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The Italian Boy Scouts
(The Ragazzi Esploratori Italiani).

Sir Francis' biggest gain, within the Order of World Scouts was the foundation of the Italian Scouts. At his winter home, Bagni di Lucca in the Appenine Mountains, Vane had started a Troop at the local school. Its popularity took on and the movement spread gaining the backing of the Catholic Church. The official launch took place on the 12th July 1910 at the Lawn Tennis Club in Bagni. An audience was arranged for the 6th November 1910 through some friends, with the King of Italy at San Rossore. He inspected a Troop of 30 Boys accompanied by Vane and his co-founder Remo Molinari. From this audience the King Victor Emmanuel pledged his patronage and became the President of the Italian movement. Prince Di Cassano was appointed the organiser in Rome of the Esploratori. As in England Vane had gained the support of prominent members of society. The Italian Scouts represented one of the healthier elements of Vane's expansion, not being founded as a result of schism with any other national movement. Vane had initially used the National Peace Scout Lily badge (or a variant badge with the legend "Be Prepared" underneath) on the boys Uniforms at Bagni, but this quickly gave way to an Italian design of similar shape which in its turn was considered too ornate. A replacement lily was provided when a scout spotted a magnificent stone lily in the Lanaivoli Fiorenti Chapel in the Church of Corpoazioni Medioevali di S. Agostino.


(picture: REI 1910 - Sir Francis Vane far right. - © BBS UK)
The War years and the absence of Vane from Italy took its toll on the Ragazzi Esploratori Italiani and although Vane's initiative had lasted only four years, it gave rise to further scout organisations. Most REI troops merged with the Corpo Nazionale Giovani Esploratori Italiana (CNGEI-National Explorers Youth Corps), which had been founded in October 1912 by Carlo Colombo, a Professor at Rome University who had met Baden-Powell and was aware of Vane's movement.

At the end of the War, Vane settled once again in Italy, and after the death of his wife in 1922 sought to be re-involved in Scouting. Sir Francis wrote to B-P in 1923 seeking to work with him, suggesting that he could be B-P's personal representative in Italy to improve the running of the Italian Scout movement. B-P declined Vane's offer, pointing out that the Italians were already represented on the International Committee, founded as part of the World Scout Bureau in 1920/1.

In 1924 Sir Francis was invited to help in the Associazione Scautistica Cattolica Italiana (The Association of Catholic Scouts) founded in 1916, a further Association resulting from Vane's initiative. The invitation came from Vane's friend Professor Cavaliere Giovanni Ponti, ASCI Regional Commissioner of Venezia Euganea (Veneto).

Carlo Colombo had sought from the outset to create a single Italian Association loyal to Baden-Powell and had issued an appeal to REI leaders and the leaders of factions which had emerged from the REI. To offer a sense of continuity with Vane's organisation, the same Scout lily was adopted by the CNGEI. This loyalty to the B-P organisation had ensured that the National Scouts became founder members of the World Scout Bureau and could claim its recognition.

There was a continued refusal to recognise the Catholic Scouts, with which Vane was involved, even though they formed the largest organisation of Scouts in Italy. Sir Francis continued to work for the Italian Catholic Scouts until they, and the National Scouts were suppressed by Mussolini in 1927. The revival of Scouting in Italy only came after the Second World War. Although both revived Associations, CNGEI and ASCI were recognised in 1946 by the World Scout Bureau as a Federation (Vane having died before the War in 1934), the World Bureau only credited the foundation of Scouting in Italy to 1912, the date the National Scouts had been founded, effectively rewriting Italian Scout history and denying Vane a part. Despite this clear refusal of the World Scout Bureau to give Vane any credit, Scout Historians today in Italy, have become more aware of their real historical heritage, and at last the truth of the actual foundation of scouting in Italy is emerging.