The Boy Scouts Association

The Boy Scouts Association


The origins of the Scouting Association can be traced back to the Second Matabele War when Robert Baden-Powell and Federick Russell Burnham, the American born Chief of Scouts for the British Army first met and begun a lifelong friendship. Burnham had been a scout practically his entire life in the United States when he went to Africa in 1893 to scout for Cecil Rhodes on the Cape-to-Cairo Railway. 

In mid-June 1896, during their joint scouting patrols in the Matopos Hills, Burnham began teaching Baden-Powell woodcraft, inspiring him and giving him the plan for both the program and the code of honor of Scouting for Boys. These skills eventually formed the basis of what is now called scoutcraft, the fundamentals of Scouting.

Both men recognised that wars in Africa were changing markedly and the British Army needed to adapt; so during their joint scouting missions, Baden-Powell and Burnham discussed the concept of a broad training programme in woodcraft for young men, rich in exploration, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance.

In 1909 three boys, having acquired a copy of Scouting for Boys decided to become scouts. These three boys were the start of the 1st Bulawayo (Pioneer) Boy Scout Group. By 1910 the group began to take shape, under the leadership of the Rev. T.O.Beattie. He held meetings twice weekly in a small tin hut, nicknamed the “Bishop’s Palace”.

Scouting grew quickly and in 1924 Rhodesia and Nyasaland sent a large contingent to the second World Scout Jamboree in Ermelunden, Denmark. The great popularity of the Boy Scout movement in Rhodesia was due to its outdoor program such as hiking, camping, cooking and pioneering, which was unusual in the protectorate. Additionally, the training and progressive badge system was targeted towards helping others, leading to responsible citizenship.

Because of the prevailing circumstances earlier in the 20th century, a separate movement was established for black Africans called “Pathfinders”. By the 1950s the time was considered to merge both movements into one Scout Association, as was done with the South African Scout Association.

During the years of 1960-1979, Scouting in Rhodesia lost a large number of members in the outlying rural areas. Accordingly, the revival and expansion of Scouting in these areas is a prime target at this time.

In 1980, after independence, it became known as the Zimbabwe Boy Scouts Association and became an independent member of the World Scout Conference.




  • James Gavin
  • Keith Harrop