Keeping Clear of Politics

Topic Dec 21 / Jan 22.  We saw in the previous topic page how Kaid Belton was dissatisfied because the Frontiersmen were not doing enough to counter the “Bolshies”, either in the original Legion of Frontiersmen or the breakaway Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen. He set up his own “Imperial Legion” to fight, perhaps even violently, against communism, or what was then known as “Bolshevism.

The Legion has always prided itself on being strictly non-political – but what is “political”? Political in one decade is not in another. Between the wars Fascist parties were considered mainstream, but left-wing socialism was thought to be an arm of Russian attempts to promote revolution. In recent years those views have been reversed. The Frontiersmen have done everything they could to steer clear of politics. Of course they are Royalists, swearing allegiance to the Sovereign when joining, and that would put them in conflict with republicans. The early uniform was either a navy or a black shirt, except in hot countries where it was khaki or fawn. The uniform of the crew of the “S.S. Frontiersman” on their ill-fated attempt at supporting world-flight in 1923 was clearly black shirt and black trousers. Once Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts came on the scene the Frontiersmen had to surrender their comfortable dark shirts, even for working dress, and adopt the patrol jacket rather than be mistaken for what the Founder described as “politicians in uniform”.

The War Office/Ministry of Defence were always concerned about possible infiltration by either extreme right-wing or left-wingers into an organisation of well-organised and disciplined men. In the 1970s they unofficially contacted the Legion hierarchy and decreed that the Legion must never be commanded by one Commandant but by an elected Executive Committee which could over-rule the Commandant. One (long dead) Cdt-General attempted to disband the Executive and change the Legion to a military hierarchy, but he was over-ruled and had to concede or be replaced. The Legion banned Frontiersmen from being members of the then extreme National Front, but that proved difficult because the National Front was an authorised political party. On one occasion a naive British Frontiersmen officer was delighted to recruit a county Deputy Lord Lieutenant and several ex-army officers and men. It turned out that these were involved in a shady organisation wishing to overturn the elected Labour Government. It took all the skills of a senior Legion officer to extricate the Legion and suggest that the new recruits should resign.

But that is a story and names we cannot tell in full until many years in the future.

To return to the inter-war years, particularly the 1920s: we have reported many examples of the Frontiersmen being the guards as well as Guards of Honour for members of the Royal family, particularly the Prince of Wales. After W.W.1 the army, the navy, and indeed the police had disciplinary problems due to discontent with their lot in life, as well as attempts by Bolsheviks financed by the Russians to unsettle them. The Russians were not short of money. They had acquired the quantities of jewels belonging to the Russian royals and aristocracy and smuggled these into Europe where they were sold to less scrupulous dealers to be re-cut. The money was used in Britain to finance the Communist Party of Great Britain, also their undercover activities to stir up discontent, not only in the trades unions, but also the armed forces. This was a matter of great concern to right-wing politicians, the ruling classes and the security agencies.

In 1921, the Commandant of the Legion, Colonel Herbert Tamplin, persuaded Major-General Lord Loch to attend an Executive Council meeting of the Legion and then accept the position of President of the Legion. As well as being a decorated soldier who had been a Lord-in-Waiting to King George V from 1913 and 1914, Lord Loch served the Legion outstandingly well right up until his death during W.W.2. In 1924 he was appointed to the prestigious position of Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. One of his first acts was to write a private letter to a personal friend who was Parliamentary Secretary to the War Office in which he emphasised the “anti-bolshy” side of Legion activities. He also persuaded influential and powerful friends to join the Legion Executive Council, such as Lord Derby, Leo Amery M.P., for some years British Colonial Secretary, and Oliver Locker-Lampson, M.P. who was a founder of the ‘Clear Out the Reds’ campaign, agitating for an end to all links with Russia. Leo Amery was a good friend and supporter of the Legion, being an active Honorary Commandant of the Squadron in his Birmingham constituency; also making sure he visited Frontiersmen units when his official business took him to countries such as New Zealand. London conservative parliamentary candidates were happy to take advertisements in “The Frontiersman” magazine and ask for support.

The majority of Frontiersmen were little interested in politics: more so in the quality of the beer at their weekly meeting place, usually a local hostelry, and in finding a secure job at a steady wage – not easy in those difficult times. They supported the rule of law and order and were ardent Royalists. Should the ‘Bolshies’ want to overthrow the Monarchy, the Frontiersmen would fight in defence to the last man. They certainly had no use for fascism, which was beginning to gain popularity.

City of London Mounted Police, 1927.

The London Frontiersmen formed the Mounted Reserve of the City of London Police, a loose relationship with that force which has continued until this day. The General Strike of 1926 would call for assistance and action from the Frontiersmen, certainly in London, although there is only a brief comment about their involvement in other cities around Britain in “The Frontiersman” magazine: “…reports are coming in from all over the country that the Frontiersmen responded to the call from the authorities as one man – Derby, Manchester, Leeds and everywhere…” No proper accounts from the provinces have been found of this, either in the magazine or in provincial newspapers. Studying this strike nearly a hundred years later we can look with discomfort at the plight of the miners and the way they were defeated, but in those days the public was not being fed a diet of constant news by television. The news came from the daily papers and only the few left-wing papers were supporters of the strikers. While the strike was on newspaper industry was much interrupted, but the B.B.C. issued five news bulletins each day and tried hard to be neutral, although the Government was breathing down its neck all the time. The view spread that the strikers were encouraged and supported by the Russian Bolsheviks, but although Russia gave encouragement to the strikers they did not do so financially. They may have provided money for the C.P.G.B. but were disappointed that the British Communists did not have more success. Money was sent to the striking miners, but it did save the miners and their families from starving. The Legion decided where its loyalties lay, as described in the May issue of “The Frontiersman” after the strike…

We are… a self-governing voluntary body organised with a view to being utilised on emergency for the defence of the British Empire. Substitute the word Constitution for Empire…and there you have it in a nutshell. The emergency was evident. The attack on the Constitution was obvious, and that we can be utilised in this emergency to maintain law and order and assist the authorities was perfectly plain.

Traffic jams Embankment, London General Strike

Those London Frontiersmen not part of the City of London Police Reserve were enlisted as special constables. Some served with the Metropolitan Police and their riding skills meant that many could be used as Mounted Reserves, a great assistance.

Those who had no police uniform carried out their duty in Frontiersmen’s kit, the uniform attracting considerable attention…

Lieutenant Message, who is a striking figure in his Frontiersman kit…was on point duty when two ladies passing by noticed him, and one of them commented to her friend on the wonderful preparations the Government had made in even getting Canadian Police over to assist…

Frontiersmen always had an eye for an attractive lady…

Who was the lady who was escorted home one day last week by four Frontiersmen?…

…The Frontiersmen’s Company was thus the first of the City Police Reserve to be called into action. A responsible task was entrusted to us: Finsbury Circus had been turned into a huge car park, and it was the duty fo the Frontiersmen to control the traffic in the Circus, ensure that every inch of parking space was used to the best advantage, and above all, guard the 300 or so cars (worth thousands of pounds) against raids by gangs of hooligans bent on wanton damage and destruction.

Almost no trains ran and only a small percentage of London buses crewed by volunteers, so many London City workers had to journey, where possible, by car.

It has been a great opportunity for us, even if nothing wildly exciting happened in our section (although one or two of members were called in to assist in ‘scraps’ into which they ran on their way home). Many old members who have been out of touch with the Legion for years have been picked up again…

Discipline was excellent, and everybody carried out their allotted tasks cheerfully and thoroughly. Grouches and differences were forgotten – the Frontiersmen were comrades together on service again.

The Colonel Commandant of the City of London Police Reserve, Col. Vickers Dunfee, C.B.E., wrote a personal letter, illustrated here, to Arthur Burchardt-Ashton thanking and praising the Frontiersmen for their services during the General Strike – “…you had won golden opinions from the regular Police….” In April 1930 the highly influential Commissioner of the City of London Police, Sir Hugh Turnbull, agreed to join the Grand Council of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

Sadly, and to the disappointment of what is now known as the “diehards” of politics who hoped that in the Frontiersmen they had a body of men who would join in the fight against Bolshevism, this comradeship was not to last. Within a year the Legion was riven between those satisfied with the leadership and those who considered that they should have leaders with a shining military career behind them. For details see the topic The Frontiersman Who Wrote to the King.

The I.O.L.O.F was born in 1927 and lived until 1934 confusing the world with two organisations claiming to descend from the original Legion.

Sadly, again, this was not to be the last time that the Legion was to suffer from disputes and disagreements. At times the original idea of ‘mutual fellowship’ has flown out of the window and the status of the Legion has suffered because of it.

Two more problems have caused much dispute, discussion and letters to the editor of the Frontiersmen’s journals. Those were the matter of ladies as Frontiersmen and the problem of ethnicity. Both problems for the Legion are now considered as political, but there were times when they were a discussion matter for the Frontiersmen. For many years the Frontiersmen were happy to have ladies join the sister organisation, the Circle Cross League, although there were the odd occasions where ladies were welcomed in the ranks: see the story of Adjutant Mrs. Coventry in A Tribute to the Ladies (Topic Dec 15 / Jan 16).

For years there were ardent demands in the magazine that the Legion should be “white men only”, but the Legion slowly accepted multi-ethnicity especially around the Commonwealth and particularly New Zealand and Australia, where the popular and successful officer commanding Northern Territory later in the twentieth century was of mixed race.

Nowadays the Legion is vigorously open to all colours, religions and creeds, men and women, and thus it should be.

Quotations in italics without reference numbers are from 1926 issues of “The Frontiersman” magazines.


1. Cutting May 18th 1923 “Daily Courier”. This is the only illustration we have showing members of the crew in the black shirt and black trousers uniform. We regret we were unable to produce a clearer photograph.
2. Reproduced by kind permission of City of London Police Archives
3. Traffic jams on the Embankment, London, General Strike 1926. No original source has been located.
4. Letter © Legion of Frontiersmen archives, Bruce Peel Archive and Collection, University of Alberta.

Posted in Frontiersmen, History, Latest Topic, Legion of Frontiersmen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

An Oddity: “The Imperial Legion” and the Kaid

Imperial Legion BadgeTopic Oct/Nov 2021.  Andrew Belton has appeared before on these pages in Tasting Adventure and Revolution regarding his adventures in Morocco in 1908. From what has been written about him in various places (most of it based on his own versions) he appears to have had a very adventurous life. The very reliable pioneer Frontiersman Robert A. Smith in a letter described Belton as “a human kaleidoscope” and “not invariably accurate in his facts”. ¹ He was born in 1882 and at the age of 17 left home to join the Imperial Yeomanry serving in South Africa. In March 1908 he arrived back in London, according to him “full of malaria”. After the South African War he had served in the Natal Police where he claimed to have risen to the rank of captain. He was also a pioneer Frontiersman in South Africa. In his “Chorus to Adventurers”, Roger Pocock records “Sergeant” Belton, the Treasurer of Capetown Command, arriving at 6 Adam Street and producing an efficient copy of the accounts.² A reference in a newspaper to a rebellion in Morocco caused this adventurous young man to travel there without informing his family. In later life he gave a rather colourful and glamorised version of his Moroccan adventures to a South African newspaper “Southern Cross”: ³

…he arrived in Tangier, but found the gates of the city were locked and that he could not get out to join the rebel leader…Eventually he got through the gates disguised as a Moorish woman, his face veiled, and walked the 230 miles to Fez. There he declared himself and was received by the rebel leader Mulay el Hafid, tested in the command of the troops then in Fez (about 8,000 men) and finally appointed Commander-in-Chief of all Mulay’s forces with absoliute power and the military title of Kaid. Kaid Belton re-organised Mulay el Hafid’s army and commanded it to such good effect that, five months later, he defeated the forces of the the reigning Sultan Abdul Aziz (which was commanded by another white soldier of fortune, the Kaid MacLean, a Scotsman). Kaid Belton dethroned Abdul Aziz and put Mulay Hafid on the throne of Morocco.

Kaid Belton in MoroccoWe suggest that the reader compares this rather fanciful account with the story reported in our “Tasting Adventure and Revolution” pages. The British Foreign Office had decided to keep out of this dispute. They had left it to the French who supported Abdul Aziz, rather than risk the Germans muscling in. They could have found this an awkward situation but were keen to point out that Belton and the other British were mercenaries with no British support. Privately, they were not completely unhappy to see the French embarrassed. From then onwards, every official British file which mentioned Belton always referred to him as Kaid Belton, even his War Office officer file.

Belton claimed that in 1911 he travelled to Canada where he qualified as a pilot and took part in an air circus. He said he was a captain in the “Canadian Volunteers”,which we assume was one of the many semi-official Canadian militia groups all across Canada. Searches through Canadian official records of the period have so far not discovered any mention of his name.

For his First War service we have to look at his record at the National Archives WO339/19008. There was very little ability to check claims men made in their officer record and we have come across a number of cases where there has been exaggeration or even falsehoods. Belton’s claimed experience, possibly aided by Driscoll’s recommendation, got him a commission in the 2nd Battalion King Edward’s Horse on 19th August 1914, until he soon transferred to the 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers. In 1915 he was gassed in France and in 1917 transferred to the Air Force with the rank of Major, in spite of the fact that he was found to be blind in one eye (possibly congenital) and had hearing difficulties. In 1919 he was awarded the O.B.E., given to many officers whose service had been exceptional.

Belton was a devout Catholic, but was one of the Catholics who were opposed to an independent Ireland. The involvement of Belton in Irish negotiations of 1921 is something which does not appear to have been properly recorded. He regularly attended conferences and was in communication with Lord Middleton. He appears to have been in constant contact with de Valera and passed on his views and those of Dail Eireann. In August 1921 he appealed for clemency and the release of J.J.McKeown. In October he pushed for the release of detained Sinn Fein prisoners. In the topic page mentioned above we indicated that we are aware of much of Pollard’s activities in Ireland of that period, but it needs a specialist Irish historian to investigate the importance of Belton’s work.4

Belton was still involved in the Legion, but shared the concerns of George Hazzledine and Charles Hollis that neither the (Acting) Commandant-General Arthur Burchardt-Ashton nor his deputy Henry Cecil Edwards-Carter had actually fought in action in the First War, and so he supported those who instigated the breakaway Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen from 1927 until 1934 when it was absorbed back into the official Legion. Driscoll did not consider either Pocock or Belton suitable to lead the I.O.L.O.F but before long Belton found himself elected as Commandant. Being somewhat of a restless man and ardently anti-communist and fearful of communist revolution in Britain – a fear very prevalent at that time – he resigned. By 1933 he had formed the “Imperial Legion” with a plan to recruit men and train them as an unarmed body to combat any communist force which made any move against the legitimate government of the country. This apparent politicising of a Frontiersmen group not only upset the loyal Frontiersmen but also the War Office. He did recruit a number of ‘toughs’ particularly in London, but these were hard-drinking men who preferred, rather than do anything active, to discuss plans while propping up a bar at the Imperial Legion headquarters shown on their headed paper as 132 Victoria Street, London S.W.1, which at that time was a public house. The cap badge, survivors of which are now very rare, was a blatant rip-off of the badge of 2nd King Edward’s Horse, even bearing a Royal Crown at the top. After a very short period Belton resigned in frustration as their Commandant to be succeeded by one of the colourful characters who over the years seem to have called themselves Frontiersmen, but who came embellished with a stream of personal lies about their lives. This man was the Marquis de Mont Falcon, Count d’Avison, or Marquis Goldstone. In 1932 he had been Principal Secretary of the Royal Stuart Society and also Master of Ceremonies at their annual dinner. As can be seen from the photograph he was elegantly dressed and always sported a monocle. In the summer he rented a flat in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was always to be seen in the best society. His arrest for fraud and expulsion from France caused the Governor-General of the Royal Stuart Society to ‘deprive him of office’. Actually his name was in fact Maurice Joseph Goldstone, one time constable in the Cairo City Police. French was as commonly used in Cairo as English and Egyptian law was based on the Code Napoléon, so Goldstone was fluent in French.5

Royal Stuart Society Bystander

He was listed on the headed paper of the Imperial Legion as Colonel, Chief of Staff and Director, Military Operations. Although he gave his commanding officer as ‘Colonel’ J.C. Mantell (more of him later) of Weymouth, it was Goldstone who ran the Imperial Legion. His Frontiersmen uniform must have been interesting because when the French searched his Paris flat they found 8 Orders or Decorations. ‘Colonel de Mont Falcon’ also served three years penal servitude in England for defrauding a widow out of £3,000. That case had caused quite a stir in both national and provincial press. Goldstone (to give him his probably correct name) had been working for Maundy Gregory on the “Westminster Gazette” between 1929 and 1932 and supporting Gregory, who was busily selling titles (unofficially) on behalf of Lloyd George.6 Goldstone photo Daily MirrorThe prosecuting counsel at Goldstone’s trial for obtaining money by false pretences said that: “Even his pyjamas had the most marvellous coat of arms, but the reading on them is rather unfortunate, because the translation is: ‘I only change them when I die’”. Goldstone’s cigarette case was handed to the judge who said that the coronet on it seemed a curious mixture. Inside was the inscription ‘Count of Montenegro, General, D.S.O.’. If the title of Count of Montenegro seems familiar then look at our comments on another Frontiersman fraudster, Count Johnston-Noad! Goldstone denied telling the lady he had deceived that his father was a British general and his mother an Arabian princess. Another interesting fact which came out at one of the hearings was that Goldstone had taken Cyril Wybrow to introduce to the lady in question, Mrs Edmundson.7 This was about the time that Wybrow had been appointed Chief of Staff to the original Legion of Frontiersmen. Both Wybrow and Goldstone had lived in Cairo in the 1920s and both had Jewish parentage. It was alleged that Goldstone’s name was in fact Goldstein. Knowing what has been discovered about Wybrow’s later spying activities (see: The Frontiersman Traitor) we are left to wonder whether there is more to be discovered about the links between the two men.

John Charles Mantell (1877-1963) was a native of Weymouth in Dorset on the south coast of England. He spent his early life as a stoker in the Royal Navy until he was invalided out. He then became a Weymouth postman until WW1 where he served in East Africa with the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) becoming a corporal with a Mentioned in Despatches to his name. After the war he re-trained and became a boot and shoe repairer in Weymouth and a Lieutenant in the Legion of Frontiersmen, commanding the Weymouth Troop. He was expelled from the Legion by the Southern Command c.o. Lt.-Col. Leonard Lewer, D.S.O.. There is no reason given in the records but it seems likely due to Mantell insisting on putting M.M. after his name, although he had never won the Military Medal. Undeterred, Mantell transferred himself and his men to the Imperial Legion, where after a brief period as Captain Mantell we find him as ‘Colonel’ Mantell in 1939, Commandant of the Imperial Legion, and writing letters inviting others to transfer to the Imperial Legion and offering high ranks to all.

By the middle years of WW2 the Imperial Legion seems to have vanished without trace.

Belton moved to Morocco in the late 1930s. According to notes in his War Office file he was rumoured to have been captured by the Italians in 1940 and made a prisoner-of-war. In his interview with “Southern Cross” newspaper Belton told them that at the fall of France he had made his way to Santo Domingo where he endowed a school and was a generous benefactor to the Catholic Church. He spent 1956-58 in Morocco until he retired to South Africa where he died. No confirmation has been traced of his stories of his later life and adventures.

But he was a Frontiersman, so there have to be unconfirmable stories!

Please note: the “Imperial Frontiersmen” had no links or relationship with the “Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen” formed in Eastern Canada 1940 from the Canadian Frontiersmen in the east who wished to remain under the command of I.H.Q. London.

See What Caused the Rift?

By the time the C.I.F. were formed the Imperial Frontiersmen were fading as an organisation.

It has been very difficult to unearth a frontal photograph of Goldstone’s face. The one shown is the best we could find © Daily Mirror 3rd April 1935.

1 Letters from Smith to Cdt-General Burchardt-Ashton July/August 1933 in Legion of Frontiersmen archives (Burchardt-Ashton album).
2 Roger Pocock “Chorus to Adventurers” (The Bodley Head) 1931, p.60
3 “Southern Cross” newspaper cutting October 28th 1959 in Legion of Frontiersmen archives.
4 T.N.A. PRO30/67 (items 41, 46, 46, 48 and 50 are of particular relevance).
5 “John Bull” June 3rd 1939, p.12., also “The People” 13th November 1932.
6 For the fascinating story of the sale of Honours see Tom Cullen “Maundy Gregory, Purveyor of Honours” (Bodley Head) 1974
7 For a brief account of the interesting story of Mrs Edmundson’s life see: (external link)

© 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 Canada, Frontiersmen, History, Latest Topic, Legion of Frontiersmen, Roger Pocock | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Not All Battles – But Definitely Some Conflicts

Canadian Division UK Belgium Sept 1964

Topic August / September 2021.  We show on this website how busy the Frontiersmen have always been both in war and peace. They have carried out many duties and served their communities and their countries. Behind the scenes, not everything went smoothly. This time we will take a look at the disciplinary files. We will not be giving names and the events described all happened fifty and more years ago.

For many years the Frontiersmen visited Belgium where they were welcomed due to the Frontiersmen’s links with the 3rd Belgian Lancers. There are many photographs of the Frontiersmen at official parades. The Frontiersmen always took their ladies or their partners making it also a pleasant social event. But of course there was the occasional problem. The Canadian Division (U.K. Command) also attended. The following is an official complaint to Commonwealth Headquarters by an n.c.o. of Canadian Division:

I wish to bring to your attention that the lady who accompanied me on our trip to Belgium had an embarrassing experience by having her bottom nipped by one of your colleagues, much to her dismay, also the same person – being the corporal – has a cup of mine that has not been returned to me, also a small sum of money that he has not repaid, which I suggested should be put in the fund.

Frontiersmen on guard Belgium 1966

The Frontiersmen always held an enquiry in such cases but, although the constitution lists a number of ‘punishments’, they are dealing with volunteers and such people often will not accept the indignity of such ‘punishment’ and leave before they are pushed. In this case the corporal was found to be guilty of the alleged offence and was dismissed.

Many of the problems occurred in the North of England. For years the Legion in the north had been led by a Legion Colonel who was highly respected by all the Frontiersmen in the north, but at his untimely death the senior men running the north did not always hold the universal respect and regard earned by the old Colonel. At the instigation of the then recently appointed Commandant-General it was decided that the Legion should follow military protocol. This was soon to raise unexpected problems. The senior Legion officer in the north was a Deputy Commandant General, one of several around the world appointed to this honorary position. He was shocked one day to receive a summons to appear in court as a witness in a divorce case by a lady claiming adultery by her husband. The Legion were involved because, firstly, the alleged adultery happened during one of the Legion visits to Belgium and secondly, the lady was a Legion officer’s wife and the man in question was a Legion n.c.o.. Thinking he could sort this all out amicably, the D.C.G. arranged for both couples together to attend a meeting with him. The result of this meeting was that there was a reconciliation between them all. He was well pleased with this result until the following morning when he received a call from the lady’s solicitor who was furious because she had withdrawn her case. There was the additional worry of parades where an officer would parade with an n.c.o. who had seduced the officer’s wife.

What he did not know was that the officer’s wife had a reputation around the Legion in the north of being something of a ‘femme fatale’ and this was not the first – or the last – time she had gone off with another Frontiersman.

In those days it was difficult to check on the claims a Frontiersman wrote on his enrolment form. It could take a long time before the truth came out because a Frontiersman might be efficient and popular, rising through the ranks.

Lieut. ‘J.M.’

This is just preliminary advice that the above-named officer who stated on enrolment that he was a Doctor of Medicine is not in fact an American, nor is he a Doctor. His name is not ‘J.M.’. He is in fact a confidence trickster and one way in which he obtains money is to purchase cars and having paid the first instalment he then sells the car. Certain aspects of ‘J.M.’’s career are in Police hands.’

Roeselare Frontiersmen on parade 1971

The suspicions about this man only arose when he was caught forging a guarantee form for the purchase of a car in the name of another Frontiersman and he was taken away by the Police. It is also a puzzle how he came to be accepted originally if he claimed to be American and not a British or Commonwealth citizen.

The case of the Legion Captain whose wife was allegedly ‘no better than she ought to be’ was taken on by the o.c. Northern Command who had recently been given by the Commandant-General the splendid title of ‘G.S.O. 1 (N)’ and not by his immediate superior, the Northern area D.C.G.. This man comes across as a good officer who did his best to promote the Legion in the north and to smooth over the problems. He also found the problems very frustrating, especially those involving the Captain in the adultery case, who for this topic we will refer to as Captain X. The o.c. Northern Command wrote a report to the H.Q. Executive:

I am informed that the reason we cannot get accommodation in barracks in *****shire is due to the frequent drunken episodes whilst in barracks in which Captain X has been involved. Even on his last visit to the B_______ Troop his remarks were, “We had a marvellous time, we didn’t leave until 5 a.m.”

His wife is also frequently to be found incapable through alcohol, who in the Legion does not know of her escapade with Y? Who does not look upon her as being ‘easy going’ should the inclination occur?

This o.c. was a man with a high moral ethic and who saw problems in his Command. In another report he wrote:

…drunkenness in uniform was a common occurrence in public. Uniforms were so different that they resembled a pantomime when 10 men were together…

A Regimental Association in uniform which has a reputation for heavy drinking and drunkenness, for immorality, for brawling…

He was keen to sort out his Command and was intent on having Captain X dismissed or leave the Legion voluntarily. There was a problem for him, in that Captain X was a personal friend of the most senior officers of the Legion and was a regular personal guest down south – together with his wife. The only solution which might satisfy most of those involved was to shunt Captain X sideways and invent for him the position of A.D.C. to the Northern area D.C.G..

Northern Cd Yorkshire 1951 St George’s Day

Since its formation the Legion had always constitutionally elected its own officers and members had the right to un-elect them as well. This had worked very well for many years. What concerned the then current Cdt-General was that an occasional Troop or Squadron would elect a man who was very popular and had total support, but whose ideas and views differed from those of Headquarters – and such an elected leader was not afraid to say so. In addition some of those recruited by a few elected leaders, as we saw above with Lieut. J.M., were of no benefit to the Legion to say the least. The Cdt.-General decided that the way forward was to change the constitution and tradition that had held from the beginning and introduce military protocol. That meant that Headquarters, usually based in the London area, appointed all the officers. Of course, that could not apply to Commands outside Britain, as H.Q. had no suitable local knowledge. But now the ‘law of unintended consequences’ had an effect. Headquarters could then appoint a really efficient and experienced man as the officer in command of a Troop or Squadron, but if the rank and file did not like him they voted with their feet and resigned and so the unit was left with an officer but no men.

This is one problem that no Executive in the past fifty years has been able to solve. A position of leadership in the Legion of Frontiersmen needs, to quote from author Anthony Powell on military command, “…the qualifications of a ringmaster in a first-class circus, and a nanny in a large family”.

Please don’t take the view from the above reports that the Legion of Frontiersmen is a body of immoral drunks. This was one problem in one area. We are just demonstrating the human side. The vast majority of Frontiersmen around the world have always been and always will be good men and women who wish to support their community and country. Reporting history must be carried out ‘warts and all’.

So what happened to our Northern o.c. who did his best to put things right? Sadly, within a couple of years he had decided that he was not getting the support he needed and resigned from the Legion. At this current time we can tell you no more about him. Perhaps one day we will be able to.

Please note: the photographs here are just to illustrate the period and events. None of the Frontiersmen in this topic are shown in any photograph on this website.

Index to photographs:

1. Canadian Division U.K. in Belgium 1964. Instead of fawn breeches Canadian Division members wear navy breeches with primrose stripes. All ranks, not just officers, wear Sam Browne belts. This goes back to the time when Canadian Frontiersmen acted as official Auxiliaries to the R.C.M.P. and the Mounted Police all wore Sam Browne belts, but of course with scarlet tunics.
2. U.K. Frontiersmen serving as guards to the Queen of the Belgians’ wreath at the tomb of the Belgian Unknown Warrior 1966.
3. Frontiersmen among the Standard Bearers at Roeselare Belgium 1971
4. Yorkshire Squadrons of Northern Command on parade on St. George’s Day 1951. Photograph by courtesy of the archives of New Zealand Command.

Photographs 1-3 are by kind permission of The Legion of Frontiersmen collection, Bruce Peel Special Collections at the University of Alberta.

© 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 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Legion of Frontiersmen Medals


Topic June / July 2021. The Legion historians and archivists regularly receive enquiries about Legion medals. So far we have hesitated, the reason being that, whilst the story is reasonably straightforward until about 1975, the picture afterwards becomes extremely cloudy. Commands, independent units and breakaway groups all proceeded to introduce medals for all sorts of reasons – and of variable quality. It is not our duty to judge these medals or the proliferation, so we will concentrate here on the three Legion medals which were, and still are, issued by Headquarters with universal agreement and issued throughout all official Commands. At an Executive Council meeting in 2012 the Commandant-General of what has become Countess Mountbatten’s Own Legion of Frontiersmen reiterated that only the three medals should be awarded. This was confirmed by the Executive.

Of the later issues we will only add one: the Centenary Medal produced and issued to the then current members to commemorate one hundred years of the Legion. Obviously the passage of time will reduce the surviving numbers of Frontiersmen entitled to wear this medal.

It was not until the Legion had been in existence in excess of twenty years that any discussion occurred about the issue of a Legion medal for especially outstanding service to the Legion. Before the First War many Frontiersmen wore medals issued for one of the South African conflicts. After that war, in excess of 95% of Frontiersmen wore First War campaign medals and many had won gallantry medals. In fact, some squadrons could parade a whole troop of Frontiersmen with the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Just an Inch of Ribbon tells the story of the DCM League and the Frontiersmen.

Discussions on a Legion “meritorious service” medal for long and exceptional service foundered on the cost of striking a medal. The Legion magazine ran at a loss and the Legion was existing hand to mouth. It only survived because the treasurer and Acting Commandant-General (he was never other than “Acting” as he did not want the position) Arthur Burchardt-Ashton constantly subsidised the Legion. Fortunately he was a wealthy man, but he was not willing to subsidise a Legion medal. A solution arose from an unexpected source:

As I heard the story, the L.M.S.M. was originally conceived by a member of the H.Q. Staff who himself had no medal at all. He had been a dairyman somewhere in South London when an uncle died and left him a lot of money. To get the idea of a Legion medal off the ground, as it were, he undertook to defray the cost himself, and did pay for the initial issues in my time.

Baird Mounted Dril Cup 1935

This is from a letter 28th February 1975 from Squadron Leader J. H. Baird to Gordon Woods. Apparently, Baird had been unaware that the Legion still existed. In the 1930s he was the officer commanding Middlesex area and had presented the Legion with a fine cup to be competed for annually for mounted drill. The mounted Frontiersmen are too thinly spread around the world for the trophy to be competed for nowadays. Baird kindly donated to Legion Headquarters his album of photographs and documents from his time in the Legion plus his Legion badges. Needless to say, apart from a small newspaper cutting about a Frontiersmen trip to Belgium he had led, his donation, like many others over the years, has vanished.

Baird was probably correct about the way the cost of striking the medal was covered, but it is unlikely that an un-decorated dairyman would have had the experience to cause him to be elected to Legion Staff, unless like a number of old Frontiersmen he had previously been involved in revolutions in some South American country and was considered too old for service abroad in the war. Burchardt-Ashton was not accepted for war service abroad, but was used in remounts and then volunteered for the Y.M.C.A. in France. As a younger man he had experienced tough frontier work in Hawaii, when it was a far wilder place than now. Therefore he had no First War medals. The medal was struck in hall-marked silver. The ribbon is a 32mm wide green ribbon with 2mm wide brick red edges and a 6mm brick red stripe down the middle. A second silver striking was made in 1955 and a third striking in later years, but that one was in white metal because the cost of a silver medal had become too expensive. The medal was originally intended to be the sole Legion award and only presented for really exceptional service but, as with later medals, it was decided that many Frontiersmen were entitled to it. With the earlier issues the recipient’s name and Legion rank were engraved on the side. It required a minimum period of unbroken service of seven years. It was introduced in Legion Orders in January 1931 (Order number 2/1931). Paragraph 8 stipulated it must be worn on the RIGHT breast. This is in compliance with standard practice as Legion medals are counted as Association Medals, not official ones. This was subsequently altered to permit it to be worn on the left breast after all other medals. One can only assume that the Legion was held in such high regard in the 1930s, holding its annual parade on Horse Guards and inspected by a General, that unofficial acceptance of this change was made on the assumption that only a few Frontiersmen would have it awarded. It is the only Legion medal where permission was granted to wear it with and after campaign medals. Even that permission cannot be verified in an official letter.

Sleeve LS chevrons with presentation LSEM

As early as 1938, at the Annual General Meeting, a proposal was made for a Legion Long Service and Efficiency medal to be struck and issued. As in the British army, long service chevrons were worn at the bottom of the left sleeve of the uniform, but it was felt by some that, as this applied only to troopers, NCOs and officers had nothing to show their long service and dedication to the Legion. It was the subject of debate at that A.G.M. The original proposal was for seven years service and that the medal on the obverse should carry the head of the Founder, Roger Pocock. Pocock was at the A.G.M. and strongly opposed the idea of his head being on a medal.

Captain Pocock said that he wished the reference to the Founder’s head be deleted!

The Commandant-General said that he had attended a very large meeting in the Northern Command when this same matter was brought up for discussion. Many were in favour and they asked for his opinion. They had the L.M.S.M. and did not want to go on piling it up. It was only a privilege that they were allowed to wear that. For other ranks it had been decided that chevrons should be worn as in the army. He felt that would be the best thing, otherwise where would they stop. To give a medal for seven year’s service was somewhat ridiculous.

The President, Lord Loch, said that the view seemed to be that there should be some form of recognition for long and faithful subject. It would be discussed by the senior officers and the advisory committee and would be brought up again at the 1939 A.G.M.. Due to the war, the matter remained in abeyance until after the end of the war. The Long Service and Efficiency medal was finally struck and issued in 1951. It was awarded for ten years of service. A considerable number were awarded at parades during 1951. The original ribbon was red, 35mm wide with two 7mm black stripes centrally placed 7mm apart. This was later changed to a 32mm red ribbon with 6mm black stripes 6mm from each edge. Originally, also, the name of the recipient was impressed on the side.

In February 1975 it was decided to introduce another medal for exceptional service and loyalty, but not as high an award as the L.M.S.M.. This was to be the Legion Cross of Merit, a gilt cross with a polished edge. The ribbon is a 29mm rust ribbon with a green stripe at the edge 4mm wide with a yellow stripe 1mm on each side of the green stripe. Again, the name, Legion rank and number of the recipient used to be impressed on the back of the medal.

Centenary Medal

In celebration of the Legion of Frontiersmen’s hundredth year of founding, a white metal Legion Centenary Medal was awarded to members in good standing. It featured a plain brown ribbon reflecting the plain brown field of the Legion pennant designed by the Founder, Captain Roger Pocock. (That pennant featured in its centre the mural crown badge first adopted by the Legion in 1926. It is currently being preserved in the Roger Pocock Collection at the Bruce Peel Collection at the University of Alberta). This is the only Headquarters issue of a commemorative medal in the Legion’s history. Obviously, as it was only issued to members once, the medal will become rarer over the coming years as those members cross the final frontier.

Legion of Frontiersmen medals are reserved for wear at Legion of Frontiersmen events and Legion HQ Orders have been issued over the years that they are not to be intermingled with the Sovereign’s officially issued medals. As to other medals which appear on the collectors’ market, some of which had considerable meaning in the country of issue, we will leave others to comment, describe and, if necessary, pass judgement. Considerable details of such medals can be found in:

Henley and Fleming, Medals and Awards of the LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN (all Commands),1994, Zillmere, Australia, I.S.B.N. 0 646 20979 5

although this book has become rather rare.

Additional information from document Legion medals, authentic, by B.W. (Will) Shandro, M.Ed., History and Archives.

© 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 | Tagged | 3 Comments

Not All Battles and Conflicts

Roger Pocock sketch of Trooper 1902

Topic Apr / May 2021Frontiersmen Artists.  It is well known that Frontiersmen have always brought special skills of many kinds to the Legion. These were men of action, but it has not often been realised that there were also men of artistic skills. Quite a number believed they could write poetry and yearned to follow in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling. Unfortunately what they wrote was verse, and sometimes bad verse. One or two even got into print, although they were often more followers of William McGonagle than of Rudyard Kipling. What the Legion did have over the years was a number of skilled artists, including at least two who exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Even the Founder, Roger Pocock, had some skills as an artist. He produced a number of drawings when he was in the N.W.M.P.. The early drawings were somewhat naive, but by the time he had travelled to South Africa to fight in the Boer War his sketches of other soldiers had much improved.

Camp Fire by Koekkoek

Camp Fire by Koekkoek

F.W. Koekkoek, who had been a war artist in South Africa, produced a number of Frontiersmen drawings, including the illustration used as frontispiece in “The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book” and the drawings of the Regent’s Park bivouac and show in 1906 and 1907. His detailed “Camp Fire” drawing indicates what a superb artist he was with the ability to show details and also atmosphere.

Cattermole painting 1975

Lance Cattermole (1898-1992) only joined the Legion in his later years, but presented the Legion with an excellent drawing of a Frontiersman. He was an Irish born painter whose mediums of choice were oils and watercolours. Art ran in Cattermole’s family as his father, Sydney Cattermole, was also an artist and his grandfather, George Cattermole, was an illustrator for many works including Charles Dickens’ ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Lance produced posters for British Railways, for London County Council Tramways from 1924, and artwork for the Scottish Region series. His artwork is widely represented in museums and collections.

One of the most extraordinary artists in the Legion was James Henry (Jimmy) Dowd. By the time he joined the Legion in the 1930s he was a well-known and highly-regarded artist who had exhibited at the Royal Academy, as indeed had Lance Cattermole. Strangely, there is no record of him using his artistic skills in the Legion, and nobody who recorded his artistic life seems to have known that he was a Frontiersman. It was only when we traced his London address that we were able to realise that what might have been two J.H. Dowds were actually the same person. Like Lance Cattermole he came from a family of artists and, also like Cattermole, he was a well-known poster artist. Born in 1883 in Sheffield, he studied at the local College of Art. He soon made a name for himself with his cartoons in the “Sheffield Daily Telegraph” and the “Yorkshire Telegraph and Star” depicting”Vulcan”, the spirit of Sheffield and its steel-making industry. His drawings began to be accepted by the national press. His illustrations for Punch first appeared in 1906 – an association that would last for the next 42 years, and in 1913 he decided to move to London. We know that another Frontiersman artist drew for “Punch”. That was Capt. Arthur W. Lloyd, M.C., who was a “Punch” political cartoonist for many years. We wrote about Lloyd at:

A Moment in History

Donovan by J H Dowd 1918

So far we have discovered little of Dowd’s war service. There are medal cards of a number of James Dowds, but nothing for a James H. Dowd. In 1918 Lance-Corporal Dowd had become one of the staff at the 3rd London General Hospital. He became a regular contributor of drawings to the hospital gazette. This little journal was full of optimism with articles chronicling not only the events in the hospital and the idiosyncrasies of the staff, but also reminiscences of soldiers who had served as far afield as Mesopotamia and East Africa. His “Doings of Donovan” was later published as a book by Country Life ¹. It was the story in drawings of a soldier from his being carried in on a stretcher to being discharged. Several of the other characters were taken from real life, but it seems highly likely that Donovan was based on several characters there and that the sketches of him were a self-portrait. London in 1918 was full of soldiers in khaki, but “Donovan” soon realised when he was well enough to have trips from the hospital that the British public – and particularly the young ladies of London – had far more time for the men in hospital blue uniform as they had obviously been wounded in action. One of the illustrations shows “Donovan” being offered a seat on an omnibus and being handed cigarettes by grateful citizens.

Punch cartoon 1918

After the War James Dowd was in constant demand, drawing for a number of newspapers and magazines and also posters for the London General Omnibus Company and London Underground Electric Railways. He was very skilled in drawing portraits of children. He illustrated several books. There is a brief 1929 British Pathe film of him drawing children at

We have no exact date as to when he joined the Legion of Frontiersmen but it would have been during the 1930s. He had a great interest in deadly gases, possibly due to his own WW1 experiences and to the men who had been gassed that he helped care for in 3rd London General Hospital. In January 1937 he was appointed as Staff Instructor for the Air Defence and Chemical Warfare Department of the Legion. He was also Assistant Editor of the “Frontiersman” magazine. In May of 1937 he became the o.c. of the Central Gas School. See also:


J H Dowd portrait by David Jagger

He was promoted to Legion Captain in March of 1938 and became o.c. of the Air Raid Precautions Department. He made many contributions to the “Frontiersman” magazine on the subject of anti-gas warfare and also some detailed and quite technical articles on the various types of war gases. Hopefully one day we will understand more about his interest in this subject.

On May 16th 1945, speaking at the Squadron Dance of the Crystal Palace Squadron he put out an appeal for new members, published in the “Norwood News”, saying that the Squadron had six vacancies. “Capt. Dowd said that in the Legion one would find men with courage and always willing to serve.” In 1951 he wrote one of the most accurate (for that time) brief histories of the Legion of Frontiersmen but sadly never included any of his drawings either in that or any issue of the “Frontiersman” which he helped to edit.

The variety of skills which Frontiersmen have exhibited over the years never cease to amaze. There are probably more skilled artists who served in the Legion still to be discovered and there is certainly more to be uncovered about the extraordinary Jimmy Dowd who gave many years of loyal service to the Legion of Frontiersmen.

¹ “The Doings of Donovan” by James H Dowd (Country Life 1918)

Index to illustrations:

1. Sketch of Trooper by Roger Pocock, South African War. © Bruce Peel Collections, University of Alberta
2. Section of “Camp Fire” by F.W. Koekkoek, “Illustrated London News” 1907
3. Lance Cattermole painting of A Frontiersman © Countess Mountbatten’s Legion of Frontiersmen
4. Page from “Doings of Donovan” by James H. Dowd (Country Life 1918)
5. Cartoon by James H. Dowd “Punch” 1918
6. Portrait of J.H. Dowd by David Jagger (1929)

© 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, Roger Pocock | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Major George Harris Heaney, VD

George Heaney

5th South Australian Imperial Bushmen

Commandant, Cape Town, Legion of Frontiersmen

Chief Organising Officer, Queensland Command, Legion of Frontiersmen

Article by Major Christopher Moon (late Royal Australian Engineers), Special Consultant to H&A.

Major G. H. Heaney was educated at Woolwich, Kent, England, and was for seven years in the Royal Arsenal under Colonels Tulloch and Clarke and was in the Construction School. At the early age of sixteen he was enrolled in the 10th, now the 3rd Kent Royal Arsenal Artillery and served for 5 years under Colonel Ellis, with Major Cheetham as Adjutant. Whilst with this Corps he had the honour of being one of the guards of honour to receive the Princess Alexandra at Gravesend prior to her marriage to the Prince of Wales.

Arriving in South Australia when the military spirit seemed to a great extent to have died out, he had no opportunity of being identified with the military movement until the formation of the National Rifle Association. Then in 1881 he formed the Yorke’s Peninsula No 2 Company and also the Minlaton and Curramulka Companies and was appointed Senior Lieutenant, Captain J Waddell being in command. Subsequently he was attached to the Quorn Company as the Adjutant of the North Battalion R V F. In 1887 by order of Colonel Owen, then Commandant in South Australia, he enrolled the Mounted Rifles in the North, forming the Hammond, Quorn, Booleunda, Port Augusta, Gordon, Wilmington, Carrieton, Eurelia, Johnsburg and Pamatta Divisions and was appointed Captain and Adjutant to the new force. He retained this Position until, after examination in Adelaide, he was promoted to the rank of Major. Continue reading

Posted in Frontiersmen, History, Legion of Frontiersmen | Tagged , | Leave a comment


Topic Feb / Mar 2021. In our last topic page we looked at the Frontiersmen in 1938, the year before the Second World War was declared. This time we look back at 1913, the year before the First World War. Reading both these topics the thought cannot be erased that perhaps in both cases the Frontiersmen spent a lot of time training for the previous wars and not the one to come. In 1938 much effort was expended on anti-gas warfare which – fortunately – was not to be needed. The Legion also still insisted that every recruit should be able to ride a horse. Excellent for ceremonial purposes, but the horse was only to have a limited use in the coming Second World War. As has been written in an earlier 2020 topic, the Frontiersmen did have the opportunity to involve themselves in preparations for more modern warfare, but declined: The Lost Squadron

Gamages were a well-known London store and they undertook to be stockists of Frontiersmen uniform.

In 1913, although many Squadrons had a cyclists unit and some a motor section involving cars and motor-cycles, the main centre of attention was the horse. Admittedly, motorised transport was confined to the financially well-off. The main feature of Frontiersmen training was in scouting and to some extent guerilla warfare. They were trying to improve on the skills learned with difficulty on the veldts of Southern Africa. When war was declared Driscoll pestered the War Office to be allowed to take his Frontiersmen across the Channel and harass and destroy the German lines of communication. Had it been allowed early enough it just might have worked to some extent, although that has to be unlikely. Driscoll’s fighting had been carried out in Burma and South Africa. Neither he nor, according to available Legion records, any of his trusted senior men had any knowledge of the terrain in Belgium, which was totally different and quite extensively farmed.. The men of his Maritime Command had considerable knowledge of the coast the other side of the English Channel, but the Frontiersmen would have been fighting inland and with very few places to hide after any episode of guerilla warfare. The War Office view of warfare did not include what would virtually have been suicide squads of guerillas. By early 1915 when the War Office were prepared to look at whether they could use the Frontiersmen, war in Europe had become a far more static affair. The Frontiersmen had proved of great value in the last months of 1914 using their specialist skills of handling and breaking in horses in the Remount Depots. Kitchener was right in using those exceptional skills of the Frontiersmen learned in Canada, U.S.A., Brazil, and Argentine the way that he did:

Those well-to-do Frontiersmen whom owned motor-cycles took their own machines across the Channel and served as despatch riders. A most interesting book on that subject is “A Motorcycle Courier in the Great War” by Captain W.H.L. Watson. (Pen & Sword, 2013). Many of these upper-class young motorcyclists were commissioned after a period of time when the army had become organised and it no longer needed these volunteers with their own machines.

Seaside Park Hotel City of Vancouver

In 1913 training was being carried out every week and as often as possible. Every Frontiersman was expected to have his own copy of The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book ¹ and that was their training handbook. The training was very similar in all countries, although climates were notably different. The Vancouver Command reported on a night exercise carried out the previous November when they visited the Sea Side Park Hotel. After a comforting supper the hotel was placed out of bounds and the men had to find a sleeping place outside. Guards were mounted. All went well except for one man “who took an involuntary bath in the chilly waters of Howe Sound and had to be taken off duty and dried out by his sympathetic comrades”. Unfortunately the next day (Sunday) dawned very wet, so much so that the men could not go out on pathfinding duty.

Maritime Sections were not only successful on the east coast of England. They were set up with great enthusiasm in Australia and New Zealand. Travel around the world was by sea and many a Frontiersman who could not afford a fare had worked their passage across the world. There were a number who were ships’ officers, such as Ernest Hyatt.


Captain Archer, the organising officer of the Maritime Section of Vancouver Command called on and addressed a Frontiersmen meeting when in Auckland.

He told of how the idea had caught on in Canada, and spoke of the magnificent opportunity for a maritime branch in Auckland, where ships from all parts of the world continually come and go…Captain Archer pointed out that the average Canadian, like the average New Zealander, was a born frontiersman. In both countries the men, from boyhood, learned to shift for themselves, learned to hunt for food, to find their way across trackless country, to blaze a trail in the forest, to bridge streams, and to make a camp. They were scouts, trackers, hunters, and explorers by instinct, and amongst farmers, bushmen, packers, rafters, musterers, and stock-riders in New Zealand there was some of the finest material in the world for a guerilla force. He offered to instruct and train a Maxim gun squad. It is hardly necessary to add that the boys gave Captain Archer a cordial vote of thanks.

Yes, indeed, they were the ‘finest material for a guerilla force’, but that was not what they were going to be asked to do in France, Belgium and to a greater extent for the Australians and New Zealanders, at Gallipoli. That they performed so bravely did show that they were indeed all of the ‘finest material”.

September 1914, Nottingham Evening Post

A good example of how the Legion trained and performed in Britain can be seen from the Nottinghamshire Squadrons of the North Midland Command who put on public displays throughout the summer of 1913 at events such as the Sheffield Agricultural Show and the Beeston Gymkhana. As an aside, it is interesting that the Notts. Squadrons followed Legion principles and saw no need for a Legion officer. Every Troop was commanded by a Sergeant and the two Squadrons were under the command of an R.S.M.. On 24th July they joined in an exercise with H Company of the 6th Bn. North Staffordshire Regt. who:

…threw out a line of outposts to cover a main body in Burton-on-Trent, and “A” Troop of the Burton Squadron L.F. represented the enemies’ scouts, whose mission was to get through and obtain information on the main body.

The Frontiersmen found the roads well watched. Two members got through in the bottom of a milk cart without being challenged, and four more got through on foot across country. The remaining three made a special effort to get through across country leading their horses.

They had no difficulty in locating the sentries without being seen,but, owing to the necessity of frequently retracing their steps to avoid damaging crops, they had not sufficient time to get through.

The experience gained is that the roads are well watched. Therefore, to get through along the roads means stratagem or disguise. To get through across country the cover is excellent, but unless the men and horses can jump, so as to get from one farm to another, the only way, after locating the sentries, is to leave one or two men in charge of the horses and the rest go through on foot.

It is unusual to find Frontiersmen saying that their horses were a hindrance to them. When the German forces stormed through Belgium in August 1914 they took no consideration of growing crops on farms. “During the day [August 4th] as the boots and wheels and hooves of the German ranks overran villages and trampled fields of rip grain, the shooting augmented…” (“August 1914” by Barbara Tuchman, 1962, p.172) That was one difference between war and an exercise on cultivated land.

General Bethune

From the very start of the war the Frontiersmen were keen to be enrolled as a unit. The Frontiersmen paraded in London to be inspected by General Bethune. Many newspapers were impressed, not least “The Sportsman” of 14th September, 1914:

The Legion of Frontiersmen, who muster over a thousand in London, lined up a fortnight ago in Vincent Square. The Imperial Light Horse formed and drilled an irregular force of about 500 strong, but after the War Office had inspected them they were soon after disbanded.

The War Office has not yet given the Legion permission to go to the Front, but after interviewing Colonel Driscoll and the subsequent review in Vincent Square and nothing having happened since, they have great hopes. Of course they would be accepted as units anywhere, but they naturally wish to be together. They come from all parts of the Empire – from Siam, Newfoundland, Assam, Argentine, and everywhere. There are several late officers of the British Army serving in the ranks, and they were described as one of the finest bodies of men ever seen in London. There are many instances of men in the Legion who had previously served with other regiments, and so large a majority are old Public School boys that no apology is necessary for referring to them. They have served in many parts of the Empire. Wherever Britain has possessions there may be found a contingent of the Legion of Frontiersmen, even in the Fiji Islands.

Last year in the “B” Squadron – Battersea – of only 80 men, there were 90 medals and over 250 “bars”, and at Vincent Square it would have taken a chartered accountant all his time to count the medals and clasps. Two hundred men from Moose Jaw, I gather from the same source, have signed on with Princess Patricia’s Horse [sic] and are on their way to England.

Photograph of an earlier inspection, May 1914, on the London Embankment by Major-General Sir Alfred Turner K.C.B., accompanied by Lt.-Col. Driscoll. The photos we have of the inspection by General Bethune are not of sufficient quality to reproduce.

Bethune’s report was quite favourable and he said that Driscoll had a good hold on his men who Bethune considered were typical “toughs” who could do excellent work as irregulars. Irregulars were not what Kitchener sought. So the Frontiersmen, other than those who chose to serve with other regiments, had to be satisfied with working in Remounts until the call came in early 1915 for them to serve in East Africa.

(Other than noted, quotations are from 1913 Frontiersmen magazines)

¹ The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book has been re-printed by the University of Alberta. It is available from bookshops or online direct from the University. It is highly recommended. Many sections of it still work today as a survival manual.

© 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, World War I | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


Sir T Astley Cubitt taking salute

Topic Dec 2020 / Jan 2021.  This topic is something we have not featured before. We are looking at one year of the Frontiersmen’s activities; an important year with WW2 just a year ahead. The First War had only ended twenty years before, well within the memory of many people. Quite a percentage of the population of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand plus many a small British colony wanted to avoid war at almost any price. While not wanting another war, Frontiersmen were making preparations and contributors to the “Frontiersman” magazine were writing in complaining of the lack of preparation by the British Government. Countries such as Canada had an additional problem in that they had a large number of German born or German descent settlers whose sympathies could well be with Adolf Hitler. Rearmament in Britain did not really begin until 1935 as before then the emphasis was on reducing the armed forces and trying to negotiate peace. “Frontiersman” magazines gave a remarkable picture of their activities and their opinions from that difficult time. Any quotations here not otherwise noted come from “Frontiersman” magazines of that year.

Winston Churchill, leader of those M.P.s who were campaigning against the appeasement of Hitler said in May 1938: “We are now in the third year of openly avowed rearmament. Why is it, if all is going well, there are so many deficiencies? Why, for example are the Guards drilling with flag instead of machine guns and anti-tank rifles?” (Hansard).

Leo Amery, M.P., the Honorary Commandant of Birmingham Frontiersmen Squadron and keen supporter of the Legion in general, who had been Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, was rightly acknowledged as being a leading critic of Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement towards Germany during the summer and early autumn of 1938.

The President of the Legion, Major-General Lord Loch, gave the opening speech at the Annual General Meeting in May:

At the present moment this country and this Empire of ours were at a time of crisis which it is not possible to exaggerate. It could only be saved if all members of the Commonwealth stuck and worked together. We, of the Legion of Frontiersmen, had, in his opinion, a very important role to play. We were, all of us, men who had seen danger and hardship. We knew what it meant, and, knowing what it meant, knew how foul and filthy war was. We, all of us, wanted to avoid it with honour and without disgrace. Another reason why he thought the Legion was so important was that, being composed of men who knew what danger and hardship were, we should judge what was real danger and what was press scaremongering…We must enlist every man worthy of being a Frontiersman and not forget the rule that no man should be enlisted who was eligible for any branch of the Forces… One of the great forces of this organization was that we had tentacles practically in every part of the Empire.


What was originally Air Command of the Legion had grown rapidly in five years – and enjoyed two name changes. Air Command was absorbed into Northern Command becoming known as Air Defence Branch and from March 1938 as the Air Communication Group. Considering that Frontiersmen had to finance themselves and flying was an expensive hobby, the Air Frontiersmen had become very successful in only a few years. In their annual report published in 1938 they reported that during 1937 their pilots had flown over 609 hours. They had flown in exercises to assist the Territorial Army had had also flown in conjunction with the training of Anti-Aircraft Brigades. Training of the men, other than pilots, was comprehensive, consisting of “Observation, Map-reading, Engines, Rigging, Wireless Telegraphy,Machine Guns, Rifle Shooting, Gas, First Aid, Despatch Riding, Drill”. It looks strongly as if their work, especially in Yorkshire, had not gone un-noticed by the Government because later in 1938 the short-lived but official “Civil Air Guard” was formed after consultation with the Flying Schools around the country. Although the Frontiersmen received no credit, the activities and training appear to have been identical to that of the Air Frontiersmen. The one difference was that those serving in the Civil Air Guard received a small financial subsidy towards their costs plus a free uniform. This was attractive enough to persuade a few Frontiersmen pilots to move their allegiance. Another example of a Frontiersmen idea being adopted (without credit).

Air Frontiersmen with planes

Although they were doing useful work with the Anti-Aircraft Brigades, there was the problem that the Air Frontiersmen were working and training with De Haviland bi-planes of First War design and with obsolete weapons. Modern design aeroplanes were not appearing in the number they should have been.

According to a well-informed MP (Sir Hugh Seely, speaking in May 1938), of the 340 Hawker Hurricane single-seat monoplane fighters ordered in June 1936, only 28 were actually in service and only a single example of a more advanced single-seat monoplane fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire, was on hand. The RAF was still using the 20-year-old Vickers machine gun…¹

The Air Frontiersmen certainly could not be criticised for lack of enthusiasm.

Air Frontiersmen march past Yorkshire – note the uniform


We know that the Frontiersmen were much involved in anti-gas warfare and were to take on duties of Air Raid Wardens and a number of Frontiersmen studied for and were presented with Air Raid Precautions Certificates awarded by St. John Ambulance Brigade. When the war began other Frontiersmen served in what began as the Local Defence Volunteers, later the Home Guard. Another duty taken around the country by Frontiersmen who were still physically fit but not of an age to join the Territorial Army was to join the Auxiliary Fire Service. The Newcastle Troop:

…volunteered as a Unit and were accepted as the nucleus for the City Auxiliary Fire Brigade. To qualify for same we have to undergo one hour’s Gas Training per week, and also one hour in Fire Fighting, which of course takes up the time we had for our weekly parade. We hope in the near future to be able to report that the whole Troop are fully qualified Firemen!



Frontiersmen today still serve the local community in any way they can. In 1938 poverty was rife in parts of London and children had few treats. Islington was one of the poorer areas of London and the Islington Troop organised and ran a children’s party in early January.

Five hundred and sixty children were entertained to tea, and after five hours entertainment left with bags of sweets, fruit and toys -our thanks are extended to those who gave us their help. The cost of the party was heavy and, as we are starting right away to collect for next year, if anyone has any spare cash it will be gratefully received.


We have not discussed Legion medals before because during the last quarter of the 20th century they tended to proliferate, but the subject did arise at the 1938 AGM. The L.M.S.M. was intended to be the sole Legion medal but a motion was put forward to introduce a Long Service Medal.

…That a Legion Long Service Medal be instituted and awarded for 7 years’ continuous service and that, if the medal be authorised, the head of the Founder be embossed on the obverse, in appreciation of his great services to the Legion.

This proposition led to considerable discussion. It was pointed out that it had been turned down last year.

Capt. Pocock said he wished the reference to the Founder’s head be deleted!

The Commandant-General said that he had attended a very large meeting in the Northern Command when this same matter was brought up for discussion. Many were in favour and they asked his opinion. They had the L.M.S.M. and did not want to go on piling it up. It was only a privilege that they were allowed to wear that. For other ranks it had been decided that chevrons be worn as in the army. He felt that was the best thing, otherwise, where would they stop? To give a medal for 7 years service was somewhat ridiculous.

We know that a Long Service Medal was eventually introduced in 1951. For many years most Frontiersmen had campaign medals to wear and a considerable number had gallantry medals.


Nineteen thirty-eight was one of the best years for the Legion worldwide. For the whole year the Legion could bask in the satisfaction that they could add “Affiliated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police” on their letter-headings. For thirty-three years the Legion had been desperate to have some form of official recognition and the affiliation to the R.C.M.P. gave them that acclaim. Since 1926 they had been affiliated to the City of London Police but an official link to a country’s national force which had a Royal honour was an outstanding achievement. It went some way to silencing the Legion’s critics in official circles.

Mounted Frontiersmen at Horse Guards

The honour was not to last. Eight hundred officers and men paraded at Somerset House and marched off via the Strand and Admiralty Arch to Horse Guards Parade. Long before the days when one could hop on a plane and visit another country, there was a surprising number of attendees from other Commands around the world such as India and South Africa, both at the Parade and at the AGM. A notable name was “Colonel” Fitzgerald of “Q” Quebec Squadron Canada which Fitzgerald claimed had 122 active members and was the largest Squadron in the Commonwealth. Fitzgerald contrived to arrange a private meeting with the Cdt-General, Brigadier Morton, partly from which came Morton’s decree in the following year to split Canada into two Commands, which decree was eventually to cause the end of the brief affiliation to the R.C.M.P..²

At the time this was not even a shadow on the horizon as the Parade and the A.G.M. both went off without a hitch and with the reviewing General, Sir T. Astley Cubitt, being fulsome in his praise of the Frontiersmen:

Commandant-General, officers and members of the Legion of Frontiersmen. It is a great privilege and honour to me to be invited to inspect you today. It is also a very great pleasure to have walked round and to have seen so many of you who have no doubt served along with myself. I have seen men who have been in all parts of the Empire. I am astonished that you could carry off a parade so well without a rehearsal – which I know you have not had – and I am most impressed with your marching and your bearing…

You, however, a voluntary organisation, with your magnificent record, are always ready to take any part collectively or individually, should a national emergency arise, and are setting a splendid example to the nation, old and young, and I congratulate you most heartily.

(Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from 1938 Frontiersmen magazines)

¹ Vincent Orange, Tedder: Quietly in Command, [Frank Cass, 2004] p.104. Lord Tedder was a Frontiersman in Fiji for a time in 1914
² See:

© 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 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Frontiersman Who Took the Blame

Major Patrick Forbes

Topic October / November 2020. When King Edward VII was on the throne and the Legion of Frontiersmen was founded there were definite class barriers in Britain. In countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand class was not as strongly defined. Many of the Frontiersmen who joined in the early years had worked in the wide-open spaces and more remote lands of the world. To them, ability was far more important than class. The Legion of Frontiersmen was far in advance of British society in holding those ideas. There was an exception. The Founder, Roger Pocock, needed to gain the support of men of power and influence in the land. While such supporters considered that Pocock had introduced a great idea which would benefit Britain and its Empire, they still looked at the social class of the man. Pocock was a minor author and adventurer. He was a member of an acceptable family – but only of a minor branch – also he had the reputation of being an eccentric. There was an additional and serious problem. In 1898 he had led an expedition to the Klondyke and on this expedition a baronet, Sir Arthur Curtis, had disappeared and his body was never found. Rumours continuously circulated that Pocock had murdered Curtis for his money. Such baseless rumours had even reached the ears of King Edward.¹

2 Seton-Karr ILN

Although the first President of the Legion was Lord Lonsdale, another wealthy and influential supporter recruited by Pocock to be the first Commandant-General was Sir Henry Seton-Karr, (1853-1914). Sir Henry was a tall and imposing explorer, a “hunting, shooting and fishing” Tory “grandee” and, until 1906, a Member of Parliament. Although Driscoll was London Commandant, Pocock as Commissioner ² was responsible for the day-to-day running of the Legion worldwide. Pocock’s lack of qualifications for leadership in addition to the rumours about Sir Arthur Curtis were of concern to Seton-Karr and others of the Executive Committee. They felt that the Commissioner should be someone who had been to the “right” school, had held an army commission of suitable rank and was of the “right” class of gentleman. The idea of Roger and of those Frontiersmen who had worked in the wilder parts of the world that their leaders should be elected was not acceptable to many of the wealthy and influential men who Roger had persuaded to join the Executive Council. On February 7th 1908 Pocock recorded in his diary: “S-K [Seton-Karr] very brusque. Wanted my resignation…Told me a retired major had been found to take my place.” ³ On February 13th he wrote: “Ex[ecutive]. Council. My resignation accepted…Met Major Patrick Forbes the new Chief Ex officer.” The appointment of Major Patrick William Forbes (1861-1923) as Chief Executive Officer was somewhat surprising. Although called by the Frontiersmen the “Hero of Rhodesia”, as the commanding officer of the Shangani column he was held responsible, especially by Rhodes, for the death of Allan Wilson and his patrol. Forbes, educated at Rugby and then trained at Sandhurst, had originally been commissioned in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons and had previously held responsible positions in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), being the first magistrate at Fort Salisbury. After the Shangani Patrol affair Forbes was given no recognition for his previous good service, but in 1895 was appointed Administrator of the territories north of the Zambesi, an impressive title but not an impressive job. At the end of the Boer War he moved to England.

18940210 P I P artist impression

During much of 1893 the newspapers were full of praise for Forbes for his part in the success of the campaign against the uprising of Lobengula and the Matabele, but a year later Forbes was given the blame for the death of Wilson and his men. Forbes was in command of the column when Major Allan Wilson (1856–93) and his men were massacred on 4 December 1893. Forbes had sent Wilson out with the Patrol, but Wilson did not strictly follow orders. Although Wilson could be held somewhat responsible for the fate of his patrol, he became a popular hero whose demise brought forth a number of heroic and imaginative paintings of the action.⁴ The only first-hand account by one of the members of the Shangani Patrol is in Frederick Burnham, Scouting on Two Continents, 158–204. Burnham was with Forbes and Wilson, and he actually joined the Canadian Division of the Legion himself when in his eighties. Burnham was a much-liked man with many friends but, as with many another Frontiersman’s accounts of his adventures, there were often doubts raised about his ability to tell the truth. According to Burnham he had left the Patrol under Wilson’s order to carry a message. A number of historians dispute this. The Victorians particularly loved to read stories of patriotic Englishmen who died fighting for Queen and Empire. The story of Wilson and the last few survivors of the Patrol singing “God Save the Queen” as they prepared for death with all their ammunition expended appealed greatly to the British public. Newspapers and magazines, not only in Britain, were full of stories – and imaginative drawings – of the event. As nobody from the Patrol survived the final stand there was scope in the papers for imagination. In later years Matabele warriors who had taken part told their stories, but as these were by now old men, some of the stories conflicted. Brief accounts of the Shangani Patrol can be seen in many publications, but the best examination of the whole story is in the detailed “Pursuit of the King” by John O’Reilly (Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1970), which is well worth reading.

4 18940120 Shangani P I P artist impression

In the June-September 1962 issue of “Canadian Frontiersman” magazine Pocock is quoted as saying in June 1931 that “Forbes ousted me as Commandant-General [sic] of the Legion in 1908 when German spies infiltrated our organization and worked to bring about my overthrow—oh, I served under him gladly, and without the slightest friction, we were the best of friends!” Pocock was seeing German spies everywhere, although he was far from alone in this, as is well documented. Forbes’ organisational ability in command was soon to be seen. As an example, the “Irish Times” of 11th July 1908 reported on the Frontiersmen forming part of a guard of honour to King Edward VII. Men of the Irish Command, based in Dublin, had travelled over especially to take part.

A detachment of the Irish Command, consisting of 12 rank and file, in command of Lieutenant R.P. Fortune, the staff being represented by Captain G.F. Simpson, left Dublin for Leeds on Monday last to join the Yorkshire Command in forming the guard of honour to His Majesty the King on the occasion of his State visit to Leeds. The Frontiersmen, under Major Forbes, occupied a prominent position on the Royal route, being posted at the entrance to the Great Northern Railway Station, and were loudly cheered by the citizens as they took up ground. General Oliphant, commanding the troops, complimented Major Forbes on the smart turn-out of the Frontiersmen, and, on learning that a number had volunteered from Dublin, expressed his admiration, and desired Major Forbes to convey to them that he greatly appreciated their patriotism.

We have already told the story of how Forbes was able to thwart an assassination attempt on the Portuguese Monarch (Friends in High Places).  Patrick Forbes was well known to the Portuguese. Writing for “Canadian Frontiersman” in 1941 Roger Pocock told how in November 1890:

…a report reached Forbes that a Portuguese Military Mission was in British territory, busy swearing in the native chiefs as subjects of Portugal. Forbes took nineteen troopers and rode hard for Messakessie, where he found the kraal held by five hundred native infantry. He charged through them, caught Colonel Andrada swearing in the chiefs, arrested him and his Staff Officers and sent them down as prisoners to Capetown, This lead to an international incident.

According to F.C. Selous, who had fought against the Matabele until he was wounded, it was Fort Salisbury not Capetown. A contemporary of Forbes in Rhodesia rather unkindly said that Forbes had the bravery of a bulldog and the brains of one.

Strangely, the surviving Frontiersmen magazines up to the First War make no mention of him. He rejoined the Army but, being too unfit and too old for active service, he became officer in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Wiltshire. He retired from the army in 1916 and went to live in Salisbury Wiltshire, rather than Salisbury Rhodesia. He died in 1922 aged 61. However much blame was placed on his shoulders nobody could question his bravery and he served the Legion of Frontiersmen with the same loyalty as he always did through his life serving Queen, King, and Country.

¹ For this story see Outrider of Empire by Geoffrey A Pocock (University of Alberta Press 2008)
² The Frontiersmen have always wished to reject any rank above that of Captain, other than for those who have earned such higher rank in the army or navy. They have often used Commissioner or Commandant for senior ranks.
³ Quotations from Roger Pocock’s pocket diaries by kind permission of the Roger Pocock archive at the Bruce Peel Collections at the University of Alberta.
⁴ Illustrations of the Shangani Patrol are from the “Penny Illustrated Paper” and owed more to the imagination of the artist than to actual fact as no member of the Patrol survived the action.

© 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, Roger Pocock | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


Capt A J Dawson

Topic August / September 2020Misinformation – Deception – Persuasion.   It depends entirely your point of view as to what you call it. It was certainly something in which many Frontiersmen were skilled, although we have been inclined to refer to the telling “camp-fire yarns. In wartime such propaganda and persuasion had a definite value. The most notable Frontiersman with these skills was Hugh Pollard.

His most famous propaganda tale is that of the “Phantom Russian Army”. Recent researches throw doubt on his claim to be the inventor of that story and it is pretty certain to say that nobody will ever get to the bottom of how many of Pollard’s stories were true and how many invention.

When in August 1917 Roger Pocock returned from France and his position in the Labour Corps for being “too old and too infirm”, he spent the last weekend of the month staying with Hugh Pollard and his wife. As we know, Hugh Pollard was enthusiastic about inventing stories which could be useful for propaganda and because of this he was working, as were a number of authors, for M.I.7b under A.J. Dawson, another Frontiersman and contributor to The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book. To quote from Dawson’s contribution:-

…Now, by sheer force of personal example and personal influence, they [the Frontiersmen] may do something for Great and Greater Britain, for our house as a whole, for which our children and our grandchildren will have cause to thank them, for which our history will honour them…

England expects and needs that every able-bodied man should do his duty, and fulfil honourably the responsibilities of citizenship, instead of thinking only of its privileges.¹

On Pollard’s recommendation Roger was offered a three month contract. Dawson had a standard letter which he sent to every author who wished to be considered for M.I.7b:-

To that end, I am permitted to suggest to you that you might send me an article, preferably one of about 1,000, or 1,200 words, and certainly not exceeding 2,000 words, dealing in a popular way, and descriptively rather than opinionatively, with any aspect of the war which appeals to you personally, in a manner which you consider would be helpful to the Allied cause. Such an article should be suitable for publication in the Press. For purposes of propaganda, and the information of our own public and the peoples of other countries, regarding the Allies’ part in the war, what may be called the human interest is the most important; descriptive work is always valuable; strategy and tactics are out of place

outriderRoger admitted he was not too successful at the job: “My masterpieces were put into a special drawer, to be disinfected, and never one saw daylight.” ³ Captain Alec John Dawson (1872-1951) was an author, traveller, journalist and lecturer who was very keen on Empire patriotism and unity. By 1908 he had written around twenty books based on his own experiences. His writings were well known in Canada, Africa and Australia and he had knowledge of many other countries. In 1908 he travelled through Canada addressing packed audiences. He edited the weekly “The Standard of Empire” for five years. He was also one who warned of the German menace to Britain. His 1907 book “The Message” was one of those that came out in Edwardian times dealing with the German problem. Invalided from France in 1915 he then worked in Intelligence, firstly in M.I.7 b and later for the Royal Flying Corps, which in April 1918 became the Royal Air Force. It was the influence of S.F. Edge, another Frontiersman and contributor to The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book, which brought both Dawson and Roger Pocock to serve the final year of the war in the Air Force. Selwyn Francis Edge, (1868-1940) was born near Sydney, Australia but moved to London aged 3. He first gained fame as a bicycle racer but by the time that book was published (1909) was famous as a driver of racing cars. He won the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup and in 1907 broke the 24-hour distance record driving a Napier at Brooklands. He also won the inaugural British International Trophy for speedboats in 1903. Frontiersmen’s ability in writing fiction (sometimes about their own lives!) made them highly suitable for writing propaganda stories. Under Captain Dawson, M.I.7b produced an average of 45 propaganda articles a week.

Courtesy Jackson family archive

Propaganda and re-cycling

We can suggest a strange way that propaganda in Britain affected the Frontiersmen in W.W.2. Around the country posters abounded encouraging citizens to “Make Do and Mend” (we talked about this in the topic on austerity), “Careless Talk Costs lives”, and varying posters persuading people to recycle everything from metals, paper, rags and even animal bones. Children also were told to go out collecting these materials to aid the war effort. There has been much discussion about the enforced collection of iron in the way of railings and gates. The writer recalls his father being shocked when he came home from work to find the house gates had been taken away by local Council lorry. Park railings also were swept up. Recently, unsubstantiated claims have been made that the government could not handle all the tonnes of scrap iron and that much of it was dumped. Wives were asked to donate their aluminium saucepans to be used in the manufacture of aeroplanes and photographs exist of lorry- and cart-loads of saucepans being transported to depots. Doubts have been raised since the war whether the quality of the scrap aluminium was sufficiently high enough. Every piece of waste paper was recycled. Nothing was overlooked; even some important official paper archives were sacrificed.

Scunthorpe Bugle presentatation

In the 1930s there were many well-known Legion of Frontiersmen military bands around the country. Some Troops, such as Portsmouth, even had their own dance band, as did Heathfield in Sussex, although Heathfield preferred to describe theirs as an “orchestra”. The Essex Command band broadcast a concert on B.B.C. London Regional radio on 15th December, 1933. Every Squadron, and most Troops, had their own trumpeter or bugler. At summer camps. gymkhanas and training in the country the bugle call was the signal every Frontiersman listened for. Provincial newspapers in the 1930s regularly showed photographs of presentations of bugles and trumpets to Frontiersmen units. These presentations would have either been engraved or had the Legion badge fitted. What happened to all these instruments, particularly the trumpets and bugles? Only one has survived, stored with other Legion assets. A massive nationwide drive was organised between 19th and 31st October 1942 for non-ferrous metals. Every newspaper carried advertisements and editorials. “You all have unused articles of brass, copper, lead zinc…Give them up now and help the war effort.” Even children were urged to find the smallest pieces of brass or copper and take them to school. Brass and copper all had to be imported and any way that the need for imports by ship could be reduced was taken up.

LOF trumpet

Britain was in a desperate situation. The metal was needed for munitions and for making instruments for the much-needed aeroplanes. The public took heed of the barrage of posters and advertisements and the drive was a success. There appears to be no question that any surplus of these particular metals was obtained. The younger Frontiersmen were now in the armed forces and the older men needed all their spare time for their work as A.R.P. Wardens, Home Guard, A.F.S. or Special Constabulary. Some Frontiersmen units managed an occasional meeting but there were no parades at the height of the war. It seems virtually certain that the Frontiersman’s trumpet or bugle hanging unused in the hall would have been sacrificed by the patriotic family heeding the bombardment of propaganda.

Living in this current world of plenty we can nowadays be sceptical about overtures from government sources to follow a certain path of action, treating it as mere propaganda. We can also find it difficult to understand the shortages of basic items in W.W. 2 and how vital it was to waste nothing.

So, we can look at the one surviving Legion trumpet and understand another small but not insignificant sacrifice made by the Frontiersmen.

¹ “The Frontiersman’s Pocket book”, Roger Pocock ed. (University of Alberta reprint of 1909 John Murray publication), p.379
² The National Archives WO339/15228
³ “Outrider of Empire”, Geoffrey A. Pocock (University of Alberta Press 2008) p.251

© 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 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment