African Seeds

Baden-Powell - the hero of Mafeking?



Mafeking was besieged for 217 days before the British army arrived to relieve the town. Back in Britain, the papers every day carried news of the "plucky defenders" under Baden-Powell... B-P... Impeesa, the wolf that never sleeps...

The town's defenders became the heroes of the British Empire, like a sports team taking on a much more powerful side, and still holding out against them... And B-P, the captain of the Mafeking side, became famous for his stories of bluff and courage - his jaunty messages like "Four hours bombardment. One dog killed" made him a favourite of the British press, and a welcome change from the stories of defeats and frustration at the hands of the Boer forces.

When Britain heard that Mafeking had been relieved after 217 days, the news spread like wildfire, and huge street parties sprang up as thousands of people celebrated this important symbolic victory.

When B-P eventually returned from the war, he went first to Cape Town, where he received a huge welcome from the crowds. At the port of Southampton, where he finally returned to Britain, the crowds again welcomed their returning hero.

Mafeking was famous and Baden-Powell was a hero in his own country. But who could guess that the most famous product of the siege would come from the group of boys who made up the Mafeking Cadets? Under their leader Warner Goodyear, the boys of Mafeking were the model for the Scout movement which soon grew to virtually every country of the world...

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Hillcourt, Baden-Powell: the two lives of a hero
Macdonald, Sons of the Empire: the frontier and the Boy Scout movement