When designing the Brigade's motto and crest, William Smith referred directly to in the King James Version of the Bible, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast..."
From this verse came the BB motto, "Sure and Stedfast", retaining the old spelling of the latter word. Today, some parts of the movement have adopted the modern spelling of "steadfast", whilst others continue to use the original spelling.
The crest was originally a plain anchor, bearing the BB motto with a capital 'B' on either side. Upon the merger between the Boys' Brigade and the Boys' Life Brigade in 1926, the red Greek cross was placed behind the anchor to form the current emblem. The cross originally formed part of emblem of the Boys' Life Brigade.
In the years following the establishment of the 1st Glasgow company, others were rapidly formed throughout Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom leading to a movement comprising thousands of boys. The Boys Brigade movement in Wales was founded by George Phillip Reynolds in 1887 at Havelock Sreet Presbyterian Church, Newport, Monmouthshire.
By the early 20th century there were about 2,200 companies connected with different churches throughout the United Kingdom, the British Empire, and the United States, with 10,000 officers and 160,000 boys. Each company is normally affiliated to a battalion encompassing several nearby companies, which in turn are organized at a district and then national level, although in Scotland each company is attached to a local district, which is attached to a battalion. Companies are named in the form "2nd Springfield", indicating the second company to have been established in or around Springfield; it should be noted that where companies have closed, numbers are not normally reallocated, so it is quite normal to find a "2nd" but no "1st" company.
Being the earliest of all youth organizations, a simple rosette was worn as an identifying uniform, shortly being replaced by the simple use of a belt, haversack, and pillbox cap (a popular military cap of the day) worn over the boys' everyday clothing. The pillbox cap was used into the 1960s, long after it had fallen out of use in the British Army, when it was replaced with a field cap.
The movement also pioneered camping for leisure in Britain, previously rarely used outside the military. Early admirers of the Brigade included Robert Baden-Powell who as Vice President of the Boys' Brigade used it alongside initiatives in schools, particularly Eton, to promote the idea of scouting and outdoor pursuits based on those of the military for boys. At the time, he did not originally intend that any individual organization would later arise from this aim in the form of the various Boy Scouts movements. Early examples of Scouting were seen in Boys' Brigade Scouting awards and even specialised Boys' Brigade Scout sections who wore a blue uniform with shorts and the distinctive Smokey Bear hat traditionally identified with Scouts, and still worn today by drill sergeants in the United States Army. However, nowadays there is a certain friendly rivalry between the two groups.
The Boys' Life Brigade was one of many similar movements formed by the Boys' Brigade's influence, sometimes along denominational or religious lines, including the Church Lads' Brigade, the Jewish Lads' Brigade, or the Catholic Boys' Brigade. The merger also prompted the abandonment of dummy drill rifles that had been used in The Boys' Brigade, due to the Life Brigade's objection to use of weapons or their representations. For some time afterwards, the section covering members aged 8–12 years was known as Life Boys, before being restyled as the Junior section (see below).
A popular hymn in the BB containing its motto and obvious reference to its emblem is "Will Your Anchor Hold by Priscilla Owens, usually sung at displays and church services. Note, however, that this is not the official Boys' Brigade song.
On 29th September 2008 the following article appeared in The Scottish Sun "BB-irthday Girls: The Boys' Brigade has toasted its 125th birthday this week - by voting to let GIRLS join. BB director Scotland Tom Boyle admitted the move was essential to boost membership, which has slumped 50 percent in 20 years to just 37 000"
The notion was initially ill-received due to concerns for the boys' safety. A mother has been quoted saying, "Camp! My children have always had a roof over their heads, and as long as I live, always will!". Nevertheless, Sir William Smith proceeded with the idea and 1st Glasgow Company held its inaugural one-week camp beginning on Friday, 16 July 1886, at Portavadie in the Kyles of Bute.. The First Glasgow continued to attend summer camp at the same location until the summer of 1974 when Portavadie was selected as the location of a proposed yard for the construction of oil production platforms. However the new camp is located only 100 yards away at Stilliag farm. This camp site is now used by many Boys' Brigades every summer
The initial reservations towards camping did not last. A tradition developed, where the boys who were marching home on the last day of camp would be greeted by cheers from residents and were each presented with a bouquet of flowers. Camps soon became one of the most anticipated events in the year and early publications of the Boys' Brigade Gazette contained many accounts of camping experiences.
Sir William Smith's plans and notes for his first camps have been preserved, and have been used by many other campers.
Within Australia there are three sections known as:
Age groups are typically based on school years, so boys in the same year group would be promoted to the next section together, regardless of the dates of individual boys' birthdays. In some companies, sections may merge or there may be minor variations to the normal age boundaries, to accommodate excessively large or small groups of boys or a lack of leaders.
Amicus was launched in 1994, and is intended to either run as an alternative to the Seniors programme or even without any other Boys' or Girls' Brigade sections operating. The Amicus concept emphasises involvement of all its members in decision-making concerning the running of the section, such as the content and whether a uniform is to be worn. The section will be overseen and supervised by leaders aged over 18, who receive training from the Boys' Brigade and may deliver parts of the programme.
Boys bearing the rank of Staff-Sergeant are non-commissioned officers but act within the company as Officers.
NCOs often play an important role in the Boys' Brigade, helping the officers and other adult helpers with organising activities and awards classes, particular in the Anchors and Juniors sections. NCOs wear chevrons on their upper right arm, a red sash is worn by Colour Sergeants and a Drum Major wears a badge on his right upper armband.
Staff sergeants act within the company as officers and do not stand in the ranks; however Staff Sergeants are boys of the Brigade. As they have received no formal training as officers and are not required to under go the standard police checks as they are still serving ‘boys’, they can still partake in company activities and computations and still earn awards and badges. The uniform of Staff Sergeants is also different from that of the normal boy or NCO, they wear a white shirt with an armband on the right forearm which has four inverted chevrons on it (as historically worn by senior grades of sergeant in the British Army) other than that the rest of the uniform is the same
Having spent 2 hours working on topics relevant to each of the three zones (a total of 6 hours), the member is awarded the Compass Badge.
The badge for a zone is gained when the required number of hours have been spent working on topics relevant to that zone (Community - 7 hours; Recreation - 10 hours; Skills - 7 hours). A maximum of one badge per zone can be gained in a 12 month period (min 24 hours work). Any additional hours may not be carried over into the next 12-month period. In subsequent 12 month periods, members will work to gain Levels 2, 3, and 4 of each badge.
During a member's second year in Company Section they may gain the Discovery Badge, provided they have: gained a badge in all three zones within the last 12 months; completed an additional 6 hours work in any of the zones; taken part in a residential experience; played an active role in a Company, Battalion, or Church event; and had good attendance for the session.
The Discover programme includes the President's Badge, the requirements for which remain the same as laid out in the 'Get the Credit' scheme.
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