Snippets of history: Girl Guides WA in World War II

Girl Guides in Western Australia worked hard to help out with the war effort in World War II, 1939 to 1945. Here are some of the initiatives Girl guides worked on.

2nd Nedlands Girl Guides, c.1940

2nd Nedlands Girl Guides, c.1940

Helping Bombed Areas

During World War II the Girl Guide Association under Mrs Lee Steere, State Commissioner, set up a War Time Work Party principally to help Britain’s bombed areas. Mrs Lee Steere initiated fundraising towards the cost of two air-ambulances and a lifeboat, for Red Cross Polish Relief work and the Camp Comforts Fund.

Silver Paper

Silver paper was sorted into aluminium foil and tin foil by Guides who had been instructed by Mr Cecil of the Technical College. Also collected were toothpaste and cold cream tubes and some milk bottle tops. The foils were distinguished by their texture, feel and colour. The different types of paper were graded, soiled paper being second-grade.

One of the Guides instructed by Mr Cecil was in charge each day, supervising the sorting and grading. The work of these sorters would have been greatly simplified if people who donated silver paper had not rolled it into balls.

One or two groups took paper away to sort and some old people and invalids smoothed it to help the Guides. Every day of the week Guides and volunteers would be found in Pastoral House hard at work. (Item from the West Australian 1942)

The foil was used both to manufacture armaments (such as shells and bullets). It was also shredded, with the little flakes dropped from aircraft as they entered enemy airspace which caused radar controlled weapons, such as Germany had, to miss their target, and confused radar operators as to the number of incoming planes.

ARC – After Raid Centres

These centres were set up by the Girl Guide Wartime Work Party which helped equip 5 After Raid Centres for children in town and country areas should there be bombings. This project was recognised by the Civil Defence. Gwen McFarquhar was a warden for this project under the Civil Defence Act.

Girl Guides members were part of a team responsible for providing food and clothing for these centres. Mock air raid warnings caused these volunteers to be interrupted at their place of employment to ‘man’ their positions. (Item from The Guide Courier July 1942)

Collections of warm clothing

Warm clothes and and knitted rugs were collected for war victims in England and Europe and later to Germany. (Those sent to Germany were distributed through the Guide International Service.) Clothing was distributed to Malay visitors following the fall of Singapore. (Item in the West Australian 24 February 1942).

One parcel acknowledged on receipt in London contained: 31 rugs, 21 outfits, 19 sets of frocks and bloomers and a quantity of babies’ woollies. “Any kind of clothing was most welcome but new items most heartening.” (Item in the West Australian 1942)

Service Corps Opportunity for Girls

For a long time it had been felt that there was a need to train girls in the “teen” ages not old enough to join voluntary national service. The Girl Guide Association saw this need and decided to launch a new scheme to be known as the Girls’ Training Corps:

To be open to girls between 14 and 17 years, providing them with preliminary training to fit them to gain entry into the service auxiliaries such as the V.A.D.s, Red Cross and Emergency Services. Training will include indoor and outdoor cooking, handcrafts, vegetable growing, signalling, first aid, child care and knitting and sewing (for War purposes).

(Reported in the West Australian Friday 22 May 1942 and in The Guide Courier, June 1942)

Stay tuned for more historical snippets in future.

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1 Response to Snippets of history: Girl Guides WA in World War II

  1. Pingback: Girl Guides in Wartime | 100 Years of Girl Guides in WA

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