Baden-Powell was a British general who became a national hero during the Boer War (1899-1900), during which time he wrote "Aids to Scouting". This military textbook served as inspiration for the modern Scouting movement, which Baden-Powell founded in 1908.

The Birth of Scouting

1st August 1907

Robert Baden-Powell invited twenty boys to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour to participate in an experimental project. He wanted to see if his proposed scheme of activities, based on his successful Army training manual, would appeal to a broad range of young people and so, he recruited ten boys from public schools and ten from local Boys' Brigades branches in Bournemouth and Poole. rnThe boys, aged 10 to 16, were divided into four patrols; wolves, bulls, curlews and ravens with four of the older boys given the rank of Patrol Leader. It was a huge success and marked the beginning of organised scouting as we know it today.rnOn the back of the trial, Scouting For Boys was published the following year.

Robert Baden-Powell's 'Scouting for Boys' is published

15th January 1908

The first edition in a series of by-weekly activities booklets entitled Scouting for Boys was published. It cost 4d and flew off the shelves, as did all the editions that followed. It became the handbook of tens of thousands of new scouts up and down the country and inspired boys up and down the country to form groups to carry out B-P’s scouting instructions.

Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell publishes "Scouting for Boys" as a manual for self-instruction in outdoor skills and self-improvement.

24th January 1908

The book becomes the inspiration for the Scout Movement.

Died on this day - Robert Baden-Powell

8th January 1941

Baden-Powell was a British general who became a national hero during the Boer War (1899-1900), during which time he wrote "Aids to Scouting". This military textbook served as inspiration for the modern Scouting movement, which Baden-Powell founded in 1908. This movement quickly proliferated, and its popularity led to the establishment of Girl Guides, a parallel organization for girls in 1910.

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