Guiding from the past

Basking in the warm heat of a rare spell of 2008 summer sunshine are 22 girl guides from across Norfolk. But do not let the apparent tranquillity of the scene fool you.

BASKING in the warm heat of a rare spell of 2008 summer sunshine were 22 Girl Guides from across Norfolk.

But do not let the apparent tranquillity of the scene fool you.

On day two of their six-day 1940s camp, the group gathered round to learn how to skin a rabbit and prepare it in order to make a casserole on an open wood fire.

The squeals could be heard far around - "I think I just broke its rib," cried one as another took off the skin.

The group was trying to recreate what a 1940s camp would have been like for a living history project. And it seems, even with the squealing, they are not far off.

The puffing Billy, a simple boiler for hot water, was quietly sending camp-fire smoke across the site, at Gressenhall Museum of Norfolk

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The girls' wellies were all stored upside down so they dried out from the last rain shower and washing-up stands made of twigs tied together were ready and waiting to be put into action.

And the old-fashioned bell tent's sides were lifted off the ground to keep their temporary homes well aired during the day - ready for the next morning's camp inspection.

There was even a first aid tent, canvas washing areas and a storage tent full of the tools needed to get down to a bit of rabbit skinning.

Dinner was pastry pie with mince, green beans and potatoes followed by chocolate blancmange.

Helen Green, county commissioner and project leader, said: "We have done a tremendous amount of research and gone to great lengths to make sure that we have nothing in camp that wouldn't have been here in the 1940s."

That meant only a bowl of water in an open canvas structure for washing facilities, although they had access to showers if they wanted, and mattresses they had made themselves from straw.

As well as knitting and rug-making there were other make-do-and-mend activities - all still under Guide rules.

Camp captain Emily Archer, 29, from Norwich, said: "We still have a drill and inspection every day.

"The girls are inspected, how they look personally, their hair and appearance and shoes. Their tents are inspected - are the pegs in correctly and the guy ropes tight and their bedding rolls done correctly."

But while they have stuck to the 1940s, how different is it?

"Some Guide camps today use gas stoves but ones I've been on have used open fires," said Emily. "And some groups still use the bell tents."

This is despite them not having in-built ground sheets like modern tents, meaning everything has to be lifted off the floor to keep it dry and the tent sides have to be lifted up to keep it aired.

The camp was the idea of some of the girls as part of a project by Norfolk's Girl Guides called The Historical Jigsaw.

Since 2006 they have been exploring the history of Girl Guiding in the county.

Other projects include an oral history project which has seen the Guides collecting the memories of former Guides for an archive.