Flags and Standards
From the earliest days of Guiding, respect for the national flag and what it stood for was considered a key part of Guiding, and Guides were encouraged to be patriotic. Making a Union Flag was one of the early challenges. Many units saved hard to raise the money to buy a national flag of their own mounted on a pole to carry in parades, and would also seek to obtain one which was 'roped and toggled' so it could be hoisted in camp - and once that was achieved, many sought to get a unit 'carrying' flag of their own. In those days, the recognised National flag for Guiding purposes was the Union Flag, not the flag of the individual UK nation. Unit Flags could be supplied either plain, or 'lettered' - with the unit's official name printed on the flag at so much per letter (it paid to have a short name!) Then as now, flag holsters were also available, to assist with carrying the weight of the flag, especially in inclement weather.
Besides this, each Patrol Leader was expected to make a pennant-style flag to fit onto her Guide stave, of white fabric with the Patrol badge on both sides, as shown in the picture - this would usually have been embroidered, not a difficulty in an era where all girls were expected to learn both plain and decorative sewing, although some painted ones have been seen. Later, printed ones were available from headquarters. (Although Patrol Flags were available into the 1950s, and weren't finally withdrawn until the 1960s, they were not often seen after the 1930s.)
Once the Unit or Union flag was obtained, great pains were taken to brush up the unit's Company Drill to ensure the flag was treated with all due respect - army drill manuals were consulted, and soon Guiding drill manuals were being published to cope with the demand for clear instructions on the ceremonial, for both general drill and for flags. At camp the flag would be raised with due ceremony upon arrival, and would then be 'guarded' throughout the camp, with Guides taking turns to collect rations and station themselves around the perimeter of the campsite on 'sentry-go' - both day and night. Later, sentries were done away with, and the flag was raised each morning, and lowered at sundown and put in a place of safety such as the mess tent - this was also done if the entire unit were going on an outing. The evening flag-lowering ceremony would usually be when 'Taps' was either sounded on a bugle, or sung, and if the unit held a "Guides' Own" act of worship this might be held around the flagpole too.
Union Flags always had a 'spike' as a flag finial (although in some areas people opted to unofficially fit trefoils to them). Unit flags were traditionally fitted with a trefoil finial - plain brass for Guide units, with enamelled finials being introduced for Land, Sea and Air Ranger units, and also for Extension units. The style and design of the finials varied over the years so can give a clue to dating (however, given how durable and ripe for re-using the solid brass trefoils were, and the cost of them, it cannot be relied on as a single source of dating a flag!).
Some 'carrying' flags had a set of tasselled cords hung from just below the finial - usually in blue and yellow on World Flags, and in red, white and blue on Union Flags - but not all.
From the mid-1930s onwards, a new design was produced for Guide flags - gone was the First Class badge, as now in the UK the new World Badge was the basis for the design. Instead of being on navy fabric the new flags were on mid-blue, with yellow trefoil appliqued on in yellow, and yellow lettering in the centre along the top edge, with the flag design being the same for all Guide and Ranger units. There was also a new design of flag trefoil, which has a scroll at the bottom where the previous design had none. The trefoils still had coloured enamel for the Rangers sections, in Red for Land Rangers, Navy Blue for Sea Rangers, and Light Blue for Air Rangers. There was the option of having lettering added - this was sewn on, with a charge per letter.
The style of the apliqued Trefoil in the centre of the flag varied, but the basic design of Guide flags remained unchanged until the mid 1990s.
From 1968 onwards, the separate enamelled flag trefoils were dropped, and the options were plain brass for Guide units, and aqua enamel for Ranger units. Until recently . . .
As well as the official designs for Unit Flags, other designs can be seen in some areas, sometimes designed to resemble the official designs, sometimes home-made designs such as the one shown which dates from c1932, but is not of the standard design - not on a blue ground, but on green silk, with a mixture of applique and embroidered decoration . . .
This flag was in use for many years right up until the late 1980s for outdoor parades, and thereafter used indoors up to 2010, when it was fully retired. It has since been conserved and is now on display.
Prior to 1983, Brownie units were not permitted to have or carry flags, but instead carried 'Pennants' - a triangle of brown leather mounted on a short pole around a foot long. The Brownie badge and the unit's name printed in golden yellow on each side. These had been introduced in the 1950s to meet demand.
In the early years, where Guide Patrol Leaders carried Patrol Flags, Brownie Sixers carried 'wands' - a short fine rod, with a cut-out of the Six emblem mounted on top.