The Frontiersman Traitor

Wybrow (1956)

…but who was never brought to justice!

Those who have read our most recently published book The Frontiers of Truth will have seen that there have been Frontiersmen who have been accomplished liars, cheats and rogues in their spare time while still performing efficient Frontiersmen duties. It may well be thought by our readers that for us to tell the story of past Frontiersmen is just a case of looking up some old books and documents and writing down their stories – or even “Googling” them.

Not so!

It is surprising how many past Frontiersmen, however brave and exciting their lives, were as accomplished as some politicians at “being economical with the truth” or “mis-speaking”. In other words they exaggerated, told lies both large and small, and generally told what is referred to in the Legion as “camp-fire yarns”, where the old Frontiersmen would sit around the camp-fire and spin tall tales about their adventures to their fellow Frontiersmen.

Does it happen now? Surely not! But that is for others to decide. Our task is purely to tell the stories of 20th century Frontiersmen who held senior positions in Britain, Canada, the Commonwealth and also places such as Egypt. Perhaps somebody out there knows more of the truth – or more fables about the Cyril Hector Arthur (later to become Abraham) Wybrow – who became a Legion Lieut.-Colonel and served both Commonwealth Headquarters and later on Canadian Division. It is only the recent opening by the British National Archives of his files that have shown us that he was in fact a spy and traitor to his country, and a traitor to his swearing of allegiance to the King.

Wybrow was born in June 1894, the son of a tailor. It is possible that the family had Australian links as a photograph has been seen of the tailor’s shop of G. H. Wybrow in that country. According to an undated biography of him in a Canadian Division magazine he:

…at the age of thirteen proceeded to Canada at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. Several months after commencing his studies he suddenly found himself thrown into the world to fend for himself. His first job was driving a lumber team, rather hard work for a youth of that age. He worked his way across the Canadian West and, being too young to officially join the Royal North-West Mounted Police, was attached to that force as a boy, accompanying various outpost expeditions. Eventually he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway at the Winnipeg depot. Returning to England in 1910, he proceeded to France to study French law and languages, with a view to joining the Diplomatic Service. He later proceeded to Rome and Trieste to study the Italian and Slav languages.

Colonel Wybrow was on his way to the East when war was declared, and he immediately offered his services to the Military authorities in Egypt…

On an inspection tour of Canada in 1956 he supplied an article for the Winnipeg Free Press of October 23rd on Russian influence in the Middle East and appears to have claimed that he had joined the P.P.C.L.I. in 1914 at the outbreak of war.

On reading all those claims carefully any Frontiersman could be excused for crying “Hold your Horses!”, especially as there is clear documentary evidence that in 1911 he sailed from England to Port Said (3rd class) with a trade of tailor. Surely, even in those days, no university would have accepted a thirteen-year-old boy as a student? Possibly R.N.W.M.P. Constables might take a boy along to help them, but he would not have been listed on the strength. So in 1910 he went to France to study law and languages and then to Rome and Trieste to study Italian and Slav? All in one year? The P.P.C.L.I. records will also show it would have been impossible for him to have been back in Canada to be one of their originals. He certainly set up in Cairo as a tailor as advertisements appeared in The Sphinx around 1922 for “C.H. Wybrow, Tailor, 19 Sharia Manakh, Cairo”. Whether he did much tailoring himself or employed local labour we do not know. In 1915 he married his first wife in a Consular marriage. All we know about her is that her name was Mary Britz. There is no record of what happened to her. In 1933 he married again in London to a Clara V. Ashwin, probably bigamously. He joined the Legion in Cairo in 1914 and was attached to the Remount Depot. There is more in the army form B199A which all officers had to complete, but he was probably being “economical with the truth” when he filled that in in 1940. He claimed service between 1911 and 1914 in the Royal Fusiliers T.A., but as the shipping records clearly list him sailing to Egypt that was another lie. Oh, and he had a BSc from Brussels University! He liked to say that he joined the Australian Light Horse when they transferred to Egypt. He may have been attached to them, but was certainly never on their strength.

Sphinx advert 1922

Owing to his knowledge of languages he was attached to ANZAC Headquarters and, finally, he volunteered for duty in the Secret Service, during which time he went five times behind the enemy lines and had many thrilling experiences on the deserts in Arabia, Tripoli and Syria. He was wounded in an ambush in the Sinai Desert early in 1915 and was thrice taken prisoner by the Turks, Arabs and Sudanese rebels. He was condemned to death by a Turkish Field Court Martial but made his escape.¹

Had this been true you would have thought he would have listed it in that army form, but that tells us a different and more mundane story:

EGYPT. (Interpreter–clerk and later Intelligence Agent attached to A.I.F., H.Q., (Canal Defences); attached S&T branch)²

It sounds as if his “adventures” were not as exciting as he made out.

Australian Light Horse Damascus 1918

It seems that he did have an aptitude for languages and was proficient in several. That is also indicated by his Second War service, where he was commissioned 2/Lieutenant in 1939 (General Service) and by 1944 had been promoted to war service Major.

After the First War he continued to live in Egypt. Although newspaper advertisements show him as running his tailor’s shop, the biographical account we have quoted says:

After peace was declared he joined the Egyptian Civil Service and for some years he was lecturer in the English language… and various other high-sounding positions. It also says that he formed the Egypt and Sudan Command of the Legion. That is not strictly correct. Although he was responsible for the name of the “Egypt and Sudan Command” and was their organising officer, the Frontiersmen had a unit in Cairo and another one in Port Tewlik, Suez, at least as early as 1912. In the late 1920s when Lord Lloyd was High Commissioner for Egypt he called on the assistance of the Frontiersmen in subduing riots. This was greatly appreciated by Sir Peter Strickland, G.O.C. Egypt. Strickland gave his support to the Frontiersmen. Needless to say, when this came to the notice of the Colonial Office and War Office in London, a furious row ensued. Lord Lloyd accused the War Office of double standards as Leo Amery, then Colonial Secretary and a member of the Cabinet, was on the Legion’s Executive Council and senior Generals regularly inspected the Frontiersmen on Horse Guards Parade. The row only cooled down when a Labour Government was elected and Lord Lloyd was recalled.

Wybrow returned to live in London around late 1929 or early 1930. A Legion officer whose name was not written clearly, although his first name was Robert, wrote in March 1930 to the Legion’s (Acting) Cdt.-General Burchardt-Ashton that:

I have heard from my brother in Egypt who says that the Legion of Frontiersmen have taken a new lease of life since Wybrow left. He apparently was no loss. The moving spirit is now Brig. Gen. C.S. Wilson whose address is The Turf Club, Cairo. My brother says he is a good fellow and will run things properly. ³

Judging by the names listed in the Egypt and Sudan Frontiersmen magazine after Wybrow left, it had then become more or less an officers’ club. Wybrow seems to have given up being a tailor and worked as a moderately successful impresario around England. He attempted without success to set up a film studio in Sheffield to rival the London area ones. In a 1934 interview he gave to a Sheffield newspaper about his film studio plans he told them that:

…Prior to the war he was in the 2nd City of London Royal Fusiliers (!)

At the outbreak of war he happened to be on his way out East and he joined the Frontiersmen at Cairo on 1 September 1914. He was attached to the Australian Light Horse, and when the Turks attacked the Suez Canal he was ambushed, and his troop was cut up. He was badly wounded, and owes his life to the fact that his camel fell over him, while later, a groan saved him from being buried alive.

When attached to Anzac Headquarters he volunteered for work behind enemy lines. The fact that he speaks several languages fluently as well as seven dialects of Arabic helped him considerably in this intelligence work. In various disguises he was dropped by ‘plane on five different occasions behind the enemy lines in Sinai and other places in the Arabian desert, as well as in Palestine and Gorizia Italy.

This is the problem with so many past Frontiersmen, they tended to give conflicting accounts at different times. Which accounts do you believe – any, few, or none? There can be no doubt he liked people to think that he was an adventurous man. After Brigadier Morton had taken over as Cdt-General and Edwards-Carter had died, Wybrow became Chief of Staff at Legion Headquarters until Col. Dunn took over from him. We can wonder why that change came about.

According to the 1939 Register, Wybrow was living in a flat in Talbot House, St Martins Lane, London with a singer-actress-dancer Gwendoline Burke-Mills and her mother. No sign of his 1933 wife Clara – but of course he was a Frontiersman and they seem to have been traditionally fond of the ladies. We find that by 1950 Wybrow was still living at the same address but:

…with a woman ROBINSON, who has changed her name (not through marriage) to WYBROW

He was listed as a Lecturer in Economics and other skills, and was on the Metropolitan Police War Reserve.

As regards WYBROW. We all have the dimmest view of this bogus and shifty individual

In short he’s an undesirable character altogether.

Because of his fluency in Arabic, French and Italian, he was granted a war service commission in 1940 and posted to Egypt and Palestine. In 1943 he returned to England under a cloud and narrowly escaped trial by GCM for financial irregularities. He had been rather too close to Jewish activists. His excuses having been accepted, he was posted to secret work on the Inter-Services Topographical Department. Once he had been released from the army, he joined the Joint Intelligence Board, the successors to the Joint Services Topographical Board. During investigations into a Jewish agent, it was discovered that Israeli Intelligence had a source known as “Cyril”. This was found to be Wybrow.

Nowadays most of the time Western Intelligences work quite comfortably with the Israelis, but it has to be understood that in 1949/50 Israel was considered a hostile power. During Britain’s peacekeeping duties in Palestine before the state of Israel was formed, Jewish terrorist or freedom fighter gangs (whatever you choose to call them) kidnapped and killed several hundred British soldiers. Once what became known to the British as the Stern Gang (LHI) kidnapped two sergeants and hanged them. They then booby-trapped the bodies so that the officer who cut them down was badly injured. There were considerable feelings of anti-semitism in Britain.

Wybrow’s salary in J.I.B. was £48 a month, and his various businesses did not seem to be making much, if any, money. He was, however, known to be supporting a mistress and to have a number of woman friends. There were some dozen amounts for round sums of £50, £100 and £150 which had been paid into the account of the Amalgamated British Exporters, one of the subsidiary companies run by Wybrow from 17 Charing Cross Road.

Wybrow was regularly followed (medium height, 5’7” or 5’8”; portly build, with paunch and fat bottom; sandy hair, bald on top; small untidy moustache; fresh reddish complexion; snub nose, a bit bulbous; fattish about the jowl.) and his mail was also officially opened without his knowledge. That included mail from the Legion of Frontiersmen (Canadian Division) in Edmonton and from the Legion of Frontiersmen in New Zealand. It is a relief to say that nothing incriminating seems to have been discovered in Frontiersmen correspondence. Sufficient proof was found from the other enquiries that Wybrow had been working for the Israelis and was the source of leakage of information to them. In May 1950 he was “made redundant”. It was decided that no prosecution should be undertaken.

After his army duties in the war, for some reason he had decided not to return to serve with Frontiersmen Headquarters, but moved instead to the newly formed U.K. Command of Canadian Division and became its Commandant. Many Canadians who had fought in the war, or men who had worked in Canada, felt considerable affinity to Canada, so Canadian Division, U.K. Command, of the Frontiersmen became quite strong, based mainly in parts of Greater London, in Bristol and in the north of England. In 1956 Wybrow visited Canada and made a tour of inspection across the Dominion, visiting most substantial Frontiersmen units and writing a full report for Canadian Headquarters. He told the Canadians he would have liked to re-locate his professional activities to Canada but could discover no opportunities. He eventually moved to France and operated a “Legal Financial Service” in Paris. He certainly had “many strings to his bow”.

Wybrow photos in TNA file

Not only did he sell secrets to the Israelis but he threw, perhaps totally un-necessary, doubt on those British Jews whose racial and ideological ties with Israel may be at variance with the allegiance they owe to the Crown. How much harm he did we may never know.

Wybrow always promised to write an account of his life for the Frontiersmen, but apparently never did, even had he done so it is doubtful how much truth he would have told. There still remain many unanswered questions about his life. He was not the only Frontiersman about whom we could say that!

How often do we come across such men? Surprisingly often but so far no more traitors. That is why we can seldom include men whose stories we would really wish to tell.

But we keep on researching. It can be very difficult, but when we do manage to unravel a complicated story it can be rewarding for us – and for our readers.


¹ “Mugs and Memoirs” from an undated “Canadian Frontiersman” magazine, reprinted in “History of the Legion of Frontiersmen” p. 105 published by the Legion of Frontiersmen, Canadian Division n.d.
² TNA KV2/3292
³ Letter in Legion of Frontiersmen files held in the archives
₄ TNA KV2/3293

All other brief phrase or sentence quotes come from KV2/3292 and KV2/3293

Photograph of Australian Light Horse by courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. General Allenby wrote that the Australian Light Horse had “earned the gratitude of the Empire and the admiration of the world”.

http://www.lighthorse.org.au/the-mounted-soldiers-of-australia-2/ (external link)

Photograph of Cyril H. Wybrow by courtesy of the archives of the Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division. This is the best resolution photograph of him we have been able to obtain. Note that a fuller version of the photograph was filed in KV2/3293 with an inset photograph of him in civilian clothes. It is likely that a copy was taken of this Canadian Division photograph when his correspondence with the Legion of Frontiersmen was officially but secretly opened. The file contains another photograph of him in army officer uniform.


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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A Moment in History

1 Capt A W LloydTopic October / November 2019.  Captain Arthur Wynell Lloyd, M.C. was a very brave man. He was one of the few Frontiersmen to be still able to fight at the last engagement at Nyangao, for which the Royal Fusiliers were awarded a Battle Honour. The few remaining Frontiersmen were commanded by Major Martin Ryan, who was killed in action, leaving Arthur Lloyd as one of only a very few officers of the originals still fit. Had the bullet wound which cost Lloyd his hearing in one ear been half an inch to the side, he would also have been killed. And yet it required strong letters from Lt.Col. Driscoll to gain him his Military Cross. Many considered, and still do consider, that he deserved an even higher gallantry award. ¹

When you look at his photograph it is difficult to comprehend that this mild-looking man with the receding hair and steel-rimmed spectacles had volunteered several times for the most dangerous of tasks.

We know little of his early life and career except that he spent some years in South Africa utilising his skills as a cartoonist, or caricaturist, for the newspapers. After the First War he was employed as political cartoonist for “Punch” magazine, a position he held for nearly forty years. Although he only agreed to join the uniformed Legion of Frontiersmen in civilian life in 1931 at a reunion dinner, he remained on good terms with the surviving officers and men of the 25th Bn., such as George Hazzledine and Charles Wise Hollis who did join. It does not seem that Hazzledine bore a grudge for the cartoon-like images of him that appeared in Lloyd’s excellent book of cartoons telling something of the story of the campaign of the 25th Bn, Jambo, or with Jannie in the Jungle. The tall thin Hazzledine, who always retained the lawyer look about him, was easy to caricature by a political cartoonist such as Lloyd with his keen eye for observation. After the War, Lloyd was the honorary secretary of the East Africa Campaign Dinner Committee and worked tirelessly to make this a success each year. There was high praise for him and his work at every dinner, and calls for him to make a speech. In 1927 after long, and in fact interesting, speeches by Capt the Hon. F.E. Guest and General Sir Edward Northey there were insistent calls for Lloyd to stand up and speak. Arthur Lloyd rose, and this quiet and unassuming gentleman just said “Gentlemen, I thank you.”

It was not until 1927 that the East Africa dinners were reported and advertised in the “Frontiersman” magazine. A clear advertisement appeared on the front page of the September magazine and the October issue carried an unsigned report:

“What was this East African campaign?” asks a man in the street, and as I wandered through Knightsbridge I wondered how many of us were left to meet together. The number of my ticket was 9, and I said to myself that 20 or 30 would be a good company. Then the streets round Harrods seemed sprinkled with men of military bearing asking the way. Fortunately all the neighbours knew the Georgian Restaurant, and we were guided through a great area of dustsheets – a burglar’s view of a modern shop – to a row of lifts of which one was working…

As soon as the lift stopped, the murmur of tongues set all doubt as to numbers at rest. There must have been over 200 bubbling with greeting around the bar. Man after man seemed to spring from the past, Generals, Captains, Orderlies, Sergeants and full privates, I thought dead long ago, all looking very pink and tanned and fit and thin…

I heard Lieutenant (now Captain) Fordham ask Major Hazzledine where the cloakroom was – and he knew all about it. I heard Captain (now Colonel) Powell say the one man he wanted to see again was Colonel Driscoll. Doctor Gates was able to shake hands with a few of the men whose lives he saved by refusing to certify them fit for further service, and they knew it. Eddie Reed was still smiling. Corporal Flannery had come all the way from Wales. Corporal Mantell from Weymouth, Cross, Nelson, Barron – there must have been a score of us – the old and bold. It was a great time. The dinner was good and after some speeches and calls for more than were made, we clustered around the bar again like a swarm of bees, not attracted nearly as much by the beer as one another. We talked of the days of short rations and forced marches in the tropics and of those who had gone…²

The committee organising the dinners had for several years discussed the possibility of inviting the German Commander in East Africa, Von Lettow Vorbeck, to one of the dinners when General Smuts could attend as in the interest of reducing tensions between the countries. There were always claims made that the East African conflict had been a “Gentleman’s War” without many of the horrors seen in Europe. This was not a universal opinion and men who had seen the sharp end of the fighting, such as the Frontiersmen, had seen some dreadful atrocities committed by the Germans and especially by their Askari troops. The men who recovered the body of Lieutenant Wilbur Dartnell, V.C., were stunned by the barbaric injuries that had been inflicted on his corpse. The editor of “East Africa” newspaper, Ferdinand S. Joelson, wrote in the issue of October 20th 1927 that the idea of inviting General Von Lettow Vorbeck to a dinner was:

“…distasteful to many East African campaigners at the time it was canvassed and it was only out of respect to their old Commander-in-Chief, General Smuts, who was understood to support it, that certain public protests were not voiced…”

Joelson went on to suggest instead that the Belgian Commander should be invited, although the treatment of the natives by Belgian troops could, and was, certainly to be criticised. He certainly did not agree that:

“…as was said at the Dinner – that the Germans fought a clean fight in East Africa. Loose tributes of that sort, uttered from traditional British sympathy for the vanquished, will be magnified out of all proportion by German propagandists, who will seek, and they have always sought, to use them to refute the British records of German atrocities in East Africa. Those records stand and nothing can alter them.”

George Hazzledine is recorded as attending other East Africa dinners, but his name is not listed at the 1929 dinner. It could be that he was suffering from one of his regular repeat attacks of malaria, or maybe he was one of those who objected to the presence of Von Lettow Vorbeck.

2 19260417 Holborn restaurant ILNOnce it became clear that General Smuts would be in Britain on an official visit during the period set down for the 1929 dinner, the invitation went out to General Von Lettow Vorbeck who gladly accepted. Although there were some who refused to attend as a protest, over a thousand attended the dinner on Monday 2nd December at the Holborn Restaurant, about five hundred in the King’s Hall and around two hundred and fifty each in the Throne Room and the Crown Room. The speeches were broadcast, not only to the two smaller rooms, but also to Germany. Arthur Lloyd had given much thought to the arrangements. Not only was there a table reserved for those who served in 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) and in the Loyal North Lancs Regt., but most seats were not allocated so that friends could arrange to sit together. There was no segregation of officers and other ranks. The “Western Morning News” also reported that:

Everyone who served in the campaign, whether in the Army, Navy or Air Force, was invited to the dinner. Uniforms were conspicuous by their absence, and by request no decorations were worn. Evening dress was optional.

3 19291207 Holborn Restaurant Graphic ex servce menCaptain Lloyd was determined that no-one should be excluded. The working man might not own evening dress, but dancing was the most popular evening past-time so many men owned a dinner suit (tuxedo to Americans and Canadians). Even if a man did not own a dinner suit, he would have a “Sunday-best” navy blue suit and it can be seen from the photograph that some smartened their “Sunday-best” with a bow tie. Consequently the evening attracted so many men, and some ladies, from all walks of life who had served in East Africa.

Smuts and Von Lettow Vorbeck sat beside each other at the top table and thus began a lifetime friendship between the two men. Von Lettow Vorbeck was known as a right-wing politician in Germany, but when Hitler came to power he would not support the dictator. When Smuts learned after the end of World War 2 that his one-time enemy was living in poverty, Smuts arranged that Von Lettow Vorbeck should be supported. Smuts began his speech praising his old enemy as a brave and clean fighter and a great commander.

“We are in a very special measure making peace tonight You make peace with a man when you eat salt with him and break bread with him should be, and it is right that we as old soldiers should make a beginning. We have done our worst to each other. We have no ill-feeling. When the fighting is over for us it is over indeed. We who bore the burden and heat of the day should make peace and set an example to the rest of the world and the civilian population…” 3

4 19291207 Holborn Restaurant SphereVon Lettow Vorbeck’s answer in excellent English was very carefully worded. His consistent point that “…between the two parties existed a high degree of chivalry and esteem for each other…” is not one that was universally agreed.

Edward Peters, who fought in East Africa with the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) became a Church Minister in the Congregational Church at Exmouth Devon after the war. Even as a devout Christian he held bitter memories regarding German conduct during the war. As a member of the Rotary Clubs he was in demand to talk about his war experiences at Rotarian dinners. At a dinner the day following the 1929 East African one he commented:

” A good deal was said of the humanity of the commanders, at least, of both forces. I think there is no question as to the humanity of General Smuts, but. listening to some of the things I heard last night, my mind went back to certain things I knew, which were certainly not humanitarian, but which went to show that the German in East Africa was the same as the German in Belgium. It is no use hiding the fact, nor forgetting it. 4

There we have the conflicting opinions, one of the commanding officers and one of the ordinary soldier. Whatever those opinions, there is no question that the dinner was an outstanding success and brilliantly organised by Arthur Lloyd so that even the humblest private soldier did not feel excluded but greatly enjoyed the evening and the memories of comradeship.

Moving on to 1931 when there was another dinner of note, this one was not organised by Arthur Lloyd, although he was present, but by another of the officers of the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers, Captain Charles Wise Hollis under the auspices of the Frontiersmen. This was held at the Florence Restaurant, another popular restaurant of the inter-war years which, like the Holborn Restaurant, no longer exists. Instead of being for all East Africa veterans this one was purely for the surviving men of the 25th Royal Fusiliers. In addition to an excellent menu the guests were entertained by the Frontiersmen’s String Band. The dinner:-

“…was an unqualified success in every way. The hum of animated conversation for an hour in the ante room and throughout the evening, save only for the short time taken up by speeches, was incessant and remarkable…

Major Hazzledine presiding gave, after ‘The King’, the toast of ‘The Battalion’…saying that to drink to this our Battalion was to drink to a memory, to drink to themselves the survivors, and to their comrades left behind. It has the distinction, unique, of being the only battalion allowed to leave England untrained..

Sergeant Bright responded. He had been through everything, and as he spoke there was the same air of cheerfulness which had gone with him and taken him on. He reminded the company of many incidents, some painful, some humorous, and expressed the determination to come to the re-union year after year…” 5

Unfortunately there are no records of subsequent dinners, but all credit must go to Captain Arthur Wynell Lloyd, M.C. for his work at the reunions and for doing what he could to repair the relationship between Britain and Germany.

Unfortunately, a man called Adolf Hitler was to come on the scene and a large number of the men who attended the memorable dinner in 1929 found themselves again fighting for Britain in one way or another against a Nazi Germany.


Grateful thanks are due to the family of the late Arthur Wynell Lloyd, M.C., for allowing access to his scrapbooks relating to the dinners of an unassuming but brave and memorable man. Thanks are also due to Steve Eeles who runs the website:

http://www.25throyalfusiliers.co.uk

for his liaison with the Lloyd family and his additional research.

1 Geoffrey A. Pocock “One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen” (Phillimore 2005) p. 95-96
2 “The Frontiersman” October 1927 issue, p.69
3 “East Africa” Thursday December 5th 1929. p.376
4 “The Devon and Exeter Gazette” December 5th 1929
5 “The British Imperial Frontier Man” December 1931 issue, p 136-137

Photo credits: – 1 – The Graphic, 2- Illustrated London News, 3 – The Graphic, 4 – The Sphere.


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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The Frontiersman who won the George Medal

2 Green photoSurprising Snippets 10

William Green, G.M.

Wilbur Dartnell is well known to all as the man who won the Victoria Cross as a Frontiersman, but the man who won another of the highest gallantry awards The George Medal, also as a Frontiersman, is often unjustly overlooked.

William Green was born in 1894, joined the 7th Queens Own Hussars at the age of 17 and was sent to India, seeing service in Mesopotamia in the First War. He wanted to follow a family tradition and join the Police force, but was not tall enough, so he returned to India where height regulations were not so strict and he enlisted in the mounted branch of the Bombay Police.

In 1936 he also joined the thriving Bombay Squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen, which had three troops in Bombay and district. He gained a reputation within the Police for outspokenness. He was also determined to treat the indigenous population and his native colleagues with full and proper respect. This did not find favour with some senior officers and so he eventually found himself landed with a desk job in spite of the fact that his record carried a number of commendations for outstanding service.

1 Green photoDuring WW2 William Green decided on positive action to get himself an active role in the military and made contact with the local barracks where he negotiated, even at the age of 50, the promise of a commission in the Military Police. On the morning of April 14th, 1944, he then persuaded a doctor to provide him with a certificate that he was no longer fit for police duties.

Bombay was a vital supply harbour for the war against Japan and it was crammed with ships of all the allied flags. One of these was the Fort Stikine which had left England seven weeks earlier loaded with aeroplanes, stores, ammunition, explosives – and two million pounds in gold bars. The ship was not flying a suitable warning flag, as she should have been, to inform that she was carrying explosives and give her the priority for unloading. This was possibly an attempt to prevent sabotage, but in the event it was probably unsuccessful.

At 1.30 p.m. smoke was reported coming from the port side, and the Bombay Fire Brigade, unaware of the amount of munitions on the ship, rushed on board. The Fort Stikine was a floating bomb which exploded with catastrophic results creating a tidal wave.

William Green, still wearing his uniform as Police sub-inspector was in the area and started to co-ordinate the efforts of random groups of men, until a second explosion occurred which blew him off his feet, blinding his left eye, deafening his left ear and shattering the fingers of his left hand. When he eventually recovered consciousness he continued organising men until the pain from his crushed fingers forced him to seek aid and have them bandaged. Accompanied by a young seaman, Waugh, he swum through the water in the dock around many bales of burning cotton and persuaded some terrified seaman aboard another blazing ship to jump into the water as that was the only way to save them. Green and Waugh rescued two who could not swim and helped them to the quay. All this time ammunition was exploding all around them. The smoke and oil in the water made Green’s already damaged eyes worse, but he continued, next helping an Indian who had been trapped under a sheet of metal.

William Green then collapsed around 5.30 a.m. on the 15th, and went to hospital for brief treatment and rest and a change of clothes. He returned to assist with rescue throughout the rest of the 15th and the 16th April. All the ships around the Fort Stikine were seriously damaged and the disaster flattened a square mile of the dock area of Bombay.

The citation of 6th February, 1945 awarded to:-

Frontiersman William Green of the Bombay Squadron, Legion of Frontiersmen, the GEORGE MEDAL

and finished by saying:

Frontiersman Green, who is 50 years of age, acted with the utmost promptitude and initiative on hearing the first explosion.

Throughout his rescue work he showed a complete disregard of his own safety, and an unsurpassable perseverance and devotion to duty in circumstances of extreme danger.

The injuries he received prevented William Green receiving the promised commission in the Military Police. He worked in a Government department until 1948 when he returned to England to live in Norwich, always active with the St. John Ambulance Brigade, Civil Defence and re-forming the Legion of Frontiersmen in Norwich, becoming enthusiastically involved also with the Canadian Division. He would regularly quote the Persian “Khuda Hafiz e Shuman bashad” which he translated as “may God be your Guardian”, a form of “God Guard Thee” the motto of the Legion of Frontiersmen taken from General Gordon’s ring. William Green always signed off his letters “Khuda Hafiz”.

William Green, G.M., died at the age of 99, still a keen Frontiersman to the end of his days.


Information: Correspondence from William Green, G.M.
“The Fort Stikine Disaster”, Coin and Medal News, February 1985
“Disaster in Bombay Harbour” Melbourne (Australia) Herald, November 1957
Citation awarding the George Medal to William Green, February 1945.


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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Real Austerity

First Armistice Day Parade, Leeds, 1919

Topic August / September 2019. It was not until 1922 that the Legion of Frontiersmen recovered in any way from the losses of the First War. The Legion had grown so rapidly in its first ten years and with such enthusiasm that it had outgrown any structure. Communication across the globe was far from easy and a letter to or from Australia, New Zealand or Africa could take many weeks. Not only had the Legion lost many thousands of members in the conflict, but the influenza epidemic that followed the war took the lives of many who had survived all that four years of war could throw at them. Many units had lost every single member. In 1922 the “Frontiersman” magazine began to be printed and distributed again. It might take until the end of 1922 or even early 1923 for the first magazines to reach units and sub-units in distant parts of the world, but it was read with delight and began again the old bond to Headquarters in London and Frontiersmen friends around the world. In parts of England, such as Yorkshire, Frontiersmen had begun to meet again as early as 1919 in comradeship, especially those survivors of the campaign of the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) in East Africa.

At the end of the Second War the Frontiersmen had far fewer communication problems. By the end of the 1930s the structure and chain of command was well-established. That continued throughout the war with a number of dedicated volunteers who, in addition to their duties in the Home Guard, as Air Raid Wardens, Auxiliary Firemen and Special Constables, still gave their time to ensure that communication carried on not only in Britain, but to other countries. The Legion made use of telegraphic communication, unavailable in the First War, especially to Canada as mails could not be guaranteed to reach their destination. In Canada and other Commonwealth countries, the Frontiersmen continued to be used as auxiliaries to the Police and other official bodies. It was in post-war Britain that the Frontiersmen had to seek another role, as their particular preparations for the past two wars would not be needed again. Frontiersmen in Britain had a major problem which did not affect other Commonwealth countries in the same way.

And that was – Rationing.

The country was almost bankrupt and everything manufactured had to be sold abroad wherever possible. There has been much talk in recent years in Britain about “austerity”, but to those living or even surviving during the years after World War 2 the idea that Britain suffers austerity nowadays will be considered risible. The Legion was also in major financial difficulties. Apart from the fact that the front of the building in Craven Street, London used as Headquarters had been bombed out, the Legion could no longer afford the rent. Throughout the war and in the first years afterwards subscriptions were hardly coming in at all. It was only generous donations from the Frontiersmen in New Zealand and the affiliated Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen in Canada that kept the Legion financially afloat. The much-prized Air Command had to be disbanded as there was no petrol for private flying. It was also nearly impossible for the Legion to offer use of Frontiersmen’s private vehicles in any emergency. Those who had been able to keep their pre-war cars could seldom get petrol for private use. The country was making as many cars as it could, but almost all for export. If anyone could afford to buy a new car the waiting list was at least two years. The situation was such that if anyone was lucky or influential enough to be able to buy a new car, they could sell it after six months for a profit. Virtually every commodity and most foodstuffs were on ration. Town gardens were turned over from flowers to vegetables and perhaps a few chickens as a luxury. Nobody was over-weight, even those lucky enough to have relatives in U.S.A. and Canada who could send food parcels. Meat was the final item to come off ration, but not until the summer of 1954. Many houses in cities and towns had been bombed in the Blitz and people, including many Frontiersmen, had lost not only their homes but also their possessions. Since its formation, the Legion had been proud that every Frontiersman had to be able to ride. There was little or no fodder for recreational horse riding. That was needed for working horses. Because of the shortage of fuel, deliveries, such as coal, milk, fish etc. were still being made locally by horse and cart. Cities and towns were gritty and grimy with whole areas reduced to rubble by the bombing. Except in the country where wood was available, the source of heat was coal, but as the best coal was being exported all that remained for sale (on limited ration) was poorest quality contributing more to pollution “smogs” and grime than heating. Fortunately the Legion had the support of the Territorial Army and for several years were allowed the use of T.A. halls and barracks for their meetings and often borrowed army horses. For a few years after the war, the Headquarters of the Legion of Frontiersmen was a Nissen hut in a bombed out area of London off the Pentonville Road, which was also the HQ of one of London’s T.A. units.

The one item which greatly affected the Frontiersmen was the uniform of which the Legion was so proud. Clothing coupons were needed by the family for more important items. Newspapers reporting on Frontiersmen parades said how smart they were, but how sad it was that only around half of the men wore the distinctive uniform. There was a belief in “make do and mend”. A man’s wife or growing child might need a coat to keep them warm. There in the wardrobe was a Frontiersman’s patrol jacket made of fine pre-war quality navy serge and enough material could be taken from that to make a serviceable coat. The strong bedford cord of the breeches would make a useful skirt for a lady. Every area had a seamstress or a tailor happy to make a conversion. Those demobbed from the services were issued with a “demob suit” but older Frontiersmen who had served in the Home Guard, with A.R.P., the A.F.S. or similar gained no such benefits. The few clothing coupons allowed had to be considered carefully for their need before being spent. Even bed sheets when they had become threadbare were given an extra lease of life by being cut down the middle and the sides sewn together. That was true austerity.

1950 Officers

It took until 1949 for the Legion to have its first post-war A.G.M., held in a Pentonville Road Nissen Hut. Colonel Dunn, still officially Chief-of-Staff, read out the report and announced that Brigadier Morton had resigned as Commandant-General. This was accepted without comment and it was decided that no discussion would be undertaken about the errors of Morton’s time in office, particularly the disastrous events regarding Canada. Dunn said that it had been impossible to find an officer from any of the services who was prepared to associate himself with the Legion. It was not until the 1951 Annual General Meeting that Dunn finally agreed to accept the position of Cdt.-General. The Legion returned from the dictatorial time of Morton to an active advisory Executive Council. Dunn led the Legion wisely throughout the 1950s until advancing years and failing health intervened. The Treasurer announced that the financial records from pre-war years had gone missing and auditors were appointed to carry out an enquiry. This was not the first (or last) time that financial irregularities appeared in Legion accounts. It was apparent that, although the overall structure of the Legion was mainly sound, without a generous donation from New Zealand the Legion would have gone out of business in 1948. By 1950 the Legion had moved its HQ to the T.A. hall at Penton Street, Islington. In 1951 with regard to the large numbers of Frontiersmen in Yorkshire, the annual meeting was moved to the Northern HQ at Gibraltar Barracks in Leeds. At all three meetings there was a representative from New Zealand and in 1951 also one from Nigeria. Capt. C.J. Cocksedge, the o.c. of “L” Squadron was there to represent New Zealand.. Visitors to Britain were welcome as their money was needed but no H.Q. officer could travel abroad. Travel abroad was not encouraged except to promote exports and for several years even those Britons who could afford to travel were prohibited from taking any more than ten pounds with them to spend abroad.

3 NZ Whakatane 1949 AGM

NZ Whakatane, 1949 AGM

Canadian Frontiersmen were independent and successful. Canadian Division had of course separated before the War and had successfully recruited a number of Canadian ex-pats in Britain to form several U.K. Canadian Division Squadrons. The Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen were involved in security duties in Canada but retained their affiliation to Imperial Headquarters. The reports that went back to New Zealand were very concerned about the state of affairs in Britain although there appear to have been little or no mention of the problems caused by the severe austerity. The possibility of moving Legion Headquarters out of Britain to one of the Dominions such as New Zealand was seriously discussed in that country, but the British Frontiersmen slowly dragged themselves back on their feet again, although only as a shadow of the inter-war years. They searched for a rôle because future technical wars would need more than their frontier skills. Other than commemorating the past on parades, they began training in basic skills as first responders until specialists could arrive in any emergency. In the 1970s extremists of both left and right considered that the Legion could be a useful tool in Britain and attempts were made around the country at infiltration. These were completely unsuccessful as the Legion still remained and remains completely non-political, but that is another story for another time.

Yorkshire Evening Post caricatures, 24th June 1955

Notes:

The second photograph shows staff officers of the Legion in 1950. Left to right: H.J. “Bish” Bishop, Col. E. Dunn, D.S.O. (Cdt.-General), George Hawkins, and Dr. Russell V. Steele, O.St. J. Dr. Russell Steele was Senior Medical Officer for the Legion of Frontiersmen and also held a senior position with St. John Ambulance.

The third photograph was taken at the New Zealand Conference in 1949 and shows how strong the Legion remained in that country. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of New Zealand Command.

The fourth picture, from the ‘Yorkshire Evening Post’ is of splendid caricatures by “Thack”of some senior officers taken at the dinner following the Legion A.G.M. held at Leeds in 1955. Note Major-General Sir Eric Girdwood KBE, CB, CMG (1876-1963), the distinguished retired army officer who had just become President of the Legion, a post he held enthusiastically until his death in 1963. He had been the popular Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from 1927 until 1930


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

Posted in Frontiersmen, History, Latest Topic, Legion of Frontiersmen, New Zealand, World War II | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Answering the Call

Roger Pocock at Northold, 1937

Topic June / July 2019. As the threat of another world war grew ever more likely in the 1930s, Frontiersmen had hopes that they would be granted a named unit as they had in the First War. As retired senior officers, both Cdt.-General Brigadier Morton and his Chief of Staff, Colonel Dunn, had contacts in the War Office. They were made to understand that there was absolutely no chance that this would happen, but, as we saw in the last topic page on Yorkshire, the army was keen to recruit as many trained Frontiersmen of suitable age as possible. Colonel Dunn wrote to all Squadron O.C.s instructing them to forward to H.Q. a nominal roll of all ranks between the ages of 41 and 55 who were physically fit and able to pass a medical examination and who were not in a reserved occupation. There can be no doubt that these men were needed as senior n.c.o.s because of their past experience. Junior ranks of the army had no experience of battle conditions on the continent. We will never know how many sergeants and sergeant-majors who crossed the Channel with the British Expeditionary Force had gained the benefit of training and service with the Legion of Frontiersmen.

In Canada, Australia and New Zealand the demand to go and fight for the Mother Country which we saw in 1914 was nowhere near as fervent. In Canada, the Frontiersmen who did not join the armed forces were in big demand as auxiliaries to the Police. Police in many towns and cities in Canada relied heavily on the services of the Frontiersmen. They wore their own uniform which they paid for themselves with an auxiliary police badge above the left breast pocket. If extra auxiliaries were needed in nearby towns the Frontiersmen would travel there, again at their own expense, to provide back-up. Some Frontiersmen even used their own vehicles. In the town of Guelph, Ontario, Cpl Walter Smale used his own van, or panel truck, displaying a temporary sign on each side reading “Guelph Auxiliary Police”. This in spite of the fact that the R.C.M.P. had ended the official affiliation of the Legion. In New Zealand there was to be great concern about possible Japanese invasion, especially after Pearl Harbour, and so the Frontiersmen were used in home defence.

Some of the City of London Squadron, c. 1935.

Two letters written by Ernest F. (Fred) Meacock (1904-1985) in 1979 give the clearest picture possible of life in the Frontiersmen in the period before World War 2 and how the military eagerly recruited any trained Frontiersman they could at the start of that war. Meacock commanded No. 1Troop of “A” City of London Squadron, which has always been the elite Squadron of the Legion. He was also Equitation Officer for London Command. The Squadron was commanded by Capt. Lazenby. On the formation of the LDV/Home Guard Meacock was seconded as a weapon training officer until he joined the Royal Tank Regiment. He was badly wounded in the leg at El Alamein and invalided out of the army, but he did manage to wangle himself a position in the T.A. Reserve of Officers in a Cadet Unit. Although he was invited to rejoin the Legion after the war he declined as he could no longer ride due to his wound and he believed that all Frontiersmen should be able to ride.

City of London Squadron, 1938

Meacock remembered meeting Roger Pocock when he reviewed the City of London Squadron at a gymkhana at Northolt in 1937. Roger stayed the night under canvas and chatted until well into the night. Unfortunately Meacock did not say or did not remember what they talked about. Next morning Roger reviewed the Squadron and Meacock “was horrified to see behind him the cookhouse dog busily gnawing the Sunday joint in the grass. I have never known an inspection last so long.”

We will quote in full from Meacock’s second letter as this is the best and most well-written surviving account of what it was then like to be a Frontiersman:

“…I suppose my best plan will be briefly to outline the position as it appeared to me, a very young [age 33] troop commander in a squadron composed of hard-bitten troopers – many of them ex-commissioned officers all be-medalled and many decorated, most of them refusing to take any sort of rank, but all determined to have a good time in what was an incredible elite force. The discipline on parade was harsh – almost Prussian, but off parade was another matter. It was a very happy period of my life, especially as we knew that war was coming and we hoped, indeed we were promised, that we should serve as a unit under our own officers. When the Territorial Army was doubled overnight, we were asked whether we could supply NCOs and officers to help with the training of the new intakes, and there was an immediate response naturally. I vividly recall a TA Sgt-Major whispering in my ear,

‘Sir, when you call the parade to attention, you must not address them as Frontiersmen. The order is Squad!’

When the LDV was formed (soon to be the Home Guard), the Legion melted away as our highly trained Frontiersmen were gladly embodied by whichever unit could grab them. I served as Adjutant to General Gough in ‘Z’ zone, until I was called into the Royal Tank Regiment…

During the whole of my service with the Legion I knew nothing of any internal difficulties. Probably the coming conflict made for greater unity and the burying of quarrels. I don’t know. I only know that each monthly copy of ‘The Frontiersman’ carried on the inside front and back pages the whole lay-out of the LF over the Empire with names,squadrons, right down to troop commanders and at our occasional regimental dinners in London and elsewhere there were usually representatives from overseas. At the gymkhana of which I told you the crowd were greatly entertained to hear, booming over the loudspeaker, the R[ough] R[iding] Sgt-Major from Woolwich Squadron shouting:

‘Where the hell is that B****** from Hong Kong? He’s supposed to be riding in the next event. Find him someone!’

And so it was. The only real dispute was between the Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen and the Legion itself. My memory grows dim, but I seem to recall a message from Danny Driscoll to the assembled representatives of both organisations, ‘Let there be one flock and one shepherd!’ Which happened and went to war reconciled, although in many and various guises. I recall one Barrage Balloon Unit entirely composed of a troop of the Legion, while the early days in France and Belgium took heavy toll of the best and youngest, and I know very little of events afterwards…

…unfortunately the old man with the scythe has been too busy and is finishing what the German Schmeisser machine guns started and survivors are not very thick on the ground. Roger, Driscoll, even Lord Loch, had a vision and for a while we walked in the high places in their wake. All I am sure of is that the High Command in all the Armed Forces, whether they appreciated it or not, owed more than could have been ever foreseen to the stiffening imparted by my comrades of the L[egion of] F[rontiersmen], in which it was an honour to have served.

In the First War many Frontiersmen were proud to serve in the named units of 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers or 210th Frontiersmen Bn. Canadian Expeditionary Force; some New Zealand and Australian Frontiersmen got away with wearing the little button badge of the Frontiersmen when serving at Gallipoli, in Mesopotamia, in Palestine. In the Second World War, there were to be no named units, but the Frontiersmen did their duty around the world – in the British Expeditionary Force where many did not survive and we are unaware how many came back from Dunkirk, in famous battles such as El Alamein where Fred Meacock was seriously wounded, or in what were considered side-shows in places like Africa. Those who did not fight abroad did their particular duties as we have seen in earlier topic pages – in the A.R.P., the Home Guard, as Auxiliary Police and in defending their countries against possible Japanese attack. As Fred Meacock wrote, the free world owed more than could have been ever foreseen to the Frontiersmen who rushed to serve. Many laid down their lives.

collageIndex to photographs

1. Roger Pocock at the 1937 Northolt camp. Note the delight on the faces of the men taken in the photograph with him. He was very much a famous man at the time, and people were keen to have their photographs taken with him.

2. Lazenby is stood to the left of Capt Dale who is at the centre front.

3. Although we cannot confirm it, Fred Meacock is probably the officer in the front row, third from the left as you look at it, and not wearing medals. He had been too young to serve in the First War. He must have worked abroad to be accepted in the Frontiersmen and also been a highly-skilled horseman to be appointed as Equitation Officer for London Command. In daily life he was the Catering Manager for one of the London Clubs.

4, 5, and 6 are badges and a shoulder title issued to Frontiersmen as Auxiliary Police across Canada.


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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The Badges of the Legion of Frontiersmen, 1904-2001

Nowhere is there to be found a list of the metal badges of the Legion of Frontiersmen, so this should explain them and how they came to be used, more or less in chronological order.

Five shilling piece worn as original badge on Stetson by Founder1) The infant Legion had decided on a uniform, but the idea of a badge for the Stetson or Slouch hat only came in gradually, apart from the Founder Roger Pocock who wore a five shilling piece on his Stetson as a badge. Five shillings was a decent sum of money in 1905, being almost a quarter of the weekly wage for some working men. The first ever badge, shown here, was a lapel badge which was worn with pride at all times, even out of uniform. Many was the occasion w1 lapel badgehen a man visited some far away foreign land to catch sight of another man wearing the same badge and an immediate bond of friendship was formed. There are also photographs showing it worn on the uniform hat. This badge was designed by Manoel Herreira de Hora, an out-and-out rogue who was an enthusiastic early member, but who was dismissed allegedly for having the Bandmaster flogged on parade. See:

German Spies are Everywhere

also

The First Ten Years: 1904-1914

2) The first Legion hat badge proper was the LF in laurel wreath. There are variations of this and no clear evidence of how it came into being. In Canada during the First War it was, as the Legion of Frontiersmen badge, accepted as an official Canadian military badge.

2 LF laurel wreath hat badges

3) There are two main types of early collar badge, a miniature LF in laurel wreath and a simple LF scroll.

3 collar badges

4) The badge of the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen). Again there are slight variations of the badge. There may have been some locally made in East Africa as the Frontiersmen troops, like many other soldiers, were inclined to give them away as souvenirs.4 25th Bn

5) The United Farmers of Alberta MFA. For details see:

United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command

5 United Farmers of Alberta MIC

6) This is the badge of the 210th Bn. Frontiersmen, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Note it contains the emblem of the Legion button badge. See:

Legion of Frontiersmen in Canada Time Line Part 3

6 210TH Bn

7) Not a Frontiersmen badge, but the badge of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. This is included because a high percentage of the Original Patricias were Frontiersmen. See:

Legion of Frontiersmen in Canada Time Line Part 3

7 original Princess Patricia's Canadian Light. Infantry badge

8) This is a very rare badge which cannot be dated, except that it is pre-1926. The rose shows it is English, but it is highly likely to have been a Yorkshire badge featuring the white rose of Yorkshire. Until the 1970s, Yorkshire was one of the most active Frontiersmen areas with a number of Troops and full Squadrons.

8 pre-1926 LOF cap badge England possibly Yorkshire

9) In 1926 it was decided to re-design the badge. Not only could “LF” be considered to represent the Lancashire Fusiliers, but the LF in laurel wreath was very similar to the LG in laurel wreath worn as a trade badge in the First War by lewis-gunners. A request was made to have the new design surmounted by the Royal Crown, probably due to the links with the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers, but this was immediately declined and the mural crown was adopted instead..9 Mural Crown badge

10) In 1927 the short-lived Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen/Imperial Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen (its name was changed) broke away from the Legion and continued until 1934, when it was re-absorbed. One of the early breakaway members, whose name we do not know, enthusiastically had a large quantity of these badges and collar badges struck, hence mint versions appear regularly for sale. They are often inaccurately described by badge dealers as officers’ badges of 25th Royal Fusiliers and sold at a premium price. Caveat Emptor.

 

 

11) Another short-lived breakaway in the early 1930s was the Imperial Frontiersmen. Note the great similarity to the badge of 2nd King Edward’s Horse. They used the Royal Crown without permission, which was strictly illegal.

 

 

12) In 1939 the Canadian Division of the Legion of Frontiersmen broke away and they changed the mural crown to a beaver. Many Frontiersmen in Eastern Canada became the Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen. We do not have an illustration of the C.I.F. metal badge. See:

What Caused the Rift

12 Canadian Frontiersman

13) This is another rare badge with the starburst added.  This badge was produced for the Mounted Troop and was to fit onto the breast-plate of horse harness, which is a vee-shaped leather strap which goes on the horses chest area.  There remains a possibility that it may also have been worn on the Wolseley helmet used by one Troop on ceremonial occasions instead of the Stetson.

13 unknown LOF badge possibly for Wolseley helmet


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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Yorkshire, the Heart of England and the Heart of the Frontiersmen

Lieut Smalley and Halifax Troop 1934

Topic April / May 2019.  The first unit of the Legion of Frontiersmen in the county of Yorkshire, England was formed, as can be seen from the copy of the original invitation card shown here, in October 1906. For well over sixty years Yorkshire was to be the strongest and most loyal Frontiersmen county outside of London. If you look at the most excellent website dedicated to the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen) in East Africa:

http://www.25throyalfusiliers.co.uk

you cannot but notice the large numbers of Yorkshiremen who enlisted in that proud battalion, estimated by Capt. A.W. Lloyd, M.C. at between 300 and 400. It has been suggested that this is a conservative estimate and there could very well have been considerably more. Capt. Lloyd was one of the few officers to serve right through the campaign until he was seriously injured in the Frontiersmen’s final battle. He knew more about the men than most of the officers. More Yorkshiremen wrote back to their local newspapers describing life in that campaign than from any other county. We can be grateful for the excellent pen-pictures they painted of the fighting and of the local flora and fauna. What was it about the Legion of Frontiersmen that attracted this organisation to men from this particular county?

There is something characteristic about the very physiognomy of the Yorkshireman. He is much more of a Dane or a Viking than a Saxon. He is usually a big upstanding man, who looks as if he could take care of himself and those who depend upon him in an emergency. This is indeed the character that his neighbours give him; the southerner may think him a little hard: but if ever our country is let down by its inhabitants, we may be sure that it will not be the fault of Yorkshire.¹

! Bradford card

Looking at the political picture during the first half of the 20th century, the Yorkshiremen did not seem particularly political as they voted different parties in at different elections. Frontiersmen had a tendency, whatever Headquarters in London said, to meet at a local hostelry and they were probably more interested in the quality of ale than in political movements. A family member said that the Halifax Troop had arranged special licensing hours for their meetings, so that would have made membership of the Legion popular.² Yorkshiremen have always claimed to be almost a race of their own, descended from a different tribe of invaders of England, and had a strong belief in democracy. That is what would have attracted them to the Legion. In East Africa the Frontiersmen had little time for Staff officers who seemed to them to only hold their position due to which school they had attended and the fact that they were upper class. Class consciousness still existed, even after the First War. Frontiersmen wanted to be led by born leaders, irrespective of class and therefore elected some fine men to be their officers. As ever, army rank made no difference to them. For example, in 1938, the Medical Officer for “B” Squadron, Legion Lieutenant G.H.L.Hammerton, C.M.G., D.S.O., T.D. had been a full Colonel in the army, whereas the Legion officers in charge of Troops or Squadrons had often served as n.c.o.s in the army – but they all held those positions because they had won the respect of the men. When the new club headquarters of “B” Squadron (Dewsbury, Wakefield, Halifax and Barnsley Troops) was opened officially on 15th June 1935 by Brigadier R.F. Sugden,:

” Captain Leonard Shaw, Officer commanding “B” Squadron, presided and announced that Brigadier-General Sugden wished to become a Frontiersman.

General Sugden said that he was thoroughly tired of being a general, and wished to become an ordinary member of the Legion. He had started his military life as a trooper It would not be the first time he had been a trooper, and had been corporal, a sergeant and many other ranks. The Legion of Frontiersmen was a body well worth belonging to.” ³

Leeds Mercury Selby parade photo

Yorkshiremen in addition had a strong sense of law and order and support for the community. We already know that the London Frontiersmen formed the mounted reserve of the City of London Police, but at the time of the General Strike in 1926, twenty-seven Yorkshire Frontiersmen signed up as Special Constables, not to break the strike, but to ensure that everyone on both sides of the argument followed the rule of law. In 1928 a motor transport section was organised under Legion Captain Rowland Winn to help in any emergency where there was a disruption of essential civil transport. By 1936, the Air Command was in full action with nine privately-owned planes. They were ready to assist the authorities with the transport of urgent medical supplies and other duties in any emergency. The Frontiersmen received great support from Mayors and other dignitaries and also the Earl of Harewood. The Leeds Squadron was permitted to have its Headquarters at the Harewood Barracks, where they were able to experience physical training and horse-riding training with the Yorkshire Hussars.

In 1937 the government were busy recruiting auxiliary firemen in preparation for air attacks. Most of the Leeds Frontiersmen volunteered and undertook training in ladder and hose work. Those who did not re-join the armed forces were to be needed in a very few years. In September 1938, the Town Clerk of Bridlington reported that he had received a telegram from the War Office:

“Give your Frontiersmen special job in your district. Ask your men to stand by further in case war breaks. Strength for each geographical district? Very urgent.” ⁴

By December 1939 all 60 members of the Sheffield Frontiersmen were reported to be serving again in some capacity or other.

“When the war came the Sheffield Squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen was ready.

The War Office at once sent out an appeal to the Legion squadrons for senior n.c.o.s from the 1914-18 war to take up their old rank in the army and accompany new battalions to France and Sheffield sent its quota.

With very little training they were able to assume their old ranks of sergeant-majors and sergeants and went out to France…” ⁵

Shipley Frontiersmen at the Cenotaph

After WW2 the Legion numbers throughout Britain made a surprisingly speedy recovery when consideration is given to the numbers of men who had lost their lives in the conflict. Most older Legion officers had served in the Home Guard , A.R.P. and A.F.S. and ensured continuity of the L.O.F. after the war. Fortunately, Colonel E. Dunn, D.S.O., who had been Brigadier Morton’s Chief of Staff before the war agreed to take over as Cdt-General and proved to be a very steady hand on the tiller right through the 1950s until old age affected him. It may be wondered whether he would have been a wiser choice than Morton for Cdt-General before the war. Although their numbers were not as great as between the wars, Yorkshire again proved to be the most successful area for the Legion outside London. Photographs show substantial groups. A grainy newspaper photograph here shows the Shipley Troop on their way to London for Remembrance Day 1949. The Legion was then still welcomed at the Cenotaph in Legion uniform. They did not just lay one wreath on behalf of the whole Legion but, as can be seen here, individual Troops and Squadrons brought their own dedicated wreaths. Another faded photograph shows many Yorkshire Frontiersmen in 1954 turned out for the St. George’s Day Parade, which was then always enthusiastically commemorated.

Until the late 1960s the Legion’s A.G.M. was held alternate years in London and Yorkshire. By this time Col. Dunn was a very old man in a care home. In his dying years he was persuaded to hand over command to a younger man, but a power battle ensued which meant that headquarters and all meetings were held in London. The old Yorkshiremen who had done so much good failed to find the next generation of the right quality to follow them and so over some twenty years and a cumulation of problems Yorkshire ceased to be at the heart of the Legion. Will one day some more proud Yorkshiremen take up the independent and patriotic spirit of the old Frontiersmen? Who can say?

¹Read, Herbert (31 January 1929). “Review of Frederic Richard Pearson, Yorkshire”. The Times Literary Supplement. p.79.
² Letters from Mrs Rita Gill, daughter of Sgt Greaves of Halifax Troop, 1990, in Legion files.
³ “Yorkshire Post, 16th June,1935. The topic page which will follow this one in due course will expand on the subject of rank in the Legion of Frontiersmen, how it was treated, and how trained Frontiersmen were eagerly sought out by the services at the start of W.W.2
⁴ “Hull Daily Mail” 29th September, 1938
⁵ “The Star” Sheffield 15th December, 1939


© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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