Before the beginning . . .
Around the turn of the 20th century, the army was recruiting young men to join the Boer War. Over half the volunteers were turned away as unfit to serve. Meantime, adults were complaining about the youth of the day hanging around on street corners and indulging in petty crime . . . as adults have complained for centuries!
Robert Baden-Powell was both an army officer, and a Boer War hero and celebrity. Because of his fame, many people and groups wrote to him to ask his advice on all sorts of topics, including members of boys' clubs who wished messages from him to encourage their youth members. After being approached by the founder, Sir William Smith, he agreed to become a senior official with the Boys' Brigade and wrote a book for them, "Hints from Baden-Powell". Around the same time he met the American, Ernest Thompson Seton, and learned about the scheme for 'Woodcraft Indians' Seton had created, the woodcraft books he had written, and the woodcraft camps for boys which he ran. It is likely that Smith, Seton, and others, would have provided some of the inspiration, and certainly some of the ideas which Baden-Powell used in this book, and in his subsequent books.
Robert Baden-Powell came to believe that the answer to the problem of youth disorder lay in providing positive and attractive alternative activities, and he thought that some of the activities he had enjoyed when young - exploring the countryside, stalking animals, camping - and some he had read from authors such as Seton, might be just the sort to attract modern boys. To test out the theory, in 1907 he ran an experimental camp on Brownsea Island with a mixture of boys - half were the sons of upper-class friends, the rest were all local Boys' Brigade members from the Dorset area (contrary to myths, there were definitely no boys from the east end of London present). During the camp they worked in 4 mixed 'Patrols' with Patrol Leaders, and tried out his ideas for tracking, first aid, nature study, rescue from fire, and other challenges. Each night they had a 'campfire' where they would sit around the flickering flames, listening to Baden-Powell's yarns of his adventures, and singing the occasional song or performing 'party pieces'. Following the success of the camp, Baden-Powell wrote 'Scouting for Boys'. In fairness, it ought to be said that although there were some original ideas which Baden-Powell created, and he did the work of unifying other disparate ideas from several sources into a workable package, a lot of the 'practices' ideas in the book were directly lifted from the work of other authors, particularly Seton, and not always credited as clearly as they should have been. (On the other hand, after Scouting started, many authors tried to claim Baden-Powell had copied their ideas, most failing to prove that the ideas were not common currency amongst the assorted boys' clubs which sprang up in the era).
His publisher, Arthur Pearson, decided to release the book initially as a serial, with the combined hardback book version following later in the year, to maximise profits. Although it was said that Baden-Powell had intended the new book to be used as a resource by the leaders of existing boys' clubs such as the Boys' Brigade to enhance their existing programmes, in fact the low cost of the installments meant it was particularly bought by individual boys, who turned their gangs of pals into Scout Patrols, dressed up in the suggested outfit, and headed for the nearest public park, field, or open ground to try the ideas. And the completeness of the book's package - with programmes, badges, and a particular uniform of clothes to wear, doesn't seem to fit with the notion of occasional nights or a few weeks in a row amongst a general boys' club programme. Within a few months Pearson had started a magazine to capitalise on the popularity of the new scheme, 'The Scout', which contained a regular column by Baden-Powell, but also exciting adventure stories, hobby pages, and regular competitions to collect as many coupons from copies of the magazine as possible in order to gain prizes such as places at a camp with Baden-Powell at Humshaugh in the North of England - of course, all devised by Pearson to increase the readership still further. Baden-Powell did not care for the style of the competition, but did not have editorial control.
Girls saw what was happening, got hold of copies of the part-work or book, and soon formed Patrols too. Some of these were independent and had to meet in secret, but a few Patrols are known to have met with sympathy from Scoutmasters, and been attached to Boy Scout troops - such as with the Cuckoo Patrol, enrolled and attached to the 1st Glasgow Scouts. In Edinburgh, following a public meeting addressed by Baden-Powell in December 1907, Molly Mellis-Smith and her brother both spoke to him, and both promptly set up Boy and Girl Scout troops in the Colinton district of Edinburgh. Although some girls may have registered at Scout Headquarters surreptitiously by giving initials and surname to hide the fact they were girls, many others openly quoted full names which were clearly feminine, and were registered regardless. A Scout rally was held at Scotstoun Stadium near Glasgow in 1909, which was attended by both Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as by the founder. In the January 16 1909 issue of "The Scout", Baden-Powell thanks Girl Scouts for their Christmas greetings and states "They make me feel very guilty about not having yet found time to devise a scheme of Scouting better adapted to them, but I hope to get an early opportunity of starting upon it. In the meantime they seem to get a good deal of fun and instruction out of "Scouting for Boys" and some of them are really capable Scouts". Later that year, the 1909 edition of Scouting for Boys included guidance on uniform for Girl Scouts as well as for Boy Scouts.
So it is clear that Baden-Powell was well aware of these girls' Patrols, he had met girls like Molly Mellis-Smith who were keen to become Scouts, and he accepted them, aware that girls had even fewer opportunities than boys in the society of the time. Girls were openly applying to be Scouts and were registered as such, and Baden-Powell had made it clear in his writings that girls could be, and indeed often were, capable Scouts - but soon it was clear that the public feeling would demand separate meetings and activities for girls, and would frown on girls doing some of the regular Scout activities at all. So although the attitude in 'The Scout', was extremely positive and welcoming to Girl Scouts, from September onwards, after the Crystal Palace Rally where 'The Times' advised that the presence of Girl Scouts 'excited considerable curiosity' and mentioned that in the march past 'The Girl Scouts were loudly cheered as they passed', it became clear that Baden-Powell could hesitate no longer, but would have to act if he was to protect the Scouts' growing good reputation from the threat of controversy over Girl Scouts, especially mixed Scout meetings or activities. In an era where the more militant acts of some suffragettes were capturing media attention, any group which seemed to be seeking to obtain more rights or freedoms for women risked being linked to that cause. Finding that the first aid organisations were not interested in taking on the existing Girl Scouts as junior nursing trainees, as he had hoped they might, he asked his sister Agnes Baden-Powell to set up a separate organisation for girls from across the United Kingdom (which at that point included all of Ireland). The starting point was the over 6000 girls already openly and officially registered as Girl Scouts.
So in 1910, with the foundation of a £100 loan from her brother, Agnes rented a room in the Boy Scout Headquarters, bought a stock of badges with her own money, and started the process of registering both Guide Companies, and also individual Guides.
Pamphlets A and B were produced giving information - otherwise, initially, the Guides continued to work for the Scout challenges and badges, and follow Scout programmes, adapting them as they thought best. Uniform, too, was still open to quite a bit of interpretation - when all 5 Edinburgh Guide Companies paraded for a Royal visit in 1911, they found that although styles were broadly similar, 2 companies wore blue uniforms, one wore green, one wore brown and one wore scarlet! It still wasn't easy to persuade the public that Guides would be a respectable hobby for girls. In 1911 the Duke of Devonshire was quoted by The Times at a girls' school opening as saying that "he hoped that the gymnastic training in the school would not induce any of the students to take part in the various movements which were better confined to the male sex. As a strong opponent of the Girls' Scout movement, he trusted that the gymnastics would not induce them to take part in demonstrations of force at Westminster or elsewhere" - presumably a reference to the activities of suffragettes who were campaigning for women to be allowed to vote in elections, sometimes by means of direct action. In 1912 the first Guide Handbook, "How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire" was brought out, written by Agnes and based on her brother's book. Reading through it, it is clear how much material Agnes contributed in order to amend and add to the original book - how skilfully Agnes managed to tread a middle path, with just enough of domestic skills to reassure worried parents that their girls would not be turned into wild tomboys who would neglect the home duties expected of girls in that era in order to go running off into the countryside causing trouble - and enough of the adventurous Scout activities to enthuse the kind of girl who had been so keen to join Scouting to go hiking and exploring in the outdoors in the first place. Hence the approach that Agnes took was that the Guides would prepare girls for life up-country in the farther reaches of empire, where it was likely that they might have to run a house, tend a kitchen garden, and look after their children without access to shops or the help of servants, and also be involved in caring for the sick, potentially in the absence of trained doctors and certainly without nursing assistance. So the Guides practiced childcare, laundry work, sick nursing, needlework and household management - but they also practiced stalking, hike cooking, nature study, emergency first aid and took long hikes in the countryside - and even camped - many stayed in barns or village halls, but some were actually allowed to sleep in real army bell tents! Interest badges available included ones for such modern pastimes such as cycling, wireless communication and aeroplane flying. Guidance was gradually issued on where to wear badges, and on the new designs and syllabuses as they became available. Agnes also toured around the UK speaking to groups to promote Guiding, including a well-received visit to Scotland in 1913. Soon, under Agnes' direction, Guiding was growing even faster than Scouting!
In 1912 Robert Baden-Powell had married Olave Soames, who was 32 years his junior, having met her 8 months earlier on board ship during one of his extensive Scouting world tours, and then corresponded thereafter. She applied for a County Commissioner post soon after her marriage, but was unsuccessful due to her inexperience (she had had no involvement in Scouting, and minimal knowledge of it, before meeting Baden-Powell, nor had she experience of other youth work). In the meantime she did some volunteer work with the Scouts, including a period helping in their Rest Hut in France during the war, and set up a Scout unit with her domestic staff. In 1916 a County Commissioner post became vacant, she was successful in obtaining it, and moved quickly to develop Guiding in her County, setting up a network of Commissioners and other officials. Finding that the Headquarters Committee Agnes had set up consisted mainly of older women (experienced charity organisers who thus, naturally, were nearer in age to Agnes' at 58 than Olave at 27), she wrote to her friends around the country urging them to apply to become County Commissioners - within 2 years, at the first County Commissioner Conference, the County Commissioners elected Olave to be Chief Commissioner, many of her young friends filled the senior posts, all of the previous Committee members had left (in several cases extremely reluctantly), and Agnes was sidelined into the honorary position of President (soon reduced to Vice President when Princess Mary was appointed President). From then on, through until her death in 1977, Olave was very clearly in charge of Guiding, both in the UK, and worldwide.
In 1914, World War I broke out. Up to that time, public reaction to Guides had been very mixed, with many adults still disapproving of such a militaristic-seeming organisation - and many young children mocking. Some adults had been resistant because they thought that the Girl Guides were being trained as war nurses, and would thus be liable to be called up if war broke out - not a pleasing prospect for any parent. The coming of war, however, gave the Guides a chance to show the value of their training, and they certainly did. They worked in hospitals, prepared bandages and dressings, taught first aid and acted as casualties for practices, helped run nurseries, as well as collecting waste goods and making large numbers of bandages and clothes for the troops. They picked and preserved hedgerow fruit, and helped with harvesting crops on farms - vital at a time when food was at real risk of running out. They also raised large amounts of money - both in general for the Red Cross and refugee funds, and for specific projects such as the regularly-extended Guide rest hut they funded in France, and the motor-ambulance they supplied. A War Service badge was brought in, which was awarded for a certain number of hours of war work, or a certain number of garments knitted and sewed. Guides were also employed as messengers within the MI5 building during World War I - Scouts had been tried, but weren't as efficient and reliable as Guides were! They were employed in carrying messages within the building, and also oral messages outwith it, of vital national importance and with top secrecy. So trusted were they, that British Guides were asked to work as the messengers during the confidential discussions at the Versailles peace conference in 1919.
Although the Guides were not in any way planned to be a suffragette movement, or to support that or any other political cause, it does seem likely that the capable, competent voluntary work done by these girls would, in it's own way, have helped to contribute to the general yet rapid change in public opinion regarding women's capabilities which was taking place at the time, and which suggested a potentially wider role for women in society than had hitherto been known. . .
The establishment of Guides had brought forth the problem of the younger sisters - they tried to tag along but just couldn't physically cope with the umpteen-mile long marches or hikes and long 'field days' the Guides went in for - but they were desperately keen to join in and kept badgering! So it was decided to set up a junior group in 1914. The initial name was 'Rosebuds' - the idea being that they would 'flower' into Guides - the younger girls liked the uniform, loved the activities, but hated the name - far too twee! In 1915 a name-change was brought in - to Brownies. By 1915, too, there were four uniform suggestions for them, to replace the original blue jersey, skirt and hat, and an acorn badge had been designed to replace the original Rosebud badge. Of these, the brown dress with the brown bucket hat in straw or cotton was the most popular, although for several years an assortment of different hat styles and materials were seen. The acorn didn't last long either, and was soon replaced by a 'Brownie man' on a pin, in brass.
1916 also saw a further development - many Guide Companies were facing the problem of older Guides who were creating a logjam - they were outgrowing the Guide activities, but either weren't ready to be Guiders or weren't in a position to take on the work due to their working hours, and in the meantime, they were preventing the younger Guides in the companies from getting their turn at being Patrol Leaders. So Senior Guides (renamed 'Rangers' in 1920) were formed to cater for the needs of these older Guides. They had a red hatbadge and their interest badges were initially with a red edging on white felt, and later in red on navy felt, as shown on the right. A scheme of activities was devised for them to specialise in particular sorts of community service, with each unit asked to choose which sort to specialise in, then to train as a squad who could work together to serve their communities.
A further group, Cadets, was also started for those older Guides who wished to train towards becoming Guiders - as with the army cadets, they wore broad white hatbands and white ties as their distinguishing marks, as well as having a white Promise badge with navy edging. Initially, Cadets were mainly based at locations such as teacher training colleges and boarding schools. Before long, as the value of their training was seen, County Cadet units were set up in many counties, to link up the Cadets who were working in units and provide central training and support to them.
In 1918 came the official start of the Extension Section, as it was then known - because the section existed in order to extend Guiding to serve members with disabilities. Guiding for the disabled had first started right back in the earliest days of Guiding with pioneering units in some children's long-stay hospitals where children were often bedbound for years, receiving family visits for an hour only once a week at most, and sometimes receiving no formal schooling at all - and it had quietly expanded as doctors saw the value of Guide activities to girls with such restricted lives. Soon it was serving hospitals, homes and residential schools dealing with blind, deaf, mentally and physically disabled children of all types, as well as children in 'reformatories' and other special schools. Extensions had a lilac Promise badge, and some adapted clauses were available where absolutely necessary, but often ways of managing the existing clauses were found - a bedbound Guide could have an asbestos sheet laid across her quilt, which allowed her to safely build and light a small fire on her bed!
1919 brought the Lone Section - designed for girls who could not attend regular unit meetings. This might be because they lived in a rural area where there were not enough girls of age to make up a Patrol, or because they attended a boarding school which did not have a Guide Company, or because they were housebound by ill health, but there were many other reasons too. Lones were registered to a Lone Company and received their 'meetings' by post - in the form of letters containing activities and ideas - they carried out the suggestions at home, added in the record of what they had done, then posted it on to the next person in their Patrol so they could have their turn. Their Promise Badge had a large 'L' for Lones, in their section colour - blue for Guides and red for Rangers (yes, you did and still do get Lone Rangers!) Lones still exist in many areas of Britain, catering for those who cannot attend local units for whatever reason . . .
The 1920s saw Guiding quickly become both much more accepted, and also much more widespread across the UK, with hundreds of new units opening up each year - and further international expansion too. Sadly, this may well have been directly linked to the number of young war widows and spinsters which were generated by the appaling loss of millions of young men in World War I (and equally in the flu epidemic which followed it). Many women who might have expected to be settled into marriage and having children - found themelves single, with few suitable occupations to fill their time and energies in an era when generally only working class women would consider taking on paid employment. Units opened up in many more small towns and villages across Britain and beyond, and camping in tents became much more common as the fears that it might damage girls' health subsided, and society in general became much less rigid. In my own home area, each of the villages opened up a Guide unit during the 1920s, most of which are still running. The Guides did a lot of work in fundraising to send food, clothes and toys to poorer districts, as post-war financial hardships hit many families in industrial areas, with the general strike and the depression.
1920 saw the start of Sea Guides - later renamed Sea Rangers - for those girls who were 'nautical-minded' - whether they lived by the sea or not. In addition to doing all the standard Guiding activities, the girls learned a lot of sea lore including navigation, signalling, sea shanties, nautical handicrafts such as knotting and whittling - and Companies worked hard to fundraise to get their own obtain boats, and then learn how to use and maintain them properly. Usually Sea Guide companies were located near some body of water, whether sea, river, lake or canal, which could be used for sailing, canoeing or rowing activities of one sort or another, appropriate to the local conditions. The tradition was soon established of crews adopting ships, taking on these names, and studying their voyages - an Edinburgh one of long standing was SRS Forth (SRS standing for Sea Ranger Ship). They had distinctive uniforms both for formal and for working rig, which was a great attraction too!
1922 saw the opening of the first Guider Training Centre, at Foxlease in Hampshire, thanks to generous financial help from Princess Mary. Now regular formal training was available to Guiders from across the UK and abroad too, with week-long residential courses held throughout the year on topics of all sorts, and for all sections, which attracted trainees not just from across the UK, but also from many countries around the world too. At the trainings the Guiders joined temporary Patrols, and carried out duties and training excercises as members of these Patrols - some of the logbooks the participants wrote and hand-decorated so beautifully still exist in the Foxlease archives. Of course, in those days weeklong residential trainings weren't such a problem to most Guiders - the servants could surely keep things going at home for just a week!
In 1924 the first World Camp was held, at Foxlease, in conjuction with the World Conference which was being held there. Groups of Guides attended the camp from many of the countries which now had Guiding, and the arrangements were on an epic scale. It was the first of many international camps and gatherings which have been held since.
1926 saw the introduction of 'Thinking Day', the special day on which Guiding members around the world think about their international sisters, and also about the founders of Guiding - the date was chosen because it was the birthday of both Robert and Olave Baden-Powell, but we think about Agnes, too.
In 1927, Waddow Hall in Lancashire was opened as UK Guiding's second training centre. It helped both to cope with both the growing demand for training places, and with the need to have a training centre located in the north of the UK - an indication of how Guiding had spread and expanded across the whole of the UK in such a short time.
By 1929, Guiding was fast outgrowing it's headquarters space too - the rented rooms in Scout Headquarters were not enough, and famously some of the early records were allegedly lost when the bath they were stored in leaked! A new headquarters building was needed, so a major "Save our stuff" fundraising drive was launched, with individuals and units encouraged to 'buy' a piece of the building, and have their name recorded in the 'book of builders'. With bricks and steps and pillars being sponsored by individuals and units up and down the country, soon enough was raised to pay for the new building in Buckingham Palace Road, London.
The 1930s brought forth uniform changes for each of the Sections which basically served to standardise the most popular of the options which had been available before. Brownies now had a standardised brown dress, with folded brown tie and metal bar Promise badge. Guides had the option of a one-piece dress, or a navy overblouse and navy skirt, with folded tie in the Company colour.
In 1932 the first Guide 'World Centre' opened, in Adelboden, Switzerland. "Our Chalet" was the result of a dream - of an international centre, not belonging to any one country, which Guides from around the world could all call home, and where they could meet, discuss and exchange ideas, and learn from each other. The woman who turned the dream to reality was Mrs Helen Storrow from the USA. She provided the funding, and helped to choose the location.
1932 was also the year in which Guiding celebrated it's 'coming of age' or 21st Birthday. History books give the reason for the celebration being a year late as being for 2 reasons - one was the work to build the new Guide headquarters in London, which finally opened in 1931 after two years of major fundraising, and the other was apparently the difficult financial situation in Britain. However, in July 1930 "The Guider" had announced that "the Guide coming-of-age should be celebrated in 1932, 1911 being the year in which the Association officially started." This is presumably a reference to official registration of the movement, because 1910 is undoubtedly the year the Guide section was launched!
That year also brought a change to the design of unit flags - up to this date, unit flags in the UK had featured the First Class badge on a navy background - the new design featured the new Guide World Badge in yellow, on a mid-blue background. Flags could still be 'lettered' with the unit's official registered name - as the price was charged per letter, a short name was useful!
In 1935, 'Old Guides' groups were officially started (although they had existed for many years before that in many areas where Guide units opted to stay in touch with their former members) - which went on to become formalised as the 'Trefoil Guild' in 1943. Initially they followed a similar pattern to most school former-pupil associations, with a 'recorder' acting as both secretary and organiser, and regular reunion-type gatherings and social events. They also often acted as extra camp staff, activity helpers, specialist instructors etc for both unit events and for larger gatherings.
1936 saw the death of King George V, and Guides throughout the UK renewed their Promise to swear their allegiance to the new King. Thus 1937 brought celebrations for the royal Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth - who had been a Guide Commissioner at Glamis in Scotland. Their daughters also joined Guiding that year, with Princess Elizabeth joining the specially-formed 1st Buckingham Palace Guide Company, and Princess Margaret (despite being underage) joining the 1st Buckingham Palace Brownie Pack, the rest of the unit members being the children of palace staff. As can be seen, although the Brownie and Guide uniform of the day required the girls to wear black wool stockings, the Princesses wore knee-socks, at the special request of the King, who did not like to see his girls wearing thick black stockings!)
In 1938, war clouds were gathering, coming to a head with the 'crisis' in September - Guides were involved in evacuation practices, and in assembling and issuing gas masks. Sea Rangers from London and surrounding districts were recruited to serve on special launches which would operate on the Thames, transferring casualties downriver to hospitals in the event of bombing over London, the Rangers being responsible for catering and communications by morse and semaphore. Guiders were encouraged to register for war work in 'The Guider' magazine. Fortunately, peace negotiations were successful, and it was hoped that war was averted, though tensions remained during the following months . . .
1939 brought the long awaited "Pax Ting" international camp in Hungary, despite the risks as war tensions rose. Guides from various countries around the world assembled in the Hungarian countryside for a week-long camp. It was a great success, and, despite the concerns hanging over everyone that there might be difficulties if war were to break out during the camp, with so many Guides far from their home countries, the peace held and all the campers got home safely. Within a fortnight, however, the long-dreaded war had broken out . . .
The outbreak of war had an immediate effect on Guiding across Britain, far more so than had been the case in 1914. The government had made plans to evacuate children from city areas (which were likely to be affected by bombing) to country areas which were considered safer, and the campaigns to persuade parents to register their children for evacuation were largely successful. So on the day after war was declared, children gathered at their schools, suitcase in hand, and were marched to local train stations by their teachers, while younger children travelled with their mothers, all to 'destinations unknown' in the country, often many hours away. As a result, overnight, most city units emptied of all but the older Guides who were of working age - and at the same time, country units which had long struggled to recruit enough girls to be viable at all found themselves swamped with sometimes 40 or 60 transfers, all keen to continue in Brownies or Guides at their new home, most with no knowledge of country ways or unwritten rules. Equally, as many young Guiders had answered the appeal in 'The Guider' and volunteered for war work - many were called up to serve immediately at locations often far from home, leaving their packs and companies without any Guiders - and in the following years many more would be called up, especially when conscription for single young women was introduced. It fell to the Patrol Leaders to try and keep Guiding going in many areas throughout the war, with perhaps occasional support from an older Commissioner or a former Guide on a few weeks' leave - most units succeeded, showing their resourcefulness and the value of their Guide training. War service by Guides included messenger work, acting as casualties for first aid training, raising funds for the red cross, collecting sphagnum moss for wound dressings, collecting waste paper, jam jars and other comodities for salvage, learning to put out incendiary bombs with stirrup pumps, and taking part in fundraising drives for War Bonds, 'Salute the Soldier' weeks and the like, and helping at communal air raid shelters by serving refreshments and entertaining the crowds - a great deal of it done with limited adult assistance.
With the outbreak of war one group of Edinburgh Guiders took on special service. Although there were plans in place to evacuate school children, many disabled children didn't attend school, so weren't included in the plans. These Guiders approached the authorities to set up a residential school in the countryside to cater specially for these children. The Trefoil School was set up near Edinburgh, providing accomodation and education for physically disabled children. It was organised and run by Guiders, on Guide/Scout lines, at a time when most disabled children did not get any formal education, and were often housebound. It continued right through until 1976, by which time the local authorities had taken over responsibility for the education of the physically disabled - thereafter the building near Hermiston became an adapted holiday centre, which provided holidays for the disabled, and respite for their carers.
In 1940 the 'Home Emergency Service' started. This was a special training scheme which was created for Rangers, in order to train them in skills including emergency first aid, air raid precautions, self control and organisation, etc. Those who qualified earned a badge, and an armlet, to wear on their uniform, to indicate the special training they had done, and the aim was to create squads of Rangers across the UK who were trained in skills which would be useful no matter which way the war went.
In a reflection of what had happened during World War I in building the rest huts, so again a special fundraising 'Guide Gift Week' was held in 1940, this time to raise money for air ambulances to airlift casualties from 'the front' back to hospitals behind the front line where they could be treated more effectively. The effort exceeded all expectations, and paid not only for a fleet of air ambulances, but also several land ambulances, a rest hut in Iceland, and a lifeboat. When construction of the lifeboat was almost complete, the famous call went out for 'little ships' to muster on the south coast of England, so without pausing to ask, the boatyard decided to send the lifeboat as it was, and it served in the evacuation of Dunkirk, as it's maiden voyage. To commemorate this, the lifeboat was named 'The Guide of Dunkirk', and it served as a lifeboat in south-west England until the 1960s - recently it underwent restoration work.
In 1941 Robert Baden-Powell died peacefully, at his retirement home in Nyeri, Kenya. Shortly after this, Olave Baden-Powell returned to the UK to see for herself the war work which was being done. A memorial fund was started, which ran for many years, the funds being invested in War Bonds for the duration - hence the lack of a tangible memorial. Following a Government appeal, the starting age for Rangers was lowered to 14 - such was the demand for Rangers for war service work, and the recognition of the value of Ranger training, that older Guides were recruited into Rangers from 14, rather than 16, and Rangers was one of the groups that the Government encouraged teenagers to join as part of their national service.
In 1942 new uniform options were brought in for Rangers, who were now allowed to wear knitted jumpers, rather than the previous uniform skirt suits, to ease the problem of clothes rationing. This was especially valuable with the massive increase in numbers in the Ranger section caused by both the reduction in the joining age, and also by the way in which former Rangers were especially valued by the women's services because of the training they had had - many saw that joining Rangers, and the recognised training they would get there, would give them a head start when they joined the services.
In 1943 preparations began to train volunteers for service in Europe and the far east after the war to try to 'win the peace', in the Guide International Service, or GIS. They were trained to be adaptable volunteer teams, able to work with refugees to diagnose and treat contagious disease, to set up temporary maternity hospitals, to carry out emergency feeding programmes amongst the starving and malnourished, to organise the repatriation of former prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates, and to work with locals to bring relief to the 'displaced persons', work to find homes for them to go to, and prepare them for their new lives, possibly in new and strange countries. As well as the work done by the teams, a lot of fundraising work had to be done by Guides in Britain in order to support them, despite the war shortages - to provide the equipment and fuel the teams needed, to provide the funds to pay the team's basic living expenses, and to provide extras such as equipment to allow refugees to resume their professions, or simple christmas presents for the children. A GIS team was amongst the first into the Belsen Concentration Camp, and the work of the teams, and the fundraising to support them, carried on long after other organisations had to pull out for want of funds. The work continued until the last team finally withdrew in 1950, when the majority of the displaced persons had been resettled and the German government was able to take over the remaining work.
In 1945 Agnes Baden-Powell, the 'Grandmother of Guiding' died, and was buried in the family plot in London (although her name is not listed on the grave stone, efforts are currently under way to raise funds to rectify this). Netherurd, the Scottish Guide Training Centre opened, thanks to the generosity of Major Thomson, who charged only a peppercorn rent of a shilling a year, and eventually was kind enough to sell the house and the surrounding estate to Guiding for the same modest fee. It continued in use as the Scottish training centre until March 2020 when it was closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 - and in August 2020 it was announced that it would not re-open, but instead steps would be taken to sell it.
1945 also saw the founding of the Air Ranger section. There were never a very large number of 'Air Ranger Wings' - by the mid 1950s there were 8 'Wings' or units around the UK according to the annual census - they tended to be run by former WAAFS, were usually attached to airports or flying clubs, and catered for the 'air-minded' girl, with specialisation in topics such as navigation, aeroplane modelling, meteorology, astronomy, gliding and other air-related topics, as well as aeroplane maintenance and air force drill, all in addition to the standard Ranger programme.
The Queen's Guide programme was introduced in 1946, offering an extra challenge for Guides, who had to gain certain specified interest badges to qualify. (At that time, Queen's Guide referred to the then Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother, hence the angular crown on the badge, from 1953 it referred to the current Queen Elizabeth, and the style of crown changed). Later it was tied to interest badges, with a large number of interest badges covering a wide range of topics having to be gained in order to achieve the coveted award, and a lot of work involved in it thereby. It continued to be the highest challenge for Guides until 1983, when it was moved to be a Senior Section challenge, and was split into topic sections.
1947 saw the opening of Broneirion, in Wales, shown on the left, which like Netherurd was originally rented, and following a long fundraising campaign, Girlguiding Cymru was eventually able to buy. In the same year Lorne, shown on the right, was gifted to be the regional training centre in Northern Ireland. It has seen many developments and improvements since, with new buildings being opened and the site developed, and continues to be a very popular centre for Guiding in Northern Ireland.
In 1947 an international folk dance festival was held, which attracted entries from across Europe and beyond, and did a great deal to help promote post-war Guiding at a time when difficulties were still being caused by the aftermath of war and by rationing.
In 1948 Empire Ranger Week was celebrated, with special events being held around the Empire (now known as the Commonwealth) to commemorate the links between Britain and the countries with which she had such long historical associations.
Though 1952 brought the sorrow of the King's death, leading to Guides across the Country renewing their Promises at their unit meetings in order to swear their allegiance to the new monarch, it meant that 1953 saw major celebrations to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A special Guide 'Coronation' book was published which gave details both of the ceremonial, and the Queen's own Guide and Ranger career. There was a special badge to be worn on uniforms, and all sorts of pageants and celebrations were arranged during the year. Guiding members around Britain did special good turns, which were specially recorded and sent to the Queen as an expression of their service and loyalty. The event was especially valued, as the Queen had been a Guide, Sea Ranger, and then served as Chief Ranger of the Empire, a title in which she was succeeded by her sister Princess Margaret, but which has not been awarded since.
In 1957 Guiding celebrated the centenary of Robert Baden-Powell's birth with a special World Camp at held by special inviatation in Windsor Great Park, and many smaller camps were held in locations around Britain. On the night of his birthday, all Guiding members were asked to put lit candles in the windows of their houses.
1960 brought Guiding's Jubilee, or 50th Birthday. A special pageant was held at the Empire Pool in Wembley, as well as celebrations and international camps elsewhere, and a special Jubilee song was written, and a special history book produced too, "The First Fifty Years".
Around this time, too, (coincidentally around the same time that Scouting was going through a similar process) it was decided to review the programmes for all sections, with a view to updating and improving them.
From 1966 major changes started to be introduced, following the publication of the report 'Tomorrow's Guide', which culminated in 1968 with new uniforms for all sections, new handbooks and programmes for all sections, and a major launch week to hand out the new handbooks to all the members, marked in different ways around the country. The Brownie Tenderfoot, Golden Bar and Golden Hand were replaced by the Footpath, Road and Highway. The Guide Tenderfoot, Second and First Class were replaced by yellow, green, red and blue 'Trefoils'. So it was out with set tests for all, and in with a programme where challenges were tailored to the individual. The separate Land, Sea and Air Rangers and Cadets were merged into one Ranger section, with matching uniform and programmes. Although the changes were radical, and undoubtedly controversial, particularly for the Rangers who saw their separate groupings end, and for Cadets, who saw their section abolished. (Some breakaway organisations were formed, particularly for Sea Rangers, by those who objected to the changes - and the Sea Ranger Association still exists) the majority seemed to accept them, however reluctantly.
1970 meant the diamond jubilee, with celebrations and special camps spread across the UK, including four regional ones in Scotland, a group of folk-singing Guiders travelled around the UK from camp to camp.
The Young Leader Scheme was started in 1973, perhaps it could be seen as an admission that the abolition of Cadets had been hasty? Soon the numers of Young Leaders were increasing rapidly, and the training they gained fed through to adult Guiding.
Joint Guide and Scout 'Folk Fest' competitions were held draing in entries from across the UK, reflecting the increasing popularity of folk music in general, and several albums of Guide singing were recorded.
In 1974 Brownies celebrated their Diamond Jubilee - the first time a Brownie anniversary had been marked in a large-scale way. There were two different styles of ribbon badge produced - one was the rectangular one shown, and the other was in a diamond-shaped style.
It was the Rangers' turn in 1977, their Diamond Jubilee was marked with special camps and events, including four special themed camps around Scotland. The year was also the Queen's Silver Jubilee year, giving extra cause for celebration.
Olave Baden-Powell died in 1977, after a short period of ill health, and the memorial in Westminster Abbey was altered to jointly mark Robert and Olave. Her ashes were then taken to Kenya to be buried in the plot with her husband.
In Northern Ireland, 'Bunnies' were started, for girls aged 4-7, which was a forerunner of the later Rainbows, introduced UK-wide in 1987. Bunnies wore a grey necker, met in warrens, and could work for 'Bunny Bobs' - coloured badges each on a different theme, which were sewn on the back of their neckers. The bunnies had a promise badge, showing a black rabbit on a white background. They were restricted solely to Northern Ireland, and were not widely known of outwith the province.
In 1983 the Baden-Powell Award was introduced, as the highest award for Guides, with Queen's Guide moving to Senior Section.
1984 brought round the Brownie 70th Anniversary, celebrated with a national tea-making competition. Brownies were challenged to make tea for people in as unusual a place as possible, and venues included in an airport fire engine's 'Simon Snorkel', under the branches of a several hundred year-old weeping willow tree, on lifeboats, and all sorts of other assorted venues.
It also brought a generous gift to Girlguiding Anglia, when the Patteson sisters left their family home, Hautbois, for use as a training centre - the newest of the training centres located around the UK. Following a great deal of fundraising, the centre opened, with campsites and extensive facilities in it's grounds, as the Anglia region headquarters and training centre.
It was the Guides' turn in 1985, with their 75th Birthday celebrations. A flame lit in London was shared with Counties and Districts up and down the country, and special 'Rainbow Camps' were held simultaeously in Counties around the UK. There was also an Outdoor Challenge, for members of all ages to try an outdoor activity they had never done before, and special national concerts were held too.
1987 saw the introduction of Rainbows. Since the late 1970s there had been a scheme for 4-7 year olds in Northern Ireland - Bunnies - but now under 7s in the rest of the UK were able to join Guiding too for the first time. The Rainbow uniform was a tabard in the unit's colour, to be worn over the girl's ordinary clothes, and initially the programme was very minimalist, with the new Rainbow Guiders having to create their own opening and closing ceremonies, unit activities and traditions from scratch - but still they coped!
Song and Dance Year in 1988 was designed to encourage the arts, with a new songbook of non-copyright songs being published, in order to encourage musical performance.
Brownies also celebrated their 75th Birthday, in 1989.
1990 brought new, modern uniforms for all sections other than Rainbows (who got a new green baseball cap, but then as their uniform had only been introduced three years before, it wasn't so far out of date and was quite flexible anyway), following a long and painful consultation process. It all stemmed from a Guide rally in 1985, held at the Crystal Palace, where a combination of unseasonably cold weather, and Guiders insisting on their Guides not wearing coats over their thin cotton uniforms despite the lengthy period of time spent standing about in the cold breeze between activities, led to a crop of hypothermia cases which made the national news and brought a fair bit of negative coverage and an inquiry. It was then decided that practicality and warmth were more important factors than smartness in uniform, so Jeff Banks of 'Clothes Show' fame was brought in to consult members, and to use these as a basis to design the new uniforms. After much deliberation, a mix and match range was brought in for each section, to allow the flexibility of different religous and cultural needs, featuring sweatshirts, hoodies, jogging trousers, cullotes, polo shirts, sweaters, denim-type shirts and baseball caps, all in specified section colours - yellow and 'forest brown' for Brownies, mid-blue and navy for Guides, aqua and navy for Senior Section, and navy and pale blue for Guiders. Badges were now worn on sashes for Brownies and Guides, and on pin-on badge tabs for Senior Section and Leaders - but yes, there really was a rule stating you could only have a maximum of 4 badges on a tab!
The Senior Section celebrated their anniversary in 1991 with 'Trail 91' Camps at the 6 Guide Training Centres - and campers encouraged to try and travel round as many of them as they could. (Anniversary years for Senior Section did seem to vary, given that their diamond jubilee had been celebrated in 1977!)
1992 saw the introduction of the 'Go' Challenge for older Brownies, to ease the transition between Brownies and Guides. In this year, too, the Rainbow Promise Badge design was changed to bring it into line with the other sections, albeit their badge was cloth rather than metal, for safety reasons.
The Look Wider programme was introduced to Senior Section in 1994, to replace the previous Ranger Service Stars and the Young Leader Scheme.
Rainbows celebrated their 10th anniversary in 1997 with lots of special parties, and 'Rainbow Riots' beign held in local areas.
In 1999 a special World Camp was held at Foxlease, which reflected the original one held there in 1924, 75 years on, with delegates arriving from round the world to reflect on the past century, and coming millennium.
Guiding celebrated the millennium in 2000 with all sorts of special '2000' celebrations.
Soon after they were celebrating the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 with royal parties.
2003 saw the introduction of the new Brownie programme, with Brownie Adventure, and Brownies Adventure On, and the special 'Go For It' which each Brownie tackles in the term before leaving, to help prepare for the move to Guides.
2004 brought another Brownie Anniversary, and the new Rainbow Programme, with Roundabouts, Roundabout badges, and the Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow.
2006 was the Senior Section 90th Anniversary, with celebrations of various sorts.
2008 was the Rainbow 21st birthday, with all sorts of sunflower-linked celebrations to mark their special year.
2009 was a pre-centenary year, marked by every unit in the country taking part in a 'Changing the World' charity project for one of 12 charities, the idea being to do a good turn for others before celebrating for ourselves. In September, the big centenary year started with special launch parties in September, in venues across the country.
From September 2009, with the nationwide Launch Parties all held on the same weekend, to 20th October 2010, when every member in the Country was asked to take part in a mass Promise-renewal/finale at exactly 20:10 (20:10, 20/10/2010), Guiding celebrated it's Centenary Year with all youth sections being involved (leading to some controversy, given that the Guides hadn't had an anniversary celebration since 1985). Rainbows had Princess Parties, Brownies 'Took Over' all sorts of places, Guides had 'Getaways' and Senior Section had 'Ultimate Adventures' - and Guiders were kept hard at it to organise it all! There were 'One World One Beat' events held at 5 main venues across the UK to mark Thinking Day, and special Centenary Camps held during the summer, including the UK one at Harewood House and the Scottish one at Netherurd. Units were encouraged to organise their own local celebration events, too, so all sorts of parties, activity days and exhibitions were held. During the year the 'Adventure 100' challenge ran, offering a wide range of activity ideas. A 'Story Gathering' project was launched, to collect oral histories from a wide range of people who were or had been involved in Guiding - from Rainbows to Centenarians!
2012 brought two anniversaries - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee saw celebrations of all sorts, although these were in general national celebrations, Guiding was involved in all of the events. At the Olympic Games in London, too, many Guiding members were involved as volunteers and helpers, at the games venues and in related work. 2012 also brought the Rainbow 25th Birthday celebrations, with a special badge designed by a Rainbow, and lots of parties, gatherings, outings and special events to mark their silver jubilee.
In 2014 Brownies celebrated their "Big Brownie Birthday" - celebrations included "Star Quest" and a special Challenge, as celebrations ran from January through to August. For Thinking Day members were encouraged to put candles in their windows on Thinking Day night (although it was suggested that battery-powered candles or night lights would be safer) as was done in 1957 for the Baden-Powell centenary.
2015 brought round another anniversary - no, not another centenary quite yet, but a special royal anniversary, as in the autumn Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-serving UK monarch. Although there were no major celebrations for this, a special badge was issued, in cloth and metal forms, to be worn by everyone who was a member of Guiding on the special day.
2016 brought another centenary celebration - this time it was the Senior Section's turn, with their "Senior Section Spectacular" marking the centenary of their oldest component, the Young Leaders. The whole of Senior Section took 2016 as their centenary year, with a wide range of activities, challenges and events including a grand ball to mark their special year - and of course, a badge!
2017, was the turn of Rainbows, with their 30th Birthday Celebrations. These were held in each Country and Region, resulting in a range of local badges and challenge packs, not a national one. 2017 was also the sapphire jubilee of the Queen, with a special badge launched for this. And, 2017 also saw the start of testing of programme changes for all sections, almost on the scale of the changes made in 1966-68.
In July 2018 the new programmes for all sections launched, with a year-long transition period. Across Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers (yes, the 'Ranger' name was revived) the same programme structure and 6 Themes would apply - Know Myself, Express Myself, Be Well, Have Adventures, Take Action, and Skills For My Future. Within each theme there would be 'Skills Builder' activities and Unit Meeting Activities to do at the regular unit meetings - and a selection of Interest Badges for the girls to work on at home. Completion of a selection of these would earn a 'Theme Award', and any girl who earned all 6 Theme awards whilst in a Section could complete the final challenges to earn that section's Gold Award - Rainbow, Brownie, Guide or Ranger. The most controversial aspect was the change to the Senior Section age group, with the upper age reverting to the 19th birthday - Guiding members over that age who opted not to be Leaders were to receive a programme 'offer' yet to be confirmed, but would not have weekly meetings. In October 2019 it was announced that as well as the Gold Award, Silver and Bronze Awards would be introduced, to allow for those who were not able to join a section at the minimum age, for earning a certain number of Theme Awards.
Spring 2020 brought significant, unexpected changes for Guiding. With an infection, Covid-19, spreading across the world, in mid-March, units across the UK were ordered to close down for an uncomfirmed duration. With the public all confined to their houses other than one exercise outing a day, all planned meetings and events were postponed or cancelled. While some units had to close down, especially where their Leaders were essential workers, others others were able to keep their units going by either sending out activities each week by newsletter or email, or by holding videoconference meetings. From August outdoor meetings were permitted, but only subject to specific conditions, which meant that few units were able to take advantage of them.