B.P.’S Blog -In Camp

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During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.

I WRITE my notes this month from camp. I hope that many a Scoutmaster will have been able, like me, to take his holiday this year in camp. If he has enjoyed it half as much as I am enjoying mine, he will have done well.

I am certain that a week or two of such life is the best rest-cure and the best tonic for both mind and body that exists for a man, whether he be boy or old ‘un. And for both it is a great educator.  By camp I mean a woodland camp, not the military camp for barracking a large number at one time under canvas. That is no more like the kind of camp I advocate than a cockchafer is like a goose.

A Boy Scouts’ camp should be the woodland kind of camp, if it is going to be any real good as an educator. Many, nay most, military camps are liable to do more harm than good to boys, unless exceptionally well-managed and closely supervised.  Whereas a woodsman’s camp, if properly carried out, gives the lads occupation and individual resourcefulness all the time.

A large camp has of necessity to be carried on with a considerable amount of routine discipline. Parades have to be held to give the boys instruction and occupation, fatigue parties, tent inspections, roll-calls, bathing parades, and so on. Were it not for the fresh, open-air life this kind of camp might almost as well be carried on in town barracks; it teaches the boys nothing of individuality, resourcefulness, responsibility, nature lore, and many little (though really great) bits of character education for which the woodsman’s camp is the best, if not the only, school.

But such a camp can only be carried out with a small number of boys; from thirty to forty being the full number with which it is possible. And then only if the Patrol system is really and entirely made use of.

Of course, it is easy for one to write from an ideal camp of the kind and imagine that everybody has the same advantages, but I don’t altogether mean to do that. I know the difficulties that one has to contend with as a Scoutmaster in England, but I want to put the ideal before those who have not perhaps thought out the question very carefully, and who, by custom or example, are inclined to take the military form of camp as being the usual and right one for boys.  The ideal can then be followed as nearly as local circumstances will allow.

Here I am camped by a rushing river between forest-clad hills.   It is close on ten in the morning. I turned out at five, and yet those five hours have been full of work for me, albeit it was no more than little camp jobs.

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The fire had to be lit, coffee and scones to be made. Then followed boiling and sandscrubbing the cooking utensils; collecting of firewood for the day (both kindling and emberforming wood); a new crossbar and pot-hooks had to be cut and trimmed; a pair of tongs for the fire, and a besom for cleaning the camp ground had to be cut and made. Bedding had to be aired and stowed; moccasins to be greased; the camp ground swept up and rubbish burned; the trout had to be gutted and washed. Finally, I had a shave and a bathe; and here I am ready for the day’s work whatever it may be.  But this took five hours to do.

My comrade went in yesterday to the nearest hamlet, and will be back to-day with our letters and supplies. He will find me away fishing or sketching, and gathering berries for our “sweet” of stewed fruit at dinner; but he will find the camp swept and garnished, fire laid ready to be lit, cooking pots, cups, and plates all ready and clean for his use, and food handy. We may probably “up-stick” and travel on later in the day, and see some more of the beauties of the land, as we “hump our packs” to the next nice-looking site for camp. Then comes all the business of pitching camp, getting water and firewood, cooking food, and making oneself comfortable. All a succession of very little jobs, but which in their sum are important. They all give enjoyment and satisfaction to the older man, while to the boy they bring delight, experience, resourcefulness, self-reliance, thought for others, and that excellent discipline of camp-tradition and of being expected to do the right thing for himself. They have no time for idleness, and give no room for a shirker. But that is a very different thing from the streets of canvas town where the supplies are sent in by a contractor and cooked and served by paid servants, the boys in a herd, merely doing what they are ordered to do.

September, 1911.

From B.P.’s Outlook

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