Boy Scout Movement: Internationalism--Order of World Scouts


Figure 1.--

There was also a competing internatioanl Scout group. In fact, the short-lived Order of World Scouts (OWS) founded in 1911 was the earlist international Scouting organization. While the OWS organization was short lived, they made have well played an important role in incouraging Baden Powell's British Scouts to expand their international outreach. For a few years the OWS competed with Baden Powell's Boy Scout Association, but today is little remembered.

British Boy Scouts

Americans and Brits tend to think of the Scouts as one united national association. This is not how Scouting developed in many other countries and there were competing associations in both America and Britain. The most significant challenge to Baden Powell's Scout Association was the British Boy Scouts. Few people today have ever heard of the BBS, but for several years the organization posed a major threat to Baden Powell's desire for a unified national Scouting movement. Baden Powell in 1909 was still an army officer on active duty and did not work full time with the Scouting movement that he had founded. At the time some early Scout leaders felt that the evolving Boy Scouts Association (BSA) was too much oriented toward the military. After all it had been founded by an army general. Some feared that he movement was being influenced by the National Service League, an organisation which advocated compulsory military conscription. The Battersea District Scouts, disatisfied with the attitude of national Scout officials and concerned with the close connection of Baden Powell with the military, decided to withdraw from the BSA and form a new Scout association--The British Boy Scouts (BBS). Battersea is a subub of London. A popular boys' publication Chums, decided in 1909 to sponsor the BBS. Chums' (Cassell and Co. London) was a boys paper with comics launched in 1892. As Chums was read throughout Britain as well as the overseas Dominions, it proved highly successful in spreading the BBS overseas. Baden Powell's BSA had no comparable overseas outreach. Efforts were made to reconcil the differences between the BBS and BSA, but they failed. The result was that the BSA's Commissioner for all of London, Sir Francis Vane, joined the BBS. He became the BBS President and brought with him most of the London troops and many Birmingham troops. Vane helped to arrange an alliance with the Boys Life Brigade (BLB) in 1910 to create the National Peace Scouts (NPS). This reflected the more non-military approach of the BBS. The combined membership of some 85,000, about equal numbers from the two organizations. The NPS never developed into an important groups, howevrer, the BLB has a primary religious focus and were not interested in secular Scouting. HBU at this time has no information at this time on the BBS uniform and to what extent it differed from that of Baden Powell's BSA uniform.

International Expansion

E.P. Carter who had founded the Boys Guide Brigade (BGB) in 1902, a few years before Basden Powell founded the Scouts. He conferred with Basen Powell about the BGB. Carter's work helped create a South African BBS. Articles in Chums suggest that the BBS by 1911 had spread to Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and various countries in South America. These were all colonies or dominioniosm within the British Empire. The importance of Chums which was distributed in Britain and the verseas dominions can be seen here. The BBS's overseas reach, however, was not limited to Britain's overseas Dominions. The BBS established links in some of the most important foreign countries, with the exception of Germany where the Scout movement was relatively weak--in part because of te importance of the Wandervogel.

France: Vane helped Augustin Dufresne, a shipowner, to form a French scouting organisation (a precursor to the Eclaireurs de France) in 1911.
Italy: Vane in 1910 founded the Ragazzi Esploratori Italiani (Italian Boy Scouts) which, as a result, became linked with the BBS.
United States: American newspaper magnate, Hearst, formed the American Boy Scout (ABS) which competed with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The American BSA was allied with Baden Powell's BSA. The ABS in 191 linked up with the BBS.

Legion of World Scouting

These various national organisations of Scouts associated with the BBS formed a loose federation in 1911 which was called the Legion of World Scouts (LWS). Vane provided the leadersip for the LWS.

Order of World Scouting

Vane decided a more formal organization was needed and this conceived of the Order of World Scouting (OWS). He tied together the British Boy Scouts in the UK, the British Girl Scouts (founded lat 1909), and British Boy Scouts in the Empire. The OWS was formally founded on November 11, 1911 in the Royal Chapel of the Savoy. It was the the earliest international Scouting organisation. Badn Powell's Scouts were still primarily focuded on the new organizations British program. The date for formally founding the organization was carefully chosen. It was the date (November 11, 1100) Baldwin was declared King of Jerusalem, successfully ending the first Crusade. This seems a curious date for founding a truly international Scout movement as it represented the bloody imposition of Christian European culture and religion on a non-European people. Vane convinced the French Scouts and the American Boy Scouts (ABS) to join his organization. Of course November 11 would become better known as the date of the Armistace ending World War I. The OWS for its lore heavily drew from the theme of Knighthood and feudal chilvery which it applied to the whole organisation. Baden Powell had done this with the Scout Law and Promise, but the lore and impetus of Scoying was much more diverse. He drew from both African lore and American Indian lore provided by Ernest Thomson Seaton. Vane drew from the tradition of Grand Masters in both the Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitaller. Vane himself had become the Grand Scout Master of the Order of World Scouts (OWS), a position that has continued up to this day . Vane was a Knight Commander of the Order of Christ, a Portuguese survival of the Order of the Knights of Christ and the Temple (the Templars) which had been suppressed elsewhere by the Pope in the 1200s. It is notable that the British Scouts today have realatively little lore from feudual chivelry while this is much more impoortant with some French Scouts.

Collapse

The BBS and the WOS in 1909-11 represented a major challenge to Baden Powell and the British BSA. It was, however, Vane himself who causee the denmise of the BBS and the WOS. Vane committed virtually all his financial resources to funding his Scouting organizations. Unfortunallely he made financial commitments beyond his actual resoureces. Vance failed to cover his obligations concerning the manufacture of BBS uniforms. He was forced to declare bankrupcy in August 1912. As a result, the BBS the OWS lost Vane's London office. The BBS was suddenly adrift. Baden Powell's BSA refused any form of corporate affiliation. The BSA demanded that every BBS troop apply to their local BSA organization for membership. Some troops under a Colonel Masterman accepted this. The BLB for its part negotiatied with the BSA, but after protaracted negotiations in 1926 finally decided to join with the Boys' Brigade which shared their religious focus. Relatively few BBS troops appeared to have joined the BSA.

Remanents

Albert Jones Knighton replaced Vance as head of the BBS in England. He mantained contacys with the Australian BBS, a few trops of which survived until the late 1930s. The American Boy Scout after Herst was run by little known leaders became a military organisation under the new identity of the United States Boy Scout (USBS). Protracted litigations with the Boy Scouts of America followed. The USBS by 1919 became the U.S. Junior Military Forces Inc. Cater's BBS in South Africa refused to join with Baden Powell's BSA and became the Naval Cadets. The French Scouts had evolved into the Eclaireurs de France. Most other BBS troops in the British dominions were adsorbed by the Scout groups affiliated with Baden Powell's BSA. The Order of World Scouts has never entirely vanished, but only survived in Britain with a small membership abroad.

Current Status

Some Scouting organization continue under the afflilation of the Order of World Scouting. The Scouts of Australia are an independent Scouting organisation founded in 1986. They were incorporated in 1988 as the Independent Scouts of Australia Incorporated, but changed their name to the Scouts of Australia in 1992. They contacted the BBS in 1991. This provided a spur to revive the fortunes of the present Order of World Scouts. The Order of World Scouts is the oldest alliance of Independent Scout organisations.

Other Alliances

There are other international alliances of more recent origin, The break-away aden-Powell Scouts Association in England founded in 1971 has promoted some international Scout affiliations..

The FSE has sponsoted a international federation of Eurpoean Scouts.

References

Tim Jeal, Biography on Baden-Powell (Hutchinson: London, 1989) pages 408, 428 and 544).

David I Macleod, Building Character in the American Boy, University of Wisconsin Press, 1983, page 147.





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Created: February 6, 2002
Last updated: February 6, 2002