Snippets from the past: Girl Guides WA’s Cenotaph Flag


The Whitehall Cenotaph

There was pride and excitement in 1931 when Lady Baden-Powell brought a Cenotaph flag to Australia.

The Cenotaph is a war memorial situated on Whitehall in London. It is an empty tomb in memory of all service people who have fought and died.

It is flanked on each side by various flags of the United Kingdom. The flags on the Cenotaph represent the various branches of the armed services – sea, land and air. These flags soil quickly as they are out in the weather.

Initially the flags were changed for cleaning every six to eight weeks, but between 1922 and 1923 this practice gradually stopped. Then letters to media outlets resulted in the cleaning being reintroduced. The initial lifespan of a flag was set at five periods of three months. By 1939, they were being changed ten times a year, with each flag being washed twice before being disposed of.

By 1924, it was decided that all discarded flags would be sent to the Imperial War Museum who could then redistribute them to properly accredited organisations to be cared for with honour and reverence. Lady Baden-Powell brought one of these six flags from the Cenotaph in Whitehall London, to Australia’s Girl Guides Association in New South Wales in 1931. The flag is always carried personally.

Lady Lee Steere

Lady Lee Steere

Subsequently the flag came to Western Australia. The State Commissioner, Mrs Lee Steere, took it with her to many centres in various parts of the State and displayed it with dignity.

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