EVENTS - Gressenhall 1940s Camp 2007

Introduction to Gressenhall 1940s Camp -

as reported in Girlguiding Norfolk's Blue Sheet, October 2007

Norfolk Guides got into the swing of the 1940s when they staged a 10-day living history camp this summer.

The 1st
Norfolk 1940s Guide Company – as the group became known – set up camp at Gressenhall farm, and were soon living, eating and guiding in exactly the same way as their grandmothers would have done 60 years earlier.

The camp was part of a wider project, The Historical Jigsaw, for which Girlguiding Norfolk received £25,000 funding from the Heritage Lottery Young Roots Fund. The aim is to trace the history of the Guide Movement in the county and the camp was designed to bring part of that history to life.

Months of research went into finding out about camp dresses worn in the 1940s, camp menus, tents and activities, to recreate an authentic experience for around 30 girls. The Guides and Senior Section members slept in traditional bell tents, made straw filled mattresses to lie on, learned to skin rabbits and cook tasty stews, sewed, knitted and carried out “make do and mend” activities. They also looked after “evacuees” in the shape of visiting Brownies and Guides, coped with a night-time air raid and staged a 1940s tea dance.

“It’s been a brilliant opportunity for girls from the 21 st century to find out at first hand what life would have been like for their grandmothers at Guide camp,” said Guider Helen Green, who is leading the project with fellow Guider Emily Archer. “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. It’s made us realise how much we depend on modern conveniences, like plastic boxes and mobile phones!”

The camp was held at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum near Dereham, and much help was given by the Norfolk Museums Service. The camp was open to the public between 10am-5pm and thousands of people visited and were given a guided tour by the Guides.

The camp also attracted a lot of media interest – from newspapers, radio and television. And camping alongside, as an example of modern, girl-led guiding, was a team whose job was to photograph, record and video everything on the camp.

“It really has been a dream come true, seeing all of this come to fruition,” said Helen Green. “The girls have got so much from this experience; they’ve learned a huge amount about how guiding was in generations gone by, but they’ve also learned lots about themselves and each other. We’re all still on an absolute high and we think the ripples from this project will continue for some time.”

Girlguiding Norfolk aims to create a 1940s Guide Camp resource into which other counties or guiding groups can dip.



Photos from Gressenhall camp


We hoped to report on a daily basis, but technical hitches made it difficult, however, since camp we have been able to compile the daily photos galleries - see below.  

Guides relive the 1940's at Gressenhall

The 1940s are in full swing here at Gressenhall Farm where 40 Guides and leaders are reliving the past as part of the Historical Jigsaw project.

Four days in to the camp, girls have learned how to cook on wood fires, skin rabbits and how to cope with the rigours of no-frills camping!

Today (Tuesday) Guides have welcomed evacuees from the city, who travelled to Gressenhall on the Mid Norfolk Railway from Wymondham. The visitors, who include Brownies and younger Guides, will spend the day learning how evacuees might have lived in 1940 - including having a school lesson and learning fire warden drill.


Time Travel without a Tardis!

www2camp1.jpg One of the highlights of the project is our 1940s camp. We are travelling back in time over sixty years, and will camp as Guides would have done then. We'll live on rations, camp in old-style tents, and generally experience the work and relaxations of an old-fashioned camp. Can you spot the tractor and trailor in the photo? Can you imagine what the girls will be using these for during the camp? Come along and see for yourself!

We have had lots of fun getting ready, and collecting up all the things on our kit list...




Got all our dishes


The tea dance dresses

are going to look stunning

to say nothing of the

girls wearing them!

We have searched to find

the correct belts, now we

just have to make them fit!

prep0006.jpg prep0007.jpg prep0011.jpg

Found the black wellies

just in case...

Gosh, it's taken some sorting, but what an

adventure it's going to be!! Well done!

Found most of the badges on e-bay but they need polishing by our expert!


prep0009.jpg prep0010.jpg prep0013.jpg
Sorting out the rations and our Kit Kats...

getting the plate bags embroidered with our

names, smiling all the time..

and making some soap... we'll have to wash somehow!
prep0012.jpg prep0008.jpg prep0005.jpg

Lots of polishing and

lengthening to be done!

We going to be going home with some truly special friends and memories!

Got the t-shirt? No, but

yes, got the kit bag!

View our galleries of photos of each day at camp. Click on the first one of each day to see the daily slide shows. Photographs expertly taken and edited by Jane Eaton.

Saturday, 18th August - Arrival Day
Sunday, 19th August - Off to Church, time to gather up some wood, sort out those rabbits, get out the knitting and try some natural dyeing.
Monday, 20th August - A visit from Trefoil Guild members, Tea Dance Lessons and then the Live Band to dance to! The Press are very interested in what we are up to, and we love the treat of a bedtime story read to us by our very own Carol!
Tuesday, 21st August - Evacuated....
Thursday, 23rd August - Time to Celebrate... and learn 'old' skills in our Wide Game... and what was that awful noise - evacuated again!
Friday, 24th August - Some very special visitors - including the lady who was on the cover of our leaflet, dressed as a Guider!
Saturday, 25th August - The sun has put it's hat on, for the first time since Sunday, so we move outside to eat and enjoy peeling those potatoes for lunch and then head off for our school lesson.
Sunday, 26th August - Off to church again and we participate in a lively service, and some of the new Tenderfoots make their Promise. The Village at War event begins, and lots and lots of visitors arrive - all very curious about what goes on in a Guide camp. We help serve teas and run the village fete, as well as opening it.
Monday, 27th August - Even more visitors, including those overhead; time to strike camp, say thank you and wave good-bye.