Boy Scouts Creator Was British Spy Who Hid Military Maps in Insect Drawings

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Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

If you look at the above image of a butterfly, you’d likely think it’s just a simple detailed picture. But what if we told you it was a map showing the specific locations of an army’s weapons on a fortress?

We know this because the drawing was created by Robert Baden-Powell, a lieutenant-general in the British Army, a writer, and the founder of the Scout Movement and first Chief Scout of The Boy Scouts Association, according to Wikipedia.

Baden-Powell detailed his military secrets in My Adventures as a Spy, a book he wrote after retiring from the military and starting the Boy Scouts.

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From My Adventures:

“This sketch of a butterfly contains the outline of a fortress, and marks both the position and power of the guns. The marks on the wings between the lines mean nothing, but those on the lines show the nature and size of the guns, according to the keys below.”

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

In Baden-Powell’s drawings, he hides the location’s weaponry and the structure of whatever military fortress he was observing. In another image of a moth, we can see he reveals the details of a fort atop a knoll with two field guns and a machine gun.

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Baden-Powell writes that he disguised himself as an entomologist to reduce suspicion if he was ever stopped while he was conducting espionage.

“Carrying this book and a color-box and a butterfly net in my hand, I was above all suspicion to anyone who met me on the lonely mountain side, even in the neighborhood of the forts,” wrote Baden-Powell.

If you’d like to learn more, you can download a copy of the book at Gutenberg.org.

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

Source: Gutenberg.org/Public Domain

(h/t Atlas Obscura)

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