The primary Belgian youth group is the Scouts. The Scouts were founded in Belgian soon after they appeared in Britain. The grew steadily and their prestige was enhanced by their role in World War I. Scouts dominated the youth movement after the War. After the NAZI invasion and occupation, Scouting was banned. The authorized collaborationist group organized a group similar to the Hiltler youth. A similar group was organized in Flanders where Hitler Youth groups had been organized for the Germans living there. Aftter liberation, the Scouts quickly reorganized. There are now several Scout associations in Belgium. The VNJ is popular among some Flemish boys and promotes independence from Belgium.
Belgium is somewhat different than many European countries. Scouting has been the most important youth group, but much of the movement is divided along ethnic and religious lines. And there are important non-Scouthing youth groups. The major Belgian youth groups have been the Scouts, but tghere are a variety of nationalist groups, some of which have religious foundation. The VNJ is a particularly important nationlist group. The most important is Chiro which has a Catholic character. Some of the youth groups have begun to reassess their religious foundation. This proably reflects the essentially de Christinization of Europe, a process that became pronounced in the late 19th century. And membership in youth groups have been falling in recent years.
Many of the Belgian youth groups are divided along linguistic grounds between the French speaking Waloons and Dutch-speaking Flemis.
Belgium is a combination of Dutch-speaking Flemish and French-speaking Waloons. Their association since modern Belgium was created after the Napoleonic Wars has been an unseasy. The younth organzations in Belgium have often followed the linguistic divide. Some basic infornation is available on the youth organizations in Flanders.
A reader provides some information about funding youth groups in Belgium. "I think there's certainly a good view in the explanation of funding of Belgian youth-activities. But of course it's more complicated than that. I don't believe it's possible in Belgian law not to finance specific associations while others do get finances. I think everyone can be sure that when one group has political majority, they will guard their likely minded youth-groups. However this limited since the local Youth-Councils have to divide the funds at their disposal with dividing-systems based on quality (for example the number of specific courses followed by leaders), member-numbers, contact time,… But (I already mentioned this) the town councils of course will more easily approve with a system that gives their like-minded groups." [De Lobel]
The relative importance of the various groups have changed over time. A Belgian reader provides us an assessment of the relative importance in 2007. "It's good that the scale of this movement is made clear. In Flanders, 250 000 people are member of a youth-movement. Chiro takes the largest part with 100,000 members. 'Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen' has about 72,000 members and FOS Open Scouting only 8,000. So that makes about 80,000 Flemish Scouts. The three Scout-association in the French Community have a combined 80,000 members." [De Lobel]
There are varying degrees of cooperation between the various Belgian youth groups. A reader tells us, "There's of course competition between Scouts and Chiro, but they also can work together on certain projects, both on local and national level. An important annual event in Belgium is the Day of Youth--Dag van de Jeugdbeweging. About 250,000 Chiro members and Scouts participate." [De Lobel]
A reader provides us some basic information about Belgin youth group uniforms in the early 21st century. "About uniform; I get the impression most Chiro wear uniforms, much more in comparison with scouts in Flanders. Blue, beige and red, the colours of Chiro, are able to get recognition in our streets (if that's a way of expressing myself). They don't wear neckerchiefs (=scarfs) like scouts, but the leaders do wear a coloured rope with a whistle. (it's very typical, if one wears only this rope, I will immediately know he's a Chiro-leader) I'm always impressed by Chiro-members' determination to wear short skirts or shorts. Far less scouts still do so. Even in the two largest scout-groups I know (a 300members-VVKSM -and a 200 members-FOS-group) lots of people don't even have scout-shorts. (I believe the VVKSM-group is able to be representative for VVKSM, but the FOS-group isn't for FOS)" Chiro and Flemish Scouts don't have different uniforms for the various age groups. VVKSM and FOS both have one uniform, although VVKSM does have a destinctive uniform for the youngest age-group (kapoentjes). Instead of a longsleeved shirt, they wear a green sweater with the right badges on it. VVKSM-Seascouts also have a different uniforms -- a navy-blue sweater. Dutch scouts and at least one of the French associations, have different coloured uniforms for the various age-groups." [De Lobel]
The religious, ethnic, and lingyustic divisions in Europe can be quite complicated. American readers in particular may want to vonsult the HBC discussion of the linguistic division in Belgium for background information.
De Lobel, Frederik. E-mail message, January 9, 2008.
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Return to the Main European page]
[Return to the Main Countries page]
[Activities] [Biographies] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Essays] [Garments] [Organizations] [Religion] [Other]
[Introduction] [Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Questions] [Unknown images]
[Boys' Uniform Home]