Topic October / November 2019. Captain Arthur Wynell Lloyd, M.C. was a very brave man. He was one of the few Frontiersmen to be still able to fight at the last engagement at Nyangao, for which the Royal Fusiliers were awarded a Battle Honour. The few remaining Frontiersmen were commanded by Major Martin Ryan, who was killed in action, leaving Arthur Lloyd as one of only a very few officers of the originals still fit. Had the bullet wound which cost Lloyd his hearing in one ear been half an inch to the side, he would also have been killed. And yet it required strong letters from Lt.Col. Driscoll to gain him his Military Cross. Many considered, and still do consider, that he deserved an even higher gallantry award. ¹
When you look at his photograph it is difficult to comprehend that this mild-looking man with the receding hair and steel-rimmed spectacles had volunteered several times for the most dangerous of tasks.
We know little of his early life and career except that he spent some years in South Africa utilising his skills as a cartoonist, or caricaturist, for the newspapers. After the First War he was employed as political cartoonist for “Punch” magazine, a position he held for nearly forty years. Although he only agreed to join the uniformed Legion of Frontiersmen in civilian life in 1931 at a reunion dinner, he remained on good terms with the surviving officers and men of the 25th Bn., such as George Hazzledine and Charles Wise Hollis who did join. It does not seem that Hazzledine bore a grudge for the cartoon-like images of him that appeared in Lloyd’s excellent book of cartoons telling something of the story of the campaign of the 25th Bn, Jambo, or with Jannie in the Jungle. The tall thin Hazzledine, who always retained the lawyer look about him, was easy to caricature by a political cartoonist such as Lloyd with his keen eye for observation. After the War, Lloyd was the honorary secretary of the East Africa Campaign Dinner Committee and worked tirelessly to make this a success each year. There was high praise for him and his work at every dinner, and calls for him to make a speech. In 1927 after long, and in fact interesting, speeches by Capt the Hon. F.E. Guest and General Sir Edward Northey there were insistent calls for Lloyd to stand up and speak. Arthur Lloyd rose, and this quiet and unassuming gentleman just said “Gentlemen, I thank you.”
It was not until 1927 that the East Africa dinners were reported and advertised in the “Frontiersman” magazine. A clear advertisement appeared on the front page of the September magazine and the October issue carried an unsigned report:
“What was this East African campaign?” asks a man in the street, and as I wandered through Knightsbridge I wondered how many of us were left to meet together. The number of my ticket was 9, and I said to myself that 20 or 30 would be a good company. Then the streets round Harrods seemed sprinkled with men of military bearing asking the way. Fortunately all the neighbours knew the Georgian Restaurant, and we were guided through a great area of dustsheets – a burglar’s view of a modern shop – to a row of lifts of which one was working…
As soon as the lift stopped, the murmur of tongues set all doubt as to numbers at rest. There must have been over 200 bubbling with greeting around the bar. Man after man seemed to spring from the past, Generals, Captains, Orderlies, Sergeants and full privates, I thought dead long ago, all looking very pink and tanned and fit and thin…
I heard Lieutenant (now Captain) Fordham ask Major Hazzledine where the cloakroom was – and he knew all about it. I heard Captain (now Colonel) Powell say the one man he wanted to see again was Colonel Driscoll. Doctor Gates was able to shake hands with a few of the men whose lives he saved by refusing to certify them fit for further service, and they knew it. Eddie Reed was still smiling. Corporal Flannery had come all the way from Wales. Corporal Mantell from Weymouth, Cross, Nelson, Barron – there must have been a score of us – the old and bold. It was a great time. The dinner was good and after some speeches and calls for more than were made, we clustered around the bar again like a swarm of bees, not attracted nearly as much by the beer as one another. We talked of the days of short rations and forced marches in the tropics and of those who had gone…²
The committee organising the dinners had for several years discussed the possibility of inviting the German Commander in East Africa, Von Lettow Vorbeck, to one of the dinners when General Smuts could attend as in the interest of reducing tensions between the countries. There were always claims made that the East African conflict had been a “Gentleman’s War” without many of the horrors seen in Europe. This was not a universal opinion and men who had seen the sharp end of the fighting, such as the Frontiersmen, had seen some dreadful atrocities committed by the Germans and especially by their Askari troops. The men who recovered the body of Lieutenant Wilbur Dartnell, V.C., were stunned by the barbaric injuries that had been inflicted on his corpse. The editor of “East Africa” newspaper, Ferdinand S. Joelson, wrote in the issue of October 20th 1927 that the idea of inviting General Von Lettow Vorbeck to a dinner was:
“…distasteful to many East African campaigners at the time it was canvassed and it was only out of respect to their old Commander-in-Chief, General Smuts, who was understood to support it, that certain public protests were not voiced…”
Joelson went on to suggest instead that the Belgian Commander should be invited, although the treatment of the natives by Belgian troops could, and was, certainly to be criticised. He certainly did not agree that:
“…as was said at the Dinner – that the Germans fought a clean fight in East Africa. Loose tributes of that sort, uttered from traditional British sympathy for the vanquished, will be magnified out of all proportion by German propagandists, who will seek, and they have always sought, to use them to refute the British records of German atrocities in East Africa. Those records stand and nothing can alter them.”
George Hazzledine is recorded as attending other East Africa dinners, but his name is not listed at the 1929 dinner. It could be that he was suffering from one of his regular repeat attacks of malaria, or maybe he was one of those who objected to the presence of Von Lettow Vorbeck.
Once it became clear that General Smuts would be in Britain on an official visit during the period set down for the 1929 dinner, the invitation went out to General Von Lettow Vorbeck who gladly accepted. Although there were some who refused to attend as a protest, over a thousand attended the dinner on Monday 2nd December at the Holborn Restaurant, about five hundred in the King’s Hall and around two hundred and fifty each in the Throne Room and the Crown Room. The speeches were broadcast, not only to the two smaller rooms, but also to Germany. Arthur Lloyd had given much thought to the arrangements. Not only was there a table reserved for those who served in 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) and in the Loyal North Lancs Regt., but most seats were not allocated so that friends could arrange to sit together. There was no segregation of officers and other ranks. The “Western Morning News” also reported that:
Everyone who served in the campaign, whether in the Army, Navy or Air Force, was invited to the dinner. Uniforms were conspicuous by their absence, and by request no decorations were worn. Evening dress was optional.
Captain Lloyd was determined that no-one should be excluded. The working man might not own evening dress, but dancing was the most popular evening past-time so many men owned a dinner suit (tuxedo to Americans and Canadians). Even if a man did not own a dinner suit, he would have a “Sunday-best” navy blue suit and it can be seen from the photograph that some smartened their “Sunday-best” with a bow tie. Consequently the evening attracted so many men, and some ladies, from all walks of life who had served in East Africa.
Smuts and Von Lettow Vorbeck sat beside each other at the top table and thus began a lifetime friendship between the two men. Von Lettow Vorbeck was known as a right-wing politician in Germany, but when Hitler came to power he would not support the dictator. When Smuts learned after the end of World War 2 that his one-time enemy was living in poverty, Smuts arranged that Von Lettow Vorbeck should be supported. Smuts began his speech praising his old enemy as a brave and clean fighter and a great commander.
“We are in a very special measure making peace tonight You make peace with a man when you eat salt with him and break bread with him should be, and it is right that we as old soldiers should make a beginning. We have done our worst to each other. We have no ill-feeling. When the fighting is over for us it is over indeed. We who bore the burden and heat of the day should make peace and set an example to the rest of the world and the civilian population…” 3
Von Lettow Vorbeck’s answer in excellent English was very carefully worded. His consistent point that “…between the two parties existed a high degree of chivalry and esteem for each other…” is not one that was universally agreed.
Edward Peters, who fought in East Africa with the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) became a Church Minister in the Congregational Church at Exmouth Devon after the war. Even as a devout Christian he held bitter memories regarding German conduct during the war. As a member of the Rotary Clubs he was in demand to talk about his war experiences at Rotarian dinners. At a dinner the day following the 1929 East African one he commented:
” A good deal was said of the humanity of the commanders, at least, of both forces. I think there is no question as to the humanity of General Smuts, but. listening to some of the things I heard last night, my mind went back to certain things I knew, which were certainly not humanitarian, but which went to show that the German in East Africa was the same as the German in Belgium. It is no use hiding the fact, nor forgetting it. 4
There we have the conflicting opinions, one of the commanding officers and one of the ordinary soldier. Whatever those opinions, there is no question that the dinner was an outstanding success and brilliantly organised by Arthur Lloyd so that even the humblest private soldier did not feel excluded but greatly enjoyed the evening and the memories of comradeship.
Moving on to 1931 when there was another dinner of note, this one was not organised by Arthur Lloyd, although he was present, but by another of the officers of the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers, Captain Charles Wise Hollis under the auspices of the Frontiersmen. This was held at the Florence Restaurant, another popular restaurant of the inter-war years which, like the Holborn Restaurant, no longer exists. Instead of being for all East Africa veterans this one was purely for the surviving men of the 25th Royal Fusiliers. In addition to an excellent menu the guests were entertained by the Frontiersmen’s String Band. The dinner:-
“…was an unqualified success in every way. The hum of animated conversation for an hour in the ante room and throughout the evening, save only for the short time taken up by speeches, was incessant and remarkable…
Major Hazzledine presiding gave, after ‘The King’, the toast of ‘The Battalion’…saying that to drink to this our Battalion was to drink to a memory, to drink to themselves the survivors, and to their comrades left behind. It has the distinction, unique, of being the only battalion allowed to leave England untrained..
Sergeant Bright responded. He had been through everything, and as he spoke there was the same air of cheerfulness which had gone with him and taken him on. He reminded the company of many incidents, some painful, some humorous, and expressed the determination to come to the re-union year after year…” 5
Unfortunately there are no records of subsequent dinners, but all credit must go to Captain Arthur Wynell Lloyd, M.C. for his work at the reunions and for doing what he could to repair the relationship between Britain and Germany.
Unfortunately, a man called Adolf Hitler was to come on the scene and a large number of the men who attended the memorable dinner in 1929 found themselves again fighting for Britain in one way or another against a Nazi Germany.
Grateful thanks are due to the family of the late Arthur Wynell Lloyd, M.C., for allowing access to his scrapbooks relating to the dinners of an unassuming but brave and memorable man. Thanks are also due to Steve Eeles who runs the website:
for his liaison with the Lloyd family and his additional research.
1 Geoffrey A. Pocock “One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen” (Phillimore 2005) p. 95-96
2 “The Frontiersman” October 1927 issue, p.69
3 “East Africa” Thursday December 5th 1929. p.376
4 “The Devon and Exeter Gazette” December 5th 1929
5 “The British Imperial Frontier Man” December 1931 issue, p 136-137
Photo credits: – 1 – The Graphic, 2- Illustrated London News, 3 – The Graphic, 4 – The Sphere.
© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.