I had a reader enquiry from James about the rings on the scout staff, as seen on the Ernest Ibbetson comic postcard ‘The Ambush’ and others.
What function did these rings have?
How did they work with patrol flags?
The answer is using the staff as a measuring tool, in inches on one side and centimetres on the other. The rest is in metres, according to the first Boy Scouts Of America handbook c. 1911, so presumably in inches and feet in Imperial measures elsewhere.
The suggested height is 2 metres tall (or the 1943 uniform above, shoulder height).
* Boy Scouts Of America Handbook C. 1911
* The staff is very useful for beating out bush fires and outbreaks which occur on open heath.
Further Uses of the Staff
Climbing a Mountain
Levering up logs and stones
Feeling the way over Marshy Ground
Recovering Objects Floating in the Water
Other uses illustrated are:
Both patrol tents and tepees can be made with the aid of a staff (or five or six)
A line of Scouts linked together on a night march
Wading a stream – two or three Scouts grasp the staff
To stop a mad dog, hold the staff crosswise in front of you
Scaling a wall using a staff as a push up (unless you own a bicycle)
Boy Scouts E.E. Reynolds 1940s
As a (Camp) seat
(Three) As a tripod for cooking
For erecting a flagstaff and forming a fence
When climbing gates you can give yourself a push up
When anyone falls through some ice
As improvised stretchers made of coats and staves
A three cyclist version as a cycle ambulance is pictured on cigarette cards
Add to this from the Scouting cigarette cards these further uses of the staff:
Three staffs make a tripod for a surveying compass
Quarter staff drill
Improvised tripod for camp cooking
Unknown image source: Girl Guides doing staff drill, fitness exercises or staff signalling practice?
Signalling with staff
Improvised signal flag
This rings or measuring appears on the Tintin type Scout by Herge as a decorative feature.
Some suggestions were made that the base of the staff had a design cut into it for tracking work.
Camp Fire Girls also appear to have used them or poles for a spot of canoe jousting?
Quarter Staff Drill for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Church Lads and even Camp Fire Girls using the ‘Parry and Lunge’ Rules:
Unknown image source: quarter staff drill
Boys life magazine – Boy Scouts Of America 1912
Sadly the scout staff had gone by the time I arrived in cubs in the 1970s. Nobby and other slightly older readers remember quarter staff drill well as a way of sneakily skinning your opponent’s knuckles.
Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 1970s British Cub Scout (Bronze Arrow, retired) on 24 July 2022