Figure 1.--This photograph shows Flemish Catholic Scouts (VVKS) at the World Scout Jamboree in 1937. Click on the image for more information.
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.
Flanders has always had a predominantly Catholic population (more than 90 percent till
the end of the 19th century) with small Jewish and Protestant minorities. During the last century, a substantial section of the worker class left the Church under the influence of Socialism and Communism. A recent addition to Flemish society are large numbers of Moslem immigrant workers who now very likely outnumber both the Jewish and the
French-speaking Wallonia is linguistically almost homogeneous. Dutch-speaking Flanders is lingistically much more diverse. Flanders has had for a long time a small French speaking minority, a leftover from the times when Belgium was ruled as if it were a completely Francophone country. Some of these people may be descendants of Walloon immigrants but most are ethnic Flemish whose ancestors, sometimes as late as the 1920s or 30s adopted French as their home language because it gave them better chances as social climbers. Their numbers dwindled as the Flemish emancipated and took over economic and political control of the country but there are still some families that make a valiant last stand for the ‘Francophonie’. Their schools have changed over to Dutch as a medium, their newspapers have gone bankrupt, but they still have their clubs--and a few French speaking scout groups, one of which is the St.George Group of Ghent. They used to wear the Walloon uniform (I believe they still do, I’ll check up on that) but are compulsorily affiliated to the Flemish Catholic Scouts (VVKS). Another lead that I shall try to explore is the Flemish nationalist scouts movements.
It is true that the Reformation in the Low Countries (Belgium and Holland) originated in Flanders and from there spread to Holland. However under Spanish and Austrian rule, the Counter-Reformation very effectively suppressed Calvinist and Lutheran religious activities. Today’s Protestant minority in Flanders (and in Belgium as a whole) is descended from
(a) tiny isolated communities that stood up to persecution in the 17th and 18th centuries (b) converts and (c) immigrants from Holland, Germany, Hungary etc.
A division along ethnic lines there certainly is. Way before the Second World War, when the rift between Wallonia and Flanders began to take shape, a covenant was agreed upon between the Flemish and the Walloon scout organisations to the effect that they would henceforth divide the country between themselves on a territorial basis. Thus the Walloon organisations would limit their activities to the French speaking area only and the Flemish would be responsible for all scouting in the Dutch speaking part. This argeement is strictly adhered to. An HBC contributor reports, "I know of an interesting example of that which I shall also try to document for you."
The principal Flemish Scout groups have been either Catholic or have had a secular orientation. The waning influence of the Church gave rise, also in scouting, to a number of organisations on a non-religious or neutral or overtly socialist basis. If there is a religious divide then it is one between organisations that will operate under the aegis and tutelage of the Roman Catholic Church and those with a more secular approach.
VVKS: The largest group is the Flemish Catholic Scouts--VVKS) and they are as the name suggest strongly assocauted with the Ctatholic Church. The VVKS before World War II can be seen in the image on this page (figure 1).
VVKSM: The VVKSM is a traditional offshoot of the VVKS. The VVKSM units have mostly retained the traditiinal uniform for both Cubs and Scouts. They have also retained the traditional Scout program including age groupings.
Flemish nationalist scouts: Another lead that HBC hopes to pursue is the Flemish nationalist scouts movements. I believe that they take a more secular approach to Scouting.
The Flemish Protestant community has never been strong enough to have its own scouting movement. Any
Calvinist, Lutheran or Jewish organisation would be marginal, at least numerically.
The Flemish Jews did have (and possibly still have) a scout-like movement of their own about which I shall try to obtain information for your site.
There are several French speaking Scout groups in Dutch-speaking Flanders. A lot off Dutch-speaking parents put their children in French-speaking groups so that they learn French and keep it up to date. (The same does no appear to be so popular among French-speaking parents in Walonia (the French speaking areas of Belgium). Many Flemish (Dutch-speaking people) from Belgium are bilengual. They want their children to also be bilengual. Dutch and French is taught in the schools, but actually being with French-speaking children is a marvelous way to learn the language. Most of those group also have very strict uniforms. The only difference is that they do not wear brown shorts but
rather dark blue shirts. They wear grey kneesocks and garters. Tgey wear the Scouts wear the classic wide-brimmed hat and the Cubs wear the classic peaked cap--green with yellow piping. A lot of these groups require even a maximal and minimal lenght of short. About 4 inches inner leg maximum lenght. No knee
lenght bermuda and no very very short short from let say 2 inches inner leg.
A Belgian reader reader tells us, "The French-speaking troups are maintaining their traditional approach to Scouting. Actually some report increasing interest in boys joining their troops. Somehow there is a movement who starts very slowly but shurly back to traditionnal values."
One of the Catholic inspired scout-like movements in Flanders is the Chirojeugd. A HBC contributor reports that, "I recently saw a homepage of one of their groups that contained an interesting statement on their changed uniform policy over the years. I shall try to retrieve it and translate it HBU." Chiro groups were organised on a
strictly parochial basis and their membership was almost exclusively from the working classes. These boys and girls would look for a job after elementary school or perhaps obtain some vocational training.
There is yet another Catholic inspired movement called Katholieke Studentenactie (KSA). One HBU cintributor reports, "I haven’t heard from them since I left Belgium but recent information, not yet checked, tells me that they are still there. The distinction between Chiro and KSA was, in "my time", largely a social one. KSA youth belonged to the middle classes, and their groups were frequently based in a secondary school.
The VNJ is the Flemish National Youth Movement. Flanders is a part of Belgium and the population is largely Dutch speaking. Belgian history has seen a conflict
between the French speaking Waloonsm, supported by their powerful French neighbor to the south and the Flemish Dutch-speaking population in Flanders.
There seems to be another nationalist youth movement that operated in the 1990s. They reportedly have a a very limited membership and a uniform that is said to resemble that of the Hitler Youth. They are called Vikingjeugd and I haven’t been able to locate them nor trace reliable information on them so far.
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