HL Deb 21 January 1941 vol 118 cc197-204

My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House (Lord Lloyd) has charged me on his behalf first of all to express his very deep disappointment that on the first occasion your Lordships have met since he was appointed Leader of your Lordships' House he is unable to be present. He has a severe chill, and I am afraid it will be some days before he can wisely take the risk of appearing in his place. I have, however, assured him—I am sure with the approval of your Lordships—that you would wish him to take no risks in this regard.

He has further charged me with the duty of expressing, on his behalf and on behalf of the Government, our very sincere regret at the passing of a distinguished member of your Lordships' House who has died full of years and with a long record of honourable service behind him. In the death of Lord Baden-Powell this country loses a man of world-wide renown and a man of commanding prestige and rare and useful achievement. Lord Baden-Powell was seldom seen in your Lordships' House, and he took no personal part in its work, but he was honoured here as everywhere throughout the land, and his name was revered by boys all over the world. To them he was a veritable Pied Piper to whose call they came. When they came they learned much from him, and they always went away lifted up and strengthened. He understood and used the spirit of adventure which is in every boy and girl, and he created in his own time a new chivalry of youth. His nurture of the Boy Scout movement was a miracle of insight and understanding, and he appeared to me to know more about the mind of a boy than all the pedagogues who have ever lived in the world He helped boys to be clean in body and clean in mind, and he nourished their love of country and encouraged in them a love for its beauties and respect for the wild life of the countryside.

Where is the magician who with equal genius will do for post-adolescent youth what he did for the younger people—captivate their imaginations and harness their glad young strength to work for their own and their country's good? I am sure your Lordships would like to express first of all your great sympathy with Lady Baden-Powell and with the leaders of the Scout movement. They will miss Lord Baden-Powell greatly. From being leader he had become something of a legend and a source of inspiration and a great example. We cannot properly and finally measure the full significance of his service to boys and to his country, and we cannot in terms of human dignity and character estimate the influence that he had upon the minds of those boys, since grown to be men, upon whose human qualities at this time all that we are and have seems to depend. Of Lord Baden-Powell, if of any man of our time, it can be said with proud certainty that the good that he achieved and the work that he did is not buried with his bones.


My Lords, I regret to say that my noble friend Lord Addison is confined to his house with a bad chill and he has asked me to perform two duties on his behalf. He has asked me in the first place to welcome Lord Lloyd as Leader of your Lordships' House. We have just heard to our regret from my noble friend opposite that his Lordship is still not fit for duty; nevertheless, while sending him condolences on behalf of my noble friends, we would like to offer our cordial welcome to him as Leader. We had the great privilege of co-operating with him in years gone by when he adorned the Cross Benches, and that makes us rather more sympathetic to him now as Leader. In the meantime, however, the leadership of your Lordships' House is in the very competent hands of my noble friend Lord Snell.

I also have on behalf of my noble friends, and of Lord Addison in particular, to join in the message of sympathy to the family of the late Lord Baden-Powell, and particularly to Lady Baden-Powell, on his sad death. May I be allowed to add just a word or two to what my noble friend has said about Lord Baden-Powell's great work? Like quite a number of your Lordships, I first heard his name during the memorable seige of Mafeking during the South African war when I was a boy at school. I was old enough then to appreciate his great qualities of leadership and to appreciate also the remarkable soldier that he was. Moreover, like many of your Lordships, I then had the great pleasure of reading his works. His skill as a writer is apt to be overlooked in these days, but his books are still living things, and they contain, I venture to say in the presence of my noble friend Lord Croft, much sound advice for young soldiers. I would like very much to support what my noble friend has said about Lord Baden-Powell's great service to the youth not only of our nation and Empire, but to the youth of the whole world, by his stroke of genius in founding the Boy Scout movement, to be followed in a few years by the also very important Girl Guide movement. We can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that those two movements for youth and the boys and girls of the whole world will continue to wax greater in the years ahead, and that they will be of great service to youth and to a better understanding between peoples when the present system in the dictatorship countries of debauching youth remains only a bad memory.


My Lords, by an unfortunate coincidence, on the resumption of our sittings to-day, the Leaders of all three Parties are regrettably absent, and my noble friend Lord Crewe has desired me to say that he is extremely sorry to be unable, for reasons of precautionary health, if I may so put it, to be present here to-day, as he would have wished specially to say a parting word on the occasion of Lord Halifax, our former Leader, leaving us for another great office overseas. I am sure the whole House will regret his departure and send with him their heartiest good wishes for success in his great mission. Further, my noble friend Lord Crewe would have wished to be here to-morrow when the new Lord Selborne and Lord Cranborne are to be introduced, especially since, as he wrote to me, he sat for so many years opposite the illustrious father of one and the grandfather of the other.

We who sit on these Benches desire to associate ourselves with what has been said on the death of a very eminent member of your Lordships' House, Lord Baden-Powell. Great Britain has, in the course of the centuries, originated many inventions and industries, many institutions and movements which have done much for the moral and material advancement of our own country and of the world at large. The most recent of these movements initiated here have been the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements, and they have not been the least valuable. Beginning as a game, through its influence on the character of millions of the youth of many countries all over the world, it is not too much to say that the Boy Scout movement has become a factor in civilisation. Those of us who have held official posts in other parts of the Empire, or of the world, know how widespread that influence is and how valuable. Seldom has any great movement been so definitely the outcome of the initiative and energies of one individual as the Boy Scout movement has been in the case of Lord Baden-Powell. His genius found a wonderful outlet for the natural, healthy, adventurous energies of youth in ways that are both attractive and useful, and ways that are also both patriotic and universal, for it is essential to the spirit of scouting that there be no enmity, no violence and no arrogance in it. There breathes all through it brotherhood, co-operation and service, and it is an embodiment of religion in the highest sense of that word. This House will regret the passing of one who has rendered such great service to his country and to the world, and it will remember how Lady Baden-Powell has taken charge of and has developed the parallel movement of the Girl Guides, which is of equal value. This House, remembering that, in expressing to her its sympathy, would add its gratitude for the work which she has accomplished.


My Lords, I wonder if I may be allowed to add one word to what has fallen from the official representatives of the three Parties. When Lord Baden-Powell achieved the first success which made his name in South Africa I was Secretary of State for War and I remember well one point which I think might be properly mentioned on this occasion. Colonel Baden-Powell, as he then was, was summoned to Balmoral by King Edward in order that he should receive a special decoration. In the excitement which prevailed at that time about our earliest success in the South African War a great reception had been prepared for him, not merely in London at the starting point of his journey, but at Aberdeen and at various places on route. I remember well King Edward expressing the satisfaction he felt that, by some ingenuity, a change of route was devised so that Colonel Baden-Powell eluded all those who wished to make a great offering to him of national respect. That modesty showed the real temper of the man and relieved us to some degree from the exaggerated emphasis which had been given to his particular work in South Africa. I hope your Lordships will not think I am doing amiss in reminding you of an episode which showed that Lord Baden-Powell was not only a brave man but, as was proved for many years, a very modest person in all that pertained to his own personal achievements.


My Lords, as one who was privileged to work with the late Lord Baden-Powell for nearly thirty years in close collaboration I should like to add a word of thanks to those noble Lords who have already spoken, and especially to the noble Lord, Lord Snell, for their kind words of sympathy with the two great movements which Lord Baden-Powell initiated. I can assure your Lordships that we for our part shall do our utmost to carry on those great movements as perhaps one of the finest memorials that any man could possibly have raised to his own memory. I have been privileged all through these years to be in the closest contact with these movements not only in this country but throughout the Empire, where I have seen what a great added Imperial link such movements for youth as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides can form, and also in many foreign countries where I have been privileged to visit them. It was a remarkable testimony to any man that there should be those great international jamborees which were held every four years. Lord Baden-Powell was the personal friend of every one of the 30,000 lads whatever their nationality and whatever their language, who attended those jamborees and perhaps no man in the world has received a greater and more personal tribute than the Chief Scout did when he lived for a fortnight or so amongst those thousands of lads of different nations.

It was not a movement that needed any propaganda in the beginning from our side and Lord Baden-Powell did not attempt it. In fact, I believe it is true that King Edward was even slightly disappointed at first that such a magnificent movement should have been taken up by foreign countries—at least so Lord Baden-Powell used to tell me—because he thought that such a splendid thing ought to be kept for our own boys at home. We have seen how the movement has spread. Every boy in every country wanted the Boy Scout movement and every girl wanted the Girl Guide movement. We hope that in these twin movements we have something which, when the stress of these days has passed, may be used among other means to form anew the friendship and comradeship which war has broken.


My Lords, may I, as a member of the National Youth Committee, associate myself with the tributes which have been so well expressed from all quarters of the House? Lord Baden-Powell did not found the first youth movement—I think the credit for that must be given to Mr. William Smith, afterwards Sir William Smith, who founded the Boys Brigade about the year 1882—but after the Boer War, at the beginning of this century, Lord Baden-Powell with great inspiration founded the movement known as the Boy Scout movement and, building on the same sort of foundation as the Boys Brigade, he added something which happened to be most attractive to boys. Hence it is that to-day the Boy Scout movement is the chief and most efficient and best in the country.

It would be very difficult to estimate the value of Lord Baden-Powell's work. His inspiration planted the seed of good in the hearts of many who are living today. It is difficult to assess all that that means, but I am sure this country will see the fruits of it in the next generation and in generations to come. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that Lord Baden-Powell exercised the greatest influence for good over youth of anybody since the day, perhaps, of Lord Shaftesbury. In any case, Lord Baden-Powell was the greatest leader of youth of modern times. I hesitate to say it—but I think I will—that it is to the shame of Great Britain that this great movement has always been starved of funds and hampered and kept back in its great work. For the cost of one day of war, or even less, we might have had every youth organisation set up for ever. Perhaps some of your Lordships attended the anniversary dinner held by the Boy Scouts Association in London not very long ago. It was a great disappointment that the Chief Scout was not present, but unseen from his country home he spoke to us by means of the telephone and we were very much heartened and inspired. I think I can safely prophesy that unseen from his heavenly home the Chief Scout of the whole world will make his influence felt for ever and that he will be urging forward this great movement for all time.


My Lords, I have never addressed your Lordships before, but I feel that upon this occasion, as I am the only Bishop present, I should add the testimony of the Church to what has already been so well said. Probably not many members of your Lordships' House have had so much touch with the rank and file of the Scouts as I have necessarily had in my own particular path of life; and the gratitude of the Church and of all those who care for the Christian religion must go out to Lord Baden-Powell. It is quite impossible to calculate the immeasurable good to character and to the sense of duty to God and the King, as the Scout promise goes, which has been done, and the effect which it has had upon the young men of this country. The Scout movement is now of an age when it is perfectly easy for all of us to recognise the effect which it has had upon character, for we see it in the men in the Services and outside the Services, and also in all those who stand for righteousness.


My Lords, I feel somewhat diffident in following the very eloquent speakers who have preceded me, but there is one activity of the late Lord Baden-Powell which may not be known to everyone, and that is his starting of the Miniature Rifle Club movement in England. I venture to mention it because my father was intimately associated with him in that movement, and started the first village rifle club in Lincolnshire. Lord Baden-Powell came down to open the first club, and, as my father happened to be ill, I entertained him, at the age of seven. I well remember that memorable luncheon and how proud I was.

Back to