Guiding Lights II

In Guiding Lights, we looked at early Guiding both nationally and at RMIG. By the time WWII had come to its weary conclusion, the world had changed. And it continued to change, sometimes with dizzying speed, so things like the Guide Movement offered  stability whilst it also embraced change itself.

“Girlguiding has always changed as the lives of girls have changed since it was founded …”[1]

In 1945 Agnes Baden-Powell died (Robert Baden-Powell had died in 1941 at his home in Kenya) so the post-war period was a time for both remembering the past and moving forward into the ‘brave new world’.

After WWII, a new Guide uniform was created and it changed from the navy blue it had settled as and became what was called ‘headquarters blue’.

 

https://uk.pinterest.com/rangerguide/girl-guide-girl-scout-history/ 1957 uniform & uniform 1940 from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com

“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.”[2]

This covered a wide range of topics and took a great deal of hard work to achieve it. At RMSG, Machio records at least three Queen’s Guides, including this one from the 1980s.

The Queen at the time the Queen’s Guide Award was introduced was Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother. She and George VI visited the School in 1946.

By 1949, RMSG had three Guide companies: 3rd, 4th and 7th Chorleywood Guides. Patrols within these had always comprised members of the same boarding house, despite the efforts of Guiders to persuade the guides to try ‘mixed patrols’. Clearly house allegiance overcame all other considerations. But in 1949, of their own volition, they decided to try it and it must have worked because there was no other references to them returning to single-house patrols.

An annual camp was clearly a much anticipated, and hugely enjoyed, experience. In 1949, their camp was in Henley with the Thames running alongside the campsite. Imagine the acres of risk assessment forms that would have to be completed today!

“We found with Rat and Mole that there was nothing like ‘simply messing about’ with boats and a river.”

They were there at the time of the Regatta so they had grandstand views from the campsite.

During their time at camp, amongst other visits, they went to a Brewery. And apparently no-one questioned the fact that schoolgirls were touring a place whose purpose was to prepare intoxicating liquor! They also had a number of visitors including the local gamekeeper “with his velveteen jacket with its bulging pockets”. Redolent of a bygone era.

In 1951, 29 guides went camping in Sussex for twelve days. Highlights included bathing at Seaford, lunch on Newhaven Beach and a visit to Glyndbourne where they met the owner, had a behind the scenes tour and were allowed to listen to part of the rehearsal. The article went on to say that [in true British summer weather] it poured with rain on the last day but a local lady came and said she had ”lit the kitchen fire in the empty thatcher’s cottage and had a copperful of boiling water and that we were all to go and sleep there that night.” The Famous Five will be appearing any second now …

In 1952, when George VI died, Guides across the country had to take a new oath of allegiance to the monarch. Now they were serving a Queen, not a King, and one, moreover, who had been a Guide herself. And yet, although there were significant changes, the spirit of guiding continued as it always had. It was clearly popular at RMSG because we are told that the three companies were all large.

Enter the Sixties and 1960 saw the 50th birthday of the Guiding movement and, fortunately, there was no confusion about the date of this in Machio. Unfortunately, it was because there was no mention of it at all! Assessing the activities of guiding at RMSG is dependent on reports in the School magazine and whilst these started to become more sparse there is no reason to believe that this represented a great waning of interest. Indeed, in 1965 we learn that the Guide Captain was leaving the company and hoped that someone would come forward to lead it. When no-one did the Guides continued on their own! They were granted money from the Committee [at the School] to enable them to buy the new uniform.

Drawn image of 1966 from https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/372109987938710346/

However, in 1967 we learn that the three companies had again become two and then we are told that the two companies merged into one with 36 members. Whether this was a lessening interest or the fact that there was still no Guider to ‘rally the troops’ is a moot point. There was help from a number of sources but mostly the Guides organised themselves. To mark the 50th anniversary of Guiding, new initiatives were considered with the aim of developing guiding in the future but self-winding Guide companies might not have been quite what they had in mind!

In 1968, nationally the uniform was revamped and during the 70s the uniform ties changed frequently

“going from a mini necker, to a cross over style tie which was held in place by the Promise badge, to a conventional rolled necker worn with a woggle”[3].

In the 1990s, the fashion designer Jeff Banks was asked to re-design the uniform.

Guide uniforms in the 1980s and then the 1990s

But fashion doesn’t stay still and, with practicality in mind, in 2000 the uniform changed again using more mix and match styles including sweatshirts, rugby shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts, and a hoody, all worn with an individual choice of trousers or skirt. In 2014, it was once again re-modelled introducing a mid-range blue fabric

“deliberately chosen to be comfortable in different temperatures, crumple-proof and quick-drying”[4].

Whilst the modern uniform may look worlds away from the early ones, in some ways they are not dissimilar. They are practical interpretations of what was deemed suitable at the time. The 1910 girl, adapting her brother’s old cricket shirt, is actually not a million light years away from the modern sweatshirts and hoodies and leggings, albeit that the modern Guide buys her uniform and the 1910 Miss made hers. Washability is now a modern requirement. Perhaps just as well. As an RMSG Brownie Guider commented when the sweatshirts for the Brownies were first introduced: “Whoever dreamed up bright yellow? Have they never seen the state of Brownies by the end of a meeting??”

Perhaps Guides are too sedate to get grubby.

(Fat chance!)

 

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/05/17/girl-guides-could-get-badges-vlogging-upcycling-biggest-revamp/

[2] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/timeline

[3] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

[4] ibid

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