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English girls scouts were hard core

Found in an archive of papers from an early troop of Girl Guides: semaphore flash cards. I mentioned this at a coffee morning and one of the old girls got up and gave me the whole alphabet.

But why? What possible use would a visual system of long-distance communication used by the Navy be to little girls?

I’ve Googled high and Googled low. I can confirm there was a lot of it about. All girls. The Girl Scouts got up to it in the States, too.

I found this quote from an old women’s encyclopedia: “A semaphore parade. Even the youngest children will enjoy a lesson on this subject, and will acquire a sense of discipline and a quickness of perception by its help” but the rest of the article goes on to describe teaching children to build a pretend field hospital and splint broken bones. Cheerful!

A lot of what is captioned as semaphore is just pictures of people waving flags around.

I guess it’s a simple as making kids memorize something. We had to memorize stuff. But why semaphore and why girls?


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: January 31, 2024, 8:47 pm

The question sure stumped me, but here’s what the Opera browser’s AI “Aria” had to say. My reaction to the below is that it is a pile of fetid dingo’s kidneys.

I asked it:

Why were girls in particular taught semaphore signaling especially in Girl Guides and Girl Scouts?

Aria responded:

Girls in particular were taught semaphore signaling, especially in organizations like Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, for several reasons:

Historical Context:

● Semaphore signaling was a widely used form of communication before the widespread use of telephones and radios.

● Learning semaphore signaling was a practical skill that could be used for communication in various situations, especially in outdoor or emergency settings.

Empowerment and Independence:

● Teaching semaphore signaling to girls was a way to empower them with practical skills and self-sufficiency.

● It provided an opportunity for girls to learn about communication techniques and be able to contribute effectively in different scenarios.

Outdoor Activities:

● Semaphore signaling was often used in outdoor activities and camping, which are common in organizations like Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

● By teaching semaphore signaling, these organizations aimed to equip girls with skills that are valuable in outdoor and adventurous settings.

Teamwork and Leadership:

● Learning semaphore signaling often involved working in teams and required coordination and collaboration.

● It provided a platform for girls to develop leadership skills and learn the importance of clear and effective communication within a group.

Overall, teaching semaphore signaling to girls in organizations like Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was part of a broader effort to provide them with practical skills, promote independence, and encourage participation in outdoor activities while fostering teamwork and leadership abilities.

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: January 31, 2024, 9:23 pm

And it is useful to them today if they are attacked by a group of illegal alien terrorist invaders. By using semaphore, they can pass the info along to others without the illegal alien terrorists understand what they are doing!

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: January 31, 2024, 11:41 pm

My dad said the guys on his ship in the Pacific used to use their arms to semaphore to talk to their buddies on other ships when their ships were close enough.

Course he was on a fleet oiler so getting close was something they did quite a bit.

@Uncle Al – Aria would now tell you it can be used to keep them updated on the latest TikTok stupid trend.

Comment from mostly cajun
Time: February 1, 2024, 1:34 pm

Because the boys would be in the trenches fending off the Hun

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 1, 2024, 2:40 pm

Gee I thought even in those days girls had moved beyond using actual flags to flag down a ride….


Comment from Deborah HH
Time: February 1, 2024, 4:01 pm

The idea was to get young girls outside, and make them a little more self-reliant, and teach them something fun. How useful were semiphore skills? Was this after the Great War with Germany? Then I’d say the skills had the potential to be extremely valuable, especially in a nation surrounded by water.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 1, 2024, 6:27 pm

Near as I can tell, it goes right back to the beginning in 1907. My friend who learned it would have been born around 1940.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 1, 2024, 6:37 pm

Quite seriously – In our cellphone century, we have forgotten that 120 years ago there were few radio receivers beyond some ship-borne models and some hobbyist stuff, and transmitters were even more rare. Telephones were largely for city dwellers, and I would imagine very very scarce along the coasts of Great Britain.

A an organized semaphore message relay system would be of real value as a back-up in a war time environment….

Here’s a little insight into the state of Military-Grade portable radio in 1912:

The Pack Wireless Section.

306. The pack wireless section is normally composed of 10 mounted men and 4 pack mules.

307. The men, except the chief of section, are numbered from 1 to 9. The mules are designated, respectively, as the “generator mule,” the “chest mule,” the “mast mule,” and the “kit mule.” Each mule is led by one of the men, and the section is formed in column of twos, the led mules being considered as one of the set of twos.

308. The chief of section is on the right of the leading two, composed of Nos. 1 and 2, No. 1 on the right. These are followed by Nos. 3 and 4, and then by Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8, leading, respectively, the mules carrying the generator, the chests, the masts, and the kit in order from front to rear, the mules on the right. No. 9 rides in the rear, and it is his duty to observe the packs and to keep up any lagging mule.

309. It is the duty of all men, so far as they may be able, in addition to leading their own mules, to urge forward the mule immediately in front.

310. When the section is acting alone, the chief of section may go where his services are most needed.

311. The section is maneuvered as prescribed for the company mounted, and by similar commands.

312. When the section is acting alone, it may when necessary march in column of files, in which case each man leading a mule will ride in front of his mule.

I have done some reading in this area a a side-quest in my fascination with the technology of WWI and the horrors it unleashed.


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