Warner Goodyear - the first Scout

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After his father, Captain Charles Goodyear's death, Warner Goodyear, showed that he had inherited his father's courage, enthusiasm and organising ability, qualities that were immediately recognised by Baden-Powell. At twelve years old, as Sergeant-Major of the Cadet corps, Warner Goodyear, "did right good work," and he and his companions "well deserved the medals which they received at the end of the war." So wrote Baden-Powell in his book Scouting for Boys, and there is little doubt that the world-wide movement of Boy Scouts sprang from the little band of boys between the ages of 11 and 14, under the leadership of Warner Goodyear, who were employed as orderlies in lieu of men who could not be spared from the trenches during the siege.

Warner Goodyear was appointed Lieutenant before the siege was raised, and in writing of him after his death at the early age of 26, Lord Baden-Powell said "Goodyear's memorial will be of permanent value since it will record the case of a boy who in serving his country with bravery and distinction, showed that the right boy can be trusted with responsibility just as well as any man, and has just as fine a sense of duty."

Warner Goodyear's sisters, the Misses Lottie, Maude and Lorna Goodyear, have carried on the family tradition of public service. All three have been responsible for running the Mafeking Public Library, and under their care it has grown from modest beginnings into a very well-stocked country library. Miss Lorna Goodyear (now Mrs. Clark) was responsible for starting the first troop of Girl Guides in the town in 1915, and on her retirement 84 Guides had enrolled.

Captain Helge Charles Murman, grandson of Captain Goodyear, and son of his fourth daughter, won the D.F.C. in the Second World War before he was killed in April 1944, carrying on the tradition of patriotism and courage of his family.

Captain Charles Goodyear[edit]

Captain Charles Goodyear (left) and son Warner Goodyear (right)

The late Captain Charles Goodyear, after whom Charles Street is named, who died on 21 November 1910, was one of the first residents of Mafeking. He joined Col. Warren's expedition and on disbandment he was the first officer to join Col. Carrington in the Bechuanaland Border Force. In 1885 he sat on the Commission which was responsible for laying out the Township of Mafeking, and amongst the local buildings designed by him is the Victoria Hospital. A man of striking character and ability, from the very earliest days Captain Goodyear played a conspicuous part in the life of the Town. He took an active interest in the Village Management Board, and when the Municipality was formed in 1896, he was elected Mafeking's first Mayor, or Chairman as the office was then termed.

A well-known Army Officer, he was severely wounded in the Boer War, when the late Lord Robert Baden-Powell placed him in command of the Cape Boy Contingent, with which he did excellent exploits against the enemy during the siege of Mafeking.

The Boy on the 1d. Blue Mafeking Stamp[edit]

By Dr. K. FREUND, Reprinted from "The O.F.S. Philatelic magazine", August, 1957

Mafeking Stamp Bicycle.jpg

Warner Goodyear was 12 years old when the shadow of a Siege with all its hardships fell upon him, his family and the citizens of Mafeking. But he was such an efficient, courageous boy that it was not long before the great Colonel Baden-Powell the gallant Commander in charge of the invested town, recognised the excellent "Scout Leader" qualities of this youngster. Young Warner showed all the characteristics of a good "Scout"; Loyalty, Unselfishness, Enthusiasm, Inventiveness and Courage.

To tell the truth, Goodyear and his gang of boys were about the only ones who treated the Siege more as a game. As one of these Scouts once wrote: They were full of playful nonsense and just loved the excitement of doing errands and other duties while shells were whistling around.

None the less, they took their responsibilities seriously, doing "good deeds", not every day, but every moment, and executing "man-sized jobs" under the most dangerous conditions. They were the true protagonists, the "kernel", of the future world-wide movement of Boy Scouts.

In praising Warner Goodyear, one must not forget that he had inherited all his "Scout" qualities from a remarkable father of striking character, whom the son idolized and in whose footsteps he tried to follow.

Formation of the Cadet Corps[edit]

When the Boer forces started to surround Mafeking and an attack on the town was imminent, Baden-Powell mustered all the available man-power to take up the stand.

Alas, there was only a small handful to withstand the large Boer forces. Altogether 700 trained men police and volunteers could be placed by Baden-Powell at strategical Outposts and Forts at the surrounding flat outskirts of the town.

In addition, there were some 300 town males of all shapes and varying degrees of fitness. Many of them were "white collar" workers who had never seen a rifle in their lives, who at the beginning were hopelessly at sea when they had to learn to drill and to shoot. Baden-Powell remarked once that it was "not much fun to face an enemy who meant to kill you, when you have never learned to shoot!"

The whole place of Mafeking to be defended was about 5 miles around and contained 600 white women and roughly 7 000 Natives.

Gradually, the man-power position got even worse, some of the men getting killed, many others wounded. The duties of fighting and keeping night-watch on look-outs became harder for the rest.

Drilling and Scouting[edit]

The corps drilled regularly under Maj or Lord Edward Cecil. Warner Goodyear was made their leader and appointed a Sergeant-Major. The boys were a very smart bunch and kept proud bearing at all times, fully conscious of their responsibility and importance.

Baden-Powell frequently watched the drilling with great satisfaction an asked himself: Why cannot all boys be like that? There and there he made his resolution to form a civilian corps of Scouts on similar lines as soon the war was over.

B-P himself taught the boys wood-work, camping and hiking whenever he could manage. When the boys mere off-duty, for instance on Sundays, he arranged Competitions which in type were very similar to competitions still familiar to Boy Scout of today. Here is for instance one from the "Mafeking Mail, Special Siege Slip" No. 10. April 29 1900:

   "Cadet Competition -
   The rules of the above will be as follows:
   Each cadet will receive a letter on the Recreation Ground. He will carry it to the Staff Officer; route via Carrington Street. He will then receive a verbal answer and return to the Recreation Ground to the sender and repeat the verbal message to him in a loud, clear tone of voice.
   Timekeepers: ....." 

The duty of the boys[edit]

While all ordinary, decent citizens kept lawfully underground, in dug-out bomb-shelters, as the General Orders demanded, the boys could never be kept underground for long, but hopped and tore around as boys would do. The boys had been careering about the deserted streets like March Hares. The wilder the bombing and shelling, the greater fun it was for them.

At Baden-Powell's instigation, his Chief Staff Officer Major Lord Edward Cecil, got together all boys of the place, from 9 years upward, and formed them into a cadet corps.

Now, their exuberant activity could be harnessed into some useful duties which so far had been carried out by men: Delivering military orders and messages from and to the Forts, keeping look-out, acting as orderlies, and delivering civilian mail among the population which was scattered through the town and not allowed to move about at most times. In particular, no civilian was allowed to visit the outposts, and no soldier was allowed to visit the outposts, and no soldier was permitted to go back into town, for long periods, except by special permit. Letter-writing was therefore the only means of communication among the poor Mafekingians.

All these aforementioned duties were taken over by the boys of the new Cadet Corps which released men to go and strengthen the firing-line. The boys were put into Khaki Uniform, and wore either a forage cap or a "smasher" hat and a yellow "pugaree". The hat was not unlike the Boy Scout's hat worn today, but it was usually turned up on one side. Boys who were appointed messengers or postmen received a despatch pouch. None of the boys were armed.

The boys had to carry out their jobs frequently under heavy shell fire, but bravely carried on, although it meant risks to their lives every time. Here is a typical incident which Baden-Powell reports in his book Scouting for Boys: "I said to one of these boys on one occasion, when he came in through rather a heavy fire: `You will get hit one of these days riding about like that when shells are flying'. And he replied `I pedal so quick, Sir, they'd never catch me'."

Watch duty[edit]

As far as the types of jobs are concerned, some boys took over on the look-out post at the top of Minchin's building. Here they kept watch for the firing of the great Boer cannon which was poised at the town and at them, at point-blank range. Their duty was to sound the alarm bell in time for everyone in town to take cover.

A special General Order concerning this Warning Bell was issued on January 3, 1900:

"The big bell will ring as a warning that the gun is loaded. If this is not followed by a certain number of deliberate strokes on the bell it means that the gun is pointed away from the town. TWO deliberate strokes on the bell, following the ringing of the bell as above, mean that the gun is pointed away from the town, SIX deliberate strokes following the ringing of the bell, means that the gun is pointed on the northern point of the town ..."

Postal service[edit]

The majority of the boys, became mail carriers. This local mail service, as already stated, was of great importance for everybody, as at most times it was the only means of communication between relatives and friends to tell each other that they were still "alive and kicking". It kept up the morale of the fighting men and the population and helped winning through gloriously against heavy odds.

The postage service conducted by the boys went through various stages, from early experimental beginnings to a smooth-running, well-arranged scheme. The charge per letter in the Service "between Outposts and Town" was 3d. - in the "Inner Town" Service 1d. per ½ ounce. The revenue thus obtained served to pay for the upkeep of the donkeys (see Donkey Corps), for the purchase of Bicycles and their repairs, (see Bicycle Corps), for boxes, bags and other running expenses.

As this local post was at first not considered of sufficient importance for official funds, the cash was first met by a cash fee for each letter carried.

Donkey Corps[edit]

The Cadet Corps was supplied with Donkeys which had been captured from the Boers. Boys who had to cover the great distances to the Outposts mounted these Donkeys and became proud "horsemen" (or better, "Donkeymen").

But this did not last for long as gradually one Donkey after the other was requisitioned by the army and disappeared into the soup kitchen. The poor creatures had to be killed for food. Conditions had become so austere that there was no wastage, as far as this "operation" was concerned, and the following crude, but true account may be of interest.

The mane and tail were used for stuffing pillows and mattresses in the hospital (Victoria Hospital). The shoes were melted down for shells. The flesh became sausages. The skin and hoofs and head were boiled for hours and ultimately became a kind of brawn. The bones were used in soup.

With the Donkeys gone, there was no Donkey Corps any more.

Bicycle Corps[edit]

Mafeking Bicycle Corps.jpg

The boys now had to look for substitutes which were less perishable and less liable to attract epicurean demands.

They agreed on Bicycles to carry them on their "beats" to and from the Outposts. The purchase and upkeep of these bikes made large inroads on the debit side of the postal system. But they proved to be the most satisfactory means to make the local mail service a very efficient one.

Warner Goodyear poses for the stamp design[edit]

Mafeking Stamp.gif

The Bicycle became the symbol of the Mafeking Cadet Corps, and when Warner Goodyear was unanimously considered as the obvious choice to be immortalized on the 1d. stamp, his Bicycle certainly had to appear on it, too.

Incidentally, it was never expected that men of the garrison would affix this 1d. stamp with Goodyear (and the 3d. stamps with Baden-Powell) on letters going out to other parts of the world, but this is what happened. If it would have been foreseen, Troop-Leader Goodyear would never have appeared on a stamp, as this was the prerogative of the Queen and other members of the Royal family.

Goodyear was chosen as a worthy stamp subject representing all those brave boys under him, and a photograph had to be taken of him in preparation for the stamp design. The whole party which turned up in one of Mafeking's deserted streets to take the "still" and the whole preparations must have resembled the shooting of a film scene by a modern film company.

Everything was ready for the great moment, Mr. D. Taylor lifted his hand, Warner Goodyear put on his best winning smile, when the bang of a heavy enemy shell blasted into the ground within a very short distance from where the peaceful group was concentrating on artistic work. The whole show was upset. Goodyear tumbled down with his bicycle, not so much as a consequence of the blast, but losing his balance on account of the unexpected, sudden commotion. He picked himself up, dusted himself and prepared to take up his former position again, when further shells started to crackle left and right.


One boy named Brown who had come into the town as a refugee just before the siege started and was attached to the messenger corps, actually was killed towards the end of the siege. This was the only casualty among the boys, except for minor mishaps and scratches.

The Scouts[edit]

Before the Siege was raised, Sergt. Maj. Warner Goodyear was made a Lieutenant. After the Relief, the boys of school age returned to school and formed the School Cadets. The older boys joined the Bechuanaland Rifles. All of them however kept together, and calling themselves "The Scouts" went out camping and scouting whenever opportunity offered.

Baden-Powell returned to England in 1903, becoming Inspector-General of Cavalry and after 2 years Commander of a northern Territorial Division During that command, he started the Boy Scout movement.

Warner left Mafeking early in 1912 and moved to Randfontein, some 35 km from Johannesburg, where he was employed as an underground gold miner.

An enthusiastic sportsman, his favourite games were cricket, tennis and hockey. While playing hockey at Randfontein he was hit on the head by a hockey ball which ultimately caused his death by embolism and haemorrhage on May 24,1912. And so it was that the first Boy Scout, Warner Goodyear, died at the early age of 26.

Baden-Powell's wish fulfilled[edit]

During a return visit to Mafeking, in 1926, Baden-Powell was approached by Mr. J. Gerrans with the suggestion that a memorial stone should be erected at Randfontein, with a view to perpetuate the memory of Warner Goodyear.

Baden-Powell deplored the death at such an early age, agreed to the suggestion, and forwarded a cheque towards the necessary fund, with a letter to Mr. Gerrans stating 'Herewith, I beg to enclose a small contribution towards a memorial to Sergeant Major Goodyear. I believe very much in training the young lads up to a good standard of citizenship - before they are too old to learn self-discipline and a sense of duty. Goodyear will be a permanent value to this end since it will record the case of a boy who, in serving his country with bravery and distinction, showed that the right boy can be trusted with responsibility just as well as any man, and has just as fine a sense of duty'.

At the time, Mr. Gerrans stated to the press that the memorial will probably take the form of a suitable engraved marble tablet to be erected at Randfontein Cemetery.

However, on a visit by John Ineson to Randfontein, he was unable to find the memorial, but did discover from the burial register that Warner Goodyear was buried in plot 199 in an unmarked grave. It is not known what happened to B.-P.'s donation but John's appeal to the many Scout stamp collectors was well supported.

Unveiling of Memorial[edit]

Mafeking WarnerGoodyearMemorial2.jpg

The memorial stone to Warner Goodyear was unveiled by the Chief Scout of South Africa, Garnet De La Hunt, on Sunday, May 24, 1992.

The day started with lunch being held in the dining room of the Randfontein Estates Gold Mine, the company employing Warner at the time of his death. The lunch was attended by over 100 Scout Leaders and civic dignitaries from far and wide. The lunch was served with the best South African wine, and was paid for by local donations.

The Randfontein Council had gone to much trouble in tidying up the cemetery. New paths had been laid, the main road had kerb stones put in place, the graveyard weeded and the area outside the cemetery had been turfed with grass, especially for the occasion.

A large contingent of Scouts and Guides were present, together with parents, friends and invited guests for the unveiling of the memorial stone by the Chief Scout. A service of dedication was taken by Father Basil Templeton, with music supplied by the local pipe band. It was a lovely sunny day, the service, as well as the address by the Chief Scout, was inspiring, for this was the day exactly 80 years ago that Warner Goodyear died.

Following the memorial service, everybody made their way to the Randfontein Scout Headquarters for tea and cakes. The Chief Scout unveiled a plaque in the Headquarters commemorating the day, and he then asked the Scouts to be responsible in the future for the grave and memorial stone.

Mafeking WarnerGoodyearMemorial1.jpg

The wording on the memorial stone reads:

6TH AUGUST 1886 - 24TH MAY 1912
1899 - 1900

Primary sources[edit]

  • Mafikeng Mail and Botswana Guardian, 3 September 1982.
  • Dr. K. FREUND - "The O.F.S. Philatelic magazine", August, 1957
  • Mr John Ineson - SCOUTING Magazine, September 1993

With grateful acknowledgement to the following Siege personalities for information supplied: Mr. J. V. Howat, the late Siege postmaster; Col. H. Greener, the late military postmaster and Chief Paymaster of the Siege; Major (now General) Sir Alexander Godley, advisor in Siege postal matters; Mr. Henry Hammond, a Cadet of the Mafeking Messenger Corps; and last but not least, Lord Baden-Powell who was gracious enough to correspond with the writer in 1939.

See also[edit]