African Seeds

The Mafeking Cadets

Seed

Mafeking Cadet
`We had an example of how useful Boy Scouts can be on active service, when a corps of boys was formed in the defence of Mafeking, 1899-1900.'
Mafeking was a small town in South Africa, and when it was surrounded by the Boer army, Baden-Powell had only a few hundred soldiers to defend it. Every soldier was vital for the firing line, and there were many jobs which needed doing, carrying messages, look-out duty, helping in the hospitals, and many others.

B-P put his chief-of-staff, Major Lord Edward Cecil, to work. He quickly formed a Cadet Corps of 18 boys, aged 9 and older. He chose a young leader to be the sergeant-major of the cadet corps, Warner Goodyear.

The Mafeking Cadets had their own uniform: khaki uniforms, wide-brimmed hats (with the brim turned up on one side), or caps.

Before long the boys were well trained in delivering messages between the town defences, assist as orderlies, help in the hospitals, and act as lookouts to warn the forces when attacks were expected, and also to warn the townsfolk when the big Boer siege gun was aimed at the town, to give them a chance to take cover before the shell arrived.

Now the boys had something to do in the town rather than just running around collecting parts of shells that had exploded! They took to their new job with pride, and were soon a recognised part of the town defences. The corps was soon enlarged from 18 to 40 boys.

First the cadets took messages by donkey, but as the food in the town ran out, the stock of donkeys gradually ended up in the kitchen! So instead they used bicycles, and often had to deliver messages by bicycle under heavy fire. In one famous story, B-P warned one of the boys that he could get hit, and he replied `I pedal so quick, sir, that they'll never catch me.'

When the town ran out of stamps during the siege, they needed a special design to print new stamps. Since all the letters were delivered by the cadets, the new design showed the leader of the Cadet Corps, Warner Goodyear, seated on his bicycle. After the siege, the special Mafeking stamps became collectors' items all over the British Empire.


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Sources:
Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys
Hillcourt, Baden-Powell: the two lives of a hero
Grinnell-Milne, Mafeking