The Early History of Sea Scouting

Baden-Powell’s Seafaring Background
BADEN-POWELL grew up being constantly reminded of his family’s naval connections. His maternal grandfather was Captain William Smyth who, from a lowly start, became an Admiral in 1863 and was distinguished in many fields. B-P’s father died when he was only three, and not unnaturally he used to love visiting his grandfather who would regale him with stories of the sea as they paced an imaginary ‘quarterdeck’.

B-P was brought up to believe – though there seems little evidence for it – that he was related to Capt. John Smith, of Pocahontas fame in Virginia USA. (A play based on the story was to feature in the first part of Scouting for Boys published 1908.) There were other family stories concerning their links to Nelson.

True or not, B-P grew up with the romance of the sea in his blood, and it was not surprising that his older brother Warington, ten years B-P’s senior, set his sights on a career in the Merchant Marine. Warington was an early pioneer in canoe sailing, and had written a book Canoe travelling: and practical hints on building and fitting canoes. He completed three years in the training establishment HMS Conway before joining the Hotspur on the Smith Line in 1864.