White Feather



'White Feather'
The superstition goes that a white feather plucked from a game cock and placed in the clothing of a person marked a poor or cowardly fighter. This is because a pure-bred gamecock wouldn't have white tail feathers. This term was first used in the eighteenth century. 




The novel The Four Feathers by AEW Mason, published in 1902 tells the story of an officer who resigns his commission on the eve of being sent to war. Three fellow officers and his fiancée give him a white feather in the belief he is a coward. In fact, his resignation was for personal reasons and he goes on to fight a clandestine war whilst in disguise. At the end of the novel, he returns the feathers to their senders, including the fellow officer whose life he saved.
In the early years of World War One, an admiral orchestrated a campaign where women would give white feathers to men without a uniform. This coercion was extremely effective and the Home Secretary had to decree civil servants, who did not wear uniforms, would be issued with a badge stating that they were serving King and Country to save them from the Order of the White Feather campaigners.

The white feather has also come to be associated with pacifism, although not it is not universally accepted, almost certainly because pacifists reject the notion that their anti-war views are anything to do with cowardice. 

'White Flag'
A white flag is the sign of a truce or surrender. It derived from the fact that heraldic banners displayed their owner's loyalties by use of insignia and symbols. The white flag, therefore, denoted 'no allegiance'. 


'Divided we stand, together we rise'
A corruption of the well known phrase, 'Together we stand, divided we fall'.  I think this might have been a trade unionist slogan originally, but cannot find credible attribution at this stage. 


Where to get this song:


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