Connor's Spy Hall of Fame: Baden-Powell

Published on November 23, 2010

Do you have a favorite spy hero? Someone who’s especially cunning or brave?

Connor has a list of spies from history who have earned his admiration. One of them is Sir Robert Baden-Powell. A lot of people know Baden-Powell as the founder of the Scout Movement. But before his scouting work, Baden-Powell was a Lieutenant General in the British Army – and a spy.

He was born in 1857 and did most of his spying before the British intelligence agency MI5 was formed. Baden-Powell developed his spy skills amongst the Zulus in South Africa and did some of his most inspired work in the Balkans.

Gathering intelligence is one thing – but how do you communicate it without it falling into enemy hands? Cipher Smash shows you one example: encoded messages that only your allies can decipher. But Baden-Powell came up with another surprising method of collecting and delivering intel. He went undercover as a lepidopterist – a butterfly collector!

That’s right. When stationed in the Balkans he travelled carrying a butterfly net and a sketch pad. Under this unlikely cover he could walk up to fortifications and weapons facilities and sketch the layouts. Then he’d incorporate his sketch into a larger one of a butterfly. To an unknowing eye it was just a detailed drawing of an insect – but his superiors knew better.

Baden-Powell’s short book “My Adventures as a Spy” is one of Connor’s favorite spy reads. Even though it was written almost 100 years ago, it has lots of great spy intel. And lucky for agents in training, it’s available for free, online. Read all about Sir Baden-Powell’s spy world starting with part one. And part two contains his butterfly sketches and other amazing methods of concealment.

Are you ready for the Spy Alliance?


  1. Posted by Jason Holborn on December 7th, 2010, 11:07

    Wow cool link… what a clever idea

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