Topic Apr / May 2021. Frontiersmen 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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)
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