The Origins of the Idea

Prince of Wales inspectsSurprising Snippets 4.  In several topic pages we have pointed out how often between the wars the Frontiersmen were called upon as either Guards of Honour or escorts to members of the British Royal family:

We have suggested that this dated back to around 1923 when Major-General Lord Loch agreed to become President of the Legion. A recently discovered newspaper cutting suggests that the idea of using the Legion to support royalty might go back to 1919. The Bolshevik Revolution and the assassination of the Russian royal family – all related to British royalty – sent out shock waves. The upper and middle classes were terrified that Red Revolution might spread to Britain. Strikes became widespread and the British Labour Party supported the servicemen, whose unrest at times turned into mutiny, and the badly-underpaid Metropolitan Police who went on strike in 1918 and in 1919. It is not possible to discuss fully here the discontent of the working classes in the period after the First War, but this is covered in many books. It was mainly the landed gentry and the upper classes who were so frightened by the thought of Bolshevism and revolution occurring in Britain, overturning the status quo and doing away with British Royalty. An interview with Lt. Col. Driscoll in an evening paper “The Globe” must certainly have caught their attention.

T.A.Macdonald was later to interview Driscoll about the bad way his battalion had been treated in East Africa, but first of all Macdonald was despatched by his editor, who had heard that Driscoll was “resuscitating” the Legion of Frontiersmen. Driscoll’s response, reported on page 2 of the 23rd April issue was a furious one:

All that has happened is that its members have been scattered and although most of us have managed all through the war to keep in touch with each other to some extent, it is only now that the struggle is over that we can really get together again and, resuming our activities as a body, can prepare for future eventualities…The same as they have been all through the ages – the forces of evil against which all honest and loyal men must fight if the world is to be kept clean and the Empire safe…

The League of Nations will no more obviate the necessity for going in for extensive military training than Christian Science will do away with the surgeon’s need of a knife. The sentimental trash which is being talked about disarming threatens to ruin the virility of this country and to destroy its power as a champion of justice. I assure you that Pacifism and Leagueism lead to no utopia. To get to Utopia you must travel in a tank.

But it is not only the possibility of trouble from without that the Legion is preparing for…There is the more dangerous possibility of trouble within. In these days when Bolshevism and advanced Socialism are eating away at the very roots of our national life there is a great need for clean-minded men to rally together…

The Legion of Frontiersmen will stand against Bolshevism to a man. We are for the Throne and the flag with no side issues. And I can tell you that there is not one of our members, from Lord Cardross, Lord Calthorpe, and Lord Powerscourt down to the last-joined recruit who is not heart and soul in sympathy with these ideals… [emphasis added]

As I withdrew I saw the other callers. There were two Canadians, three New Zealanders, one Australian, and two demobilised Imperials, each wearing the badge of the Legion. Every one of them was a soldierly, strong-built, and clear-eyed Briton. If these are fair samples of the 10,000 members, I thought, I should hardly care to be a Bolshevik when the Legion gets busy.

his interview was the closest Driscoll and the Legion ever came to being political, but he only spoke the thoughts of many deeply alarmed men of his type and generation. We can only produce a mass of circumstantial evidence, as any feelings that here was a trained body of men who publicly supported King and Empire and would rally to support the King in the event of any revolutionary actions against him would not have been put in writing. Driscoll’s views and his Frontiersmen would have been discussed in the London Clubs over brandy and cigars by men of influence. Sadly, the papers of Major-General Lord Loch lodged in the Scottish Record Office and his Army service papers at the Imperial War Museum exclude his Frontiersmen papers. The family suffered tragedies,during which his son wrote to us that there were files of Frontiersmen papers somewhere in his garage. These appear to have been discarded at some stage, his son and both grandsons are dead, and the Peerage is now extinct, so what was likely the main source of written evidence is lost. The above interview is just one more pointer to perhaps why the Frontiersmen were often around when Royalty appeared in public.

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

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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