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Detail from image of Lord Baden-Powell inspecting a row of Australian Boy Scouts, 1927
Australian Boy Scouts reviewed by Lord Baden-Powell, 1927 (NAA: A3560, 775)

August 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Scouting movement by Robert Baden-Powell. The organisation had a modest beginning with an experimental camp for twenty boys, which was led by Baden-Powell at Brownsea Island in Dorset, England. In 1908 Australia was one of the first countries to adopt Scouting, following the release of the first Boy Scout training handbook, Scouting for Boys. Today, there are over 28 million Scouts from 155 countries.

Records in our collection reveal an enterprising wartime use for Australian boy scouts. In 1939, a Mr McGuinness wrote to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons about a scheme that involved using boy scouts for border patrol. The grand scheme suggested raising an army of 20,000 scouts aged 15 to 18 years who would be sworn to serve five years. The boys then would be divided into companies and positioned at intervals around the Australian coastline. Once at their posts the scouts would be soldiers, prospectors and self-sufficient gardeners.

The scheme was not supported by the government and McGuinness was sent a letter of reassurance that a senior cadet force was already in place for young men to contribute to the war effort.

  • read caption below
    Letter from E McGuiness to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, 13 February 1939
  • read caption below
    Response to E McGuiness, 13 March 1939
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017