An Oddity: “The Imperial Legion” and the Kaid

Imperial Legion BadgeTopic Oct/Nov 2021.  Andrew Belton has appeared before on these pages in Tasting Adventure and Revolution regarding his adventures in Morocco in 1908. From what has been written about him in various places (most of it based on his own versions) he appears to have had a very adventurous life. The very reliable pioneer Frontiersman Robert A. Smith in a letter described Belton as “a human kaleidoscope” and “not invariably accurate in his facts”. ¹ He was born in 1882 and at the age of 17 left home to join the Imperial Yeomanry serving in South Africa. In March 1908 he arrived back in London, according to him “full of malaria”. After the South African War he had served in the Natal Police where he claimed to have risen to the rank of captain. He was also a pioneer Frontiersman in South Africa. In his “Chorus to Adventurers”, Roger Pocock records “Sergeant” Belton, the Treasurer of Capetown Command, arriving at 6 Adam Street and producing an efficient copy of the accounts.² A reference in a newspaper to a rebellion in Morocco caused this adventurous young man to travel there without informing his family. In later life he gave a rather colourful and glamorised version of his Moroccan adventures to a South African newspaper “Southern Cross”: ³

…he arrived in Tangier, but found the gates of the city were locked and that he could not get out to join the rebel leader…Eventually he got through the gates disguised as a Moorish woman, his face veiled, and walked the 230 miles to Fez. There he declared himself and was received by the rebel leader Mulay el Hafid, tested in the command of the troops then in Fez (about 8,000 men) and finally appointed Commander-in-Chief of all Mulay’s forces with absoliute power and the military title of Kaid. Kaid Belton re-organised Mulay el Hafid’s army and commanded it to such good effect that, five months later, he defeated the forces of the the reigning Sultan Abdul Aziz (which was commanded by another white soldier of fortune, the Kaid MacLean, a Scotsman). Kaid Belton dethroned Abdul Aziz and put Mulay Hafid on the throne of Morocco.

Kaid Belton in MoroccoWe suggest that the reader compares this rather fanciful account with the story reported in our “Tasting Adventure and Revolution” pages. The British Foreign Office had decided to keep out of this dispute. They had left it to the French who supported Abdul Aziz, rather than risk the Germans muscling in. They could have found this an awkward situation but were keen to point out that Belton and the other British were mercenaries with no British support. Privately, they were not completely unhappy to see the French embarrassed. From then onwards, every official British file which mentioned Belton always referred to him as Kaid Belton, even his War Office officer file.

Belton claimed that in 1911 he travelled to Canada where he qualified as a pilot and took part in an air circus. He said he was a captain in the “Canadian Volunteers”,which we assume was one of the many semi-official Canadian militia groups all across Canada. Searches through Canadian official records of the period have so far not discovered any mention of his name.

For his First War service we have to look at his record at the National Archives WO339/19008. There was very little ability to check claims men made in their officer record and we have come across a number of cases where there has been exaggeration or even falsehoods. Belton’s claimed experience, possibly aided by Driscoll’s recommendation, got him a commission in the 2nd Battalion King Edward’s Horse on 19th August 1914, until he soon transferred to the 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers. In 1915 he was gassed in France and in 1917 transferred to the Air Force with the rank of Major, in spite of the fact that he was found to be blind in one eye (possibly congenital) and had hearing difficulties. In 1919 he was awarded the O.B.E., given to many officers whose service had been exceptional.

Belton was a devout Catholic, but was one of the Catholics who were opposed to an independent Ireland. The involvement of Belton in Irish negotiations of 1921 is something which does not appear to have been properly recorded. He regularly attended conferences and was in communication with Lord Middleton. He appears to have been in constant contact with de Valera and passed on his views and those of Dail Eireann. In August 1921 he appealed for clemency and the release of J.J.McKeown. In October he pushed for the release of detained Sinn Fein prisoners. In the topic page mentioned above we indicated that we are aware of much of Pollard’s activities in Ireland of that period, but it needs a specialist Irish historian to investigate the importance of Belton’s work.4

Belton was still involved in the Legion, but shared the concerns of George Hazzledine and Charles Hollis that neither the (Acting) Commandant-General Arthur Burchardt-Ashton nor his deputy Henry Cecil Edwards-Carter had actually fought in action in the First War, and so he supported those who instigated the breakaway Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen from 1927 until 1934 when it was absorbed back into the official Legion. Driscoll did not consider either Pocock or Belton suitable to lead the I.O.L.O.F but before long Belton found himself elected as Commandant. Being somewhat of a restless man and ardently anti-communist and fearful of communist revolution in Britain – a fear very prevalent at that time – he resigned. By 1933 he had formed the “Imperial Legion” with a plan to recruit men and train them as an unarmed body to combat any communist force which made any move against the legitimate government of the country. This apparent politicising of a Frontiersmen group not only upset the loyal Frontiersmen but also the War Office. He did recruit a number of ‘toughs’ particularly in London, but these were hard-drinking men who preferred, rather than do anything active, to discuss plans while propping up a bar at the Imperial Legion headquarters shown on their headed paper as 132 Victoria Street, London S.W.1, which at that time was a public house. The cap badge, survivors of which are now very rare, was a blatant rip-off of the badge of 2nd King Edward’s Horse, even bearing a Royal Crown at the top. After a very short period Belton resigned in frustration as their Commandant to be succeeded by one of the colourful characters who over the years seem to have called themselves Frontiersmen, but who came embellished with a stream of personal lies about their lives. This man was the Marquis de Mont Falcon, Count d’Avison, or Marquis Goldstone. In 1932 he had been Principal Secretary of the Royal Stuart Society and also Master of Ceremonies at their annual dinner. As can be seen from the photograph he was elegantly dressed and always sported a monocle. In the summer he rented a flat in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was always to be seen in the best society. His arrest for fraud and expulsion from France caused the Governor-General of the Royal Stuart Society to ‘deprive him of office’. Actually his name was in fact Maurice Joseph Goldstone, one time constable in the Cairo City Police. French was as commonly used in Cairo as English and Egyptian law was based on the Code Napoléon, so Goldstone was fluent in French.5

Royal Stuart Society Bystander

He was listed on the headed paper of the Imperial Legion as Colonel, Chief of Staff and Director, Military Operations. Although he gave his commanding officer as ‘Colonel’ J.C. Mantell (more of him later) of Weymouth, it was Goldstone who ran the Imperial Legion. His Frontiersmen uniform must have been interesting because when the French searched his Paris flat they found 8 Orders or Decorations. ‘Colonel de Mont Falcon’ also served three years penal servitude in England for defrauding a widow out of £3,000. That case had caused quite a stir in both national and provincial press. Goldstone (to give him his probably correct name) had been working for Maundy Gregory on the “Westminster Gazette” between 1929 and 1932 and supporting Gregory, who was busily selling titles (unofficially) on behalf of Lloyd George.6 Goldstone photo Daily MirrorThe prosecuting counsel at Goldstone’s trial for obtaining money by false pretences said that: “Even his pyjamas had the most marvellous coat of arms, but the reading on them is rather unfortunate, because the translation is: ‘I only change them when I die’”. Goldstone’s cigarette case was handed to the judge who said that the coronet on it seemed a curious mixture. Inside was the inscription ‘Count of Montenegro, General, D.S.O.’. If the title of Count of Montenegro seems familiar then look at our comments on another Frontiersman fraudster, Count Johnston-Noad! Goldstone denied telling the lady he had deceived that his father was a British general and his mother an Arabian princess. Another interesting fact which came out at one of the hearings was that Goldstone had taken Cyril Wybrow to introduce to the lady in question, Mrs Edmundson.7 This was about the time that Wybrow had been appointed Chief of Staff to the original Legion of Frontiersmen. Both Wybrow and Goldstone had lived in Cairo in the 1920s and both had Jewish parentage. It was alleged that Goldstone’s name was in fact Goldstein. Knowing what has been discovered about Wybrow’s later spying activities (see: The Frontiersman Traitor) we are left to wonder whether there is more to be discovered about the links between the two men.

John Charles Mantell (1877-1963) was a native of Weymouth in Dorset on the south coast of England. He spent his early life as a stoker in the Royal Navy until he was invalided out. He then became a Weymouth postman until WW1 where he served in East Africa with the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) becoming a corporal with a Mentioned in Despatches to his name. After the war he re-trained and became a boot and shoe repairer in Weymouth and a Lieutenant in the Legion of Frontiersmen, commanding the Weymouth Troop. He was expelled from the Legion by the Southern Command c.o. Lt.-Col. Leonard Lewer, D.S.O.. There is no reason given in the records but it seems likely due to Mantell insisting on putting M.M. after his name, although he had never won the Military Medal. Undeterred, Mantell transferred himself and his men to the Imperial Legion, where after a brief period as Captain Mantell we find him as ‘Colonel’ Mantell in 1939, Commandant of the Imperial Legion, and writing letters inviting others to transfer to the Imperial Legion and offering high ranks to all.

By the middle years of WW2 the Imperial Legion seems to have vanished without trace.

Belton moved to Morocco in the late 1930s. According to notes in his War Office file he was rumoured to have been captured by the Italians in 1940 and made a prisoner-of-war. In his interview with “Southern Cross” newspaper Belton told them that at the fall of France he had made his way to Santo Domingo where he endowed a school and was a generous benefactor to the Catholic Church. He spent 1956-58 in Morocco until he retired to South Africa where he died. No confirmation has been traced of his stories of his later life and adventures.

But he was a Frontiersman, so there have to be unconfirmable stories!

Please note: the “Imperial Frontiersmen” had no links or relationship with the “Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen” formed in Eastern Canada 1940 from the Canadian Frontiersmen in the east who wished to remain under the command of I.H.Q. London.

See What Caused the Rift?

By the time the C.I.F. were formed the Imperial Frontiersmen were fading as an organisation.

It has been very difficult to unearth a frontal photograph of Goldstone’s face. The one shown is the best we could find © Daily Mirror 3rd April 1935.

1 Letters from Smith to Cdt-General Burchardt-Ashton July/August 1933 in Legion of Frontiersmen archives (Burchardt-Ashton album).
2 Roger Pocock “Chorus to Adventurers” (The Bodley Head) 1931, p.60
3 “Southern Cross” newspaper cutting October 28th 1959 in Legion of Frontiersmen archives.
4 T.N.A. PRO30/67 (items 41, 46, 46, 48 and 50 are of particular relevance).
5 “John Bull” June 3rd 1939, p.12., also “The People” 13th November 1932.
6 For the fascinating story of the sale of Honours see Tom Cullen “Maundy Gregory, Purveyor of Honours” (Bodley Head) 1974
7 For a brief account of the interesting story of Mrs Edmundson’s life see: (external link)

© 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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