African Seeds

A Scout at Mafeking



The Boy on the 1d. Blue Mafeking Stamp

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

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 to me: 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 chacter, whom the son idolized and in whose footsteps he tried to follow.


Captain Charles Goodyear was a true "King of Mafeking", having been one of the first residents of this place, and later its first Mayor. He was a well-known Army Officer. In earlier times, he had joined Col. Warren's expedition, was then the first Officer to join the Bechuanaland Border Force, and at the beginning of the Siege was placed by Baden-Powell in command of the Cape Boy Contingent which did some excellent exploits against the enemy. In one of these Capt. Goodyear was severely wounded.


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.


You know what boys are: They had been careering about the deserted streets like March Hares, anyway. 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 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 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 which I am taking 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 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'."


However, 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.


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 pointblank 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 ..."


The majority of the boys, however, 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, friends etc. 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 later on), 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.


Now at the beginning, 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.


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


The Bicycle, in fact, 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.

Anyway, 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 - crash - bang - 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.

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.

The first Boy Scout, Warner Goodyear, however, died in 1913 at the early age of 26.

(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.)

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From The South African Philatelist 1957.
Reprinted in the Mafikeng Mail and Botswana Guardian, 3 September 1982
Stamp illustration from the Scouts on Stamps page