Uniforms of Boys' Youth Groups: Church Lads' Brigade

Figure 1.--Church Lad Brigade members in the 1950s mostly wore short pants and kneesocks, both their regular clothes and their Brigade uniforms. These three boys look to be new recruits as the ionly item they have is the cap.

This is another Christian-oriented youth group that appeared in Britain during the late 19th century. Like the Boys' Brigade, they put a heavy emphasis on the uniform. I have few details at this time.

The Group

The Church Lads' Brigade is a uniformed Anglican youth organisation offering fun and fellowship for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 21. It is similar to the Boys' Brigade, but is Anglican while the Boys' Brigade was non-denominational--although I believe mostly protestant. The Church Lads Brigade was born within the Anglican Church and each local group, called a company, must be part of a Church of England or other episcopal Church in communion with the Church of England. As an organisation, the Brigade is not committed to any particular view of churchmanship or tradition within the Church, but aims to serve the whole Church.

The Anglican Church

Some background on the Anglican Church is necessary to understand the Church Lads' Brigade. The Anglican Church is also know as the Church of England. It is the established church in England. It was established in the 16th century by Henry VIII so he could marry Ann Bolyn. While it thus became a Protestant Church, it is probably the Protestant denomination cloesest to Roman Catholics in theology and ritual. It became one of the principal institutions fueling the establishment of English colonies in America as dissenting protestants sought religious freedom. Americans may be suroprised to learn that despite having an established church, relatively few Britains attend church, a small fraction of American church goers, and church attendance os declining. Those that do attend church or often the most conservative and wealthy class of the British pooulation. Middle class and poor Britains do not generally attend church, although church attendance may be higher for the cathloic (largely Irish) minority.


The Church Lads' Brigade (CLB) was founded in 1890. HBU does not yet have very much information on the founding and historical trends. The CLB was the Angligan reaction to the Boys' Brigade. The Boys' Brigade proved very popular with boys. Baden Powell had not yet founded the Boys Scouts. The Anglican Church decided that they needed their own separate youth orgaization and decided tyo model it on the Boys' Brigade.

Jewish Lads' Brigade

The newly arrived Easten European Jews in Britain felt excluded as regards the Christian based Boys' Brigade and Church Lads' Brigade. Impressed with the success of these programs, English Jews in 1900 set up the Jewish Lads' Brigade for their sons. Until the 19th century there were very few Jews in England, but emmigration from Eastern Europe greatly increased the number during the 19th century.

The Goal

The Brigades's object is to extend the Kingdom of Christ among lads and girls and to encourage faithful membership of the Church of England or other episcopal churches in communion with the Church of England by bringing them together in groups organised for religious, educational and recreational purposes.

The Brigade seeks to extend the Kingdom of Christ among lads and girls and to encourage faithful membership of the Church. They aim to establish: friendship between children and adults in a caring and safe environment and an understanding of the fact that Jesus shares in all the joys, pains and challenges of life. They aim to help: children to grow in confidence and develop their skills and abilities and work together and to show care and concern for others. They aim to encourage: children to explore and respond to the Christian Faith as a part of God's family, the Church and development of Christian values and in particular a care and respect for all aspects of God's creation.

Figure 2.--The boys photographed about 1960 are celebrating the birthday of their local church Church Lad Brigade group. Some boys wear their uniforms and others look to be in their school clothes.

Church Based

The Brigade only works well when it is an integral part of the life and witness of the parish. It is not just another organisation that uses the church hall, but is part of the outreach of the parish to children and young people in the name of Christ. to help the parish ensure that a Brigade company is integrated into its life, the incumbent is responsible for nominating the officers of the company. It is a requirement of the Brigade that all officers must be regular communicant members of the Church. No company can set up without the involvement and support of the incumbent and parish. This support needs to be ongoing as it is on behalf of the Church that officers undertake their work.


To achieve these aims, the Brigade uses the following methods.
Christian Leadership: Officers must be regular communicant members of the Church and helpers must be in agreement with the Object and Aims of the Brigade.
Balanced Programme: The Brigade has a program of Christian Leadership of fun, excitement and variety which enables children and adults to explore, share and learn together.

Groups encourage children and adults to get to know each other better and the development of trusting friendships, co-operation, team work and self confidence among the children. Worship and Christian teaching at Section meetings, which helps children respond to God's love for them is a vital part of the programme. (How this is approached will vary according to local circumstances.)

Figure 3.--Summer camps are an important part of the Church Lad Brigade program. These boys in 1970s dressed upmin their uniforms for the portrait. The boy in the lower left corner is a great boyhood study. Click on the image to see the entire group.


We have very limited information about actvities pursued by the Church Lads' Brigade. We suspect that they were very similar to the Boys' Brigade with a heavy emphasis on drill and religious activities. We have, however, been unable to obtain detils about CLB activities. Hopefully our British readers will be ble to provide us sme details on CLB activitie. We do note that the CLB had an active summer camp program (figure 3). We note in many available images of both BB and CLB summer camping that large tents were used, looking rather like army tents. This suggests that before World War I that there were few if any camps with cabins and other facilities.


The Brigade operates in four age groups. Each age group has its own programme appropriate to that age, backed up by a badge scheme. This helps children and young people develop new interests, learn new skills, face new challenges and, most importantly, have fun. In the older age groups, a further aim is to help young people develop their leadership capabilities.


The Church Lads Brigade is primarily an English group, but there are some foreign units. These are primarily former English colonies with strong Anglican afilliations. With its National Headquarters based at Wath-upon-Dearne in South Yorkshire, The Church Lads' and Church Girls' Brigade is parish-based throughout England, Wales and Ireland. It also has overseas units in Newfoundland (Canada), Barbados, Bermuda, St. Helena, and Capetown (South Africa).

The Martins

The Martins are children 5-7 years. The Martins, named after the Brigade's Patron Saint, gives children an exciting programme of games, interactive stories, crafts, drama, singing, funsheets, puzzles and activities under three headings: "Me and Others, Me and God's World, and Me and God". There are badges, certificates and a super sweatshirt with the Martins' very own logo embroidered on it. The Martins (as part of the CLCGB) aims to help children explore and respond to the Christian Faith at their level and to encourage them to feel part of the Church. It does this by giving Christian adults a means of building trusting relationships with children through a varied and progressive programme of fun activities showing them that God is interested in them.

The Young Corps

The Martins are children 7-10 years.

The Junior Training Corps

The Martins are children 10 -14 years.

The Senior Corps

The Martins are children 13-21 years. The Church Lads'and Church Girls' Brigade have an award programme for members of the Senior Corps. Team Challenge aims to offer a young person aged 13+ the experience of being a member of a team and of working through a series of challenges. Challenges are offered under found headings: Community, Faith in Action, Physical and Skills. A team will be expected to complete a challenge under the Faith in Action section and choose two others from the remaining three challenges. Each challenge should be worked on for a minimum of 15 hours. A team will have a year to complete the three challenges. On successful completion of the three challenges, members of the team will each receive a Team Challenge badge and certificate. Each team has an adult Brigade leader as a facilitator. His/her role is to encourage and monitor the progress of the team, it is not to organise and made decisions. The emphasis is very much on the young people as a group taking responsibility, making the decisions and planning out how they are going to undertake each challenge. As one young girl summed it up, "It gives us a chance to work on a project that normally we would have no control over". Other key learning experiences include: Co-operation; Awareness of each other's needs, gifts and abilities; Coping with tension; Perseverance; Loyalty and commitment; and Evaluation


For over 100 years the C.L.B. was strictly a boys-only organization, but in 1995 girls were invited to join the Brigade. Several area companies now have girls in their rank but due to a lack of female staff, regulations have required that Bay Roberts Company limit its membership to boys. However, membership will be open to girls as soon as the necessary female staff have been recruited. There are four sections to each company divided into the following groups which meet weekly at St. Matthews Hall, Bay Roberts.

The National Band

Universally recognised as one of the largest and finest musical bodies in the world of Youth Military Bands, the National Band of the Church Lads' & Church Girls' Brigade have been providing musical support for any type of occasion since 1979. Their repertoire covers a wide category of music, including jazz, pop, light concert music, and the big band sound, as well as the very popular marches, and always to the highest standard. They will be playing at the Millennium Dome on Saturday 8 July 2000 - look out for them there!

The National Choir

The Brigade's National Choir, formed in 1991, has some 30 to 40 members and hold practices on a Saturday or a Sunday somewhere in the Midlands. A full choir weekend is held at the end of June at National Headquarters.

Figure 4.--Church Lad Brigade Martins wear blue sweaters with yellow trim. These boys wear the more informal uniform styles of the 1990s. Click on the image for an additional view.


Uniform is worn at weekly meetings, as well as on special occasions and at Church services, to encourage a sense of belonging among the children. The Brigade once plased considerable emphasis on the uniform. It was youth organisations like the Boys' Brigade and Church Lads' Brigade, which one might have expected to be of pacific intent, that adopted military trappings. These religious groups also drilled with rifles (real or wooden) in the early days, which the Scouts would never have done. The original Church Lad Brigade uniform was very similar to the BB uniform (pillbox hat and white haversack) and it's easy to confuse the two in pre-1914 group photographs.


A HBC reader reports, "I looked in at a militaria fair today. One of the dealers was offering a very impressive collection of photographs from the early 1900s assembled in that era by a member of the Church Lads Brigade. It was a fascinating colection but rather out of my price range at 325 (!) However, when perusing the pictures I noted that CLB boys were to be seen dressed in two distinct styles of uniform. There was the pillbox hat and white belt ensemble, modelled on the Boys Brigade, which organisation the CLB consciously aped. But there were also boys wearing World War I style British army uniform. I think that this happened during the First War when the CLB adopted army khaki for the duration, reverting after the war to the more pacific pillbox hat uniform."


Church Lad Brigade boys commonly wore short pants through the 1950s and early 1960s. By the 1970s, most boys wore long pants uniforms, but a few members still wore a short pants kit. Boys in the 1960s wear red ties with their blue shirts. I'm not sure when this style was introduced. The kneesocks the boys in shorts wore were blue to match the shirt and shorts with red stripes. Church Lad Brigade boys by the 1990s wear much more informal uniforms than was the case in earlier years. The younger children (Martins) wear blue sweaters wuith yellow trim, a departure from the blue andcred theme. Almost all of the boys wear long pants.


Awards (badge scheme) add interest, challenge and a sense of progression for the children.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: June 22, 2000
Last updated: October 6, 2002