Little did the late, beloved Lord Baden-Powell realize what an illustrious service he was providing for mankind when he inaugurated the Boy Scout Movement at Birkenhead, England, in 1908. The brilliant idea had germinated from his training of soldiers in South Africa and his corps of boy messengers and aids who helped defend Mafeking in 1899 and 1900. Baden-Powell returned to England in 1903, made a study of boys’ work, and, finally, after trying out the findings of his research in an experimental camp, presented the Boy Scout concept to England and the world.
It was inevitable that so great a thing should cross the Atlantic before much time had passed. The visit to England of publisher W. D. Boyce proved to be the instrument which caused this to happen. When Mr. Boyce varily sought a London business office, a uniformed lad came to his service. Here is the story:
England’s Unknown Scout
He was just a common English lad. No one even knows his name. But every American Boy Scout well remembers what he did.
London was a gloomy spot that evening, thirty-nine years ago. A dense fog hung over the city, giving it a lonely, ghostly appearance. The street lights had been glowing by noon, their feeble rays almost exhausted in piercing the soupy air.
Wandering alone down one of these misty lanes was an American stranger, practically lost in a wilderness of people. One might have guessed from his appearance that a Yankee had come to town.
Suddenly, the small English boy in a uniform approached the groping American, who seemed to be having difficulty in finding his destination. The lad realized “the ceiling was low” and that dangers lurked all about. This would be a swell time, he thought, to lend somebody a helping hand.
Yes, it would! But little did he dream that here lay his chance to do one of the greatest good turns in the history of Scouting.
“May I be of service to you?” asked the unknown scout. The man explained where he wished to go, hoping the boy could tell him the way. But the English boy believed in giving good measure. He did not describe the way; he led the way right to the very door.
Appreciating this helpful act, the stranger pulled a shilling from his pocket. It was thumbs down for the boy, however.
No sir, I’m a Scout. Scouts do not accept tips for courtesies and for services rendered,” he said.
The stranger was stumped. Feature that! A boy turning down a tip! What sort of a gang was this Scout organization?
“Don’t you know about the Scouts?” asked the youth. The stranger did not. But the ambitious youth was determined that the man would have the opportunity for enlightenment. The Scout headquarters were nearby, and the Scout volunteered to take him there.
The American could not go, however, until he had finished his business appointment. The boy waited patiently, then took him to the office of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the British Boy Scout Association. Having completed his task, the boy disappeared into the mist, but his memory foes marching on.
The stranger, Mr. William D. Boyce, a Chicago publisher and traveler, gathered all the information he could find about this group of gallant boys. On Feb. 8, 1910, the Boy Scouts of America hung out their shingle. Thus, by doing his duty and more, the British Scout sowed a little seed that has increased many million fold.
Over that same stretch of land 500 years before rode brave knights clad in suits of armor but with soft, warm hearts within. They specialized in protecting the weak, battling against wrong, and doing courageous deeds.
And in their footsteps have gone the Boy Scouts, clear around the world, doing their good turns daily. They have been helping to keep alive the chivalry of knights of old and the love and kindness of the Master.
On May Day on 1926 in the nation’s capitol, The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America honored the “Unknown Scout” with a large “Bronze Buffalo” statue for his service to American boyhood. The Prince of Wales accepted it for the British Boy Scouts, and it may be seen at Gilwell Park, England. On it are the words: “To the unknown Scout whose faithfulness in the performance of the ‘daily good turn’ brought the Scout movement to the United States of America.”
More than ever before, the world today needs people who, when asked to go a mile, will go twain. It needs folks who want to “help somebody today.” A humble, loving act will shed a ray of light in a darkened world. And, perhaps, it will grow into a beacon that will help illuminate the whole world. For often it has been the little people, the unknown Scouts, who have carried the gleam through the ages.
And the English boy who stepped out of the fog to live his Scouting was just such a common lad. He did his job well, and he helped build a better future world.
Boy Scouts served their country well during the two World Wars: collecting waste papers; distributing pamphlets, posters and leaflets; gathering milkweed pods for the floss which was used in life jackets; working victory gardens; assisting in the sale of war bonds; and numerous other valuable services that were performed with willingness and efficiency. A glorious page in American history, indeed!
Any boy may become a Scout. At 8, 9, or 10 years old, he may be a Cub Scout; at 11, he may join a Scout Troop; and at 15, he may become a Senior Scout in the Sea Scout, Air Scout or Explorer Scout programs.
Scouting makes men out of boys–makes them sturdy, able and courageous. Yes, a Scout learns to “BE PREPARED!”