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Opening the vaults: How Girl Guides Contributed to War Efforts

Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC) members made significant contributions to Canada’s war efforts during the twentieth century. Our national archives collection offers a glimpse into how Girl Guides demonstrated bravery, ingenuity and selflessness during our nation’s most difficult times.

Did you know? During the First World War, Girl Guide members:

This meant that there was little time and access to machinery to make badges, so they hand embroidered them.

GGC Uniform with Embroidered War Service Badge. Photo: GGC Archives

Photo description: A Girl Guide uniform from the 1940’s includes a hand embroidered War Service Badge over the right pocket.  On the left collar is a tin enrollment button which replaced the normal metal enrollment pin due to scarcity of metal during wartime.

GGC Uniform with Be Prepared Embroidered Badge 1940. Photo: GGC Archives

Photo description: A Girl Guide uniform from the 1940’s includes a hand-embroidered badge with the Girl Guide motto “Be Prepared” on the left sleeve.

Did you know? During the Second World War, Girl Guides organized and implemented a two-year National War Service Project called “The Guide Overseas Gift Project” beginning in November 1940. Through this project, Girl Guides knit and sewed over 29,665 articles of clothing, ranging from booties to overcoats and shipped them to England for distribution among the children who had been victims of bombings.

Queen Margaret’s School Guides. Duncan BC. 1942. Photo: GGC Archives

Photo description: Queen Margaret’s School Guides, Duncan BC.  Sorting and packing salvage to aid in the war effort , 1942.

Girl Guides Contribute to Buy Two Air Ambulances. 1940. Photo: GGC Archives

Photo description: In 1940, Guides from all parts of the British Empire contributed donations towards the purchase of two air ambulances and a motor lifeboat.  This photo shows one of the air ambulances and with Guides and Brownies on the day of its presentation.

Among Guiding’s other remarkable contributions:

  • Home Service – This included home nursing, first aid, household repairs, mending and thrifty cooking.
  • Child Care – This included looking after children younger than 10 years of age. It also included learning to assist in the evacuation of small children and helping to make them comfortable and happy in temporary quarters.
  • Transportation – This included knowing how to act as messengers in their own communities, drive a vehicle, repair motors, transport groups from a danger zone to a safe place and being able to orient themselves in strange surroundings with road maps, a compass, a watch and the position of the sun and stars.
  • Land work – This included theoretical and practical knowledge of any form of food production with at least one month’s part-time work or three months’ full-time land work.

There were also many contributions made by specific units all across the country:

We know that many units will mark Remembrance Day this year with unit activities (such as Valentines for Vets), by inviting local veterans to speak, and by participating in their local Remembrance Day services. Never forget.

If you take photos of your unit’s Remembrance Day activities, we invite you to share them on our Facebook page!

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