World War 1 started in August 1914 (10 months before Guiding started in Western Australia). In October of 1914 Sir Harry Barron, then Governor of Western Australia and Chief Scout of Western Australia, was quoted in the Scouts weekly newspaper column saying:
“The Girl Guides would start in WA. Since the outbreak of the War, increased attention has been given by ladies to the study of first aid and ambulance work, also sick nursing. These subjects form an important part of the training of the Girl Guides, and the time is very opportune for someone to volunteer as a leader for this movement, the training in
which is bound to immensely benefit the girl individually, and also the Empire, of which she is also an important citizen.”
While prior to 1915 there were girls meeting under the banner of Girl Guides within Western Australia it was not until a public meeting was called that the Girl Guide Movement officially began.
The attendance at this public meeting was beyond what anyone expected with the Perth Town Hall full to over flowing. At the meeting girls and young woman who were interested in becoming Girl Guides were invited to send their names to Mrs Osborne Wilson (the first secretary of Girl Guides WA) who invited them to attend her house in Angove St, North Perth the following Tuesday. Rita Bartlett (nee Bannon) was one of the girls who very excitedly attended Mrs Wilson’s house. She said:
“I found my way through the unfamiliar streets to the meeting place. There were excited girls everywhere, sitting on the floor in the rooms, in the passages, even in the laundry, tying knots with two pieces of string. Our names and addresses were taken and we were told we would be notified where to join a company.”
After the Public Meeting on the 28th of June 1915 guiding took off in WA. Miss Grace Holder (the 1st State Commissioner) attended public meetings throughout the suburbs of Perth as well as in the regional centre of Collie.
The first State Rally was held in May of 1916 with 300 Girl Guides in attendance. The rally started with a ‘march past’ down Barrack Street, and finished in the gardens of Government House, where the girls put on a display of signalling, drill and flag work for Sir Harry Barron (WA Governor) and his wife Lady Barron (who was also the Chief Guide of Western Australia).
19 Guide companies (units) attended the rally and an afternoon tea of jelly cakes and fruit was served for the girls in the Government House supper rooms. Companies who could not make the Rally in Perth held their own events locally and demonstrated the different skills that a Girl Guide of 1916 must know.
Once Guiding did start there were several ways the girls contributed towards the war effort. They held concerts and stalls to raise funds, knitted socks and scarves for soldiers in the trenches, but possibly the most unique contribution was the making of fly veils from binder twine for the Army horses in Egypt and Palestine.
From the Centenary Challenge: Research what was in a soldier’s ration pack during WW1 and plan a meal using only these ingredients to share with your unit.