The DCM League and the Frontiersmen..
The Distinguished Conduct Medal, awarded to other ranks between 1854 and 1993 was regarded as second only to the Victoria Cross. It was replaced in 1993 by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, awarded to all ranks. The Distinguished Conduct Medal came to be considered as a “near miss” for a Victoria Cross. In the spring of 1916 the Military Medal was introduced due to the fear that the number of D.C.M.s being awarded would devalue the prestige of the award. After that date more Military Medals than D.C.M.s were awarded, other than in the case of exceptional acts of bravery which were definitely considered a very near miss for the award of the Victoria Cross. Awards of the medal were announced in the London Gazette, accompanied by a citation. After the War the politicians, as ever, were keen to help the ex-servicemen “We particularly wanted a fair deal for ex-servicemen (‘Homes for Heroes’), a consolidation of the fraternity between classes which the war had, we believed, engendered, and an end of useless party wrangles” 1 The British Government set up a Select Committee on Pensions, which travelled all over Europe studying pensions systems and recommended a doubling of pensions and that anyone totally disabled in the war should have a pension equivalent of what they would have earned in their former job. Like all Government committee recommendations, little came of it. Added to this the 1920s and 1930s saw a world slump and jobs became difficult to find. Some ex-servicemen were persuaded to emigrate to the Colonies and Dominions in search of a new life, but those left behind found that their medal ribbons, including those for exemplary gallantry, meant little when searching for a job. Nobody starved, but the unemployed lived at no more than subsistence level. In addition, many who had survived the war still suffered the after effects. Some had dreadful nightmares; many had lungs suffering from the effect of breathing in gas, and a number of men still had small bits of shrapnel embedded in their bodies. The inch of DCM ribbon in front of the war medal ribbons was no guarantee of a job. The British Legion did much work in trying to obtain work for unemployed soldiers, but the majority of those holding the D.C.M. were still suffering from wounds, both physical and pschycological, resulting from their bravery in the war. This made it far more difficult for them to find work.
Then one holder of the D.C.M. had the idea of forming the Distinguished Conduct Medal League, “Founded to aid D.C.M.s in distress and obtain employment for the unemployed.” This was Robert Moyse, M.C., D.C.M. – a Lancashire Moyse. In his youth Bob was a fine, boxer, swimmer, gymnasts and all-round athlete. When war was declared in 1914 he tried to enlist but was rejected due to having suffered from rheumatic fever. Bob was nothing if not persistent and was eventually accepted by the Lancashire Fusiliers. He passed out of the Aldershot Gym School as an instructor and Bob, only 5 feet 4 inches, was to have an impressive war record.
Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal No. 21929 Company Sergeant-Major R. Moyse, 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on 22nd/24th October 1917.
During an enemy counter-attack he reorganised and led forward part of a company, which had become detached, and with it filled a gap in the line.
He held his ground under heavy fire, and by skilful dispositions and good leadership assisted in repelling the enemy’s attack.
He was also awarded the Military Cross for an action in August 1918 when, as a Warrant Officer attached to the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment, although wounded, he took command of his company and led them in action, and was again severely wounded.
After the war his injures prevented him continuing an army career, so he returned to civil life and joined the Territorial Army. He became well-known as a bookmaker in the dockland area of Salford and is known to have quietly carried out many charitable acts. In 1928 he was told that he could not remain in the Territorial Army and still draw the disability pension to which he was entitled so became a full-time civilian.2 He was still to wear a proud uniform as he then joined the Legion of Frontiersmen.
His story of how he came to join the Legion is that one day he saw two Frontiersmen in full uniform riding their horses down a local street until they came to the local public house. Tethering their horses outside, they disappeared inside for refreshment. Bob Moyse decided that this was the sort of organisation he should join and soon rose to be Commanding Officer of Manchester (H) Squadron.3
The DCM League published a magazine The Ribbon for a short period in the 1930s. The magazine did much to publicise the Legion of Frontiersmen and regularly printed news about them. Members of the League were encouraged to join the Legion, and many did so. It is said that some units of the Legion could parade whole troops with all members wearing the ribbon of the DCM. A good percentage of the Manchester Squadron of the Legion held the D.C.M.. Bob Moyse was very proud of the distinguished supporters of the League. The Earl of Derby, known as “the King of Lancashire” was a member of the Legion Executive Council and supported all ex-servicemen’s groups, particularly in Lancashire. He would always exercise any influence he could on their behalf. The then Princess Royal was one Patron, to be followed by the then Duke of Kent. Bob Moyse said his proudest moment was when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) inspected the members of the DCM League on Horse Guards in London. At Culcheth in Lancashire he leased five and a half acres of land which was used as a weekend camp for the Legion of Frontiersmen. 4 Small advertisements did appear for Frontiersmen needing jobs in Frontiersmen magazines, but it was the sterling work of Bob Moyse and his committee and supporters that quietly and without fuss helped many a member of the League find work. He was awarded the British Empire Medal mainly for his Home Guard work in WW2. In May 1971 and 1972 he travelled to Belgium with the Frontiersmen, who have always been made very welcome there due to their links with the 3rd Belgian Lancers. In 1971 at Ypres memories would have been stirred of his brother Charlie, who did not survive the war as he was killed on Hill 60. In 1972 he visited Roeselare. Bob Moyse died peacefully on 13th August 1977.
1 Colin R.Coote, Editorial [London: Eyre & Spottiswoode 1965] 101
2 Information from The Lancashire Magazine November/December 1980, also letters from Bob Moyse Jnr.
3 Geoffrey A Pocock,One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen [Chichester: Phillimore 2004] 159. Original information from Bob Moyse Jnr.
4 Lancashire Magazine and Bob Moyse Jnr.
We are grateful to Bob Moyse Jnr for information regarding his grandfather.
The article above was originally published on http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info in June 2012 and has since been revised and updated.
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