For the last few days, the Hon. Michael Baden-Powell and his wife Joan have been visiting Yorkshire. Michael has lived in Australia for many years now where he is a committed Scouter and involved in many Scouting projects not least the Victorian Scout and Guide Heritage Centre. He and his wife are in the UK in order to be able to make a contribution to Centennial Events and have had busy programme meeting Scouts at many events across the country. They will of course be attending the Brownsea Sunrise Event and the World Jamboree.
During their time in Yorkshire, the B-P's have been very keen to visit those sites that have had a direct connection with the Founder (Michael's Grandfather). I was fortunate to be with them on these occasions and our first destination was the Regimental Museum of the 13/18 Hussars at Cannon Hall near Barnsley. The Founder first joined the 13th Hussars from school and maintained his connection with them for over 50 years so, not surprisingly, the excellent museum has a corner specially dedicated to B-P, containing letters, art work and a silver plated tobacco pouch that B-P specially commissioned in 1926 to give to the men of the 13th, to mark his long association with the regiment.
The B-P's were specially impressed with a wonderful life-sized scene between bell tents that included a video screen showing an actor 'in role' giving a moving eyewitness account of his life a lancer in the 13th during the Crimean War and particularly the Charge of the Life Brigade. Robert Baden-Powell himself had also been very moved by real eyewitness accounts of the charge and wrote a little known history of his regiment at this time. Barnsley Museum Services arranged for us to visit when the museum is normally closed to visitors (Mondays and Tuesdays) which was most helpful as these were only days the B-P's could have visited.
We then travelled across country to the heart of the City of York where, adjacent to the famous Clifford's Tower, is the Regimental Museum of the Royal Dragoons which records the history of the 5th Dragoons, another of B-P's old regiments. Again there is a special section for B-P alongside that of Captain Oates of Antarctic fame and other famous figures. Our visitors were able to see B-P letters and artefacts including a beautiful signed original of a B-P watercolour showing trees in the Canadian Rockies. I am most grateful to Capt Alan Henshaw, Curator of the Museum for his help in arranging this visit.
Further north lay the Garrison Town of Catterick, now the largest British Army Base in the UK, which was (again a little known fact) originally laid out by B-P. We were met by the Garrison's C.O., Col Nick Millan who was very well aware of the role that B-P had played in the history of the place. He proudly showed us them magnificent portrait of B-P in his South African Constabulary Uniform by Harold Speed (of which he also had a copy in pride of place in his own office). The original is be loaned to the Scout Association for the Centennial.
Our last 'port of call' was only three miles away in the town of Richmond where we were most warmly welcomed by the Mayor, John Robison, whose Mayoral Parlour contains some interesting B-P memorabilia including another painting of the founder by Harold Speed. Of considerable interest was a copy of a letter to B-P whilst he was living at Richmond Castle (1907-1909) from President Roosevelt. The letter acknowledged the gift of a special edition of 'Scouting for Boys' that B-P has sent to him early in 1908 - which as the letter was dated August 1st 1908 must have been a very early copy. Roosevelt replies in glowing terms about the message contained in the book but divulged that he had already obtained a first edition, but the presentation copy with B-P's personal measure would be most treasured. The parlour also contained a special album with details of correspondence between Lady Olave Baden-Powell and the town council. Lady B-P presented the council with pages that she had taken from B-P's diary concerning his time at the Castle. This was followed up in 1953, when Lady B-P herself visited the castle and unveiled a stone plaque commemorating B-P. The magnificent view from that point across Richmondshire looks towards the Catterick camp. Michael B-P was pleased make a presentation to Richard Good, a local Scouter, who had achieved the magnificent record of 43 years service. The B-P's were also pleased to meet other N.Yorks Scouters including the N Yorks ACC John McGrath and Richmond's D.C and town councillor Mike McGarry and his two sons Reuben and Nathan. These two went on to do a special interview with Tyne Tees Television about the B-P's visit and our Scouting Centennial at the site of the 1953 plaque.
All in all a very eventful but rewarding day. Despite the distances covered and the trying nature of the weather, our two visitors were 'on the trail' again the following day when, in a private capacity, we visited Castle Howard and the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington (Michael has a great interest in the history of aviation.)
It is true to say that the B-P's were very impressed with our traditional Yorkshire Hospitality, shown to them where ever we went, - and the state of Scouting in the County. They will be taking back to Australia treasured memories supported by hundreds of photographs and 'movie' film, as Michael like his grandfather is most interested this media.
Before they left Micheal B-P recorded a message for the Scouts of the World to be broadcast on August 1st (Sunrise Day) and passed on a special message to Milestones Readers, 'Good Scouting', and that "... we should continue spread the knowledge that our interest in Scout History gives us to future generations of Scouts".
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Colin Walker (Johnny)
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