100 years have passed since Lt Col R Baden Powell, as he was known then, spent time as a professional soldier in the country that we have come to know as Zimbabwe.
Baden Powell arrived in Bulawayo on 2 June 1896, and spent the next three months in Bulawayo and the Matopos Hills, as Chief of Staff to the Matabeleland Relief Force. This force consisted of around 1 300 men from all walks of life (from regular British Army troops to Afrikaners and Xhosa from what is today South Africa, to local “settlers” and AmaNdebele “friendlies”) and had been raised in order to suppress an uprising (the 1896 native rebellion, alternatively known as the First Chimurenga/War of Liberation, depending on which version of history one is using).
In the end, the rebellion was quelled not by force of arms (the Matabeleland Relief Force tried, though), but through negotiation and compromise between the warring parties. Once the rebellion in Matabeleland was over, Baden-Powell then proceeded into Mashonaland to assist with the suppression of that rebellion, before returning to England via Beira at the end of 1896.
In all, he spent less than 7 months in Rhodesia, and only 3 of these in the Matopos Hills and Bulawayo. It is believed, however, that these 3 months had some place in Baden-Powell’s later conception of the Boy Scout movement.
Of course, as is natural in a work of this nature, it is inevitable that since 1896, certain names and ways of speech have gone out of fashion and certain others have come in. This booklet uses those which Baden Powell and others would have used at the time. And whilst the writer has attempted to remain as factual and objective as possible, there are from time to time certain opinions and ideas expressed, for which the writer takes full responsibility.
19 July 1996