Boys' Brigade Uniforms: New Zealand

Figure 1.--The New Zealand Boys' Brigade uniforms have changed greatly over time. The uniform in the 1980s and 90s was a dark blue shirt and short pants with white trim. It was worn with campaign caps and kneesocks with tob bands. The older boys were allowed to wear long pants.

The Boys' Brigade did not spread around the world like the Scouts, primarily because of its Christian foundation. It did become popular, however, in several British colonies like New Zealand. The Brigade was founded in New Zealand during 1884, only 1 year after its inception in Scotland. The goal of the New Zealand Boys' Brigade was the same as in Britain, to develop develop a Christian life skills through a Children's and youth ministry within Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand. This is achieved through a program that focus's on enhancement of boys' spiritual, physical, adventure, community and personal interests.


Little information is currently available on the history of the Boys' Brigade in New Zealand. Primarily Boy's Brigade publicatins decribe the initial foundation in Scotland and England. The expansioin of the Boys' Brigade, because of its Scottish/English Protestant focus, has limited the groups' expansion to other countries. The Boys' Brigade did spread to former colonies like New Zealand. Only a year after te Brigade's foundation in 1883, a Boys' Brigade unit was organized in New Zealand. The Brigade spread to New Zealand from Britain. There has been some form of Boys' Brigade activity in New Zealand ever since the formation of the 1st Christchurch Company in 1886. It was the 1st Dunedin Company formed by Mr Horace Grocott in 1926 which led to the present national organisation with about 200 Companies in New Zealand.


The Boys Brigade fostered many Scout-like activities, but with a stronger Christian focus.

Athletic events

The West Auckland Battalion held a Gymnastics Competition. Christchurch units sponsored indoor soccer. A Manukau unit sponsored a Cross Country race. Manukau units also sponsored a golf tournament.


Games might include events like a Trivial Pursuit evening.

Public events

Boys Brigade units commonly participate in civic events lkike the annual Founders day parade

Drill competitions

Unlike Scouting, the Boys' Brigade still places an emphasis on drill. Christchurch units held a drill competition and figure marching. Southland units held a drill competition. West Auckland units sponsored a drill compeition. They also do Team Figure Marching

Band events

North Island units held a Band Camp. Christchurch units give band concerts.


A lot of Boys' Brigade units sponsor camps in the summer months, beginning after school and the Christmas holiday ends. Many camps begin right after Christmas. Many are in session by New Years. A typical camp is like the one sponsored by Auckland units in 2000, "Northern Lakes Experience". Itt was held in the Carter Holt Forest beside Lake Slipper, approximately 10 minutes south of Mangawhai Heads. The Auckland units, described their camp, "Come along for a fun time at Mangawhai Heads surf beach, snorkelling at the Goat Island Marine Reserve, crusing down the sand dunes and heaps of other fun activities. This is very much a water based camp to chill out over the Summer holidays." Many of the camps are open to all Company Section Boys.


Boys brigade units also sponsor picnics, BBQs, sleepovers, and a variety of other activities.

Special events

Special events like the 2000 Youth Symposium hosted at Government House by Sir Michael Hardie-Boys. Hillsong New Zealand 2000 is planned in Auckland.


The Boys Brigade sponsors a variety of courses like the NLDC (National Leadership Development Courses) Stage 1 and Stage 2 courses in Blenheim during 2000.

Current Status

Boys Brigade leaders are concerned about the future of the organization. Some of the leadership is discouraged. A few say that numbers are down – down to the level where the viability of the Movement in NZ is seriously threatened. One leader says that the primary reason we are recording a continual decline of around 9% is due to our leadership. Every year the Brigade in New Zealand is closing around 10 companies and in almost every case it's because the Captain has finally run out of steam and there is no one to take his or her place. Essentially the problem appears to be twofold: 1) There is an excess of the older tired complacent leader and 2) there are to few young, creative, energetic genre of leader. Others insist that the future of The Boys’ Brigade doesn’t look as bleak as many of the predictions heard would indicate.

One Boys' Brigade leader believes that Boys Brigade Officers have some responsibility for the decline as do the Churches – both Leaders and Ministers. Instead of accepting that responsibility and doing something about it, he charges that leaders make the excuse that it is the trend among young people – they are not as interested in organised youth movements as they were. "So what!," he argues and insists that the Boys' Brigade movement has the goods to match and beat any trends. It may mean increased commitment, more enthusiasm, harder work or whatever, but if ‘the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among boys’ is still important, then that extra effort is a privilege.

One experienced Boys' Brigade leader provided the following eb\ncouragement to his colleagues,"

You will have guessed by now that in spite of over 50 years as an officer and 71 years of living, I am still as enthusiastic for BB as when I was a boy in it’s ranks. My belief in it’s value and potential in promoting Christian Manliness has never lessened over those years. have been asked to share with you something of our experience at the 7th Hamilton, which makes us one of the largest companies in NZ.

Let me start by saying that we do not have a spectacular programme but see relationships as being the foundation on which a strong Company is built. I applaud the present emphasis on developing our younger Officers and giving them opportunity to realise their potential through increasing responsibilities. While this may mean an older Officer stepping aside (which I personally am ready to do when my ‘use by date’ arrives), it may not always mean that. Why lose the services of experienced Officers when we are so short. There are other creative possibilities which can be pursued.

If and when my Officers believe it is a viable project, I would like to find a Church in Hamilton keen to have a BB Company and encourage some of my younger Officers to accept the responsibility of developing a Company attached to that Church. It may start as a platoon of our Company which would lessen the administrative load until the young men had established themselves. This would allow us to retain the services of all Officers while giving opportunity to the younger ones.

Meanwhile in the 7th Hamilton we have 5 Sections – Anchor, Team, Intermediate, Senior and Youth. I assume overall responsibility but the Officers develop their own programmes. My proposal for the new millennium is to appoint a Lt in Charge of each of the older Sections, as we have at present for Team and Anchor. This will be good training for further responsibility – possibly Captaincy in the future. It would be unwise to believe that all young Officers would seek this fuller responsibility. There is a degree of commitment and length of service that many Officers are not prepared to give. This is one of the main reasons for the shortage of Officers. For every Officer serving for 20 years you need 10 who serve only 2 years.

Recruitment of Officers is not a problem for the 7th. I believe this comes from our persistence in seeking out suitable people even when we have a full staff. As I visit homes, which I do regularly, I evaluate each parent’s potential as an Officer or Instructor. Of our present full time staff of 16, 7 are parents. Each new Officer provides new possibilities in programming and security against losses. With movements from Hamilton recently we have lost 4 Officers within a short time but were able to replace them from within our own resources.

We use only one method of recruiting boys apart from present members bringing their friends. At the beginning of each year I visit the homes of present members. Nothing unusual about that of course. Before I leave the home I ask two questions of the family. "Where do your son’s friends live?" and "At which homes in this street are there boys aged between 6 and 15?". I then visit those homes and invite the boys to become members. As I do my visiting, if I see a boy playing in the street I ask him where he lives and then visit that home as well. We have as many recruits as we can accommodate. I continue to visit homes regularly during the year and believe that this has created the warm relationships which we enjoy with families.

We have always had a full time Treasurer/Secretary. This year we have tried another experiment which has been most successful. We introduced a Secondary School teacher as our Education Resource person with the responsibility of monitoring the quality of our classwork and assisting Officers with the preparation and presentation of their material. This has proved most valuable.

We started the year with a three day retreat for Officers and NCO’s. Again a good relationship developer as well as opportunity for training and programming. We also hold a training day for potential NCO’s before any promotions are made. The Youth Section chooses it’s own programme. At present they are constructing a Go-Kart.

Figure 2.--New Zealand Boys wore this blue uniform througout the 1980s and 90s. Some groups gave particular attention to uniforms, holding inspections before major events.


The 1990s

New Zealand Boys' Brigade in the 1990s had dark blue uniforms made up of shirts and shorts. Some of the older boys wear long pants. The Boys Brigade Belt which had a chunky buckle on it with an anchor engraved on it. Across the left shoulder a white cloth strap which had a message pouch. You put the belt over the strap so the pouch hung under the belt and on the right of your body. Boys also wear blue campaign caps that had white piping on it and the number of the battalion.

The 2000s

Major changes are planned for the uniform in the 2000s. The new uniform was a fundamental departure from the elaborate military-like uniform previously worn by Brigaders. The Movement initially voted in 1995 for BBNZ to have a single, new National Uniform to be worn by all members. During 1996 and 1997 extensive consultations were held throughout the Movement which culminated in a postal ballot in May 1998. This resulted in the proposed new uniform being adopted. It was also agreed that the complete change over would be effected by 1st January 2001.

The new uniform

The new uniform was deliberately kept simple and consists of a Polo Shirt with embroided crest. For Anchor, Team and junior Company Section Boys the Polo Shirt is to be Royal Blue with a white embroided crest. For senior Company Section Boys and Leaders the shirt is to be white with a blue embroided crest. Companies may also choose to wear a Royal Blue sweat shirt in addition to the Polo Shirt.

A formal uniform for functions such as Queens Award Weekend was also adopted. This consists of White shirt with Boys Brigade Tie, Navy Blue trousers, Navy Blue socks and black shoes along with the BB Officers belt.

To assist Companies during this transition Executive have provided the following guidelines.

Individual Companies may determine what, if any other refinements are to be added to the basic uniform e.g. caps, track pants etc. Companies may opt to source their own materials so that they can choose the weight of the polo / sweat shirt that suits their local conditions. The National Resource centre has a Uniform Standard that outlines the appropriate colour of material as well as the size of the crest. The current TS and CS Award Schemes continue to apply. As their badges are primarily worn on an arm band this practice should continue. The same applies to insignias of rank.

As indicated above, headgear is now optional but where a form of headwear is retained saluting can continue. Local Companies and where necessary Battalions can therefore adopt their own protocols as indeed will the National Movement for functions such as Queens Award weekend.

There is no need for Sections to make changes to the way of operating their programme if they wish to retain a more formal format. Parades, Inspections, Squad Challenge medals, Drill classes, Church Parades etc can continue as before.

Executive has begun a review of the Officers Handbook with urgency being given to those sections relating to Uniform and other Regulations affected by the Constitutional changes. Once completed this information will be conveyed to the Movement through Officers Forum and by updates to the Handbook. Work on other publications affected such as the Boys Handbook will also be undertaken as time and financial resources permit.

It is expected that all Companies will have completed the transition by the end of next year and as from 1st January 2001 only the new uniform standard will the official BBNZ uniform. While BBNZ has never been in a position to enforce compliance on any Company in any area of our work, they encourage individual Officers and Companies to observe the rules and regulations they promised to uphold when they were registered.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 9:09 PM 1/11/2011