(Thank you to a local resident who has given me permission to use the photo above)
An important day, and especially poignant this year as it marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1.
I was brought up with it instilled to me by my Guiders that it was important for us all to represent in our uniforms on Remembrance Sunday. The churches the units I was a member of always had reserved seating for all the youth organisations and made a big deal about us being there. Often older members of the community who would be there would come up to us and say how nice it was to see us there, and comment on our uniforms.
When I returned to Guiding three years ago, I was surprised to see how little Girlguiding was represented at our local Remembrance events. The second year I was there, we managed to get the Guides to have their flags in the colour party. I was so angry when I saw the church newsletter commenting on how wonderful it was to see the Boys Brigade and Scouts in attendance – no mention of the Guides and Brownies!
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m not one to stay silent. I was not going to have the girls feel unvalued or unequal to the boys’ organisations (though granted, Scouts aren’t an all boy organisation, which I personally think is a real shame). So the next year, we had our ‘colours’ at the local community war memorial service AND the church one (same as the Scouts and Boys Brigade) and the Girlguiding and Scouts were both asked to do readings – not just the boys anymore! We still didn’t have seats in the church again though.
However, I did notice that none of the youth organisations in our area were laying poppy wreaths which I thought strange. I was on the case like as soon as the service was over last year.
This year, I got on the ball in August! I spoke to our Division Commissioner about getting our new Division Banner out for the War Memorial service and carried by our Senior Section. I asked if Girlguiding could lay a poppy wreath (and mentioned it to the Boys Brigade and Scouts too). And I asked the church in advance if we were to do a reading so I could make sure we had a girl comfortable with being in a church and public speaking. And I asked if we could try and ensure we were seated all of Girlguiding sections together, making the point this was one of the few times that the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides were all together – and that it helped the younger ones to see older ones to make them more comfortable with moving up to the next section if our faces become familiar.
All was good.
And then three out of six leaders were unavailable. Which meant that I had to be both the Guide and Senior Section unit leader for the morning!
Our war memorial service went well. One of my flag bearers didn’t appear til the last second (not ideal) but we got there. Luckily I was there as the Anchor Boys (the Rainbow equivalent of the Boys Brigade) were looking lost as we paraded out of the church graveyard across the the memorial behind the colour party (which all their leaders were in). The poor wee lad at the front looked in panic, and I was able to subtley tell him to keep going to make a line of Anchor Boys behind the colour party, and at the end to follow the colour party and promise that the Girl Guides would follow on behind them!
However, the youth service after was a different story. Our Banner carrier was the only other leader present (as she is also a Ranger) and we had to give the banner back to our Division Commissioner because she couldn’t attend the youth service. There’s the scramble for seats before they all get taken by the Scouts. I had told the two Guides carrying the unit flag before the War Memorial service that they needed to collect their flag on the way back from the hall.
In the rush – I took the banner from our Rangers and promised to get their bags from the hall as I began putting the banner away with our Division Commissioner so she could leave to get to her next engagement. Our Ranger who is also a Guide leader took the Guides into the church to get seats – making sure we had one on the aisle for our Ranger doing the reading. However, 3 out of 4 of the youth service colour party forgot they were meant to be in the colour party and went with her! Only when I finally got in the church with the bags having also been fielding Rainbows and Brownies and their leaders to tell them to find seats with the Guides and Rangers…I sat down just as the service was about to start, with the Rainbows as the seats with the Guides and Senior Section were all taken. Then one of the Guides tapped our Ranger/Guide Leader on the shoulder and said ‘I think I’m supposed to be over there‘. Fast chinese whispers of ‘Laurie, Laurie….the colour party isn’t there’. I looked round to see the two girls who had been at our Friday rehearsal and spoken to before and made sure the flag was already….and asked them from across the pews ‘Where’s the flag?’ to which they replied “we don’t know” as the minister walked in to start the service.
Then as the colour party went past I suddenly noticed our Guide carrying the ‘Queen’s flag’ was alone without her Colour guard.
Afterwards I said we all just had to laugh about it. I felt so bad for the parents and the girls. Next year, hopefully all our leaders will be there and we can have a fast plan of action so there’s not two of us running like headless chickens not noticing that we have Guides with us that should be in another place!
The other point from the day was an interesting one. My Mum and our next door neighbour (who nursed troops in India during World War 2) came down to the War Memorial Service to pay their respects and see me! Later that night, my Mum asked me ‘Why were none of the girls wearing Guide uniform? They looked awful compared to the Scouts!’
I explained every one of them was wearing uniform.
She had not realised that there was no ‘bottom half’ to the uniform but the main issue was that several of the girls have the stripey t shirt – she didn’t recognise it as Guide uniform. The fact they were all wearing different items of clothing – gilets, t-shirts, hoodies, zip up jumpers…was also confusing.
‘Maybe that’s why they think you weren’t there’ she said (noting my rant about the year the Guides got no acknowledgment for having been there).
Speaking to our Unit Leader, she recalled a visit we had from the church elders one year when they made the statement ‘So Guides isn’t a uniformed organisation anymore then?‘ She looked around the room and ALL the girls were wearing ‘uniform’.
It made me realise that people expect Guides to be bright blue, and the fact that the Guide uniform doesn’t have the Guide Trefoil logo on the tops anymore is a problem. And having noticed some chat on the Girlguiding facebook group about one person’s town not letting the Guides parade because ‘it’s only for uniformed organisations’ has made me realise that the uniform change is good!
Although the Senior Section polo shirts are recognisable, I don’t think their hoodies are (especially as there are two different colours – neither of which are aqua!). With that thought in mind, we are now speaking about getting unit neckers to hopefully have for events so that the girls are more obviously part of Girlguiding.
It’s funny how someone from outside of Girlguiding can often give you a new perspective on something that you don’t see because you’re ‘in it’.
Anyway, I was proud of all the girls who made the effort to attend!