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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The Boys' Brigade is the pioneer voluntary, uniformed youth organisation started in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1883 by Sir William A. Smith with a company of 30 boys and three officers. It has grown into an international organisation with members in over 50 different countries, with Her Majesty the Queen as Patron. Three million boys have passed through its ranks.

The first companies in New Zealand began in 1889 in Auckland and Timaru. The movement flourished elsewhere until about 1914 when, owing to lack of trained leadership, companies went out of existence. The Brigade was revived in 1926 with the founding of the 1st Dunedin Company, and has grown steadily ever since. The organisation is now soundly established everywhere. Companies and teams are normally connected with churches, but may also be associated with schools, clubs, or institutions. The movement takes boys from the ages of nine to 18 and works in two sections. The junior reserve, comprising the nine to 11 age group, is called “The Life Boys”. After three years in the Life Boy team, they are transferred to the Boys' Brigade Company. Religion and discipline are the “twin-pillars” upon which the Brigade system has been built, the ultimate purpose being to develop a sound Christian character. This is clearly set out in the Object – viz., “The advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness”. The motto is “Sure and Stedfast” in the Authorised Version text and spelling (Hebrews vi, 19).

The Brigade method of training recognises that the exuberant vitality and boundless energies of boys need to be directed into proper channels through an attractive, purposeful, and progressive programme of activity. This includes drill, physical training, gymnastics, first aid, signalling, lifesaving, bands, athletics, camping, nature study, handicrafts, scripture knowledge, seamanship, etc. A carefully graded scheme of certificates and badges now works as an incentive – the highest award being the Queen's Badge. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme has been adopted by the Brigade. There are three standards of attainment – bronze, silver, and gold in each of the four sections – rescue and public service, expeditions, pursuits and projects, and physical fitness.

The boys' uniform comprises a field service cap, white haversack, and black belt worn with a navy shirt and navy shorts (or longs). Promotion to the ranks of lance corporal, corporal, and sergeant provides training in leadership and responsibility. His Excellency the Governor-General is the New Zealand Patron. The Brigade (N.Z.) Council controls the movement. It comprises all officers and meets annually. An executive committee is elected annually on a territorial basis and meets quarterly. Companies in cities, towns, and districts are formed into battalions or groups. There are at present 10 battalions and seven groups. A comprehensive scheme of training for officers, non-commissioned officers, and leaders is proving most effective.

The New Zealand Council has extended the movement in the Pacific Islands, mainly in Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, British Solomon Islands, Gilbert and Ellice Islands, and the New Hebrides. Full-time organisers appointed and supported by New Zealand are working in Samoa and the Solomons. The Brigade has 12,000 members in New Zealand in 220 companies and 228 Life Boy teams, comprising 1,334 officers, instructors, and staff sergeants; 610 Life Boy leaders; 9,898 boys (1965). There are also 3,618 Pacific Island members in 78 companies and 51 teams: 240 officers and instructors, 102 leaders, and 3,132 boys.

by Alford Dornan, New Zealand Secretary, Boys' Brigade, Wellington.