Alert & Prepared

This story of Guide skills and observation put to use happened at a Girl Guide Camp in New Brunswick during World War II. Adapted from the article “They Were Prepared” by Mrs. N.H. Davis in The Canadian Guider, March 1968.

WWII, Canadian War Savings Stamps, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, BlotterAlthough we in Canada fared well, during the Second World War, our entire mode of living changed. Some foods were rationed, materials for civilian manufacture were scarce; families were uprooted, with fathers, brothers, and even sisters joining the armed services. Every restaurant and place of public gathering carried placards like “These Walls Have Ears,” “Zipper Your Lips,” and “Silence is Golden.”

Guides then did not plan what they might do on a Saturday morning; they had a choice of rolling bandages and running errands in a hospital for hours at a time, or covering districts of the city collecting rendered fats and salvage for use in the munitions factories. Because they made an excellent patriotic display, they marched in frequent parades in support of bond drives, service club projects, and so on.

Camp DrawingDuring the summer of 1942, the 5th Moncton Guide Company, under the leadership of Captain Adrienne Brown, held a 10-day camp at “Camp Y’s Acres”. The campsite was a 3-acre site on Cocagne Bay operated by Moncton’s YWCA. Directly across from the site, was Cocagne Island and the Northumberland Strait.

A highlight of the camp was a “motorboat hike” to Cocagne Island, where the Guides would explore, collect specimens, and cookout. On this particular hike, Captain’s eye was caught by a venturesome group sneaking off to the high, rocky ledges that formed a bulwark against the crashing breakers of the Atlantic, where on the highest point stood a deserted two-storey house. The culprits, slightly annoyed at having their adventure nipped in the bud, had the last word by telling the Captain of the fresh footprints they had been following. This was dismissed as over-active imagination.

Later that evening, these same Guides … sneaked quietly out of the back of their tent … sheltered by a grove of birch and spruce … The ground was soft and springy and they stretched out very comfortably to whisper, giggle, and talk about the little island they could see outlined as a dark shape in the mouth of the huge bay. Suddenly one Guide exclaimed, “Look, a light on the island! But it’s uninhabited – There it is again flashing on and off – Girls! It’s a Morse Code signal.”

450px-International_Morse_Code.svg“Oh you must be crazy,” another offered. Nevertheless, they decided to take the signals down, though they made no sense. “It’s a code,” they whispered excitedly.  … They felt they had no choice but to tell, for the security of their country was at stake.

The next afternoon a small monoplane made a quick visit to the island. On the strength of this and negative answers to discreet enquiries … the Guiders staked themselves out that evening in the copse after lights out. Sure enough, the signals began – in Morse but undecipherable – followed by a plane visit the next afternoon. Our alert Captain took down the plane’s markings.

The next day the Commanding Officer of a nearby base came to camp to visit his daughter, and the Guiders took this opportunity to discuss the mystery with him. Although he said little, he showed marked surprise when the plane’s markings were given to him. He asked for the code, and for the ladies to leave matters with him. Within days, it was noted that the signals had ceased.

Just before breaking camp, we had another visit from the Commanding Officer, this time accompanied by the Service Police to thank the Guiders and Guides concerned for their alertness and to assure all that the information had been very helpful. More than that they would not say! Imagine the excitement of all the girls involved when it was later learned that this area had been a very popular one for enemy submarines. We also heard that two enemy agents had landed on the far side of the island by dark of night. One had set himself up with radio transmitter and flash beacon in the deserted house. The other had made his way in rough civilian dress to make contact in Moncton.

Our story is just one of hundreds that tell of the anxious years of the Forties. Was the alertness of our Guides of any help? We like to think so.


Josefa Llanes Escoda

Escoda_founderJosefa Llanes Escoda founded the Girl Scouts of the Philippines in 1940, but she would not live to see the association take its place on the world stage. Here is her story:

Josefa was born in Dingras, Illocos Norte on September 20, 1898, the eldest of seven children. After finishing high school, she earned a teaching degree from the Philippine Normal School in 1919, followed by a high school teacher’s certificate from the University of the Philippines in 1922. She then became a social worker for the Philippine Chapter of the American Red Cross, and was granted a scholarship to the United States, where she earned a Masters degree in Sociology from the University of Columbia in 1925. While in the US, she met Antonio Escoda. Back in the Philippines, they would marry and later had two children.

On her second trip the US in 1939, Josefa trained with the Girl Scouts of the USA and upon her return to the Philippines, began to train Filipino women to become Girl Scout Leaders and organize troops. On May 26, 1940, President Manuel Quezon signed the charter of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, with Josefa as the first National Executive.

With the arrival of Japanese Troops in 1941, Girl Scouting officially ceased operations, but under Josefa’s leadership, leaders and volunteers worked underground to relieve the suffering of prisoners and civilians. Their work included:

  • Conveying messages of families to prisoners of war
  • Keeping records of the names and addresses of Filipino prisoners of war at Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac
  • Collecting food, medicine, clothing, shoes, and other supplies and secretly delivering them to prisoners of war and American internees in concentration camps
  • Collecting information and relaying it to the resistance movement
  • Setting up and running community kitchens to feed the poor and hungry in Manila

By 1944, the work of Josefa and her husband was discovered by Japanese military agents. Antonio was arrested in June and Josefa in August, both being sent to Fort Santiago, an infamous prison during the Japanese occupation. Josefa was last seen alive on January 6, 1945, weak and showing signs of having been severely beaten. At that time, she was put on a Japanese transport truck and it is believed that she was executed and buried in an unmarked grave in La Loma Cemetery, Manila, along with thousands of other Filipinos who resisted the Japanese occupation.

It is a testament to Josefa Llanes Escoda that the Girl Scouts of the Philippines were able to quickly reorganize following the liberation of the Philippines. The association was admitted as a Tenderfoot Member of WAGGGS in 1946, and a Full Member in 1948.


Canadian Girl Guides & the War Effort

In honour of Remembrance Day, here’s a look at what members of Guiding in Canada did during the World Wars. Girl Guides took on important roles wesarmlet-redduring both World Wars, taking on jobs that freed adults for other important war work. Whether it was collecting salvage materials, knitting socks, rolling bandages, or learning first aid, emergency cooking, and how to care for children during an air raid, Canadian Guiding members rose to the challenge. The attached package shares some of the activities of Guiding members during the World Wars. Activities in blue boxes are similar to activities Guides would have taken part in – and each ties in to a current badge.

Canadian Girl Guides & the War Effort

Guiding Service During World War II – In Memory of Betty Hamper

While reading the March 1980 edition of The Guider (Girl Guides Association, London) I came across a letter recalling a Guide by the name of Betty Hamper. Her story struck a note with me and I thought I would share it here with you today:

In the fall of 1942, Betty Hamper was a 15-year-old Patrol Leader with the 1st Blatchington Company. On November 5th, the office building in which she was working was struck by a bomb dropped by a lone enemy aircraft. The building was destroyed and two people killed outright, while Betty was buried under a heap of rubble, where she would remain trapped for six hours.

Later in hospital, she was presented with the Certificate of Merit for Bravery (under enemy action) by County Commissioner Dame Alice Godman. The accompanying citation read:

During the daylight raid on Seaford on 5th November, 1942, Betty’s office was bombed and for six hours she was trapped under six feet of debris. As a result her leg and arm were broken. The acting Surveyor to the Seaford Urban Council reports that she showed exceptional bravery and fortitude which undoubtedly saved her life, as without her assistance rescue might have been impossible owing to the nature of the debris and her position. Throughout the whole of the period she kept exceptionally cool and collected, assisting the rescue party in every way possible and joking and chatting cheerfully with them. The acting Surveyor considered her courage marvellous for such a young person and deserving of the highest commendation.

Betty would never fully recover from the injuries she sustained that day, but continued to live her life bravely until her death in October 1979 at the age of 52. The site of the building she worked in is now Welbeck Court.

Betty Hamper receiving the Certificate of Merit for Bravery, 1942 (Home Front History)

Avann, Edward. “A Tribute” in The Guider. Girl Guides Association, London: March 1980, page 23

“A Teenagers War” on WW2 People’s War –

“Bravery of the Girl Guide Bomb Victim” in Sussex Express. 

A Candle in the Darkness

While cataloging some old Council Fire magazines, I came across the interesting article below about Guiding in an internment camp in China during World War II.

A Candle in the Darkness
(in The Council Fire, April 1944)

We are certain that all our readers will be not only interested but inspired by the following letter lately received by the Chief Guide, showing how the Guide spirit shines amidst the darkest surroundings. Mrs. Lawless, the Guider mentioned, Swiss by birth, is married to an Englishman, and has for several years been Captain of the “Pagoda” troop of American Girl Scouts in Peiping.

Motorship Gripsholm

East of Madagascar

October 30th, 1943

My dear Lady Baden-Powell,

     Greetings! The Weihsien Girl Guides greet you. Mrs. Lawless of the Pekin Pagoda troop also greets you. She is now Guide Mistress of the Weihsien Guides.

     Weihsien is the Civilian Assembly Center for all British, American, Dutch and Belgian people in North China. There were nearly 1,800 of us assembled there.

     In a very short time some felt need of organising the youth of the camp into an International Guide and Scout organisation. A group met together composed of Americans, British, Dutch and Belgian – men and women who had been leaders in Scouting and Guiding. We were challenged to try an International group – combining the American and British and adding touches for Swiss, Belgian and Dutch.

     Our slogan was “Be Prepared.” Our motto was “Un pour tous, tous pour un.” The name of our group was “Amicale des Jeunnes.”

     We sang often the International song, “Yonder lies the world before us,” even though we could see little other than walls about us and could get little other than rumour of what was happening in the world about us. Our evening prayer was: “O Lord, let there be peace, and let it begin with me.”

     Our promise and laws were: On my honour I promise to do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Guide (or Scout) laws.

A Guide’s honour is to be trusted.

A Guide is brave and loyal.

A Guide is helpful.

A Guide is friendly.

A Guide is kind to animals and plants.

A Guide is obedient.

A Guide is cheerful.

A Guide wastes nothing.

A Guide is clean in thought, word and deed.

     We had the Tenderfoot, the Weihsien Star and the Award of Honour as the three grades of tests. We tried to add or change some tests so that they would have real meaning to camp life, activities and usefulness. In the Tenderfoot they were to know the history and story back of the French, Belgian, Dutch, British and American flags.

     In the Weihsien star they were to know camp rules of safety, camp danger-spots, where doctors lived, which wells were condemned for drinking-water, when and where distilled water could be obtained.

     For tasks, girls took turns in shower-room during children’s hour to help with bathing of the little ones. We were cleaning egg-shells for the making of calcium powder especially to meet a diet deficiency especially needed by growing children. We also did playground work during children’s hour. We emphasised fly-swatting as sanitation was one of our biggest problems and we had much dysentery.

     We embroidered badges; when they passed their Tenderfoot we had an investiture and the Guides and Scouts were given their badges. A star was added to this badge when they finished the Weihsien Star or Second-Class. The badges for the Award of Honour was very special. It had the Chinese “Pa Kua” – the eight different combination of the Yang (light, male principle) and Yin (dark, female principle) – which is so fundamental in Chinese thinking. It also has the Chinese characters for our camp – Weihsien with motto “Be Prepared.”

     Some day Mrs. Lawless will send you a more detailed account of the Weihsien International Guide and Scout Group. This is just to let you know there is such a group, and we hope you will welcome it and our adventuring spirit. Mrs. Lawless is heart and soul in this fine work with the girls, and is trying to make these days in the Weihsien Concentration Camp days the girls will never forget – not because of what it cost them so much as what it gave them in a glorious spirit of adventurous living and service.

     We had a fine group of Brownies, and they were proud of their badge; and a fine group of Cubs, too. Yes, the Cubs had a badge, too. Before I left seven or more Brownies “flew up” to our Guides.

     I am enclosing the Guides’ or Scouts’ first badge. Some day I hope we can send you one of each for their interest or place in Scout or Guide history.

     Mrs. Lawless will write you as soon as she can send mail out of China.

November 2nd, 1943

     We have just dropped anchor outside Port Elizabeth. We are looking forward to being free people tomorrow on land – first in several years.

     I am sincerely hoping you can receive this letter and feel with me the link of friendship that binds our hears together – sister Guides.

We must try all the world to leaven:

“Hard be the toil that waits us.

Tho’ the sky above be stormy

We can put our trust in heaven.”

Sincerely yours,                           

Marguerite Twinem