Boys' Brigade

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For the 1980s Canadian new wave band, see Boys Brigade (band). Not to be confused with the Church Lads' and Church Girls' Brigade.
Boys' Brigade
Boys' Brigade Anchor (traditional colour version).svg
Founded4 October 1883
FounderSir William Alexander Smith
  • Worldwide
Origins Glasgow
Area served
750,000 worldwide [1]

The Boys' Brigade (BB) is an international interdenominational Christian youth organisation, conceived by Sir William Alexander Smith to combine drill and fun activities with Christian values. [2] Following its inception in Glasgow in 1883 the BB quickly spread across the United Kingdom, becoming a worldwide organisation by the early 1890s. [3] As of 2018, there were 750,000 Boys' Brigade members in 60 countries. [1]


Object, motto and emblem

The Boys' Brigade emblem on a stained glass window in a parish church Boys' Brigade emblem, Uphall.JPG
The Boys' Brigade emblem on a stained glass window in a parish church

The stated object of the Boys' Brigade is "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." Except for the addition of the word "obedience" in 1893, the contents of the object has remained unchanged from the beginning. [4] However, some countries, particularly those which permit girls on their membership roll, have re-worded the object for gender neutrality. For example, in Malaysia, the word "manliness" has been changed to "character".

When designing the Brigade's motto and crest, William Smith referred directly to Hebrews 6:19 in the King James Version of the Bible, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast...". [2]

From this verse came the BB motto, "Sure and Stedfast", retaining the old spelling of the latter word. [5] Today, some parts of the movement (only the UK and the ROI) have adopted the modern spelling of "steadfast", whilst all others continue to use the older spelling. [3] [6]

The crest was originally a plain anchor, bearing the BB motto with a capital 'B' on either side. Upon the merger between the Boys' Brigade and the Boys' Life Brigade in 1926, the red Greek cross was placed behind the anchor to form the current emblem. [3] The cross originally formed part of emblem of the Boys' Life Brigade.


The Boys' Brigade was founded in Glasgow by Sir William Alexander Smith on 4 October 1883 to develop Christian manliness by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps and religious services and classes. [7]

By 1910, there were about 2200 companies connected with different churches throughout the British Empire and the United States, with 10,000 officers and 100,000 boys. [7]

Boys' Brigade Scouts, 19061927

Companies of The Boys' Brigade used manuals on scout training in their programmes. In May 1903, Robert Baden-Powell became a vice-president. [8] Baden-Powell promoted the idea of scouting and outdoor pursuits in the Boys' Brigade and other boys' organisations and schools. [9] The Boys' Brigade formally began its boy scout scheme in 1906. Scout badges (Silver second class & Gold first class) were awarded in The Boys' Brigade and there were specialised Boys' Brigade Scout sections, which operated as part of a BB Company, but met at different times to train in scouting, who wore khaki or blue uniforms, neck scarves and the distinctive four dented broad brimmed fur felt hats. [10] Boys of the Bournemouth & Poole Battalion of The Boys' Brigade participated in Baden-Powell's experimental camp on Brownsea Island in 1907. Baden-Powell did not originally intend to start a separate organisation. [9]

Many Boys' Brigade Scouts later made dual registration with The Boy Scouts Association. The 1st Bournemouth Scouts was run by the 1st Bournemouth Boys' Brigade as a 'BP' Scout group and never a 'BB Scout 'Section'. The Boys' Life Brigade, which merged with The Boys' Brigade in 1926, also operated its own boy scouts and was a member organization of the National Peace Scouts with the British Boy Scouts. The Boys' Brigade Scouts continued until 1927. Some former Boys' Brigade Scout units continued independently after 1927 or affiliated with The Boy Scouts' Association or British Boy Scouts. Two of the original Boys' Brigade Scout units continue as 1st Parkstone Scout Group and 1st Hamworthy Scout Group, both formerly sub units of the 1st Poole Boys Brigade. [11]

Merger with Boys' Life Brigade, 1926

In October 1926 The Boys' Brigade united with The Boys' Life Brigade. The merger also prompted the abandonment of dummy drill rifles that had been used in The Boys' Brigade, due to the Life Brigade's objection to use of weapons or their representations. [12] The Junior organisation of the Boys' Brigade prior to 1926 was called 'The Boy Reserves' but after amalgamation the juniors were called 'The Life Boys'. The name came from the fact that the junior reserve of The Boys' Life Brigade had been known as 'Lifeboys' (all one word). The Life Boys remained as the 'Junior Reserve of The Boys' Brigade until 1966 when the name was changed to 'The Junior Section'. [5]

The Boys' Life Brigade (1899) was one of many similar movements formed following the formation of The Boys' Brigade. The BLB was formed by the National Sunday School Union (Pacifist) and was strongest amongst non-conformist churches. It substituted first aid drill for the military and weapons drill used in The Boys' Brigade. Others organisations similar to The Boys' Brigade included the Church Lads' Brigade (1891, Anglican) and London Diocesan Lads' Brigade (Anglican), the Catholic Boys' Brigade (1894) and the Jewish Lads' Brigade (1895). There were many more smaller Brigades in other denominations and even some in individual churches.

Establishment of recreational camping

Drawing from his military experience, William Smith (Knighted in 1909) introduced the concept of camping into the Brigade to allow boys and officers to remain in contact when other activities ceased for the summer break.

The notion was initially ill-received due to concerns for the boys' safety. A mother has been quoted saying, "Camp! My children have always had a roof over their heads, and as long as I live, always will!". They did have a roof over their heads because William Smith proceeded with the idea and 1st Glasgow Company held its inaugural one-week camp beginning on Friday, 16 July 1886, at Auchinlochan Hall, Tighnabruaich in a hall. In later years they took to canvas camping on a site at Portavadie in the Kyles of Bute. The First Glasgow continued to attend summer camp at the same location until the summer of 1974 when Portavadie was selected as the location of a proposed yard for the construction of oil production platforms. However the new camp is located only 100 yards away at Stilliag farm. This camp site is now used by many companies of the BB every summer for their camping trip.

The initial reservations towards camping did not last. A tradition developed, where the boys who were marching home on the last day of camp would be greeted by cheers from residents and were each presented with a bouquet of flowers. [13] Camps soon became one of the most anticipated events in the year [14] and early publications of the Boys' Brigade Gazette contained many accounts of camping experiences. [13]

Sir William Smith's plans and notes for his first camps have been preserved, and have been used by many other campers. [13]

Sections in the BB

Age groups are typically based on school years, so boys in the same year group would be promoted to the next section together, regardless of the dates of individual boys' birthdays. In some companies, sections may merge or there may be minor variations to the normal age boundaries, to accommodate excessively large or small groups of boys or a lack of leaders. Boys might also move to their next section before the end of the year to allow a smoother transition.

(All Malaysian Boys' Brigade companies may accept Girls into membership with the approval of their respective sponsoring authorities)

Officers company and over

(Companies may choose to run a Girls' Association alongside or in combination with these sections)
In the United Kingdom and Eire The BB is divided into four Regions, each region is then further divided. In Scotland and England & Wales The BB is divided into Districts and then Battalions. In Northern Ireland the BB is divided into 13 Battalions. The Battalions provide a local grouping of companies. The Battalions are normally based on Cities or Counties. Each Battalion has its own local structure that organises events and training on behalf of the member companies.each with its own Battalion President and Executive Team who assist the President in running the Battalion.

Amicus Groups

Amicus was launched in 1994, and is intended to either run as an alternative to the Seniors programme or even without any other Boys' or Girls' Brigade sections operating. Unlike other sections which may be for boys only in many companies, Amicus is always run as a mixed-gender group. The Amicus concept emphasises involvement of all its members in decision-making concerning the running of the section, such as the content and whether a uniform is to be worn. The section will be overseen and supervised by leaders aged over 18, who receive training from the Boys' Brigade and may deliver parts of the programme. [16]


Officers (adult leaders)

Leaders in training are Warrant Officers, attaining the rank of Lieutenant only when having completed additional formal training in youth leadership. To avoid unnecessary leader hierarchy, all qualified officers are Lieutenants. The post of Captain of a company is a brevet rank with those in the position reverting to Lieutenant when they cease to be in the position; similarly other positions such as the company Adjutant (second to the captain) are considered appointments rather than substantive ranks.

Boys bearing the rank of Staff-Sergeant are non-commissioned officers but act within the company as Officers.

Boys as Non-Commissioned Officers

An older boy can gain promotion from Private to become a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). There are four NCO ranks available, each being awarded when a boy is of a certain minimum age and reaches a high enough standard of leadership:

NCOs often play an important role in the Boys' Brigade, helping the officers and other adult helpers with organising activities and awards classes, particular in the Anchors and Juniors sections. NCOs wear chevrons on their upper right arm.

Staff Sergeants act within the company as officers and do not stand in the ranks; however as Staff Sergeants are boys of the Brigade, they can still partake in company activities and competitions, and still earn awards and badges. The uniform of Staff Sergeants is slightly different from that of the normal boy or NCO, they wear still wear a blue shirt. If caps are worn, the BB Anchor is used with no coloured surround. Their rank is denoted with an armband on the right forearm with four inverted chevrons (similar to the rank badge historically worn by senior grades of sergeant in the British Army).

In the United Kingdom, those aged 17 to 21 years old who are nominated by their company, may participate in The Boys' Brigade KGVI Youth Leadership Training; [17] this consists of two one-week-long residential training experiences containing all the training needed to become an officer in The Boys' Brigade. KGVI is held at each of the Regional Headquarters (Felden Lodge in England/Wales, Carronvale House in Scotland and Newport Centre in Northern Ireland).


Each section within the Boys' Brigade has awards that can be gained by fulfilling achievements.

Anchor Section

The Anchors can gain three badges: Green, Red and Blue triangles by completing a variety of activities in the areas of Body, Mind, Spirit, Community, and Creativity.

The Anchors award structure was revamped in 2020 and now have the following badges available, Anchors Membership Award, Core Awards of Yellow Award, Green Award, Blue Award and the Red Award. [18]

Junior Section

The Juniors award scheme was revised in 2004 and members of the section can now gain the Junior Target Award, followed by Bronze, Silver and Gold awards, by completing a variety of activities in the areas of Body, Mind, Spirit, Community, and Creativity.

The Juniors award structure was revamped again in 2020 and now have the following badges available, Juniors Membership Award, Core awards of Bronze, Silver and Gold, and Project Awards of Get Active, Get Adventurous, Get Creative, Get Into The Bible, Get Involved and Get Learning. The Leading Boy/Girl Badges have also been replaced by Team Leader. This structure also sees the introduction of a "Nights Away" badge and can be awarded at 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 75 & 100 nights. This continues from the Junior Section through to the Company and Senior Sections. [19]

Company Section

Get the Credit [Outdated]

Under the old 'Get the Credit' Scheme, Company Section members could gain one Target badge first (reduced from the required two in an award reorganisation a few years ago, though Target Two could still be completed as an optional extra), then five other badges (Interests, Adventure, Leadership, Physical and Community) with red and blue flashes around them. After about three years, the boys would have gained all five badges with both red and blue flashes. This enabled the boys to attend a Leadership Training Course and potentially attain the President's Badge. This is a necessary prerequisite for the Brigade's highest award the Queen's Badge.


The current award scheme for 11- to 15-year-olds, called Discover, was launched in August 2007. The award scheme is built around three 'zones': Community; Recreation; and Skills. Badges may be gained at four Levels in each zone, 1 through 4.

Having spent two hours working on topics relevant to each of the three zones (a total of six hours), the member is awarded the Compass Badge.

The badge for a zone is gained when the required number of hours have been spent working on topics relevant to that zone (Community seven hours; Recreation 10 hours; Skills 7 hours). A maximum of one badge per zone can be gained in a 12-month period (min 24 hours work). Any additional hours may not be carried over into the next 12-month period. In subsequent 12-month periods, members will work to gain Levels 2, 3, and 4 of each badge.

During a member's second year in Company Section they may gain the Discovery Badge, provided they have: gained a badge in all three zones within the last 12 months; completed an additional 6 hours work in any of the zones; taken part in a residential experience; played an active role in a Company, Battalion, or Church event; and had good attendance for the session.

The Discover programme includes the President's Badge, the requirements for which remain similar to those laid out in the 'Get the Credit' scheme. Including a 'Building Your Skills' Course
See images and logos at [20]

Challenge Plus

The award scheme for Seniors (16- to 18-year-olds), is called Challenge Plus, and was launched in time for the start for the 2008/09 Session, and includes the Queen's Badge.

Founder's Badge

In non-Commonwealth countries, the Founder's Badge is used in place of the Queen's Badge. [21] However, the Boys' Brigade in Malaysia and the Boys' Brigade in Singapore have chosen to use the Founder's Badge, although these countries are members of the Commonwealth.

President's Badge

President's badge is the second highest award in the senior section, it is also a requirement for members before undertaking the highest award which is Founder's badge. The title of Founder's Man and President's Man are held for life, recognizing all rounds of excellence in their service. The Badge itself may be worn while serving as a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), a Staff-Sergeant, or a Primer.

Queen's Badge

Queen's Badge is the highest award in the senior section in the UK and the Commonwealth; it is equivalent to a Founder's Badge.


Sovereign countries

Dates in parentheses indicate the year when the movement was revived after being dormant or defunct after the initial establishment.


CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of Benin.svg  Benin The Boys' & Girls' Brigade, Benin N/A1964Yes
Flag of Burundi.svg  Burundi The Boys' & Girls' Brigade of Burundi N/A1964Yes
Flag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon The Boys' Brigade in Cameroon N/A1958Boys only
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  DR Congo A Youth of Living Water Vijana Vya Maji Ya UzimaN/AYes
Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg  Ivory Coast The Boys' Brigade of Cote d'Ivoire Boys' Brigade de Cote d'Ivoire1964Yes
Flag of Eswatini.svg  Eswatini Christian Youth Brigade N/AN/AYes
Flag of The Gambia.svg  Gambia The Boys' Brigade in The Gambia N/A1967Boys only
Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana The Boys' Brigade, Ghana N/A1952Boys only
Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Boys' Brigade Kenya N/A1909Yes
Flag of Lesotho.svg  Lesotho The Boys' Brigade of Lesotho Lebotho la bahlankana1979Boys only
Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi The Boys' & Girls' Brigade in Malawi N/A1910 (2007)Yes
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria The Boys' Brigade Nigeria N/A1908Boys only
Flag of Rwanda.svg  Rwanda The Boys' and Girls' Brigade in Rwanda N/A1965 (1998)Yes
Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone The Boys' Brigade of Sierra Leone N/A1936Boys only
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa The Boys' Brigade of South Africa N/A1889Boys only
Flag of Tanzania.svg  Tanzania The Boys' Brigade in Tanzania N/A1936Boys only
Flag of Togo.svg  Togo The Boys' and Girls' Brigade in Togo N/AN/AYes
Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda The Boys' and Girls' Brigade of Uganda N/A1933Yes
Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia The Boys' Brigade in Zambia N/A1957Boys only
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe The Boys' Brigade in Zimbabwe N/A1948Boys only

A Originally called The Boys’ Brigade, the YOLW has had to gain a new identity due to political reasons. [22]


CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg  Antigua and Barbuda Boys' Brigade Antigua N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of the Bahamas.svg  Bahamas The Boys' Brigade Bahamas N/A1909 (1944)Boys only
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize The Boys' Brigade in Belize N/A1936Boys only
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil The Boys' Brigade in Brazil Batãlhao de BandeiraN/AN/A
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada The Boys' Brigade in Canada
The Boys' & Girls' Christian Brigade in Canada
Boys only
Flag of Dominica.svg  Dominica The Boys' Brigade in Dominica N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Guyana.svg  Guyana The Boys' and Girls' Brigade in Guyana N/A1935Yes
Flag of Grenada.svg  Grenada Brigade Grenada N/AN/AYes
Flag of Haiti.svg  Haiti The Boys' Brigade Haiti N/A1957N/A
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica The Boys' Brigade in Jamaica N/A1892N/A
Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg  Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis Boys' Brigade N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Saint Lucia.svg  Saint Lucia The Boys' Brigade in Saint Lucia N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.svg SVG The Boys' Brigade in Saint Vincent N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of the United States.svg  United States United Boys and Girls' Brigades of America
Boys' & Girls' Brigade in Neenah
Boys' and Girls' Brigade of Brockton
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg  Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Boys' Brigade N/AN/ABoys only


CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of Brunei.svg  Brunei The Boys' Brigade, Brunei Briged Putera Brunei1964Boys only
Flag of Cambodia.svg  Cambodia The Boys' Brigade, Cambodia N/A2009Yes
Flag of India.svg  India A The Boys' Brigade India N/A1894 (2014)Boys only
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia The Boys' Brigade in Indonesia Putra Pengabdi Indonesia1986Yes
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia The Boys' Brigade in Malaysia Briged Putera Malaysia1946Yes
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan The Boys' Brigade in Japan ザ ボーイズ ブリゲード イン ジャパン2019Yes
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines Boys' and Girls' Brigade, Philippines
The Brigade Philippines
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore The Boys' Brigade in Singapore N/A1930Boys only
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand The Boys' Brigade, Thailand ยุวยาตรา ประเทศไทย1994Yes
Flag of East Timor.svg  Timor-Leste The Boys' and Girls' Brigade, Timor Leste Brigada Mane no Feto2016Yes

A The earliest recorded BB Company in India was a united established in Darjeeling in 1894. Records indicate BB Companies being registered in Mumbai, Chennai, and Allahabad by the early 1900s and three Companies were registered in Kolkatta from 1897 to 1902. The 2 Companies attached with the Victoria Leprosy Hospital in Dichpalle established in 1927 and 1932 continued to exist after the Independence of India, by which time most BB Companies in India have closed, until the 1960s. [23] In 2014, BB work in India was re-established in Challapalli, Andhra Pradesh after an absence of almost 5 decades.

Australia / Oceania

CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia The Boys' Brigade Australia N/A1890Boys only
Flag of the Cook Islands.svg  Cook Islands The Boys' Brigade, Cook Islands N/A1935N/A
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji The Boys' Brigade in Fiji N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa The Boys' Brigade in Samoa N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of the Solomon Islands.svg  Solomon Islands The Boys' Brigade in The Solomon Islands N/A1960Boys only
Flag of Tuvalu.svg  Tuvalu The Boys' Brigade in Tuvalu N/A1961Boys only
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Boys' Brigade New Zealand N/A1886Boys only
Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg  Papua New Guinea The Boys' Brigade in Papua New Guinea N/A1963Yes
Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga The Boys' Brigade in Tonga N/AN/ABoys only


CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland The Boys' Brigade in the Republic of Ireland N/A1888Boys only
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom The Boys' Brigade in the United Kingdom N/A1883Yes

Non-sovereign territories

CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of American Samoa.svg  American Samoa The Boys' Brigade in American Samoa N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Anguilla.svg  Anguilla The Boys' Brigade in Anguilla N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Aruba.svg  Aruba The Boys' Brigade in Aruba N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Bermuda.svg  Bermuda The Bermuda Boys' Brigade N/A1960Boys only
Flag of the British Virgin Islands.svg  British Virgin Islands The Boys' Brigade in the British Virgin Islands N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Caribbean Netherlands The Boys' Brigade in Sint Eustatius N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg  Cayman Islands The Boys' Brigade, Cayman Islands N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Curacao.svg  Curaçao The Boys' Brigade, Curacao N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong The Boys' Brigade, Hong Kong 香港基督少年軍1959Yes
Flag of Macau.svg  Macau The Boys' Brigade, Macau 澳門基督少年軍1999Yes
Flag of Niue.svg  Niue The Boys' Brigade in Niue N/A1946Boys only
Flag of Montserrat.svg  Montserrat Montserrat Boys' Brigade N/AN/ABoys only
Flag of Sint Maarten.svg  Sint Maarten Boys' Brigade Sint Maarten N/A1963Boys only
Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg  United States Virgin Islands The Boys' Brigade in the US Virgin Islands N/A1961Boys only

Affiliated Boys' Brigade type movements

CountryEnglish NameLocal NameYear FoundedCo-educational
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh Pathway
Shishu Kishore Sangha
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark Voluntary Boys' and Girls' Association Frivilligt Drenge- og Pige-Forbund 1902Yes
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland Young Church Movement Nuori Kirkko 1919Yes
Flag of India.svg  India Junior Ministry, ALC
Junior Ministry, TELC
Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland Youth League of the People's Church Æskulýðssamband Þjóðkirkjunnar N/AYes
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia Junior Work, ELCM N/AN/AYes
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Transylvanian Youth Christian Association Erdélyi Ifjúsági Keresztyén Egyesület N/AYes

See also

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  10. Badges of The Brigade Vol 1 2000 R. Bolton et al.
  11. Eager, W. McG. (1953). Making men: the history of Boys Clubs and related movements in Great Britain. University of London Press.
  12. Boys of the Brigade Vol 1 1993 Robin Bolton
  13. 1 2 3 McFarlan, Donald M. (1983). "Summer Camp". First for Boys. Collins. Archived from the original on 26 September 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2007.
  14. "Boys' Brigade Uniforms: History". 11 September 2003. Retrieved 12 February 2007.
  15. "Seniors Section". The Boys' Brigade. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  16. "The Boys' Brigade UK: Amicus". Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  17. "KGVI Youth Leadership Training". Archived from the original on 4 October 2013.
  18. Spring 2020 page 46 and 47
  19. Spring 2020 page 46 and 47
  20. BB UK Resources Archived 31 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Boys' Brigade Badges Archived 17 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  22. "Democratic Republic of Congo - Youth of Living Water" (PDF). The Boys' Brigade Gazette. Hertfordshire: The Boys' Brigade in the United Kingdom. July 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  23. Planet BB - The Boys' Brigade Around the World. Warwickshire: History Into Print. 2010. p. 125. ISBN   9781858583334.