The VVKS appears to be one of the more traditional Scout groups in Belgium. It is based in Flannders, the Dutch speaking portion of Belgium. As in most of Europe, the Belgian Scout movement is divided along ethnic and religious lines. The division in Belgium follows ethnic, but not religious lines. Both the French Waloons and the Flemish (similar to Dutch) speaking populations are mostly Catholic, or at least nominally Catholic. Many of the Scout groups take the symbols of the two nationalities that comprise Belgium. The VVKS however bridges the gap somewhat, as it was a Catholic Scout group. The VVKS has changed its name, removing the K (meaning Catholic). The explanation was to become more ecinemically Christian. More likely it was a step motivated by the gradual de-Christinization of Europe.
We have some limited information about the history of the VVKS.
It all began a long time ago, before the war, with a boys' choir led by E.H.Valvekens, deputy pastor at the parish of the Holy Sacrament, Berchem [a suburb of Antwerp]. The choir became the nucleus of a scout group in 1939. The name chosen was Pius XI, as a tribute to the then recently deceased Pope. The group's motto was Cum Ardore, Latin for "fiery" or "passionate". The coat of arms contains red (for pugnacity) and gold (for fast growth and blossoming). The torch represents the "fire" mentioned in the motto. The L stands for the group's number, 50. The group's founder, Piet Haass, kept asking the VVKS for a nice round number, and he got it. The official go-ahead was given on 19 March 1939. At that time the group boasted only one scout patrol, the Foxes. The first wolf cub pack came in Oct 1939. There was enough room to play, as the Groenenhoek [area] was still quite green then as the area had not yet been all belt
up. During the war (1939-45) the group was temporarily housed in an old inn, "De Mooren Toren", on the Grote Steenweg (roughly where the Kredietbank is now). (Note: In a lot of the occupied countries countries the Germans outlawed Scouting, I'm not sure precisely what their policy was in Belgium.) In 1945 the group returned to the Groenenhoek, to the Wery family's cellars in Woningenstraat. Later, in 1946(?), the group was housed on some land belonging to the Blondel family. Left-over American war materials were used as premises: a shed from the Top Hat camp in Linkeroever and an ambulance for the Venture Scouts. The present headquarters in Edelgesteentestraat were inaugurated on 28 April 1958. In the previous weeks, work went on from morning to evening, assembling, flooring and painting them.
On 19 October 1958 the 37th Sint-Godelieve VVKM group came into being. The 17 girls held their first meeting in a garage. Within 5 years the group already had 126 Brownies, junior Guides, Guides and leaders. By 1967 the group grew even bigger with the arrival of the pixies (6-8 years old). Since then the group has moved house several times. The garage in Bikschotelaan became a little too small, and after a few detours along the Schaffenplein and Diksmuidelaan the girls of the "37th" ended up in the Hofstadestraat at the beginning of the 1980s. The HQ is still there and today it shelters the "rascals" and the "wouters". Former scouts meet there too.
Some time in the first half of the 1980s the leaders' teams of the "50th" and the "37th", who got on very well with each other, decided it would be best to join forces and form a single group. The first branch to merge together was the "rascals", in 1985-86. Each subsequent year, another branch followed suit, and in `1989 (year of the Berlin Wall and all that, remember?) the merger was complete: from then on, the group was known as the VVKSM 50th Pius XI - 37th Sint-Godelieve.
The VVKS has changed its name, removing the K (meaning Catholic). The explanation was to become more ecinemically Christian. More likely it was a step motivated by the gradual de-Christinization of Europe. A reader writes, "I can't really tell what part religion takes in VVKSM, nor in Chiro. I know with the rename of VVKSM into 'Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen' the K disappeared in their name. (official explanation: VVKSM was a Katholique organisation, whilst the renewed association is 'an organisation inspired with the Christian way of life'). One thing I do know actually changed then, is 'Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen'-groups don't have to have an 'aalmoezenier' (=priest) anymore.
Once, I was talking to a Chiro about this renaming; I remember the Chiro-one saying: If we should want to kick out the 'K', we've nothing left." [De Lobel]
The VVKS is divided into these groups:
Rascals (Kapoenen): The rascals are a cheerful group of girls and boys of 6 to 8 year olds (in general the first and second grades at school). They get their first experience of scouting, and they do it very well. Just because they can still march under the table without banging their heads, it doesn't mean they can't go on a journey, or to camp, or perhaps learn how to tie simple knots and do a bit of map reading.
Wouters: The wouters are a little older than the rascals, i.e. boys and girls of 8 to 11 year olds (generally the third to the fifth school grade). They're bigger and better, and you could call them a super-active troop. The wouters like games and noise, and believe me: the whole neighbourhood knows about them! The leaders of this pack are young wolves, of course.
Jonggivers: this is where the "real" scouting life begins: lashing tables, cooking on a wood fire, running on a paperchase, sleeping in tents, you name it! It's a whole new world, full of surprises and adventures. The jonggivers are from 11 to 14 years old, covering the sixth school year and the first two years of secondary school. It goes without saying that they are a very active group.
Givers: The givers, as the name implies, are a little older than the jonggivers, i.e. boys and girls of 14 to 17 years old (roughly the third to the fifth years of secondary school). You could say that Ketnet [a TV channel for teenagers] is intended for them, as they are real kids at a difficult age. All joking apart, the givers are the oldest regular branch. For them a journey is a real marathon, and in recent years they quite often go to camp by bicycle. You will come across them in the streets and the squares, in the wood and on the heath: a jolly band of kids on the way from nowhere to everywhere.
A Scout uniform identifies a group of scouts and guides. The VVKS tells perspective members, "The uniform shows that you are a member of the VVKS and denotes the value of the movement. A uniform gives members and leaders the opportunity to display their community in public."
We have little historic information on the early VVKS uniforms. We notice one VVKS which continues to wear the groups historic uniorm. The boys wear the traditional wide-brimmed Scout hats, kerchiefs, grey shirts, brown corduroy shrts, and grey kneesocks, with wide green bands. We are not precisely sure, however, just when this uniform was worn.
I am not sure what the uniform requirements for the VVKS. All
the different braches appear to wear short pants. Many of
the boys in the 1990s appear to be wearing the longer-styled
shorts. Some of the older group is wearing maroon sweaters
with Smokey Bear-type hats. The uniform, in its new version introduced recently, consists of several separate items; it is play attire with room for fantasy. "Movement attire" is is perhaps a better word than "uniform"; more inviting, more creative, friendlier. (Note: the
idea of a uniform does not apparently appeal to European children. Thus the semantically more appealing "movement
attire. Boys and girls from the different branches wear the same basic gear: a beige shirt in sturdy, natural cotton, a dark green woollen sweater, and green denim trousers (long or short) or skirt. All the uniform items bear the VVKSM logo. So it is a real "scout" look. Having the same style for scouts and guides takes on a real meaning if they wear it plain, and it leaves enough room for the personal touch. But a uniform mustn't be just for parades; it's also for playing in, and everyone can move easily in it. The association offers the various uniform items and badges, to be found in the Scout shop. The group itself can prescribe its own particular style. There has to be flexibility: sending a cub home just because he isn't wearing his cap would be much too rigid. You can ask your members to wear the group style, but it must remain attractive. The basic uniform is the same for cubs, brownies, junior guides, junior scouts, guides, scouts, and leaders: beige shirt, green sweater, green long trousers or short trousers or skirt, belt, neckerchief and woggle and, where appropriate, green or beige socks. The "rascals" don't have a specific uniform. The basic uniform is available in their size if required. Cubs, both girls and boys, can wear a green cap with yellow piping. All these uniform items are also available in blue versions, for sea scouts. The uniform items can be worn in various combinations and whimsical variations.
One reader tells us that the VVKS Scouts now have a uniform with green denim
long shorts, brown shirts and again a green woolen sweater.
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.
The VVKS apparently does not insist that all its members be Catholic. A HBC contributor reports, "Being a child of a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, both immigrants from Holland, and a protestant myself, I grew up in Antwerp and in the then Belgian Congo in the fifties and sixties. In fact I a have been a VVKS scout (the only Protestant of my
De Lobel, Frederik. E-mail message, January 9, 2008.
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Chronology Pages:
[Return to the Main chronologies page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Activities] [Biographies] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Essays] [Garments] [Organizations] [Religion] [Other]
[Introduction] [Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Questions] [Unknown images]
[Boys' Uniform Home]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web organizatiion pages:
[Return to the Main Belgian Scout page]
[Return to the National Scout page]
[Boys' Brigade] [Camp Fire] [Hitler Youth] [National] [Pioneers] [Royal Rangers] [Scout]