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Burnham interview about Baden-Powell

Bloemfontein, Tuesday.

I have had a long conversation with F. R. Burnham, the famous American scout, now employed with Lord Robert's army, who gave me his impressions of Colonel Baden-Powell, formed from personal contact on active service. Of the gallant defender of Mafeking, he said: - "Returning with others from the Matabele war, aboard ship we happened one day to discuss coming men. Naturally Baden-Powell's name was mentioned. I said that he was the ideal of what the British officer should be. He fought with his brains as well as with his hands, whereby good work was accomplished and waste of men saved; yet in a fight to the finish he was not slack, but as stubborn and bulldog a combatant as the best of those who discarded strategy.

"Whilst as my chief I naturally stuck up for him, nevertheless, apart from that, I have the highest regard for him to be the true type of soldier of the future, one of those who should and must command armies if victories are to be won. As a soldier his tact, readiness, and resources are remarkable. These things do not come by accident, but are the result of careful garnering and the accumulation of minute details used to advantage. Where people imagined him reckless Baden-Powell really was cautious, venturing rarely in a critical position to use measures except such as had been essayed before under similar circumstances. He left little to chance, endeavouring by personal inspection and supervision to cover the whole ground over which operations were to be conducted. I know he was criticised for wearing rubber shoes and crawling about rocks of nights instead of leaving such tasks to others.

"We nicknamed him 'Old Rubber Shoes.' But he was right, despite all their poking fun at him, for he gathered in a night, and has possibly forgotten, more than his critics could learn in a lifetime.

"That is the knowledge that doubtless he has gained by painstaking personal experience that has enabled him to defend Mafeking so long against such heavy odds.

"Baden-Powell is a wonderfully able scout and a quick sketcher. On one occassion in the Matoppos he was in a very trying situation, surrounded by twenty-five so-called 'friendlies', who were waiting to kill him. Apparently unconcerned, he worked away his hardest, and made an accurate drawing of the whole position.

"One of the closest 'shaves' was at a spruit six miles from Bulawayo. A kaffir scout had concealed himself in a tree beneath which several officers rested, and the nigger fired down at Baden-Powell, the bullet just grazing his skull. Of course the kaffir was killed. Baden-Powell profited by the ocurrence, remarking that it would be just as well to look up as down when scouting thereafter.

"The Boers say that Baden-Powell is by far the 'slimmest' officer that the British have, and they greatly dread him -- and with good reason. All the bits of odd knowledge that he has so studiously gathered for the last twenty years are stored away in his active brain. The result of that great unostentatious labour he has diligently been utilising for the saving of the community at Mafeking. I don't know another man who could have done his work there if the same conditions had been imposed on him."


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1947, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.