leslie's guiding traditions

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One of the key symbols in Guiding is the Promise badge.  In the early days, it was described as the Guide's "life", and the loss of it due to poor conduct was considered the ultimate discrace.  


Made of brass, it featured the Guide trefoil, and was labelled with the letters B.P.G G, to indicate 'Baden-Powell Girl Guides.

When they were invented in 1914, Rosebuds, too, had a Promise Badge.  It was designed by their founder, Agnes Baden-Powell.  A replica is pictured, as the badges are very rare.

In 1915 the youngest section were renamed, from Rosebuds, to Brownies, which brought a change of Promise badge.  It featured an acorn, as the thinking was that Brownies were the seeds which would grow into becoming Guides.  As it was wartime, the badge was often made in a celluloid material, and might have a pin, or have two holes at either stage to allow it to be stitched onto uniform.

1918 saw the Brownie section settle down - uniform was becoming more unified, and a new Brownie Promise badge, in brass, with a Brownie figure mounted on a wire pin.  Although the badge was generally popular, the pin did prove flimsy.

Rangers started in 1917, and the Promise badge was originally the option of either a red enamelled badge as shown, or a Guide Tenderfoot Badge worn with a red fabric panel behind it.

Sea Guides, which went on to be Sea Rangers, started in 1920.  Their Promise Badge had royal blue enamel, to reflect the sea, to show their Ranger links, 

The Guide Promise badge too, changed in the 1920s to have the same broad scroll as the Ranger badges had, with the BP letters 


Some had a punched-out star in the top leaf of the trefoil, others, like this one, were plain.  Generally, they were made of brass.  But special ones, made of gold, could be bought - these were usually given as presentation items.

Adult Leaders in Guiding wore the Guide Promise Badge in uniform.  For Commissioners, however, there was a special Promise Badge - in the same style as the Guide one, but in silver.  Some early versions of these were made in hallmarked silver, later ones in a silver-coloured metal.

Lone Guides and Rangers wore the same style of Promise badge as Guides, but with an enamelled letter L on it, to indicate Lone.  Then as now, Lone Guides was the section for those who lived in a locality with no Guide unit in range which they could attend.  Often they would receive their 'meeting' by letter, which would contain games and tests for them to try, they would then put their results in the envelope and send it on to the next Patrol member, the last one sending it back to Captain.  There were also occasional joint events or camps specifically for Lone Guides.

Extension Guides was the name given to the section for Guides with disabilities.  It covered both girls in special schools such as those for blind, deaf, or disabled girls - and also those who lived at home, who in many cases would be housebound, or even bedbound, for many years or for life.  The section started very soon after Guiding did, and was appreciated, and unusual, in offering disabled girls the chance to join in the very same activities that non-disabled girls of their age were doing.  Extension Guiding was eventually merged into the mainstream as most girls joined mainstream units and there was no longer a need for a separate section, but there continue to be Guiding units located at schools for the deaf or blind which adapt activities specifically for the needs of the pupils.

With the pin on the Brownie Promise Badge proving too flimsy to be durable, it was replaced with a much broader bar, with a hinged pin,  This was introduced in the 1920s/1930s, and apart from a break during World War 2, continued to be the design used right through to 1968.

In 1932 the designs for all of the Guide and Senior Section Promise Badges was changed, from plain to lettered scrolls.  The same designs continued to be used until 1968.

Cadets had started in 1916, but for many years the Cadets continued to wear their Guide Tenderfoot Bage.  It was only later that a Promise Badge of their own was introduced.  It featured blue enamel to indicate their move towards leadership, but white enamel, the traditional colour worn by cadets in organisations such as police or army.  It continued to be used until the Cadet section was closed in 1968.

For Land Rangers, too, it brought a new design, with red enamel on the trefoil itself, and also on the scroll, which was in use until 1968.

Sea Rangers had a lettered scroll too, with the royal blue enamel in both the trefoil and the scroll.  The Sea Ranger section was abolished in 1968, when all of the sections for age 14+ were merged into the Ranger Guide Service Section - but a breakaway Sea Ranger Association formed, which still exists.

The Lone badge, too, was produced with a lettered scroll, the L superimposed where the stem and star would have been, the letter 'L' enamelled in blue for Guides, and in red for Rangers.

With the coming of World War 2, the Brownie Promise Badge was too fiddly and time consuming to make.  As a result, in 1940 a simplified design was brought out, with the Brownie figure stamped onto a sheet of soft brass, with the pin attached.  It continued in use for a year.

But by 1941, the large rectangle, too, was impractical - it was using too much metal, at a time when the country needed metal for war work.  So a smaller, oval design was brought out, still stamped into brass.  And though the war ended in 1945, rationing continued for many years - as a result, this design continued to be used until c1950, when the figure on the bar could once again be made.

There had been various groups for 'Old Guides' since 1914, and various international proposals for organisations for former members from the early 1920s onwards if not before.  Nevertheless, the official start date for Trefoil Guild is given as 1943.  This Promise Badge was introduced for Trefoil Guild and continued in use until 1992, when the badges for all sections were replaced by a common design, but with coloured enamel.

In 1945, Air Rangers were introduced, to cater for air-minded girls.  Activities were focussed around aero modelling, airfield practice, and gliding, although there were occasional opportunities for flights in light aircraft.  Never very large due to limited availability of facilities, the section was closed in 1968.

Amongst the many changes introduced to Guiding in 1968, were new Promise Badges.  For the Brownies, the aim was to indicate that Brownies were part of the Guide family, hence their Promise Badge now featured a trefoil.  Within that, it retained the 'Brownie figure', to indicate both aspects of their new title - they were no longer Brownies, but Brownie Guides.  And rather than brass which needed to be polished every week, the new badge was in a silver-coloured metal which did not need polished.  This badge was in use 1968-1973.

The Guide Promise badge, too, was changed - although it retained it's brass colour, it now did not need to be polished every week.  It was back to a plain scroll, with no star - it can be differentiated from the pre-1932 Promise badge by the width of the scroll, as the scroll on this badge is significantly narrower, and the ends of the scroll not so clearly defined a shape as on the earlier badge.

In 1968 the Land Rangers, Sea Rangers, Air Rangers and Cadets were merged into the "Ranger Guide Service Section", and with it, a new colour scheme.  The colour used for the merged section was aqua - as well as aqua uniform shirts, they also had Promise badges with aqua fill.

For Commissioners, too, there was a new Promise badge, still in the same style as the Guide Promise badge in silver-coloured metal.  This was in use from 1968-1990, when the separate Commissioner badges were done away with - after this, Commissioners wore the standard Leader Promise Badge.

Although Cadets had been abolished in 1968, there was clearly a gap felt, as in 1973, the Young Leader scheme was launched.  And although they continued to wear the same uniform as Ranger Guides did, a special Promise Badge was introduced for Young Leaders, and it continued the tradition of having white enamel for Young Leaders.

In 1987 the Rainbow Guide section was introduced, for girls aged 5-7 years old (4-7 in Ulster).  On safety grounds, rather than a pin badge, a sew-on Promise badge was produced.  Initially with the printed design as shown, later in a woven design.

In 1992 new Promise Badges were introduced for each section.  These had a unified design, showing that all of the sections were full members of Guiding, but with different coloured backgrounds.  For Rainbows, however, the Promise Badge continued to be a fabric badge, with their then section colour of green.  This is because at the time, it was felt that Rainbows could not safely wear a pin badge without there being a risk of injuries.  

1992's Promise Badge for Brownies had a yellow infil.  Although it was often described as being enamel, it wasn't actually made of enamel - instead it was made of polished plastic, attached to the brass-coloured metal badge with rubber-solution glue.

The Guide Promise Badge had a mid-blue 'enamel' - it was in use from 1992 through to 2004.

The Promise Badge for Rangers can be confused with the Guide one, because although the enamel is aqua, it is in a dark shade which, depending on lighting, can appear similar.

Young Leaders continued to retain their traditional white colour on their Promise Badge.  This design was in use 1992-2004.

An innovation was to have a specific Promise Badge for adult leaders - it was for use by Guiders, Commissioners and Advisers alike.  Although the 'enamel' can appear to be black, it is actually a very dark shade of navy, in every case.

Another innovation was for Trefoil Guild to be 'brought into the fold' in Promise Badge terms.  Their previous Promise Badge had survived while other sections changed badge.  But now they too had a matching Promise badge, in their traditional red colour.

In c2004, after much campaigning, Rainbow Guiders managed to persuade headquarters that, actually, Rainbows could cope with having a pin badge on their uniform.  And as a result of their campaigning, a new Rainbow Promise Badge was brought out, in the new Rainbow section colour of pale blue enamel.  Care needs to be taken to avoid confusing the pale blue colour with the white of the Young Leader badge.

In 2005, Guiding changed it's logo, and as a result, Promise Badge designs were changed.  This design remains the current one as at 2019.

Again, this design was introduced in 2005, and remains current.

Introduced at the same time, the Guide Promise Badge is easily confused with both the Ranger, and the Leader Promise Badges.  

2005 to present Ranger Promise Badge.

Although introduced in 2005, shortly after the Young Leader Promise Badge was withdrawn, and all members of Senior Section wore the Ranger Promise Badge, whether they were Rangers or Young Leaders.  In 2018 it was announced that that would end, and the Young Leader Promise Badge would be re-introduced.

The Guider version of the 2005 onwards Promise Badge design.  As can be seen, it is in a lighter shade of navy which is only slightly darker than the Guide Promise Badge.

The Trefoil Guild Promise Badge, too, was updated in 2005.