At the tender age of 15 young ‘Bob’ Wroughton became the world’s first Boy Scout, and had a glittering career of success in front of him. Yet just seven short years later, he became one of the first to die in the killing fields of the First World War.
Now for the first time, his story can
be told, after a remarkable archive of documents and pictures
chronicling his short and tragic life, has come to light, providing
a poignant reminder of the 'lost generation' of young men who died
in the war that was supposed to end all wars.
The archive, uncovered during a house
clearance in the south of England, goes for auction at
Mullock's Auctioneers next sale of historical documents in
Ludlow, Shropshire on November 22 - and is expected to make over
Musgrave Cazenove Wroughton -
known affectionately as 'Bob' by his friends and family - came from
a well-to-do Northamptonshire family. His father was master of the
Pytchley Hunt and they lived in a mansion in the
A close family friend was Sir Robert
Baden-Powell, hero of the Siege of Mafeking during the Boer War,
and when 'BP' came up with the idea of organising a camp for boys
to teach them the principles of leadership and teamwork, he
immediately turned to 'Bob' Wroughton to join him in his
The camp was held on Brownsea Island
in Poole Harbour, Dorset, in August 1907 - and became an historic
event. For it was that beginning that the World Wide Boy Scout
Movement was to emerge. The centenary camp for the global movement
was also held on Brownsea.
After the Camp, Baden Powell heaped
praise on Bob's leadership : "…he was a great help to me &
quite set the example to other Patrol Leaders," he wrote in a
remarkable letter to Bob's mother, which forms part of the archive
and in which he also asked her for Bob's suggestions as to how the
whole Scouting movement could be established.
"It was clear that Bob had a
glittering career ahead of him," said auctioneer Richard
Westwood-Brookes. "He was from a landed, moneyed family, receiving
high praise from a national hero and clearly destined for great
A career in the army was a natural
progression. He was commissioned in November 1913, and when war
broke out the following August joined the 12th Lancers where again
he received high praise for his courage. His Major wrote of him
that he was an "excellent soldier and can turn his hand to
After just a few weeks of the war, he
had gained a gallantry honour, being Mentioned in Disptaches by the
Commander in Chief, Sir John French.
But Bob Wroughton's career was not to
last much longer. While out on patrol in the notorious Ypres
salient in Belgium in October - just eight weeks after the war
began - he was shot by a German sniper, and on the 30th of that
month, he died from his injuries. He was 23 years old.
A distraught Baden Powell wrote to his
parents soon after the event: "I have felt as nearly as possible
like a second father to him, and to read the little testimonies to
Bob's character after all the hopes that I had formed of him, is
the greatest possible comfort. I am so glad that he had made his
mark already before he died."
His parents also received letters from
some of Bob's men. His Sergeant Major, sending a snapshot of his
makeshift grave, said: "He was such a brave young officer and loved
by the whole of his Troop & Squadron. Sgt Stone & I carried
him to a place of cover, his last words to me were 'never mind me
Sgt Major, look after yourself'."
A private named Haselin, who was also
a servant at the Wroughton household, wrote, sending his 'dog-tag'
and mentioned how he was protected by Bob on the day he was
wounded: "I have his horses with me, he told me yesterday to look
after the horses and not go into the trenches so was not in the
thick of it, but I wish I had been with him all the
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