Topic Feb/Mar 2022. A constant stream of stories pass over the desks of the official Legion of Frontiersmen historians. Most of these stories are too brief to form a Topic page. In this topic page we will pause to tell a few of the tales of some men, to shed a little light on past Frontiersmen who should never be forgotten.
We begin by featuring the application form of Adolph Fredrekson. What a life this man had led in his forty-odd years and what stories could he have told! It is a sobering thought that an application form with such a life story was far from unusual for the Legion of Frontiersmen.
A totally different character was John Martin Harvey (from 1921 Sir John Martin-Harvey) 1863-1944. Martin Harvey’s life had been dedicated to the stage and yet he became a Lieutenant in the Legion of Frontiersmen, admittedly an Honorary Lieutenant, but still a uniformed one. Martin Harvey could fill a theatre anywhere in Britain, also in Canada which he visited a number of times with his company of actors. For the Frontiersmen it was comparable today with having a famous film star or T.V. star on stage in Frontiersmen uniform. During the first two years of WW1 he toured British theatres on a recruiting drive for the army and also raising great sums of money for the Red Cross. On every occasion he appeared on stage in his Frontiersmen uniform.
He is recorded supporting the Frontiersmen in the north-east of England as early as 1907 and again in 1913 he supplied free tickets for the Sunderland Frontiersmen to see him starring with his company in The Taming of the Shrew. An excellent orator, his stirring recruiting speeches during the war brought considerable success. He was followed on stage by his wife who appealed for money to support the Red Cross ambulances. A collection by St. John Ambulance nurses in uniform always resulted in a good sum of money. He received his knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List 1921. Between 1914 and 1932 he made a number of very successful theatrical tours of Canada. His company blazed the trail for British stage across Canada. He endeared himself to many large and small towns across Canada. In 1924 when playing in Calgary he was made a chief of the Sarcees (Chief Red Feathers) by Chief Big Plume.
Another Frontiersman officer, born within a few months of Martin Harvey, but whose career took a totally different path, was George Peet. When Peet died in 1936 he was officer commanding the Sherwood Forest Squadron of the Legion. Born in Calais, France, the son of a Nottingham lace-maker (a well-established Nottingham trade) George became a bit of a wanderer who did not settle back in Nottingham until after WW1. As well as the United Services Club, he then spent much of his time and efforts on the Legion of Frontiersmen. On leaving school he joined the army, serving in India but at the end of his period of services he returned to his home town of Nottingham and worked as a clerk at a colliery. Before long his wanderlust led him to try and earn his fortune in the gold mines of South Africa. He then served with the Imperial Light Horse, the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles and Bethune’s Mounted Rifles, earning himself a commission. He was at the relief of Ladysmith. In 1906 he was Captain and Quartermaster of the Transvaal Mounted Rifles. During the First War he served as a Captain in the South Notts. Hussars and the Royal Garrison Artillery. As well as his South African War medals he wore medals from German South-West Africa 1914 and France 1916-18. A true fighting Frontiersman.
Another Frontiersman whose rank was more or less an honorary one was Legion Captain Rowland Winn (1872-1959), a prominent businessman and motor dealer who in 1938 rose to be Lord Mayor of Leeds. A substantial number of Frontiersmen in 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) were Yorkshiremen. Winn and others in the county kept the Legion flag flying during the First War. Early in the War Winn set up a group of volunteer ambulance drivers who provided their own vehicles and gave their time without any cost. According to the “Yorkshire Post”, they were “affiliated in some more or less hazy way to the Legion of Frontiersmen”. In October 1916 Lord French visited Leeds and Winn provided three cars. He drove Lord French himself. There is no record of whether he wore the uniform illustrated. We doubt Col. Driscoll would have approved of this, as Winn is shown wearing not Legion uniform but army officer’s uniform with Legion of Frontiersmen badges. No record has yet been traced of Winn holding a military commission or of him serving or working in any frontier country, but his qualities were such that the Legion wanted him in their ranks, although in an honorary officer position. As with many such wealthy men, he is to be greatly credited with holding the Legion together in difficult times.
Rowland Winn was the third son in a family of nine children. His father had built up a successful practice as an architect, but Rowland chose not to follow in his footsteps. When he left school he was apprenticed to a firm of hydraulic engineers, then took a variety of jobs working with engines. In 1892 he set up a business with two friends making and repairing cycles. He bought his friends out and persevered. In 1899 he became the first agent in Leeds for a range of cars from home and abroad. In 1900 he lectured to the Leeds Association of Engineers on ‘Modern Motor Vehicles’, foreseeing a time when increased demand would mean cheaper cars for the common man – and the possible advantages of cars powered by electricity instead of ‘spirit’. It is likely that his audience thought this young chap was indulging in flights of fantasy, but we now know he was showing amazing foresight.
Cars were expensive and he was catering for a luxury market where his specialist knowledge and skills were highly valued. In 1903 Henry Ford started producing the low-priced Model T Ford as motoring for the masses. Rowland Winn was the first and sole Ford distributor in Yorkshire, and took advantage of the rapid expansion of the market for cars in the years prior to the First World War. In the 1920s and 30s his company continued to expand and prosper. He formed a Motor Transport Section of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Yorkshire, formed for service in war and any time that civil transport is dislocated. Training for such eventualities became part of regular summer camps for Frontiersmen in the north. A surprising number of Frontiersmen units had motor or motor-cycle sections, although for at least the first 50 years of the Legion recruits were expected to be able to ride a horse efficiently.
Winn served as a Councillor for 29 years and as Lord Mayor in 1939, on the verge of war. Throughout WW2 he was still very active organising essential wartime transport services in Leeds. In the 1950s he retired from public and business life, and in 1956, 3 years before he died, he was awarded the Freedom of the City in recognition of his contribution to the city’s life and prosperity. He had been awarded the M.B.E. after the end of WW1.
We know that between the wars the Frontiersmen had Troops in India and were connected with the Bombay City Police:
…and that the Frontiersmen were very active in China before the First War, but there is little known about the Frontiersmen Squadron in Hong Kong. They were running well in 1935 because we have a photograph taken at a Legion dinner showing around 30 of them. We only have two names but no information so far about them. The organising secretary was W.G. Routley, believed to be the Revd. W.G. Routley. Militant Christian missionaries were active at that time around the world. The c.o. was F.P.R. James, M.C.. He is believed to have been a doctor as we have traced Lieutenant F.P.R. James in the R.A.M.C. in 1918. They were an enthusiastic mounted Squadron, as can be seen from the photograph of them in camp. There is only one report from Hong Kong in “The Frontiersman” journal and that is from January 1936. Founder Roger Pocock’s tour of major Frontiersmen units around the world produced a number of magazine reports. Hong Kong was considered of sufficient importance for him to break his voyage from Australia and New Zealand to Canada. He arrived at Hong Kong on Friday October 11th 1935, but was not given time to adjust to being back on land before he was required to inspect the Squadron at their headquarters. On the Saturday he gave a talk at Headquarters and on the Sunday he was rather surprised to learn that the Squadron was turning out for mounted Troop Drill and he was also to be mounted and take the salute. It had been quite a few years since the old man had ridden, but fortunately he was given a placid mount. Roger expressed himself very pleased with the showing, although the chronicler for Hong Kong admitted that “mistakes were made”. Roger generously said that in any case the Frontiersmen “were irregular cavalry”. Video films were taken of the event and of the Founder’s visit, but sadly these could not survive the coming war. As well as further talks to the Frontiersmen, Roger Pocock was called on to speak for a quarter of an hour on Hong Kong radio. Radio broadcasts were then never recorded and, as with radio broadcasts Roger made in Britain and Canada the previous year, no record survives. The visit resulted in a goodly number of recruits for the Legion.
In 1939, when the possibility of war became probable, all ex-patriot British and Dominion men were conscripted into the armed forces and so the Hong Kong Squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen ceased to exist. One is left to wonder whether any of those enthusiastic Frontiersmen who welcomed the Founder in 1935 survived the war and the occupation of Hong Kong by the Japanese.
© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.