Back from brigade jubilee conference
Representatives from many corners of the world met in England in June of this year for the diamond jubilee of the Girls’ Life Brigade.
New Zealand had 72 members attending, four of whom were from Hawke’s Bay.
Miss Melva Mildenhall, Captain 2nd Hastings Company, said on her return that the celebrations were indeed something to remember.
Shortly after their arrival in England, the officers and girls were welcomed at a luncheon at the House of Commons which was followed in the evening by a reception at the Guildhall. The then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Frederick Alfred Hoare, and Lady Hoare received the guests.
The next day a parade was held on Horseguards Parade when more than 2000 were reviewed by the Duchess of Gloucester, patron of the Girls’ Life Brigade. The Duchess toured the main part of the parade in a Land-Rover but inspected all overseas contingents on foot.
After the inspection the parade marched to Westminster Abbey for a special thanksgiving service.
As part of the diamond jubilee celebrations an international camp was held at Bexhill-On-Sea, Sussex, said Miss Mildenhall, at which a total of 155 officers and girls enjoyed the companionship and varied programme of the camp. A major part of the camp was devoted to general brigade training, covering a wide range of subjects including social, religious and educational activities, she said.
New Zealand provided the most delegates from any one country and in addition there were visitors from South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Singapore, West Indies, Falkland Islands. Nauru, and Malaya.
Various speakers addressed the campers, one being Mrs Gordon Spencer, secretary of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme for girls. She dealt with the possibility of the scheme being introduced to the Commonwealth.
“During one of the camp outings a day trip to Windsor was organised, where we were received at an official reception by the Mayor of Windsor,” said Miss Mildenhall
“To the joy of the many New Zealanders, Lady Freyberg, wife of Lord Freyberg, who was Governor-General of New Zealand from 1946 to 1952 and who now lives with her husband in one of the grace and favour houses of grace and favour houses ins Windsor Castle expressed the wish to meet the New Zealanders. We had a very enjoyable time talking with her and seeing round her garden,” she said.
Toward the end of June the annual rally and display was held at the Albert Hall. This has been a tradition for more than 30 years and this year it was the highlight of the jubilee. There were three performances over two days, one of which was attended by the Duchess of Gloucester.
Miss Mildenhall said the New Zealand contingent gave a display of Maori action and poi songs which proved very popular.
“The Albert Hall is a tremendously large building and it seemed as though our voices were lost,” she remarked. Girls from Singapore gave an exjobotopm pf [exhibition of] Chinese fan dancing.
“Unfortunately we were not able to visit any individual brigade companies in England,” said ‘Miss Mildenhall, “as it was the summer recess. It would have been interesting to see how a company is run in Britain compared with those in New Zealand.”
The Girls’ Life Brigade was first formed in 1902 by the Sunday School Union in the City of London to provide a week night activity that would: keep girls in close touch with the church and Sunday school.
Now the membership throughout the British Isles and overseas is 110,359.
Since its inception 60 years ago the brigade has constantly adapted its programme to the changing panorama of youth work and in 1962 is seeking to fulfil its aim by training girls for Christian citizenship in the modern world, said Miss Mildenhall.
At the end of the jubilee celebrations a tour of Britain and Europe was arranged for overseas visitors and almost a month was spent sightseeing the continent followed by a tour of Britain.
Comparing New Zealand youth with those of Britain Miss Mildenhall said in her opinion she thought New Zealand young people took more responsibility at an earlier age and on a whole have a more serious outlook on life.
She was quite amused to discover how ignorant some people were about New Zealand. One young girl asked her: “Could she speak New Zealand?” and had never heard of the Maori.
Another woman could not understand the New Zealand seasons and asked whether Christmas was held on June 25.