Legion of Frontiersmen Medals

LMSM LCM LSEM

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.

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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 https://www.britishpathe.com/video/down-in-the-wee-ones-corner

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:

GAS!!

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.

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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

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1913

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.

Independence

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.

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1938

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.

AIR FRONTIERSMEN.

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

CIVIC DUTIES.

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!

Certificate

SERVING THE COMMUNITY.

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.

MEDALS.

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.

ANNUAL GENERAL PARADE AND INSPECTION.

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: https://frontiersmenhistorian.info/rcmp-and-the-frontiersmen/


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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.

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Propaganda

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


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More Than a Local Hero

Jack Gallagher BEM

Topic June / July 2020JACK GALLAGHER B.E.M. (1902-84) is more than a local hero in the village of Selsey, England, where he was responsible for the formation of the local troop of the Legion of Frontiersmen and of what expanded to be “D” Wessex Squadron. He was the epitome of a true Frontiersman. He considered himself just an “ordinary” man, but was one of those very few whose extraordinary charisma stayed with all those who met him, and who can never forget him.

With a twin sister Jennie he was born in South Shields and proud of it, the son of a Master Mariner who was the last to sail a three-masted schooner down the River Tyne in 1895. All through his life, Jack was a deeply Christian man with his beliefs fostered by his father. His father had insisted that Jack learned how to defend himself with his fists and always stood up to bullies at school. “He believed in teaching us in being able to take care of ourselves when need arose”. Jack joined the Boy Scouts and wrote an interesting account of how the Scouts, especially on coastal areas served the country in 1914 after the war started.

Our Scoutmaster and his assistant joined the army, the Troop was left to carry on with only its Patrol Leaders in charge.

Many of us volunteered for “War Service”, some became messengers at the headquarters of the local territorial unit, others went as coast watchers with H.M. Coast Guard. Others went into camp at important railway centres, here they patrolled with the police to see that there were no suspicious trespassers.

On one occasion we found a rather suspicious character and pursued him, we reported him to the police. Later we found out that he had been arrested and it was proved that he was up to no good, and duly sentenced and punished.¹

Boy Scout Messenger Ribbon

Jack was always very proud to wear on his uniform above his medals the small ribbon which showed that he had been one of the pre-First War members of the Boy Scouts who had acted as a messenger and assisted in the defence of Britain in 1914.

At the age of 15 Jack attempted to join the Royal Flying Corps, but the Recruiting Sergeant would not believe that he was “nearly eighteen”. He hoped to be able to follow his father in a seafaring career, but unfortunately he had a problem with the sight in his left eye so was not acceptable for training as a bridge officer. His first job was working for a bank with the chance of a posting to France as he was quite proficient in French, but an indoor career was not for Jack and his health suffered. He joined an agricultural college and learned farming as an apprentice in Northumberland, where he also became a skilled horseman. He then worked for a very mean farmer in Buckinghamshire until he finally had a blazing row with his employer and left him, especially as he learned that the farmer had been a conscientious objector in the war. Farming jobs were hard to find in the1920s so he went to sea doing various menial jobs before deciding to work his passage to Australia and seek a new life. He spent 12 years in the Outback, herding sheep and cattle. Although he worked his passage back to Britain many times, he retained a great love of Australia until his dying day.

Junkers 87

At the start of War in 1939, Jack was again at sea on the collier Tamworth, a vital but unromantic task carrying coal and coke for the factories and homes of southern England. In the summer of 1940, the English Channel became the most heavily fought over small stretch of water in the world. The Germans wanted control in preparation for invasion of England, and required absolute supremacy with the Channel swept clear of all British shipping. Britain needed the vital route kept open. Collier convoys were under constant attack from German dive-bombers. Many of these small old colliers were defended by just one Lewis gun. Jack Gallagher was the merchant navy gunner on the Tamworth and he had a 12-pounder gun in the stern. This was there to deter E-boats, as the limited angle of inclination made it unsuitable for use against the dive-bombers. On 25th July 1940 convoy C.W.8 started with twenty-one merchant ships, including the Tamworth. At four in the afternoon off Kent, Jack saw hordes of specks in the sky coming from the French coast. He reported to the second mate who thought that Jack was seeing spots before his eyes, but before long they were attacked by numbers of Junkers 87s. An E-boat was also heading towards them, but a round from Jack’s 12-pounder caused it to turn back. The Lewis gunner on the bridge began blazing away at the diving planes. The Tamworth suddenly ceased steaming, out of control with engines stopped, as a stick of bombs had burst in the water underneath her keel. For a few moments when the German planes were at the bottom of their dive, they were within the sights of Jack’s gun. He fired and the delighted crew began shouting at him “You’ve got it, you’ve got it!” Dazed by all the noise and slightly wounded, Jack realised that a cloud of smoke and debris in the sky was the remains of Junkers 87, which must have exploded when his round had hit its petrol tanks. A destroyer laid a smoke screen around the surviving lame ducks in the water and a tug came out of Dover to tow in the Tamworth while the Germans continued to dive-bomb the mere half of the convoy left afloat. Attacking E-boats began to come out of France but two British destroyers were sent out in response.

Jack Gallagher was awarded the B.E.M. for his bravery that day and was presented with the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. During that war the B.E.M. was mainly a gallantry medal and not a civilian one. On 26th September, Jack was still on board the Tamworth, which was beginning to be known as the “unsinkable ship” although she was heavily scarred. The ship was unloading coal at Phoenix Wharf in Southampton on one of the much-remembered days when Southampton received a terrible pasting. It is claimed that in ten seconds one hundred and fifty bombs landed in the area and the Vickers Supermarine works on the other side of the river, and an important target for the Germans, was completely destroyed. It was a terrible day for Southampton and the Docks.

Jack’s medals

Just after Christmas that year, Jack was on leave, and during one of the worst fire raids on London he tumbled into a City underground station for shelter, where he actually stumbled into Frances Sympson. She was from a City of London family and lived just around the corner. Fluent in French, her wartime job was as an interpreter to General de Gaulle. It was not to be long after this romantic meeting that they married. After the War Jack and Frances moved around the country until in 1966 they settled in Selsey where his enthusiasm brought about the formation of what was to become for years one of the most active troops of the Legion. He had previously joined the Legion Canadian Division when they were living in Croydon.

When a Government Minister Supported the Frontiersmen

He was regularly to be seen on parades riding his fine horse Tom. He died in 1984, and no-one who ever met Jack Gallagher has ever forgotten the quiet and unassuming, but exemplary and brave Frontiersman.


Information on Jack Gallagher’s service in the War is taken from “The Coal-Scuttle Brigade” by Alexander McKee (Souvenir Press 1957 abridged paperback edition Hamlyn Paperbacks 1981), which is recommended and thought-provoking reading about the unsung heroes of the Channel convoys in the Second World War.

¹Information on Jack’s early life is taken from his own reminiscences, a copy of which is now lodged at the Legion of Frontiersmen Archives at the Peel Special Collections and Library, University of Alberta.

More about the Canadian Division (UK Command) and its visits to Belgium and France are to be found at:

To Parade in Honour

In his later years Jack Gallagher was taken to the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon where there was a Junkers 87 suspended from the ceiling – the first time Jack had looked upwards at one since the war. We have been unable to ascertain if there is any copyright to the excellent illustration of a Junkers 87 (possibly Steam Artwork). We will be happy to credit if advised. This is a volunteer non-commercial website and blog.


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The Presidents

Earl Harewood Feb 1937

Topic April / May 2020. The Legion has in recent years understandably concentrated with pride on their Patron, the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma. It must not be forgotten that she would not accept the position of President, a long-standing position held by some very distinguished army generals, but she wished to be the Patron. A wise choice. It is time to look particularly at two post-war Legion Presidents whose contribution to the Legion must not be forgotten.

LF pennant with Leeds City crest

When Major-General Lord Loch accepted the position of President in 1923, he started twenty years of active and valuable service to the Legion. When the rift began between HQ and Canadian Division just before WW2, Lord Loch was horrified. He promised that as soon as the war was over he would personally travel over to Canada and sort out the problem. Unfortunately he died during the war and it was not possible to find and appoint a new President. In addition to Lord Loch as President, in the 1930s the Legion acquired some unofficial local Patrons, such as the 17th Earl of Derby for the Lancashire Frontiersmen and the 6th Earl of Harewood in Yorkshire. Lord Harewood allowed the Frontiersmen to use part of Harewood Park and also arranged for them to have access to Harewood Barracks in Leeds. The Leeds Frontiersmen were given permission to use the City of Leeds Coat of Arms on their pennant. As can be seen in the photograph, Lord Harewood attended some Frontiersmen dinners and would also inspect them at the annual parade. His wife was Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, so Lord Harewood was the brother-in-law of King George VI. Another, if minor, link to the British Royal family.

Sir Eric Girdwood

When Colonel Dunn took over as Cdt-General after the war he did his best to find another President, but it was not until 1955 that Major-General Sir Eric Stanley Girdwood, KBE, CB, CMG (1876–1963) agreed to become President, and proved an active and enthusiastic one until his death. A Boer War veteran and one-time Colonel of the Cameronians he well understood the principles of the Legion. From 1927 to 1931 he was Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. One of the officer cadets this time was David Niven, the film actor. In his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon”, Niven told a story of Girdwood which showed that the General had the sense of humour that would appeal to the Frontiersmen. When Niven was in the Intermediate Term he, with another officer cadet Dick Hobson, was given the prestigious position of Commandant’s Orderly for six months. On Sundays they breakfasted with the General and afterwards Niven and Hobson waited in the garden proudly holding silver sticks on which were engraved the names of a hundred years of Commandant’s Orderlies. Across their chests were white belts, on the back of which between their shoulder blades were Victorian silver message boxes. So many cadets asked Niven what was in the boxes, which should in fact have been empty, that he decided to give them something to look at if they investigated. So, he installed a pack of Woodbine cigarettes, a box of Swan Vestas matches, a roll of toilet paper – and a pack of ten condoms. Thereafter, when other cadets enquired he told them “Commandant’s personal supplies” and invited them to take a look. Niven considered that on long Sunday morning inspections when the Commandant was accompanied by some royalty or other extremely important personage the cadets would appreciate that the inspection was preceded by this unusual cargo. One summer morning the Commandant announced that it was time he inspected his two orderlies. Both were confident that they were immaculately turned out until General Girdwood walked round the back of Dick Hobson and opened his message box. By this time the joke of the box had long been forgotten until the General moved behind Niven and began to open his box. Dick Hobson was with difficulty controlling his desire to laugh. Niven thought his military career was about to end before it had even started.

I sensed him rustling about among its horrible contents – Woodbines, matches, lavatory paper and French letters…After an eternity, Major-General Sir Eric Girdwood stood before me…’Niven,’ he said, ‘I had heard about that…thank you very much…you are very considerate…’

It was never referred to again, but immediately after Church Parade that day I cleared out my Message Box. ¹

The attitude of Major-General Sir Eric Girdwood to those serving under him shows that he was to become a most successful President for the Frontiersmen.

Girl Horse Rangers, source: Keystone Press Agency

After the death of General Girdwood, the Legion had no true President for a number of years. Col. Dunn hung on to his position as Cdt-General even when in failing health and in a retirement home. The Legion officers who had been its backbone for some years were also failing in health and dying. The Legion was entering one of its all-too-common periods of internal strife. There was a power struggle between the north and south of England as to where the headquarters should be situated. Overseas Commands such as Canada and particularly New Zealand, which was an example of stability, looked on in horror. For a brief period Colonel Raymond Gordon, whose official address at the time was Royal Mews, Hampton Court, accepted the position of President. He wrote that he had been connected with the Legion since 1928 and was also “businessman and Chairman of several Companies…”² It has so far not been possible to trace Colonel Gordon’s military career or details of his Frontiersmen service. It is not known whether the rank he used was an army one or one bestowed by the Legion. After a few years of frustration he resigned as President to concentrate on his highly successful Girl Horse Rangers, which still exists today. Gordon formed the Girl Horse Rangers in 1954 based at a stable he owned in Shepperton, Middlesex. He realised that many girls were mad on horses but did not have the money to ride. For a weekly payment the girls could ride, but also helped care for them. The Rangers were uniformed and in the early days rather militaristic, which did not please everyone. H.R.H. Princess Margaret, who knew Gordon well, became Patron of the Girl Horse Rangers and a number of Frontiersmen helped with their training, which had some similarities to the mounted Frontiersmen. A British Pathe film of 1959, which can be seen online, shows the Frontiersmen and particularly Philip Shoosmith (in later years to become Commandant-General) helping the girls with horsemanship.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/stills/girl-rangers-meet-buffalo-bill

The internal battles resulted in the Legion becoming very much London-centred and over the years the once strong northern units faded badly. The smartest Frontiersmen were recruited into the Legion’s Ceremonial Squadron, which attracted good reports and was regularly in demand.

Another Legion officer, Gordon W.H.Woods was an employee at Hampton Court Palace and he brought the Legion of Frontiersmen to the attention of Major-General Sir Rodney Moore, (Sir James Newton Moore G.C.V.O., K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. (1905-1985)) Chief Steward of Hampton Court Palace, who had been Aide-de-Camp General to H.M. The Queen and was a Gentleman Usher to the Royal Household.

“He told me that he remembers as a boy his father, the late Major-General Sir Newton Moore, K.C.M.G., going off to Legion meetings in Australia, all dressed up, and always talking about it. He supposes his father’s interest was first aroused as he was Commander of an Australian (Cavalry) Volunteer Regiment,” ³

In the same letter about the dining-in of General Moore as the new President, Woods wrote that the General was “…also a personal friend to Her Majesty who comes here [the Connaught Rooms] to private dinner with him”.

1977 Gordon Woods hands to General Sir Rodney Moore the Crest of the 3rd Belgian Lancers

Gordon Woods had been given the position of Records Officer and Publicity Officer, duties which he carried out conscientiously and with great success. No record has yet been found of his military service. He is believed to have been ex-R.A.F., but was certainly ex-R.A.A.F.. He was not helped in his task by being fed inaccurate information on Legion history, much of which was being passed by word of mouth. The Legion has always claimed that much of their records were destroyed in the bombing of London in WW2. This is not true. Their HQ at that time at 21 Bedford Street was indeed damaged by bombing, but:

You will be glad to hear that although the front portion of the building in which Imperial Headquarters is situated was blown out by blast, this office is so far intact and we are able to carry on. We are however sometimes prevented from entering the street or building by the presence of time bombs so that office work is sometimes interrupted for a few days at a time.

Harry Erswell, who wrote this to a Frontiersman in Canada, was a retired senior Indian Army Warrant Officer and a widower. He lived in Hornchurch but travelled into London every day to run the Headquarters office for the Legion. After he had finished his day’s duties for the Frontiersmen he served as an Air Raid Warden. Nobody living in the London area during the Blitz got much sleep.

After the war, the Frontiersmen were given the use of Territorial Army Centres, first at Farringdon Road, then at Offord Road. When the army decided to no longer give the Frontiersmen a home, they were granted the use of Amicale, the Anglo-Belgian Club then in Belgrave Square, as their Headquarters. All these moves obviously made it difficult to keep control of Legion property. This was traditionally the duty of the Records Officer. The Legion backbone of long-serving officers was beginning to crumble as age and ill-health took its toll. Decorated WW1 officer, Captain V.C. Harvey M.C., D.C.M. was followed as Records Officer by Reginald Coleman who had also been a very popular RSM-in-Chief of the Legion. Coleman’s health began to fail and he did not return from what was his final stay in hospital. Not all Frontiersmen marriages were happy ones and not all Frontiersmen wives were pleased with the time their husbands spent with the Legion. We have no idea of what upset Coleman’s widow but a frustrated Gordon Woods wrote in one internal Legion letter:

When C.H.Q. moved from the T.A. Centre at Offord Road, all documents…together with the Founder’s medals were taken by the then Records Officer to his private address, and that he died shortly after, and his widow disposed of a good deal of the Legion papers and the medals before arrangements could be made to collect them.

It has always been a puzzle for years as to what happened to Founder Roger Pocock’s medals which, with some other of his possessions, were willed to the Legion. It is extremely sad that what were some of the Legion’s most historically important assets should be thrown out or otherwise disposed of as worthless. Unfortunately the international historical importance of the Legion of Frontiersmen has not always rated highly in the order of things to many Frontiersmen who were men of action and not of words. The story of documents and assets being destroyed by family when a Frontiersman officer passed away has been told for years and attributed to more than one deceased Frontiersman officer. In fact the claim has also, without evidence, been made against the family of Gordon Woods, who spent his final years in retirement on the Isle of Man away from any Frontiersmen unit. The Legion of Frontiersmen is home to many unproved and usually unprovable stories. Many Legion archives and assets have vanished over the years during the moves of Headquarters. A late Frontiersman who joined the Colour Squadron in 1957 recalled reading through the Minutes Book of Headquarters meetings going right back to the founding days. That is one of many important documents that has been lost without trace.

Like an earlier Legion President, Lord Loch, Sir Rodney Moore was also a Grenadier Guardsman. He had a successful career, serving with the Guards Armoured Division and commanding the 2nd Battalion in WW2. He also served with the British Army of the Rhine and in Malaya. For a period he commanded the Household Brigade and London District. He was an enthusiastic supporter at a time when the Legion was a welcome member of the Reserve Forces Association and appeared at many Army shows, including Aldershot. He resigned in 1983 due to ill-health and was followed by the long and successful Patronage of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Although some of his press releases contained inaccurate stories of Legion history, it should never be forgotten that Gordon Woods was a great servant to the Frontiersmen for some years and managed to arrange for them to be involved in a number of prestigious events: for example in 1975 “when the Legion had the honour of leading the Lord Mayor’s Procession with a mounted detachment carrying the Guidons of St. George’s Cross and the Legion of Frontiersmen Colour, and riding ahead of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers of which the Legion formed the 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion in 1915 for service in East Africa and collected [sic] a Victoria Cross, two D.S.O.’s and twelve D.C.M.’s [sic]”

Thus wrote Woods in a letter in 1977 to Air Commodore Vannech congratulating him on becoming Lord Mayor of London.

Both Sir Eric Girdwood and Sir Raymond Moore were men of distinguished military careers who also had many important contacts and they promoted the Legion and its values widely during their time as Presidents of the Legion of Frontiersmen.


¹ David Niven “The Moon’s a Balloon” (Hamish Hamilton, 1971) p.60

² Raymond Gordon to George Whalley, Northern Command, 30 December 1968, letter in LOF Archives at Peel Special Archives and Library, University of Alberta

³ Woods to Legion Colonel Peter Fitchett 27 October 1976, letter in LOF Archives at Peel Special Archives and Library, 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.

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The Pioneer Frontiersmen Flyers

Arkell Hardwick

On the Canada pages of this website you will find Historian Will Shandro’s account of the Calgary Frontiersmen’s effort to pay for an airship, although this apparently came to nothing. On another page we tell of the highly successful Air Command of the Legion based in Yorkshire, which during the 1930s flew up to nine small private planes. See: The Flying Frontiersmen.

What we have not covered are the early pioneer Frontiersmen flyers. It is often thought that the Frontiersmen were only interested in horse transport but, as in many other ways, the Frontiersmen were always forward thinking on many subjects. With regards to the Canadian interest in airships, in the First War there was a great fear of the German Zeppelins as in the early years of the War Britain had no real defence against them and their regular bombing raids. It took some time for a way to attack them was devised. The first Zeppelin to be destroyed from the air was shot down by Sub-Lieut Warneford, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his exploits, although he was killed in an air accident a few days later. Air accidents were all too common in the early years of flying. Warneford had been taught to fly by Frederick Warren Merriam, acknowledged as one of the finest of the early flying instructors. Records show that Merriam joined the Legion late 1912 or early 1913 and was given the number 7077. He had qualified as a pilot in February 1912, one of the earliest men to receive an aviator’s certificate, this in spite of poor eyesight, which had necessitated several operations. Having spent several years involved in the infant motoring trade, he was a highly skilled mechanic and moved on to aeroplanes, where he became one of the finest flying instructors at Brooklands, teaching many who would become well-known pilots and later senior officers in the Royal Air Force.

Flying was a highly risky activity – in addition to being very costly. The deaths and serious injuries to pilots in those early years were considerable, even before the War, which was also to take a heavy toll. Warren Merriam was so highly thought of as a skilled instructor that the Royal Naval Air Service decided to bypass their vision tests and commission him as a Flight Lieutenant. His services were even called upon early in WW2, when he was recalled to the Fleet Air Arm at the age of 59 as a Lieutenant-Commander to assess the skill of applicants to the Fleet Air Arm. He evolved a series of tests to ensure that pilots were appointed to the type of plane and duty best suited to their particular skills. 1

Handley Page 1912

It was as early as December 1912 that the first death of a Frontiersman in an air accident happened. Legion Captain Arkell Hardwick, who had spent some years exploring and hunting in Africa, was then the Manager of aircraft manufacturers Handley-Page, although he did not have a pilot’s licence himself. He was flying as a passenger in a Handley-Page monoplane on a Sunday morning flight from Hendon to Oxford. The pilot was Lieut. Wilfred Parke, R.N. It was one of those English December days when the air seems mainly calm, but an occasional gusty squall can burst out without warning. Pilots did not have then the advantage of reasonably accurate weather forecasts. According to spectators, the engine was not running smoothly and Parke, an experienced pilot for the time, decided to return to Hendon as the plane could not rise above 200 feet. Somehow, a strong gust – too strong for Parke to counter with the controls and the power of the engine – caused the plane to crash on Wembley Golf Course. Both men were killed immediately. Hardwick was buried at St. Pancras Cemetery, East Finchley, with a joint escort and bearer party of Frontiersmen and Household Cavalry, as Hardwick’s brother was an officer in the Household Cavalry. 2

F Warren Merriam RNAS

In December 1913, Lt. Col. Driscoll, then Chief Executive Officer (basically Commandant) of the Legion, had his first experience of flying, with Warren Merriam as his pilot. The Frontiersmen wanted to see how good an aeroplane would be at observation and seeing mounted troops on the ground. The plan was for B Troop of the Surrey Squadron of the Legion under Corporal J.F. Addis-Price to see if mounted men under cover of surrounding woods, while also dashing through open spaces, could reach the Bristol School of Aviation at Brooklands unobserved. The weather was cold with a gusty wind and it was a dark late December day. The mounted men could see the aeroplane high in the sky swaying and plunging in the wind. When the machine landed, down climbed Driscoll in Legion uniform – complete with riding boots and spurs. The men asked Driscoll what he thought about the use of an aeroplane for scouting purposes. With much scorn he replied:

“You don’t think I was looking for you, do you? My time was fully occupied trying to keep myself from being bucked off that parrot perch up there. I could have killed this chap for asking me, in the presence of those Germans, to go up and umpire, especially as I had never been in an aeroplane in my life. However, he handled the machine splendidly and is promoted to lieutenant on the spot.” 3

According to the report, they asked Warren Merriam if he had seen the mounted men. He replied that they had indeed succeeded in getting through unobserved, but that the plane was underpowered and unsuitable for flying in such weather conditions. Warren Merriam’s version in his autobiography is somewhat different. He said that: “Much to their surprise, we spotted them in the vicinity of Byfleet and dropped a message to say so.” 4 One of Warren Merriam’s pupils at the start of the First War was one of Driscoll’s sons. Although the Frontiersmen thought that their exercise was a success, we can see from Warren Merriam’s account that it was not. When war came it was soon understood that observation from the air would be a vital way of intelligence gathering and that the use of the horse for scouting had only a limited value.

A number of other Frontiersmen became pilots during the Great War, including three from the Canadian 210th (Frontiersmen) Battalion C.E.F. Lieut. Wensley transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he was commissioned. After the Armistice he worked for the Flying Mail Service between Folkestone and Cologne, Germany. On transfer to the RFC, Lieut C. G. Smith saw action in France, Italy and Egypt. Capt. J.T. Hollonquist, DFC, also joined the RFC and was commissioned. He served in Italy flying a Sopwith, where he was credited with bringing down six German planes. In addition to the DFC he was awarded the Italian Legion of Honour. Also in Canada 1914 another WW1 Air ‘Ace’ Thomas Frederic (Tommy) Williams, M.C., M.M.V. who was born in 1885 in Ontario, joined the Legion of Frontiersmen at Calgary at the outbreak of WW1, then resigned to enlist in the C.E.F. Eventually he received a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and destroyed fourteen German aircraft in aerial combat. He was awarded the Military Cross (M.C.) and the Italian government decorated him with the Valore Militare Medal (M.M.V). Tommy Williams went on to a long and distinguished aviation career in Canada. In 1971, at age 87 he performed one last solo aerobatic flight for 30 minutes, with loops, rolls and a spin and after 56 years of flying was at that time recognized as the world’s oldest active pilot. In 1974 Tommy Williams became a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in Edmonton, Alberta.

Probably the most famous of all the early Frontiersmen flyers was Arthur Tedder. Tedder was only a Frontiersman for a short time in 1914 when he was working for the Colonial Office as an Acting Assistant District Commissioner in Fiji. There the Frontiersmen were putting on a brave show, but with no proper military presence there they had little chance of resisting any rumoured German invasion from Samoa. Tedder left Fiji and the Frontiersmen and returned to England and a military commission. He was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and in 1916 trained as a pilot. Over the following years he rose steadily through the ranks until in WW2 he became head of the Anglo-American air forces in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa. He was then appointed Deputy Supreme Commander to Eisenhower for the Allied campaign from Normandy to Berlin. After the War he became Chief of the Air Staff and was elevated to the peerage. 5

4 Replica Wop Mays Plane Edmonton

As far as Canadians are concerned, their most famous flyer is usually considered to be “Wop” May (Capt. Wilfrid Reid May, OBE, DFC, 1896-1952). Born in Carberry, Manitoba, May’s family moved to Edmonton in 1902. His nickname “Wop” came from his little two-year-old cousin who could not pronounce Wilfrid and called him Wop. That name stayed with him throughout his life. He joined the Canadian army in February 1916, but in 1917 transferred to the British Royal Flying Corps. In 1918 he was transferred to 209 Squadron of the newly formed Royal Air Force. He was involved in the aerial battle when the famous “Red Baron” was shot down. After the War, together with his brother, May opened Edmonton’s first airfield. The area is known today as Mayfield. The R.C.M.P. called on May’s services at times. He was one of the first to fly across the 60th Parallel into the North West Territories. He achieved national fame in 1928 flying diphtheria serum to the extremely remote Fort Vermillion under extraordinarily difficult winter conditions. Later in 1932 he flew even further north as part of the legendary hunt for the “Mad Trapper of Red River” in the North West Territories. The event was made more serious by the killing of RCMP Constable Edgar Millen, who was a Frontiersman on indefinite leave from the Legion while serving with RCMP. In the 1930s, “Wop” May was recorded as a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Edmonton. 6 May arrived just after the Mad Trapper (Albert Johnson) had been killed and a Constable seriously injured. May flew the injured policeman 125 miles to the nearest doctor and saved his life. May subsequently oversaw RCAF training schools in Western Canada in WW2. In 1974 May was declared a National Historic Person in Canada.


1 F Warren Merriam First Through The Clouds, [Batsford, 1954] 151-155. The whole book is a very interesting account of his life and flying adventures.
2 “Frontiersman” Gazette February 1913, p20
3 “New Zealand Herald” 19 March 1914, reporting from “Frontiersman” Gazette February 1914
4 Merriam First Through The Clouds, 63
5 For details of Tedder’s life and career (1890-1967) see: Vincent Orange, Tedder: Quietly in Command, [Frank Cass, 2004]
6 The Frontiersman, October 1936, 8. See also The History of the Legion of Frontiersmen, with particular reference to Canadian Division, [privately published, Regina, c 1980] 96, and R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, [Garden City, 1940] 245-249.


Initial research for this item was by Will Shandro of Canada and the late Bruce Fuller of New Zealand. Canada details are supplied by Will. It was due to Bruce’s research into the death of Arkell Hardwick that the idea for this article came about. This is therefore dedicated to the memory of Bruce Fuller (1934-2013) who was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen from 1957 until his death and was a respected and knowledgeable historian of the Legion.

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