Guiding, in the UK and in most of the counties to which it spread, was based on the idea of the 'Patrol System' - the small peer-led gang or group, who planned and carried out their own activities as a group, as well as being part of a larger Pack or Company. Thus in the Brownie, Guide and Ranger Sections, the Patrol system was used. And as a result of this, Patrol Badges existed from an early stage.
Rainbows have never had regular sub-groupings. Within this, there is scope for Rainbow Leaders to split their girls into groups occasionally, but these would normally be of short duration, and would be adult-led, not peer led. As such, there have never been badges or other symbols for this purpose.
In the Brownie section, during the first year, the Brownie Sixes were named after trees. They had embroidery on their hat to show which Six they belonged to, but it is not clear if there was ever a list of which trees were used.
Shortly after, the 'fairy folk' were adopted, and embroidered badges produced - rectangles of brown fabric, with the figure embroidered in coloured thread. Pre-WW2 the badges were embroidered on a felt fabric, this was later replaced by more durable woven badges, in the same style. In these early years, too, each Sixer carried a 'wand - a narrow stick with a wooden cut-out of their Six's figure on it - as her symbol of office. In 2003 The Brownie Six Badges were modernised to be oval badges, with the figures being portrayed in a more cartoon style (although retaining their traditional colours and poses), and at the same time, several woodland animals were added, as an alternative to the 'fairy folk', for those units which wished.
Prior to 1968, the Sixer wore two broad braid stripes on her sleeve, initially in brown, but later in yellow, with her Second wearing a single stripe. From 1968-c2004, smaller striped badges were worn below the Six emblem on the uniform. These were replaced by pin badges, initially with a rubber front, later with enameled fully-metal badges.
The heart of the Guide section was, and continues to be, the Patrol. Led by the Patrol Leader, who was assisted by the Patrol Second, the Patrol was expected to take on projects and challenges as an independent group, as well as joining in with unit activities. In Guiding's early years, Patrol Leaders wore chevron-style stripes on the sleeve, these were replaced by vertical stripes on the left shirt pocket. From 1968 until the early 2000s these were replaced by curved stripes worn next to the Patrol badge, since the 2000s metal pin badges have been used instead.
The other 'badge of office' of a Patrol Leader, was the Patrol Flag - this was a white fabric pennant, which had the Patrol flower or bird printed, painted or embroidered on it, which was carried on her Guide Stave - Patrol members' staves did not have flags.
As well as Patrol members wearing their Patrol badge, up to the mid-1960s each Guide also wore a couple of folded braid strips on one shoulder, referred to as a 'shoulder knot', in their Patrol colours.
As well as the regular selection of bird or flower emblems, a blank Patrol badge was also available, to allow Guide patrols to choose an alternative name and embroider their own emblems.
In the 2000s, all of the existing Patrol badges were replaced by a new range of oval pin badges, in October 2020 these were, in their turn, replaced by a new set of badges, available in woven or pin form, with the same selection available to all sections.
Prior to World War 2, Senior Guides/Land Rangers also had Patrols - in their case named after trees. Five designs were introduced in the early 1920s, with three further designs introduced a few years later. As with Guides, there were Ranger Patrol Leaders, and Ranger shoulder knots in Patrol colours were also worn. In Sea Rangers at one point there were also Patrols, with transfers available for making Patrol badges - later they had Port and Starboard watches instead. Ranger Patrols seem to have been dropped in the 1940s.