Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Girl Guide Spies

Today, I'm very happy to welcome fellow author Patty Smith Hall, who will share an interesting story about Girl Guides. Leave a comment at the end for a chance to win a drawing of our new novella, Crinoline Cowboys, which is coming out in five weeks. 

Thank you for having me today, Marilyn.

You’ve probably heard of Mati Hari, and how Julia Child spied for the Allies during World War II, but recently, I discovered a group of females that ‘spied’ for the MI5 from the second year of World War I to the palace of Versailles where the treaty was signed. This group of patriots have been kept secret since their service until last November on the hundredth-year anniversary of the end of World War I. So, who am I talking about?

The Girl Guides or as we know them in the United States, the Girl Scouts!

The Beginning
When Great Britain entered the war in August of 1914, their secret service agency, the MI5 faced a daunting challenge. German spies had infiltrated the country, seeking information regarding troop movement and battle plans. English men were scarce, so the MI5 turned to an unexpected source for help—the Boy Scouts. But problems arose. The boys were loud and bragged to their friends about their position with the MI5 which in turn, put the boys in danger. It was then that MI5 turned to the Girl Guides for help.

The Girl Guides weren’t idle during the first year of the war. Many of them learned to hunt and fish to provide food for families in their communities. Some learned medical skills and volunteered to drive ambulances at the front. Even the youngest members were involved with making and rolling bandages. But serving with the MI5 was something even the organization’s leaders hadn’t considered.

Qualifications of a Girl Guide Spy
First, the ninety girls chosen had to be between fourteen and sixteen years old, and in good standing with their troop. They needed to be quick, cheerful, and willing to do the work, swearing on their honor never to read any of the messages or paperwork they carried. They also had to sign a statement saying they had permission to serve from both parents as well as the Girl Guide leader who recommended them. After they were accepted, the girls served a three-month probational period, earning 30 pence (37 cents American) a week with dinner and tea included. They alternated working 9-6 or 10-7 and every other Sunday. The girls were allowed a week off during the summer as well as a short break at Easter and Christmas.

Not Your Ordinary Workday
The girls reported to Waterloo house or one of the other two houses used. They would dust, fill inkwells and disinfect phones during their first hour of work. After that, they would collect documents and post them, deliver messages at various areas around London, sort cards, collect paperwork to be burned and repair typewriters. They also delivered secret messages verbally.

By January 1916, the Girl Guides had proved to be so valuable to the MI5, they were giving their own company within the organization. Each patrol was assigned a different floor of the headquarters to work.

When the war ended, a select group of Girl Guides were taken by the British delegation to France for the peace treaty deliberations where they ran errands and delivered messages to the parties involved. After the peace treaty was signed, the girls returned home. Yet, very few talked about their time with the MI5 or their contributions toward winning the war.

Have you ever heard of Girl Guides before? Were you in Girl Scouts?

Multi-published author Patty Smith Hall lives near the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Danny. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her vegetable garden.

A Cowboy of Her Own by Patty Smith Hall

Bookish southern belle Madalyn Turner knows what she wants—to be a cowboy and own a Texas ranch. But books are far different from real life and soon she realizes she needs help.



  1. Fascinating post, Patty. I had no idea Girl Guides were used during the first world war. I am familiar with them, but I had not heard about this. How brave of parents to allow their girls to be involved like this. I was a girl scout through the 8th grade.

  2. wow this is interesting. I had no idea. Yes I was a girl scout for a few years.

  3. My current novel I'm working on takes place during WW I but I never ran across this fascinating story. I've heard of the Girl Guides before. Probably because was in the Girl Scouts, staring out as a Brownie in the primzry grades and then as a Girl Scout until about 8th grade when my interests turned elsewhere. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. I never knew about Girl Guides. How interesting! I was a Girl Scout for about a year.

  5. What a fascinating post. Thanks for sharing about the Girl Guides in MI5 during WWI. Yes. I was also in Brownies through Girl Scouts. Never did get used to knocking on doors to sell GS Cookies, though. :)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I enjoyed reading this about the Girl Guides! I was a Girl Scout and my mother was a GS volunteer who helped out when we had our meetings, our activities and to Camp Mintahama outside of Joplin Missouri.

  8. Very interesting!! Thanks for the post!

  9. Very brave parents with a different mindset about young peoples capabilities. I wonder what I would have thought about my girls doing such a thing.

  10. Amazing young women! I never knew of this history

  11. Thanks to all of you who were Girl Scouts and got me hooked on Thin Mints! I can never turn them down.

  12. Thank you to everyone for visiting! I'm hoping to get to England later next year to continue my research on the Girl Guides(and yes! It's for a book I'm writing!) But first, I have to finish up a book I'm writing about the other Wright Brother--their sister, Katharine! Stay tuned!

    1. Can't wait how interesting . Sorry that the Pandemic is not helping your research . Please do not get discourage as this is an interesting topic in both world war 1 and world war 2.Girl guide helped shape this country.

  13. I am an English guider and it's amazing just how much of an impact Girl Guide's had on the war effort in the UK, and how much of an impact being part of guiding had on girls all over the world during the war. There were even Girl Guide units in prisoner of war camps in China!

  14. I am an English guider and it's amazing just how much of an impact Girl Guide's had on the war effort in the UK, and how much of an impact being part of guiding had on girls all over the world during the war. There were even Girl Guide units in prisoner of war camps in China!

  15. I was a Canadian Girl Guide. My mother was Girl Guide in England and a Tawny Owl then Guide Captain in Canada when I was growing up. (I went to my first Brownie camp at age 5.)I was a Brownie, Guide, Cadet, Venturer (Scouts). I studied Baden Powell and the history of Guiding for my Canada Cord. And yet I NEVER heard a hint of the Girl Guides' involvement with MI5. Of course, if I had, I would have wanted to be a spy too.