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Norfolk Guides holding online virtual VE day “camp”

PUBLISHED: 09:50 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:54 07 May 2020

Helen Green, organiser and county archivist, pictured at Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource Centre in Coltishall, where VE day activities would have taken place. Picture: Antony Kelly

Helen Green, organiser and county archivist, pictured at Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource Centre in Coltishall, where VE day activities would have taken place. Picture: Antony Kelly

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

Norfolk Guides are inviting people to relive history at a special online camp over the VE weekend.

Guide International Service food kitchen. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture LibraryGuide International Service food kitchen. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture Library

The V for Virtual camp replaces a day of community events planned at Girlguiding Norfolk’s Archive Resource Centre in Coltishall, and in other parts of the county, but cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The online event will commemorate the work done by the Guide International Service (GIS) in the Second World War.

Queen’s 18th birthday message to Sandringham guides that is part of the online VE day camp. Picture: Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource CentreQueen’s 18th birthday message to Sandringham guides that is part of the online VE day camp. Picture: Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource Centre

In the 1940s, teams of older guides and leaders undertook a tough training programme to equip them for working in Europe and the Middle East at the end of the war.

MORE: All the ways to mark VE Day in Norfolk and Waveney this year

Members of a GIS team were among the first people to enter the liberated Belsen concentration camp, helping in the clinic and children’s hospital.

Inspection of the Guide International Service. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture LibraryInspection of the Guide International Service. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture Library

Others worked with Greek refugees in Egypt, repatriated displaced Polish people in Germany and established a mobile hospital in the Netherlands.

The rigorous tests devised for potential GIS members are being replicated as far as possible during the virtual VE Camp.

Guide International Service leaflet that is part of the online VE day camp. Picture: Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource CentreGuide International Service leaflet that is part of the online VE day camp. Picture: Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource Centre

It will be led online by the team at Girlguiding Norfolk’s Archive Resource Centre, the first purpose-built girlguiding archive in the UK. Run by volunteers, it holds a collection of more than 30,000 items from over a century of guiding in Norfolk.

Helen Green, organiser and county archivist, said: “This is a remarkable part of guiding history and it seemed right to grasp the opportunity to give girls and leaders a unique experience to have an adventure at home.

The Guide International Service looking after convalescent children in Bueckeburg Children's Home, Germany. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture LibraryThe Guide International Service looking after convalescent children in Bueckeburg Children's Home, Germany. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture Library

“Celebrations will undoubtedly continue despite the restrictions and we wanted to be part of it all.”

MORE: How Norfolk churches are commemorating VE day

“Campers” will be able to log-on to a special social media page from 10am on Friday, May 8, where they will find a 1940s-style welcome and instruction manual.

Members of the Guide International Service mending toys at a camp in Egypt, 1944. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture LibraryMembers of the Guide International Service mending toys at a camp in Egypt, 1944. Picture: C Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture Library

Challenges will be modelled on the tests GIS members had to pass will include a physical exercise challenge, learning new language skills, cooking with rationed ingredients, fire-lighting techniques, initiative tests and make do and mend repairs.

“We know that only the toughest young women were chosen for the GIS,” said Helen. “They had to work in harsh conditions, cope with difficult situations and be caring, helpful and compassionate in their work.

Girlguiding Norfolk County President Carol Bundock at the opening event of Archive Resource Centre in Coltishall in 2016. Picture: Mark BullimoreGirlguiding Norfolk County President Carol Bundock at the opening event of Archive Resource Centre in Coltishall in 2016. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“They were an amazing group of women whose contribution to relief work after the war was hugely significant but largely unknown.”

The camp is open to any guiding members and their families to join and you can follow on the ARC FaceBook page (@GGNARC), Twitter (@GGNorfolkARC) and Instagram (@girlguidingnorfolkarc).


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