Worcestershire VTC The WW1 Home Guard
Long before the outbreak of war in 1914, there had been a trend for militarism in youth groups, greatly stimulated by the Boer War. Even primary schools practiced parade ground drill and some acquired dummy rifles. Most children left school at the age of 12 or 13 and were then expected to help their parents earn a living, including working in factories or mines. The modern concept of childhood and teenage years was unknown in 1914, especially for working class families, and stories of 'child soldiers' that so shock modern sensibilities did not have the same impact to contemporaries. Youth organisations were promoted as instilling discipline and a sense of imperial patriotism and, for many, offered a welcome relief from the drudgery of everyay life. In 1914 it was to be a small step from being a member of such an organisation to joining the armed forces (whether having reached the offical age or enlistment or not).
The religious-inspired Boys' Brigade (1883) and Church Lads' Brigade (1891) wore military-style uniforms, drilled with deactivated cartbines and had shooting competitions. This was a muscular Christianity which went too far for the Boys' Life Brigade (1893), which was part of the Congregational Church and broke away from the Boys' Brigade over the latter's use of military drill. Such groups were not confined to the Christian faith. The Jewish Lads' Brigade (1895) was modeled on the Boys' Brigade and Church Lads' Brigade, with a branch in Birmingham. The Church Lads' Brigade was officially recognised as being part of the Territorial Cadet Force in 1911 and became affiliated to the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1917. Although the Boy Scouts (1908) were officially not militaristic, Baden-Powell provided advice on the best techniques for shooting a moving man! The British Boy Scouts were formed in 1909, with the support of the Quakers and other non-conformist churches, as a reaction to the perceived militarism of Baden-Powell's Boy Scout Association.
Such groups assisted in guard and messenger duties during the First World War. Evesham Church Lads' Brigade helped guard the Birmingham resevoir.
The newly-formed Girl Gudes not only knitted comfort clothing for the troops but also helped out on the land. They too were trained how to shoot.
The pre-existence, and popularity, of such a wide range of uniformed groups in Worcestershire may explain why the Cadet organization of the VTC struggled to find recruits.
Pre-war Church Lads' Brigade badge
1917 Church Lads' Brigade Cadet badge (affiliated to the Kings Royal Rifle Corps)
1st pattern Boy Scout Patrol Leader badge
2nd pattern (1915) Girl Guide badge
© Copyright Malcolm Atkin 2015. Contents not to be copied or otherwise reproduced without permission.
WW1 period Boys' Brigade badge (Staff Sergeant). In 1926 the Boys' Brigade amalgamated with the Boys' Life Brigade, who had broken away from the Boys' Brigade pre-war because of the use of arms drill in the latter. The badge was then changed to incorporate a red Greek cross.
Boys Life Brigade belt buckle
Jewish Lads' Brigade cap badge.