In “Forged in the Heat of Battle,” mental_floss shares the true story the colonialist roots of the Boy Scouts. In 1899, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell had been left, with little resources, to defend British control in South Africa. Faced with defeat, wily Baden-Powell put his smarts and adventurous upbringing to use and enlisted the Cadet Corps:
Decked out in khaki uniforms and wide-brim hats, the young cadets traveled around town on donkeys. (Later, when food became scarce during the siege, the donkeys were eaten, and the boys switched to bicycles.) Their duties kept the boys busy and gave them a sense of purpose. More importantly, the Cadet Corps left the outnumbered British soldiers free to fight, effectively quadrupling their manpower.
Baden-Powell’s success in South Africa, and the popularity of his survival books among children, spurred the birth of Boy and Girl Scout organizations abroad.
Source: mental_floss(full text not available online)