On his return from Africa in 1903, Baden-Powell found that his military training manual, Aids to Scouting, had become a best-seller, and was being used by teachers and youth organisations. Following his involvement in the Boys’ Brigade as Brigade Secretary and Officer in charge of its scouting section, with encouragement from his friend, William Alexander Smith, Baden-Powell decided to re-write Aids to Scouting to suit a youth readership. In August 1907 he held a camp on Brownsea Island to test out his ideas. About twenty boys attended: eight from local Boys’ Brigade companies, and about twelve public school boys, mostly sons of his friends.
Baden-Powell was also influenced by Earnest Thompson Seton, who founded the Woodcraft Indians. Seton gave Baden-Powell a copy of his book The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians and they met in 1906. The first book on the Scout Movement, Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys was published in six instalments in 1908, and has sold around 150 million copies making it the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century.
Boys and girls spontaneously formed Scout troops and the Scouting Movement had inadvertently started, first as a national, and soon an international phenomenon. A rally of scouts was held at Crystal palace in London in 1909, at which Baden-Powell met some of the first Girl Scouts. The Girl Guides were subsequently formed in 1910 under the auspices of Baden-Powell’s sister, Agnes Baden-Powell.
In 1920, the 1st World Scout Jamboree took place in Olympia in West Kensington, and Baden-Powell was acclaimed Chief Scout of the World. Baden-Powell was created a Baronet in 1921 and Baron Baden-Powell of Gilwell, in the County of Essex, on 17 September 1929, Gillwell park being the International Scout Leader training centre. After receiving this honour, Baden-Powell mostly styled himself “Baden-Powell of Gilwell”.
Under his dedicated command the world Scouting movement grew. By 1922 there were more than a million Scouts in 32 countries; by 1939 the number of Scouts was in excess of 3.3 million.
At the 5th World scout Jamboree in 1937, Baden-Powell gave his farewell to Scouting, and retired from public Scouting life. 22 February, the joint birthday of Robert and Olave Baden-Powell, continues to be marked as ‘Founder’s Day’ by Scouts and ‘Thinking Day’ by Guides to remember and celebrate the work of the Chief Scout and Chief Guide of the World.
In his final letter to the Scouts, Baden-Powell wrote:
… I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one. But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.