The Mafeking Cadet Corps was a group of boy cadets during the Siege of Mafeking (now Mahikeng) in South Africa. They are sometimes seen as forerunners of the Scouts, because they were one of Robert Baden-Powell's inspirations in creating of the Scout movement in 1907.
The siege of Mafeking took place over 217 days during the Second Boer War in 1899-1900. Robert Baden-Powell was the British colonel charged with defending the town. Because of the shortage of manpower in the town, boys were used to support the troops, carry messages, and help in the hospital. This freed up men for military duties, and kept the boys occupied.
The cadets consisted of volunteer white boys below fighting age. Their leader was the 13 year old Warner Goodyear, who became their Sergeant-Major. They were given khaki uniforms and a wide-brimmed hat which they wore with one side turned up, and a Glengarry cap, and the towns people often commented on their smartness.
One of the cadets' duties was to carry messages around the town and to outlying forts, sometimes as much as a mile away across open ground. At first they used donkeys, but as the siege ran on, food became scarce and the donkeys ended up in the kitchen. From then on, the cadets used bicycles instead.
Another important duty was to act as lookouts, mainly to warn the townspeople when the Boer siege guns were aimed and fired at different parts of the town. The town produced its own postage stamps, known as "Mafeking Blues", for postage during the siege. The first stamps depicted Baden-Powell, followed by a stamp depicting the cadet leader Warner Goodyear seated on a bicycle. The Mafeking stamps are unusual among the stamps of the British Empire, because they do not depict the monarch.
Today marks the 113th anniversary of the start of the siege, which lasted from 13 October 1899 until 17 May 1900.