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 with their unit name and First Class Badge on it. 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.
Once the flag was obtained, before it's first public outing it would be 'dedicated', in a ceremony, often a religious ceremony carried out by clergy. Forms of wording for the ceremony were supplied at different times.
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 hand-painted ones have been seen. Later, printed ones were available from headquarters and other official suppliers. (Although Patrol Flags were available into the 1950s, and weren't finally withdrawn from PL uniform until the 1960s, they were not often seen after the 1930s, if not earlier.)
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 which ought to be used, 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. Within a few years, 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 leaving the site to go on an outing, rather than leave the flag 'unguarded'. The evening flag-lowering ceremony would usually be the time 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 usually had a 'spike' as a flag finial. 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 buying them, it cannot be relied on as a source of dating a flag!).
Some 'carrying' flags had a set of tasselled cords which 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, with the flag design being the same for all Guide and Ranger units other than the colour of the applique trefoil. The base of the trefoil was almost banana-shaped. There was also a new design of flag trefoil, with 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 - although I have seen a hand-painted trefoil in Cadet colours. There was the option of having lettering added to the flag - this was sewn on, with a charge per letter - some units opted not to have lettering, though most opted for a lettered flag.
The style of the apliqued Trefoil in the centre of the flag varied, with the shape at the bottom of the trefoil changing to a heraldic feu sometime in the late 1930s-mid 1940s, 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 . . .
In 2014, Guiding moved from using the World Flag as the basis for Unit Flags, to a new printed style incorporating Girlguiding UK branding. The result was a flag which was lighter, and which dried quicker after exposure to inclement weather. As a printed flag, it was also more economical than a flag with appliqued lettering.
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 following damage incurred on a parade in stormy weather it was used indoors up to 2010, when it was fully retired. This picture was taken shortly before it was sent for conservation - this has been done and it is now kept cased and on display.
Prior to 1982, 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 - prior to that it had been considered that the Guide Company's flag served to represent any Brownie unit bearing the same unit number also..
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.
When the Brownie Promise Badge changed in the 1990s, the design of the Brownie flag altered to reflect this, with a new-style trefoil being appliqued. These continued to be the standard design until 2014.