Betty Clay

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Betty Clay
Betty Clay.jpg
Born (1917-04-16)16 April 1917
Died 24 April 2004(2004-04-24) (aged 87)
Nationality British
Other names Betty St Clair Baden-Powell
Known for Guiding and Scouting
Spouse(s) Gervas Charles Robert Clay (1936–2004; her death); 4 children

Betty St Clair Clay CBE (née Baden-Powell and styled after marriage "The Honourable Mrs Clay"; 16 April 1917 – 24 April 2004) was the younger daughter of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting and Olave Baden-Powell. She was the sister of Peter Baden-Powell; the aunt of Robert Baden-Powell, 3rd Baron Baden-Powell and Michael Baden-Powell; the niece of Agnes Baden-Powell, Baden Baden-Powell; niece and god-daughter of Warington Baden-Powell; and granddaughter of Baden Powell.


Betty enrolled in the Brownies as soon as she was old enough. She was educated at Westonbirt School, Gloucestershire and St James' School in Malvern, Worcestershire.[1] While boarding at St James' School, she joined the school's Girl Guide company.[2]

Betty accompanied her parents on many official tours including some overseas, the first of which was the maiden cruise of the "Duchess of Richmond" round the Mediterranean and down the West Coast of Africa from 26 January to 8 March 1929; she was 11. Other tours were to Switzerland in 1931, and again in 1932 for the opening of "Our Chalet"; to South Africa, and also the first two "Peace Cruises" - on the SS Calgaric in 1933 and on the RMS Adriatic in 1934 - as well as a round-the-world tour which included the first Australian Pan Pacific Scout Jamboree held in Frankston, Australia from 27th December 1934 to 13th January 1935. They also did a tour of Africa in 1935-36, where she met her husband-to-be on the homeward voyage from CapeTown to England.

Upon her marriage in 1936 (see below), Betty moved to Northern Rhodesia, where she became a Cub leader for the pack of which her youngest son was a member, when the leader left. She was an active Guider in Northern Rhodesia, eventually becoming Colony Commissioner for Guides. When the Clays returned to England in 1964, Betty continued her involvement. She was President of the South West Region for the Guide Association from 1970-91. In 1978 she was appointed a vice-president of the Guide Association. In 1985 she became a vice-president of the Scout Association.

In 1993, she became only the second person ever to be awarded an honorary Gilwell Wood Badge.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In 1936, on board ship returning from Africa, Betty met Gervas Clay (16 April 1907 – 18 April 2009),[3] a District Commissioner in Her Majesty's Colonial Service in Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia), who was returning to England on leave; they married on 24 September 1936. They lived in Northern Rhodesia until retirement. Gervas Clay later became Her Majesty's Resident Commissioner of the Barotseland Protectorate, in which capacity, in 1960, he and his wife entertained Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Gervas and Betty Clay had four children: Gillian, Robin, Nigel and Crispin.

Betty, Gervas and Robin Clay were all born on 16 April, sharing the same birthday; Betty's parents also shared a birthday, 22 February, and they, too, had met on board ship. Betty's brother and his wife also shared a birthday.


She was the holder of the Bronze Wolf from the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and a gold Silver Fish in the form of a brooch from the Guide Association.

In 1997 she was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). She attended many Jamborees, including the 4th World Scout Jamboree and 16th World Scout Jamboree and others between.


She died, aged 87, on 24 April 2004, in Elliscombe House Nursing Home, where she was recovering following a fall at home.[4] She was cremated in Yeovil Crematorium, and on Wednesday, 5 May 2004, her ashes (and five years later those of her husband Gervas) were buried in the Churchyard of the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist,[5] North Cheriton. A memorial service was held at Wells Cathedral, Somerset, on Monday, 12 July 2004 at 2:30 p.m.[6] and was well-attended.[7]


The Scout Association's Betty Clay Library is located in Gilwell Park.

See also[edit]


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