Boys' Brigade Uniforms: England

Figure 1.--This English Boys Brigade group was photographed about 1930. Notice the characteristic pill box caps and the unit numbers on the caps.

The Boys' Brigade is a Christian organisation for boys aged between 6 and 18 years and is the oldest uniformed youth organisation in the world, being founded in Glasgow, Scotland during 1883 by Sir William Alexander Smith. While founded in Scotland, the organization expaned extensively in England. While the Boys' Brigade now exists in many different countries, the center of the organization continues to be England.


The Boys Brigade originated in Scotland. It was the first uniformed youth orgaisation in the world. The organization originally addressed the needs of low income boys in the late 19th Century. There was limited options for healthy activities. Juvenile delinquency was rising. Sir William Alexander Smith founded the Boy's Brigade in Scotland to address these needs (1883). The organization spread to England, although here we have few details. We do know that it was well-established in REngland by the 1900s. It was at this time that Brigade leaders persued the idea of creating a Scouting program wiythin the organization. Leaders turned to Riber Baden Powell. The founding of the Boy' Brigade predated the Boy Scouts by two decades. While Scouting was initially conceived as a adjunct to the Boys' Brigade, it soon developed a momentum of its own. The interests of Scouts and the Boy's Brigade was different as was the program. The Boys' Brigade has continued to fovcus on religion.

Social Class

One interesting question is social class. The Boys' Brigade from the beginning sought to address the needs of low income, working class children. The Scouts whatever the initial plan soon became an essentially middle-class movement. Eventially these sovial class differences seem to have disappeared.

Current Status

There are now in the region of 100,000 members in the UK. There are also Boys' Brigade companies around the world. It now operates in over 60 countries worldwide, reaching out to young people as effectively as ever, through exciting activities and a challenging programme. The Boys' Brigade is a member of The World Conference ???.


Each boy in the Boys' Brigade belongs to a Company. Each company must be attached to a church. The company is under the control of a Captain who has a staff made up of Lieutenants, Warrant Officers, Helpers and Instructors. Each company is split into a number of sections. The Boys' Brigade units are divided into various age groupings:
Anchor Boys: Anchor boys is for boys aged 6-8 years.
Junior Section: Junior section is for boys aged 8-11 years.
Company Section: Company section is for boys aged 11-15 years.
Seniors: Seniors is for boys aged 15-18 years.

Figure 2.--These English boys in Junior Section during the 1970s wear the full Boys' Brigade uniform with short pants and knee socks. Notice the merit badges on thir sleeves.


For the first year the Boys only wore a Rosette as a badge, and the officers wore the civilian bowler hat. The following year the Cap, Belt, and haversack were brought together as the first complete uniform. The Pill-box in common use during these days had no chin-strap and fitted close to the head, but it had two distinguished rows of white braid worn at a jaunty angle. Soon afterwards the proper pill-box was brought in and the officers turned to the Glengarry for their headgear. Afterwards the forage cap, haversack and belt were introduced. The Boys' Brigade uniforms are much more standard around the world than Scout uniforms which have adopted uniforms incorporating various aspects of national dress. The Boys' Brigade uniforms is generally blue foraging caps, blue shirt, and blue pants. Initially short pants were generally worn, but most groups now wear long pants. Some differences exist between the different levels of the Boys Brigade.


IMSS/Anchor Boys

The IMPS was the section below the juniors,which has been called the Anchor Boys since the earley 1980s. As progress dictates, the Anchor Boys don't wear short trousers or caps any more, but wear long trousers and no cap, and also a red jumper instead of the blue one they used to wear. There are some differences, however, between units.

Awards and Medals

HBC has noted Brigaders wearing medals in the 1910s and 20s. The medals look quite similar. Some appear to be medals awarded to band members (figure 1). We are positive about this, but medals worn on the left breast by band members would seem to be band medals. The band medals look just like military campaign mdals. We hav noted some boys wearing World War I medals. These are presumably medals awarded postumouly to the boys' father. We do not note Brigaders wearing merit badges until much later. I'm not sure when they were introduced, but we notice Brigaders wearing merid bdges on their sleeves in the 1970s (figure 2). These look quite similar to Scout merit badges.


We note the Boy's Brigade sponsiring a wide range of activitieds, although our informnation is still quite limited. The activities depend somewhat on the ages of the bots involved. There are weekly meetings which usually include games for the younger boys. Drill was initially important. It was eventually abandoned, but I am not sure just when. We note the boys involved in parades. Of course the St. George's Day parade is especially important. Summer camping is an important activity. We are not sure when the first camp was held, but we note camps in the early 20th century. Boys' Brigade camps seem similar to Scout camps, although there is a much stronger religious component to Brigade camps. We also notice the boys involved in various fund raising activities.

Unidentified Images

We have found some images that we believe are probably of the Boys' Brigade. These are images which we do not fully understand. There are aspects of the photographs which we do not understand. Another problem is that there were several organizations such as the Church Lads Brigade.. We do not at this time understand how to discriminate among the various uniforms. Hopefully our readers will be able to assist us.


We do not have many individuals archived on HBU. Here we will include both portraits we have found, many unidentified, as well as experiences from our readers concering the Boys' Brigade. The organization is a smaller group than the Boy Scouts. Thus we have so far collected fewer of these individual pages. One reader, Jonathan, has provided some information about his Boys' Brigade expeiences furing the 1970s. Hopefully more readers will provide some additional information as HBU develops.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 2:44 AM 4/2/2009