leslie's guiding traditions

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Whenever you have a growing organisation, you soon need to have a governance structure of some sort, to ensure some uniformity amongst the scattered groups.  So in Guiding, a system of Commissioners was established from an early date.  The 1912 Guide Handbook stated:

"Duties of District Commissioner"

a) To inspect companies and patrols, and advise how to conduct them on the lines laid down in 'How Girls Can Help'.

b) To organise examinations to test badge-wearers in their knowledge of their subjects.

c) To secure the harmonious co-operation of all captains in the district.

d) To be the concurring authority for the recommendation of local associations for the issue and withdrawal of captains' warrants before transmission to headquarters.

e) To foster and encourage the movement generally throughout the district.

f) To forward the half-yearly reports to headquarters by June 24 and December 25."

August 1915 Girl Guide Gazette specified Commissioner uniform:


"The uniform, the wearing of which is, of course, optional, consists of:

Shirt blouse, pale blue tie (G.G. colour).

Regulation skirt, with two pockets.

Regulation coat, with four pockets.  

Whistle cord on right shoulder to pocket.  

Ordinary Officer's brown leather belt.

Commissioner's silver cords, badge etc.

Soft leather gauntlet gloves.

The Commissioner's Badge, with silver cords and trefoil complete, can now be obtained from Headquarters, price 3/6, postage extra."

A picture was also published, showing the Commissioner cords on the left shoulder, and the cockade on the left of the hat.

In September 1916, the first conference for County Commissioners was held.  By this time, a network of County Commissioners had been established across the UK, each seeking to establish and develop Guiding in her area by recruiting local Commissioners and Leaders. It also gave the opportunity for a Promise ceremony, as many of them had yet to be enrolled.  The November 1916 issue of the Girl Guide Gazette advised that "Papers were read on such matters as County Organisation, City Organisation, the Relations with Kindred Societies, the Powers and Duties of Commissioners, the Officers' Training Classes, Officers' Training Corps in Schools, Improvements in Uniform, Guides and Flag Days, 'Chummy' Companies, Lone Guides, Drums, Senior Guides, Transfers and Discharges, etc."  It was Miss Malcolm of the Y.W.C.A. and Mrs Trustram Eve of the Girls Friendly Society who spoke on relations with Kindred Societies, Lady Baden-Powell on organisation of a rural County and Miss Behrens on the organisation required for large towns.  Mrs Blyth gave an account of the Officers' Training School, and Miss Baird spoke on Guide Training in schools, (the Section soon known as Cadets, now as Young Leaders.)  Miss Royden spoke on the role of County Commissioners and Mrs Dunlop discussed the many suggestions and criticisms of the uniform.  Miss Baird and Mrs Blyth spoke of the twinning of poor and well-to-do Companies as 'Chummy Companies', Mrs de Beaumont discussed Lone Guides, and Miss Behrens dealt with drums and bands, and roles for older Guides.

"A recommendation was submitted for consideration of the Headquarters Committee that Lady Baden-Powell should be appointed Chief Commissioner".  The Headquarters Committee agreed to this.

By the 1918 Guide handbook there was a clear structure laid out for the organisation of a County, headed by the County Commissioner, aided by the County Secretary.  That handbook stated "The Commissioner is appointed to act as the representative of the Head-quarters Executive in her locality and as an adviser and friend to those carrying out the work, and to see that they do not work on lines contrary to the policy of the Movement.  At the same time she acts as the local representative for bringing up any of their needs or requirements to the Head-quarters Executive.  Her duties are detailed in the Book of Rules.  Full hints are given for Commissioners and Guiders in the book Training Girls as Guides, by Lady Baden-Powell.

1921 POR brought further clarification - "There are three grades of Commissioners under the Chief Commissioner, viz., County, Division and District Commissioners.  County and Division Commissioners should not be less than 25 years of age, and District Commissioners not less than the age of 21."

"A County Commissioner is appointed by Headquarters to act as its representative in each county.  The Duties of the County Commissioner are: -

a) To take charge of the Movement in her county and to see that the policy approved of in the Charter is carried out in the organisation and training of the Guides in the County under her control.

b) To interest the leading local educational, religious and administrative authorities in the training of the Girl Guides.

c) To start the Movement and explain it in localities where it is needed, and to foster and encourage its development.

d) To be responsible recommending authority to Headquarters Executive for the registration of Local Associations and Companies; for the granting of Warrants for Guiders, as well as for the withdrawal of their Warrants when necessary.

e) To be readily accessible as friend and adviser to all Guiders in her county.

f) To carry out periodical Inspections of every Company in her county with a view to encouraging efficiency and ensuring that all tests are passed on a proper standard.  She has the power to withdraw proficiency badges either temporarily or permanently where the holder is not up to standard in practice.

g) To recommend ladies to the Headquarters Executive Committee for appointment as Division Commissioners to represent her locally.

h) Al Commissioners' Warrants will be sent from Headquarters to the County Commissioner for distribution to newly appointed Commissioners.

N.B. - It has been found most practical to use the existing Parliamentary divisions as marked on the county maps for the areas to be administered by the Division Commissioners.

Towns which return a Member to Parliament also rank as divisions.  

The County Commissioner can delegate the above duties to her Division or District Commissioners.

These appointments are for one year, terminating in November, when the officers may be reappointed or replaced as may be desired.

Uniform: 

Coat - Navy-blue, with patch pockets, and black bone buttons.

Skirt - Navy-blue.

Belt - Brown leather, with official buckle, worn over coat.

Hat - Navy-blue felt, or straw for summer, turned up on left side.

Shoes & Stockings - Black.

Shirt - White.

Tie - Navy-blue.

County Commissioner - Silver Badge, Gold and Silver cords with silver cockade, silver cord round hat.

Division Commissioner - Silver Badge, cords and cockade, no cord round hat.

District Commissioner - Saxe blue tie, silver badge, Saxe blue cockade and cords.

By 1930 Lady Baden-Powell became 'Chief Guide' and a new 'Chief Commissioner was appointed.  The distinguishing marks were:

Chief Guide - Gold Cockade

Chief Commissioner - Gold Cords and Cockade, Gold cord round hat.

Deputy Chief Commissioner - Gold Cockade, Gold and Silver Cords, Silver cord round hat.

"General Duties of Commissioners:

a) To visit companies, packs and patrols and advise how to conduct them on the lines laid down in "Girl Guiding", "The Brownie Handbook" and "A Book on Rangers".  These periodical visits are to be made with a view to encouraging efficiency and ensuring that all tests are passed on a proper standard.

b) To interest the leading local educational, religious and administrative authorities in the training of Girl Guides.

c) To start and explain Guiding and to foster and encourage its development.

d) To find suitable Guiders and to recommend them for appointment.

e) To be readily accessible as friend and adviser to all Guiders in the locality.

f) To consider any recommendations made by Local Associations.

g) When necessary, to suspend any company or pack, Guide or Guider in her area, pending the holding of a formal enquiry, and to arrange for such enquiries.

Commissioners are reminded that those concerned should, in their own interest, and that of the Movement, avoid general discussion of the subject matter of an enquiry before the latter takes place.

h) A District Commissioner is responsible for the Guide work in her area and should keep her Division Commissioner in touch by reporting in good time any changes, new appointments, or questions which may arise.

i) A Division Commissioner should consult the County Commissioner about any matter of importance in the division and keep her informed as to the steps taken.

In 1939 more uniform options for Commissioners were introduced:

Coat - Navy blue, with patch pockets, and black bone buttons.

Skirt - Navy blue

Dress - The uniform dress (in 'Headquarters blue' may be worn when not wearing cords.

Belt - Brown leather, with official buckle, worn over coat.

Hat - Navy blue felt, turned up on the left side.

Shoes and Stockings - Black or brown (leaf mould).

Shirt - White

Gloves - Brown

Tenderfoot Badge - Silver.

Cords - According to rank.

1943 POR saw more information on National Commissioners:

"Chief Commissioner for a Country

The Chief Commissioners for England, Scotland, Ulster and Wales are appointed by the country concerned, and their appointments are ratified by the Executive Committee of the Imperial Council.

With the exception of Canada, which is independent under its own charter, the Chief Commissioners for the Dominions and India are appointed by their respective Executive Committees, or Councils, and the appointment is then ratified by the Executive Committee of the Imperial Council.

The Commissioners for Burma, Malaya, Nigeria, Palestine and Sudan, the Colony, Island, Protectorate, Territorial Commissioners, the Division Commissioner for Gibraltar and the President of Zanzibar are appointed by the Imperial Executive Committee on the nomination of the Council concerned.

Distinguishing Marks - As for Chief Commissioner, with the badge (if any) of the country at base of cockade.

1947 POR saw further changes to the Commissioner's role:

"A County Commissioner is appointed through the Chief Commissioner for the country concerned to act as the representative of the Girl Guides Association in each county.

She recommends for appointment the local Commissioners and her other assistants, and when necessary recommends the termination of their appointments.

A Division Commissioner is similarly appointed on the recommendation of the Division and County Commissioners to act as representative of the Association under the Division Commissioner in the district; she reports to the Division Commissioner.  The Division Commissioner should consult the County Commissioner before approaching a possible District Commissioner.

Commissioners' warrants are issued by Imperial Headquarters to the County Commissioners for distribution to newly appointed Commissioners.  A Commisisoner may obtain her badge and cockade direct from Headquarters on receipt of her warrant.

All Commissioners and Secretaries will be appointed for a term not exceeding 5 years, such appointment can be extended if desired for a further term of 3 years, and again for a further 2 years, after which there should be a break of 3 years at least before the same appointment is held again.

In the first year in which this is put into force (before 1946), every Commissioner and Secretary who has served in one capacity for 20 years or over should resign; in the second year (ending December 1946), those having served 15 years or over; in the third year (ending December 1947), those having served 12 years or over, and in the fourth year (ending December 1948), those having served 10 years or over.

A resigning Commissioner or Secretary may be invited to serve in another locality or in some other capacity.

Where local circumstances make it impossible to work out this scheme, County Commissioners should apply to the Committee of their country for permission to make an exception.

County, Division and District Committees or Courts of Honour (Executive Committees), of which the Commissioner concerned is Chairman, are responsible for the administration of Guiding in their areas.  Meetings of these committees should be timed so that resolutions and information can be passed on with the least possible delay.

District Commissioners should keep their Division Commissioners in touch by reporting any changes, new appointments or questions which may arise.

Division Commissioners should consult the County Commissioner about any matter of importance in their Divisions and keep her informed of the steps taken.

Further details of county organisation will be found in the official publications, For Commissioners, price 3d, and Notes for Commissioners, price 3s., both published by I.H.Q."

1950 POR brought a further addition to the rulebook for Commissioners:

"Counties should avoid making by-laws.  Should a County Executive Committee consider it necessary to dray up any by-law, it must be in accordance with the policy of the movement as laid down in Policy, Organisation and Rules, and must be submitted to the committee of the country concerned for approval.  When approved, a copy of any by-law should be sent to Imperial Headquarters.  Information concerning countries' by-laws should also be sent to Imperial Headquarters.

1953 amendments were:

"General Duties of the Commissioner

Within the area for which the Commissioner's Warrant is held:

a) To foster the Movement and encourage its development.

b) To visit all units to ensure:

i) That they follow the principles on which Scouting and Guiding are founded, i.e. character training through the Promise and Law, woodcraft and camping and training in self-government.  (See Scouting for Boys).

ii) that they are efficiently run.

iii) That all tests are passed on a proper standard.  (See current P.O.R.)

c) To be responsible for individual Post and Lone Guides and to ensure that they are attached to local units.

d) i) To find suitable Guiders;

ii) To be responsible for their training and testing;

iii) To consult the Local Association with regard to their appointment;

iv) To recommend to Headquarters the issue of their warrants;

v) To be readily accessible to all Guiders.

e) To send a transfer form to the Commissioners concerned for any guider who moves to another area.

f) To keep in touch with the Movement as a whole by attending training weeks and conferences.

g) To interest the leading local educational, religious and administrative authorities in the training given by the Movement.

h) To start and encourage a Local Association and to consider any recommendations made by it.

i) To make contact and maintain good relations with the Scouts and other youth organisations.

j) To keep up to date with all questions affecting the welfare of children and young people.

k) To stimulate active interest in Guiding overseas, both within the Empire and in other lands.

l) When necessary, at her discretion, to suspend any company or pack.

m) Pending an inquiry, a Commissioner may temporarily withdraw a Guider or Guide form her Guide work.  It is essential that an inquiry should follow quickly on such action.  Commissioners are reminded that those concerned should, in their own interest, and that of the Movement, avoid general discussion of the subject matter of an inquiry before the latter takes place."