Arrowhead or fleur-de-lis, the origins of one of the worlds best known icons can be confusing.  The Scout symbol is one of the best known global “brands”.  As Scouting spread around the world so did the story of the iconic badges development.  Its name changes depending on the country with some preferring the name arrowhead to fleur-de-lis with its traditional royal connections; others call it the fleur-de-lis due to the arrowheads military connections.  Whatever it is called it brings Scouts together in a sense of unity and friendship.

The Scout Badge origins

At the pilot Scout Camp held on Brownsea Island in August 1907 Robert Baden-Powell gave the boys a Scout symbol to wear on their coats or hats, this was based a badge he had introduced for Army scouts when he was serving in India.

Brownsea Island; experimental scout camp; 1907; boy scouts; Robert Baden-Powell;
An early version of the Scout badge is clearly visible on the coat sleeve of this Brownsea Island Camp participant.

In the first edition of Scouting for Boys (1908) Baden-Powell referred to the Scout’s Badge as an arrow head. He said

The Scout’s badge is the arrow head, which shows the north on a map or on the compass. It is the badge of the scout in the Army because he shows the way: so to a peace Scout shows the way in doing his duty and helping others.

Scout emblem; fleur-de-lys; fleur-de-lis; arrowhead; Robert Baden-Powell; Scouting for Boys
Illustration from Scouting for Boys, 1908.

Following criticisms that the symbol was too militaristic Baden-Powell renamed the symbol after the heraldic fleur-de-lis, a stylised lily symbolic of peace and purity.

Baden-Powell later said the arrowhead and fleur-de-lis made a good basis for the Scout emblem as the three points could be used to represent the three parts of the Scout original promise; service to others, duty to God and obeying the Scout law.

Scouting symbol

Such a generic symbol could easily be copied and in 1909 special additions were made to it to the design to make it unique to Scouts. This included the addition of the two stars. The ten points of the stars later came to represent the ten parts of the Scout Law. In the UK there were only 9 laws until 1911.

Scout symbol; scout emblem; fleur-de-lys; fleur-de-lis; arrowhead

These pictures show three stages of the symbols evolutions as used on the Scout tenderfoot badge from 1908, 1909 and 1927. The symbol kept evolving with subtle changes to the shape and in 1927 the words Boy Scouts were added.

The story evolves

After the creation of the Wolf Cubs section which formally launched in 1916 Baden-Powell also said the two stars could also represent the gleaming eyes of a wolf cub. This relates to the two stars which Cubs worked for during their programme and were worn on the Cub cap. Wolf cubs are born blind correspondingly new Cubs wouldn’t have the stars on their cap, by the time a Cub was ready to go to Scouts his eyes would be fully and he would have two stars showing his development. This element of the Cub programme was replaced in 1967.

Wolf Cub; Cub Cap; Cub stars;
Pack Leader, Oliver from Ingham in Norfolk proudly showing his first and second stars on his Cub Cap, 1923.

As Scouting spread around the world countries created their own versions of the Scout symbol sometimes adding to the design to make it unique to their country. In 1972 the World Membership Badge was introduced for all national Scout organisations which belonged to WOSM the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. In the UK it is presented to new members when they join Scouting.

Scoutsl; world membership badge;
The symbolic meaning of the various elements which make up the World Membership Badge.

A new look for a digital age

In May 2018, following wide consultation, a new Scout brand and visual identity was introduced for UK Scouting. This included a new, simplified fleur-de-lis. More visible at a smaller size and especially on phones and other devices, it was an evolution of the classic fleur-de-lis for the digital age.

 

 

Adopted by Groups, Districts, Counties Nations across the UK, it looks and feels contemporary while retaining our iconic heritage. It also has echoes of Baden-Powell’s very first drawing. While this new fleur-de-lis is seen on signs, books, clothing, social media and websites, UK Scouts continue to wear the World Membership Badge on their uniforms.