Legion Lawyers – the ethical and the questionable
You may think that an article on Legion Lawyers would be about uninteresting men, but this is far from the case. Over the history of the Legion we have attracted many sharp legal minds and at least one has been a Commandant-General of the Legion. In this Topic page we will concentrate on just two completely different characters. These men met each other fleetingly, but lived totally different lives. George Hazzledine gave many years of service to the Legion, including a period fighting in East Africa as an officer of 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen). “Count” Johnston-Noad, the illegitimate son of an American multi-millionaire, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but no sense of morals and little of what was right and wrong. Both men have passed through these pages before, but we make no excuses for returning again to their colourful lives. Hazzledine spent some years as a Resident Magistrate in primitive Nigeria. Among many other strange escapades, Johnston-Noad was charged with running a brothel in an exclusive part of London, although he was a slippery enough customer to win his case on appeal.
George Douglas HAZZLEDINE was born in 1871 the son of a grocer. The Hazzledines are a well-known family in Nottinghamshire. His father died when he was 17 and young George was sent as a articled clerk to a firm of solicitors. Whether his father was a successful grocer or his mother’s family had money we do not know, but the widow lived “on independent means” and Hazzledine rose by dint of hard work to be a barrister at the Temple in London. The income of a young barrister was erratic, so he accepted the offer to become a Resident Magistrate in Northern Nigeria, an officer of the Supreme Court there and hopeful of quick promotion in the tropics.
“…after a few months in the country, he realizes the immense importance of a uniform – in fact, it is a necessity – for when 200 white men are pulling the strings of government among a people numbered by tens of millions, every unit must be made the most of. If a man be small, he must wear a big helmet and ride on a horse…if he be clean-shaven and handsome, the sooner he loses his razor and has to grow a beard the better.”1
Hazzledine learned a lot from his time in Nigeria and wrote a number of interesting articles on life in that country for magazines. In 1904 he gathered together these articles and, with some editing, his only known book The White Man in Nigeria was published. He obviously found that he could not cope with too many years of that climate and by 1910 he was back in Britain working as a solicitor in Nottinghamshire and London, but spending all his spare time promoting the Legion. Driscoll first met him when, as a Trooper he attended a camp at Farningham:
“He was full of resource and slept on the gravel. He wrote an essay on the “manoeuvres” there on a scale that would have put to shame an experienced army officer. Plans, maps, and all the accessories to a properly worked out scheme of operations were drawn up…” 2
His next task, by then as a Legion Lieutenant, was to organize in February 1911 what was to be a Legion staple over many years, a “Smoking Concert” (not possible nowadays!). This was held at the Mikado Café, Long Row, Nottingham and was to double as a recruiting meeting as every man was expected to find some potential recruits. Hazzledine’s leadership and organizing abilities plus his experience in Africa made an impression on Driscoll and Hazzledine’s name was high on the list when he was looking for officers for 25th Fusiliers (Frontiersmen).
Hazzledine’s adventures in East Africa have been covered in these pages in the past so we will not re-visit them. After the War Hazzledine threw himself into working for the Legion in his spare time, but he was less than impressed by the leadership of Burchardt-Ashton and most particularly Edwards-Carter, so was one of those who joined the brief break away of the Independent/Imperial Overseas Command. Apart from a period working for the Board of Trade on post-war reconstruction, Hazzledine continued working successfully as a solicitor at Wimbledon in London. He died aged 80 in 1952. We have always hoped to trace what happened to his papers and his writings, as he continued writing without any apparent success in publication. However, as George was a typical Frontiersman of his time, he was fond of the ladies. In his will he left everything to a lady friend and sole executrix (to whom he actually owed money) with a small bequest to his wife, as long as his wife did not attend his funeral. As the “lady friend” renounced everything, his estate passed to his wife (less what he owed the lady friend). We can well imagine what action his wife would have taken regarding his papers, so we must now consider them probably destroyed and lost for ever. Such were the problems caused by the complicated love lives of these old Frontiersmen.
Although John Edward JOHNSTON-NOAD was born too late to serve in the First War (1902), by virtue of his globe-trotting as a wealthy champion power boat racer he had somewhat slender qualifications for joining the Legion of Frontiersmen. In 1930 he took on, with enthusiasm, the re-starting the Legion Maritime Command and based it in Essex carrying out, with unknown success, patrols to look out for smugglers. He also founded the Air Command, although this did not last too long due to his business adventures on the edges of the law based around Maidstone Airport. It was not until Alec Knowles-Fitton took over Air Command and transferred activities to Yorkshire that Air Command became a credit to the Legion. Johnston-Noad was a well-known playboy involved in the wilder adventures of the wealthy and titled around London night clubs. His name appeared quite regularly in the scandal pages of the Sunday newspapers and the Metropolitan Police took a constant interest in him. In their files he was described as a “dodgy solicitor”. We have found no record of him resigning from the Legion or being struck off strength, so the likelihood has to be that the Executive preferred to quietly forget about him rather than have his name linked with the Legion. We may think of London in the 1960s as a place of sex, drugs and rock and roll, but the 1930s could be equally degenerate with rock and roll being replaced by the great dance bands appearing at places such as the Ritz, the Savoy and at various night clubs. Johnston-Noad was well-known to the titled and wealthy visitors to these entertainments and his apparent wealth, opulence and Rolls Royce were a magnet for many a young lady who he openly admitted was happy to dally with him on the back seat of his large car. He had married at the age of 21 and had two children, but his wife divorced him in 1934 on the grounds of adultery. There were so many court cases featuring Johnston-Noad but here we will describe just one as an example.
On 2nd July 1939, the News of the World, a newspaper folded by its owners in 2011, shouted in banner headlines: POLICE WATCH ON WOMEN’S FLATS –allegations against West End solicitor. John Edward Johnston-Noad was accused of being the agent of the landlord of certain premises in New Bond Street, London, and “being party to the continued use of the premises as a disorderly house”. Then, as now, Bond Street was one of the most fashionable streets in London, and the use of premises there as a brothel would have been deeply shocking to the owners and wealthy patrons of shops in the street. The prosecutor said that:
“…the premises in question consisted of a shop on the ground floor, a flat occupied by Johnston-Noad on the first floor, a milliner’s shop on the second floor, and at the rear a flat occupied by a woman known to the police. Flats on the third and fourth floor were also occupied by women known to the police. Observation was kept on the premises on certain dates, and four women were seen to take a number of men there…During each of these periods of observation…Johnston-Noad was seen near the premises and he was present when the women were either soliciting or taking men to the premises.”
Sub-Divisional Inspector Swinsey had visited the premises on June 21st (without a warrant). He claimed that Johnston-Noad had remarked:
This is a bit naughty. Why didn’t you ring and say you were coming? Can I have bail?”
Johnston-Noad’s defence was that he was solicitor for leaseholders L.A. Business Enterprises Ltd; he had not collected any rents, managed any of the property, and the letting was carried out by estate agents. This was in total contradiction to prosecution evidence, as they claimed that every new tenant was seen by Johnston-Noad and instructed to pay the rent direct to him. Johnston-Noad claimed that he lived in the country and he and his (second) wife only stayed at the London flat there very occasionally.
“I probably spoke to prostitutes more times than they [the police] mentioned. I was continually speaking to them about their loitering in and near this arcade. I have known as many as a dozen in the arcade at one time and have complained to them and to the police.” 3
The police well knew that Johnston-Noad was an habitual liar but it is strange that they apparently did not check who actually owned this L.A Business Enterprises Ltd., whose registered address was actually at Johnston-Noad’s offices. Johnston-Noad was known to have the habit of registering and then folding a number of companies. In the end the magistrate found him guilty and fined him £25 with 25 guineas cost. Johnston-Noad immediately registered an appeal. Although it did not justify or gain the newspaper coverage of the original case, he won his appeal. He had friends in high places. Perhaps that helped, or perhaps he knew which public figures had used the services of these prostitutes? Perhaps, again, he was not a man to shy away from a little light blackmail.
Another of the numerous occasions Johnston-Noad fell foul of the law happened in March 1940 when he was charged with wearing the uniform of an RNVR Sub-Lieutenant. He had enrolled in the RNVR in 1937 but had not been given a commission. The police suggested he had worn the uniform to avoid creditors. He was given one month’s imprisonment for this and for also falsely claiming to Gieves and Hawkes the naval and military tailors to be a RNVR officer. He said he was a Count of Montenegro. His creditors and spendthrift ways finally caught up with him in the Bankruptcy Court in March 1941 when he was stated to have debts of £1509 and assets of just 5 shillings cash in the bank. In 1952 one of his scams finally got him into big trouble. Young couples who married after the war were desperate to find somewhere to live. Setting himself up as an estate agent, he let two West London flats over and over again to different couples. Not only did he take the deposits of these young couples, but he also sold every couple the same fixtures and fittings for cash. When the law caught up with him he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The prosecutor called him a “vain egotistical megalomaniac.” This was not to be the last newspaper mention of him as three years later while he was in prison his third wife Thelma took part in a notorious Hatton Garden diamond robbery. With the police closing in, Thelma and one of her fellow robbers committed suicide in an hotel. He died at the age of 90. He left an account of his life, but as an accomplished liar, how much reliance can be placed on his memoirs, now lodged in a small museum, nobody can say.
Future generations will wonder about the lives and adventures of the legal experts in today’s Legion of Frontiersmen. It has to be doubted whether their stories will be anywhere as extraordinary as that of these two lawyers recounted here.
1 The White Man in Nigeria [1904: George Arnold] George Douglas Hazzledine. This book is very rare, but can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.archive.org
2 Frontiersman magazine, March 1911
3 News of the World, 2nd July 1939. Over the years, this particular newspaper showed considerable interest in Johnston-Noad and enjoyed covering his brushes with the law in some detail.
The article above was originally published on http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info in February 2012 and has since been revised and updated.
© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.