Robert Baden-Powell & The Boer War - My Unusual Antique Find

Favourite Finds


Ahoy there and a very happy new year to you all!  Thanks for joining me for the first instalment of 'Blog Post Monday' in 2022!

A new year must surely begin with a new find and a rather fascinating one at that...  A piece of memorabilia to commemorate a man, a soldier who some call a national hero, an educator, prolific writer, founder, and first Chief Scout, of the world-wide Scout Movement.  That's right, this week's post is about Robert Baden-Powell and a find linked to his involvement in the Second Boer War.

So, for the first time in 2022, get that kettle on, get your woggles out and let's dive into the world of Robert Baden-Powell and find out about this fascinating find of mine...



This piece caught my eye because I have a bit of an interest in pieces of militaria and in my time, I've stumbled across a few pieces with a link to the Boer War which are quite collectible.  I've owned pipes, pieces of silver, cases and trench art, but never a piece of furniture.  This piece grabbed my attention because of the fabulous carving on it.  Whilst it was very well done, it had managed to keep a degree of naivety, so, I just had to own this piece.



The image of Robert Baden-Powell is instantly recognisable, testament to the craftsmanship of the artist.  The initials 'B.P.' (Baden-Powell) were also carved, along with 'Mafeking' and a date of 'May 17th 1900', this being the direct link to the Second Boer War.



Baden-Powell became a national hero for his 217-day defence of Mafeking (now Mafiking) from October 12, 1899, to May 17, 1900, during the Second Boer War (1899–1902).  He defended Mafeking, holding off a much larger Boer force until the siege was lifted.  The siege received considerable attention as Lord Edward Cecil, the son of the British prime minister, was in the besieged town, as also was Lady Sarah Wilson, a daughter of the Duke of Marlborough and aunt of Winston Churchill.



The Boers were able to take control of the railway and roads just outside the town and used the siege camp as a staging post.  Reports suggest that with few soldiers and no modern artillery, Baden-Powell was forced to think creatively.  To this end, he ordered fake landmines to be made and laid around Mafeking in view of the Boers and their spies within the town, and he also instructed his soldiers to simulate avoiding barbed wire (non-existent) when moving between trenches.  Guns and a searchlight (improvised from an acetylene lamp and a biscuit tin) were moved around the town to increase their apparent number.



The thing I enjoy most about my job is the learning and whilst it doesn't always make for comfortable reading, I feel that it's important to educate ourselves on and understand the good and the bad of our country's past.  And, in the case of the Boer Wars, whilst I knew the heinous reasons behind Britain's decision to go to war, not once, but twice (!!), I'd not known about the absolute brutality, horror and dirty tactics used by them to win this bloody battle.



Despite his war efforts, Baden-Powell's legacy is likely to be more for his efforts in founding the world-wide Scout Movement and becoming the first Chief Scout.  On his return from Africa he discovered that his military training manual, 'Aids to Scouting', had become a best-seller, and was being used by teachers and youth organisations.  Baden-Powell decided to re-write 'Aids to Scouting' to suit a youth readership.

The first book on the Scout Movement, Baden-Powell's 'Scouting For Boys' was published in six instalments in 1908, and has sold approximately 150 million copies as the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century.  Subsequently, boys and girls spontaneously formed Scout troops and the Scouting Movement started, first as a national, and soon an international phenomenon.



But who made this fascinating piece...?  Sadly, we will never know.  Certainly, with Baden-Powell becoming somewhat of a national hero upon his return from Africa and with the furore around his war efforts, it's safe to say that it's a commemorative piece of folk art created by a very talented wood worker either shortly after the siege of Mafeking, which ended on 17th May 1900, or upon Baden-Powell's return from Africa in 1903. 

It's a fine piece of collectible memorabilia either for the militaria collector or for a keen collector of Scouting paraphernalia, two subjects for which Baden-Powell will forever be remembered.

This piece is currently available to buy here



Well, that's it for this week folks, I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into Robert Baden-Powell, the Second Boer War and this rather fascinating find!

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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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