Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell of Gilwell (1857-1941)
Baden-Powell was the British soldier who founded the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movement. During the Boer War (1899-1902) he won renown for holding Mafeking against a Boer siege for a grisly 217 days. He later organized the South African constabulary. Having formed the Boy Scouts (1908) and, with his sister Agnes Baden-Powell, the Girl Guides (1909), Baden-Powell devoted the rest of his life to the scouting movement, writing many books on scouting, of which the best known is the much parodied 'Scouting For Boys'.
From: Jeal, Tim. Baden-Powell. Hutchinson. London, 1989. (680 pages. Illust.) These extracts really don't do justice either to Jeals's immense and definitive biography, nor to Baden-Powell's complex personality. If you want a more rounded picture, you should read the book.
"The evidence available points inexorably to the conclusion that Baden-Powell was a repressed homosexual."
"At Gilwell Park, the Scouts' camping ground in Epping Forest, he always enjoyed watching the boys swimming naked, and would sometimes chat with them after they had 'just stripped off'. When public censoriousness finally turned against male nudity, treating it in the same way as female nudity, Baden-Powell was appaled."
"Although Baden-Powell publicly stated that flogging might be a deterrent to Scouters [Scout Masters] who abused the trust placed in them, he allowed Patterson and Byrne [of Gilwell Park] to escape unscathed. Headquarters evidently preffered not to let it be known that for almost fifteen years the one job in the Movement requiring men of unimpeachable integrity had been occupied by a succession of active paederasts."
"Another incident illustrative of Baden-Powell's appreciation of naked boys occurred at Charterhouse, when he was staying overnight at the school with his old friend A. H. Tod, who had been in the Rifle Corps and in the football 1st XI with him. In November 1919 Tod was over the retirement age but still teaching because it was wartime and all the younger staff had joined up. 'Stayed with Tod,' Stephe wrote in his diary. 'Tod's photos of naked boys and trees etc. Excellent.'. That a bachelor housemaster should have taken large numbers of nude photographs of his boys evidently did not strike Baden-Powell as undesirable. A few days later he wrote to Tod about starting a Scout troop at the school and added that he would soon be visiting Charterhouse again, 'which will give me the opportunity of seeing the football; and possibly I might get a further look at those wonderful photographs of yours!'
This album of 'figure studies', as Tod described it, was still in the library at Charterhouse in the mid-1960s, but by the end of that permissive decade had been destroyed. This appalling act was undertaken 'to protect Tod's reputation' and out of deference to the feelings of the sons and grandsons of the boys depicted. Fortunately the rest of Tod's albums were spared and they comprise what must be finest single photographic record in existence of public school life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. So what were the missing albums' contents' ?
According to one source the nude figures were 'contrived and artificial as regards poses', which makes them sound like those late Victorian pseudo-classical nude photographs which were really pornography but were sold under the guise of art. In the same way as an artistic publication like 'The Artist and Journal of Home Culture' appealed to homosexuals with its illustrations and its homoerotic poetry. [...] There is little doubt that Tod was a repressed homosexual; as indeed were many public school masters. The majority managed to follow Plato's prescription glorifying the love of man for man, or man for boy, while remaining physically chaste."
"Baden-Powell was in a position of trust which made watching, at one remove, the only way to satisfy his interest. The other was to seek the company of men like Tod, who lived in close contact with young males. Through their shared memories of Charterhouse and their undoubted 'sentimentalism', which in both their cases found no physical fulfillment, they would have had a close understanding that required no word of explanation."
His reaction to the way of life of the homosexual Commander of a sail-training ship is an example of partial recognition [of homosexuality]. In March 1928 Stephe [Baden-Powell] visited the West Country, hoping to learn whether it would feasible to acquire the old Napoleonic man-of-war 'Implacable' for the Sea Scouts. This vessel was part-owned by Mr George Wheatley, who owned and skippered a similar ship, the 'Fotrdroyant', which he ran as a sail-training ship in Falmouth Harbour. Baden-Powell went aboard and recorded in his diary: "He trains about 40 boys at his own expense for the sea living on board. His wife lives ashore!". Although Cobb chose only the best-looking boys for his ship, it is quite possible that Baden-Powell detected nothing untoward about the 'Foudroyant' and her crew. But if his diary comment ('His wife lives ashore!') was meant merely as a statement of fact, why that exclamation mark ? The obvious interpretation must be that he knew well what other people would have thought about Cobb's living arrangements if they had known about them; they would have thought him up to no good, hence that exclamation mark. If this is right, the absence of any note of disapproval (and his diary contains plenty of that commodity in other places) may seem very reprehensible in a public figure who ought to have been uniquely sensitive to the welfare of boys. But Baden-Powell probably assumed that men like Tod and Cobb were able to keep 'their sentimentalism within limits'. After all, he too enjoyed the company of older boys and young men and understood the emotional enjoyment derived from their proximity."
"With every hint of sex removed from a relationship he could get on reasonably well with women. In spite of his obsession with 'manly' sports, he also enjoyed feminine pastimes such as choosing fabrics and furnishings, and designing embroidery patterns for regimental wives."
"Of course, there could be no threat at all with very young girls and for the first 50 years of his life Baden-Powell was rarely without such correspondents."
"His closest relationships were with much younger girls - children in fact"
He did, eventually marry, but his wife was a: "strange compound of child and grown woman [...] "That he thought of her a mixture of young woman, male comrade and child-friend is apparent in his earliest letters."
She also altered her appearance to suit Baden-Powell:
"Apart from flattening her breasts and concealing any hint of cleavage with handkerchiefs, she promised herself that she would cut off most of her hair..."
He had previously written to a potential fiancee that he wanted her to be...
'a sort of Pete - (h'm that's odd; there is no feminine for Peter) a sort of girl Peter Pan, the boy who couldn't grow up'
"...he [Baden-Powell] was mesmerized by Peter Pan, which he saw twice during its first month. He probably knew the famous cri de coeur in Barrie's 'Tommy And Grizel': 'She knew that despite all he had gone through, he was still a boy. And boys cannot love. Oh, is it not cruel to ask a boy to love ?' When men remain boyish well into middle age, continuing to love pranks and practical jokes, to enjoy making animal noises with children and to seek attention by singing falsetto songs in public, it seems reasonable to interpret this immaturity as symptomatic - in part at least -- of a reluctance to grow up. To this list should be added Stephe's [Baden-Powell's] lifelong addiction to macabre tales and adventure stories, and his frequent use of schoolboyish expletives in his letters: 'Te, he!' 'Hoo!', 'My wig!', and so forth. Very often the best Scoutmasters, 'boy men' as he called them, feared growing up too and never entirely succeeded. Consequently they were capable of deep insights into minds of their boys and of showing an intense sympathy with their interests."
An interesting final aside: Jeal's biography also has revelations about the leading lights of the Girl Guides - many of them seem to have been lesbians. This is just a snippet from several pages of evidence:
"Romantic friendships between senior Guide officials and ordinary Guiders were sufficiently common to excite little comment..."
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