Boy Scout’s Founder a Spy?
The Boy Scout movement goes back more than a century to its founder, known as Lord Baden-Powell. The man had a distinguished career in the British military, rising to the high rank of Lieutenant General. He was involved in such Imperial adventures as the Boer War, fought against the rebel Dutch farmers in what is now South Africa. He wrote the first Boy Scout Handbook. The story about Baden-Powell as a spy is entertaining. He posed as an entomologist as he traveled around the Mediterranean in the era 1890-1895. Who would suspect that a crazy English butterfly chaser who was constantly sketching insects was encoding into the sketches the details of fortifications? He visited Austrian forts and apparently also some in the Turkish Ottoman Empire (both were later German allies in the First World War).
We know all this from Baden-Powell’s 1915 book My Adventures as a Spy. The trouble with the story is that there is almost nothing verified. It is possible that the adventures were fiction meant to entertain the public during wartime. It is very possible that Baden-Powell’s book contradicts part of the Boy Scout oath, the part about not telling a lie.
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