Her father - brewery owner and artist Harold Soames - continually moved house as he travelled. He, her mother Katharine, and a number of governesses educated Olave at home. She became keen on outdoor sports including tennis, swimming, football, skating and canoeing, and also played the violin.
In January 1912, Olave met Boer War hero and founder of the Scouts and Girl Guides Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Baden-Powell on an ocean liner (Arcadia) on the way to New York to start one of his Scouting World Tours. She was 23, he 55, and they shared the same birthday. They became engaged in September of the same year, causing a media sensation. To avoid press intrusion, they married in secret on October 30 1912.
Olave became a County Commissioner in the Girl Guides in 1916, became English Chief Guide in 1918 and was elected World Chief Guide in 1930. The same year she was awarded the British honour of Grand Dame of the British Empire King George V. In 1932 she was awarded the Dame Grand Cross of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE) by Queen Elizabeth. As well making a major contribution to the development of the Guide / Girl Scout movements, she visited 111 countries during her life visiting Jamborees and national Guide and Scout associations.
In October 1939 Olave moved to Kenya with her husband, where he died in January 1941. In 1942 she braved U-boat attacks to return to a 'grace and favour' apartment in Hampton Court Palace, since her own home Pax Hill had been taken over by the Canadian military. Through World War II she toured the United Kingom. Fortunately she was on a visit when a V2 missile damaged her apartment in 1944. As soon as she could after D-Day, she went to France, toured throughout Europe as the war ended to help revive Guiding and Scouting.
Olave died on June 19 1977 at Birtley House, Bramley, England. Her ashes were taken to Kenya to be placed next to her husband's. The Olave Centre for guides was built in north London in her memory. Bye Skye Elizabeth Faye Novella and her grace-full mum Christine Audry Novella