The book was How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton. I've written the following review for the Girl Guides of Canada blog. I hope you'll enjoy the book as much as I did; and don't forget to link up your #50BookPledge blog posts below.
"For great occasions, such as visits from the District Comissioner, there was a Grand Salute. 'The Brownies form a circle and squat on their heels...with both hands on the ground beneath their feet. When the important person comes in they howl very gently all together . "Tu-whit-to-who-oo-ooo. Tu-whit-to-who-oo-ooo, " the second time raising the voice and gradually rising to a standing position. "Tu-whit-to-who-oo-ooo." The third time it is louder and the forefinger on the right hand is placed to the lips and made to revolve, the noise getting louder and louder until it ends in a shriek, a leap in the air, and a clap of the hands. The clap comes as the feet reach the ground... then the Brownies are absolutely silent and raise their hands to the full salute."
The Grand Howl, as we called it, was one of my favourite Brownie moments! I joined Girl Guides of Canada as a Brownie. However, I joined late, in what would have been my third and final year. The other girls all talked about being able to “fly up” to Guides at the end of the year, having successfully completed their Golden Bar, Golden Ladder and Golden Hand requirements. I too wanted to fly up to Guides and worked feverishly to earn that honour. Somehow, I managed to do it and my wings were proudly worn on my Guide badge scarf. Yet somehow after reading this book, my accomplishment seems pitiful and lack luster in comparison to what Brownies and Guides accomplished during WWII. What struck me most was incredible ingenuity and bravery shown by these young Brownies and Guides. Many girls mentioned throughout the book were refugees or interned in Concentration camps. These girls lived by the Guide law and did everything in their power to do a Good Turn each day; even if their meetings had to be run in secret to avoid execution.
The girls often risked their lives in incredibly dangerous situations. They were forced to step into the roles of homemakers, nurses and even messengers of top-secret information. Not an easy task for a child. Yet despite the atrocities they faced, they managed to find time to work on badges, complete their second and first-class tests and even earn their All Round Cords. I find it truly amazing that in the face of adversity, these incredible girls were able to find some normalicy in their lives; and I want to offer a huge hug of thanks to the many young women that risked their lives to provide Guide and Brownie units for the children. In fact, some of the unit Captains were executed for their roles in running units, or aiding the Allies & PoW’s.
I have to say, I’m not a history buff. In fact, history was the one subject in school in which I had to work for a decent grade. Yet somehow Hampton was able to hold my interest.
As a Guider in the movement today I can see how different our expectations for the girls have become. I look at the girls in my Guide unit and think “could they do these things if another war broke out?” I hope we never have to find out. I do like to think that Guiding principles today are the same as they were 100 years ago; and as such, our girls and women would step up just like their sisters of the past.