Topic October / November 2022. When the Lord Mayor of London, The Rt. Hon. Lord Mais, stepped onto the train at Agassiz Station late in the evening of Tuesday August 14th 1973 to continue a train journey across Canada it was the end of a very busy day around Vancouver and part of British Columbia around the Fraser River close to Vancouver. Together with his wife he had visited the University of British Columbia, Hudson Bay Fort and on to the town of Chilliwack, where they were given a civic reception and the Lord Mayor officially opened the 101st Chilliwack Exhibition. The citizens of that town had the distinct impression that the Lord and Lady Mayor thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the town. What would probably have surprised them was that much of the security was provided by the local members of the Legion of Frontiersmen and not by the R.C.M.P.. Although the Frontiersmen were no longer affiliated to the R.C.M.P. the Mounted Police still used the Frontiersmen as their auxiliaries. The R.C.M.P. did provide a mounted constable for the Exhibition wearing the original uniform of of what was then called the North-West Mounted Police, also their motorcycle display team put on a show. As the area commandant of the Legion wrote:
“…Wherever there is a Commonwealth Frontiersman, there also is a friend and supporter in time of need to any “Mountie”. That is how our relationship has been since we were first formed by a former member of the North-West Mounted Police: our founder, Captain Roger Pocock…”
The Lord Mayor would have been well used to seeing the Frontiersmen in the City of London, but there they were more often mounted. It must have been something of a surprise to find uniformed Frontiersmen in charge of security at the other side of the world. Every year the City of London elects a new Lord Mayor and the new Lord Mayor is celebrated by a parade in November which always varies and is a sight which always attracts large crowds. The Lord Mayor rides in the famous State Coach drawn by six horses and is escorted by famous City Regiments and other uniformed organisations with special privileges. Of course there was no Lord Mayor’s Show during WW2 but there was much excitement for the first show in 1946. The mounted escort was provided by the Legion of Frontiersmen and this privilege was continued for some time following, but not every year. In 1970 the Band of the Royal Fusiliers was followed by two marching detachments of Fusiliers with their vehicles featuring anti-tank guns and mortars. A mounted detachment of the Legion of Frontiersmen followed them. The Frontiersmen did not take part in Lord Mais’ Lord Mayor’s Show in November 1972 because his theme was “Youth” and the show was almost entirely composed of youth organisations such as the Scouts and Girl Guides. In 1975 the Legion had the honour of their mounted detachment leading the Lord Mayor’s procession ahead of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and carrying both their own Colour and the Guidons of St. George’s Cross.
At Chilliwack Lord Mais was to see the Frontiersmen at work performing civic duties and providing local support where needed.
The Frontiersmen involved were from “B” Squadron of British Columbia Command, based along the Fraser River valley close to Vancouver and centred mainly in the towns of Chilliwack and Mission City (now Mission). Volunteers to join the Legion included also a number of ladies who were designated “Women’s Auxiliaries”. They served as radio operators and many other duties, but were also quite prepared to go out on point duty directing traffic. Canadians as well as other Commonwealth countries were more than happy to accept ladies into the Legion. In this they were well ahead of Legion Headquarters in London where less than a year earlier at the 1972 AGM, on hearing that Yorkshire had set up a very successful ladies’ unit in their Leeds Squadron, the backward-thinking Commandant-General Philip Shoosmith ruled that their ladies’ section “… had not been sanctioned, was out of order, and would be disbanded, except possibly as an affiliated Section for First Aid activities if or when qualified. No form of Legion rank or insignia could be adopted”. Although by his dinosaur views on women he did untold harm to the Legion in Yorkshire, his ruling was fortunately ignored around the Commonwealth countries.
The area Commandant in British Columbia held a much more modern view:
“To the ladies of our Womens Reserve, I have only the highest praise. From the reports that have reached my desk I know that my judgement in establishing this branch of the service was a wise one. Whether it is in the operation of a base radio station or performing security service at some function you have established for all time how indispensable you are…”
The Squadron was also involved with the visit to Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley on December 9th by the then Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau. The R.C.M.P. requested the assistance of the Frontiersmen in marshalling and security. The day chosen for the visit was Chilliwack’s Santa Claus Parade. The Prime Minister arrived by car, but Santa arrived, not by sleigh, but by helicopter. The Frontiersmen – and Frontierswomen – took equal place with R.C.M.P. in controlling traffic and road intersections and also with security, ensuring that no trouble-maker would attempt to interfere with the visit of the Prime Minister. 1973 was the centenary of the R.C.M.P. and the Frontiersmen were welcomed at their Military Ball in November. The exemplary conduct of Canadian Frontiersmen meant that a bond existed between “The Force” and the Frontiersmen.
What was unusual in ‘B’ Squadron in the Fraser Valley was that they had a Dog Section. We have not seen records of another dog squad anywhere else (unless you know different, reader). The section was commanded by a Frontiersman bearing the unusual Legion rank of Dog-Master-Corporal. The dogs were mainly German Shepherds such as “Brandy”, “Lex”, “Shadow” and “Nikki”, all fully trained, not only as guard dogs because “Shadow”was also a sniffer dog. The Squadron, and the Dog Section, were called in to assist nearer to Vancouver at Cloverdale and Surrey, also at the International Horse Show where they were needed to guard millions of dollars worth of horses.
When the Lord Mayor of London visited Chilliwack, the Agassis Correctional Center (a prison to the British) put on a display of arts and crafts by the prisoners under one guard and two of the allegedly more trusty inmates. One of the inmates decided that this was a great opportunity to gain his freedom and slipped away. A Frontiersman soon found him trying to hide and returned him to the guard. The prisoner decided not to argue with a tough and experienced Frontiersman.
Back in London the Lord Mayor would see more Frontiersmen on special occasions; this time the Ceremonial Colour Squadron either marching to or from the Tower of London, or marching behind the Royal Fusiliers on Remembrance Day to lay wreaths at the Royal Fusiliers Memorial.
Nowadays marching Frontiersmen are sadly not so common a sight in any country.
(Newspaper cutting is from Chilliwack Progress August 15th 1973.
Quotations from “B” Division British Columbia Command, Annual Newsletter, 1973)
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