Phase I: The Plan 1904-1914,
Voluntary irregular force patterned after the British Army to serve as
- Mounted Rifles,
- Military Scouts,
- Local Army Guides,
- Pioneers (military labourers), and
- Intelligence gathers
Regimental numbering system indicates 13,000 members throughout British Empire.
Phase II: The Great War 1914-1918
World War I (Great War) era witnesses Frontiersmen throughout the Empire answer the ‘Call to Arms’. Legionnaires enlist in a variety of units. LF involvement has been noted in units:
- Remounts in Britain until British Army is organized for Remounts activity
- Remounts work in Ottawa 1914, then likely assignment as drivers (teamsters) in artillery
- 25th Royal Frontiersmen Fusiliers (unique regiment for East Africa campaign)
- Royal Newfoundland Regiment
- Home Defence Artillery (Newfoundland)
- Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (indications, about 50% of originals being LF)
- 49th Battalion’s ‘D’ Company (today perpetuated by Loyal Edmonton Regiment)
- 19th Alberta Dragoons (today perpetuated by South Alberta Light Horse)
- 50th Gordon Highlanders of Victoria (today perpetuated by Canadian Scottish Regiment)
- 210th Frontiersmen Battalion CEF (today perpetuated by Saskatchewan Dragoons)
- Home Guards include Edmonton Battalion Reserve Militia, United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Corps, Victoria Mounted Rifles, Winnipeg and likely home guards units in other centres.
Phase III: The Post Great War Decline 1919-1929
Legion of Frontiersmen throughout the Empire fade substantially as a reported 6,000 to 9,000 Frontiersmen were killed in the Great War. The era of Irregular mounted rifles and scouts fade into history. In Canada few active LF units exist. The only documents retrieved to date indicate that units exist on the west Coast and past email communications indicate the possibility of a Toronto unit. “The 9,000” eventually becomes a toast in LF gatherings and Mess dinners.
Phase IV: The 1929-1939 Revitalization
Larry B. Blaine of Croydon, UK moved to Edmonton and by late 1929 begins to recruit for the Legion of Frontiersmen. His most notable recruit is Lt. Colonel Louis Scott DCM a former WW1 ‘Patricia’ and former CO of the Edmonton Regiment. Louis Scott takes charge and under his leadership the LF:
- Creates highly effective Canadian HQ in Edmonton
- Establishes LF units across Canada.
- Recruits many Great War veterans
- Establishes a Field HQ and erects a stone cenotaph east of Edmonton
- Establishes affiliation with Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Begin police auxiliary duties in some municipal centers
By 1939 the total Legion strength in Canada is estimated at 2,000-2500 members.
Phase V: The World War II Era
By the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 organizational squabbling saw the LF in Canada divided into two camps. The “Legion of Frontiersmen” numbering an estimated 3000 members and was led by Louis Scott; while other Frontiersmen formed the “Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen”, a largely eastern based unit. Regardless of the administrative split all Frontiersmen threw themselves into the war effort. The younger and the fit members joined a variety of wartime units. Those debarred by age or fitness concentrated ARP and other home front war efforts. – Once again wartime efforts depleted the LF ranks and organizational structures.
Phase VI: The Post WW2 Era 1947 – 1980
In 1947 Louis Scott DCM rallied former Frontiersmen, patriotic citizens, and a new generation of young veterans into the Legion of Frontiersmen. Concurrently a smaller Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen reorganize during the same period. During this era the LF appeals to some WW2 veterans. Frontiersmen re focus and engage in
- Municipal auxiliary policing
- Civil Defence training
- Community service projects
- Ceremonial activities
- Social association for WW2 era veterans
The British Empire was in decline and the same enthusiasm that spawned the LF of 1904 is no longer a Canadian reality. This plus the nuclear age, the Cold War, the anti-Vietnam War sentiments and preponderance of older veterans do not stimulate the interest of new and younger members. The overall LF does not grow much beyond the 600 to 700 members attained by the early 1960s.
Phase VII: Fading Away in the Late 20th Century
While numbers declined significantly by the 1980s some units were still active in the regions of Vancouver, Edmonton, and Regina in particular. Edmonton area was still dynamic, developing its Field HQ for camping and sailing activities for youth and cadet groups. Funds were raised for charitable activities. Smaller groups carried on elsewhere including Quebec, but overall the Legion had almost faded away by the 1990s. Efforts to rally an aging LF were unsuccessful on a national level. – Most unfortunately, self-styled associations evolved usurping uniform, history and traditions of the authentic LF formed in 1904-05.
Phase VIII: Reorganization in the 21st Century
Worldwide, a small number of members commit to maintaining the Remembrance, the traditions, loyalties, and fellowship of the Legion of Frontiersmen. The Countess Mountbatten of Burma generously extended her Patronage and her title to the original and authentic association; a reminder of her grandfather’s interests in the Legion of Frontiersmen during its formative era.
Today small units and individual members pursue a variety of activities ranging from international parachuting to equitation to community service within the context of the LF. In Canada the ‘Frontiersmen’ strive to adapt the traditional association to meaningful activity in a time vastly different from the imperial era.
As an example, the prairie region’s Mounted Troop maintains the traditional uniform and the semi-military platform as an organizational structure while committed to the following:
- Preservation of western Canada’s mounted forces’ traditions
- Ceremonial and recreational equitation
- Regimental-like association for the remembrance of the many thousands of ‘Frontiersmen’ and other Commonwealth soldiers, for thoughtful patriotism, peaceful community service and for social activities.
With the efforts and assistance of University of Alberta representatives, a determined focus has been made to gather and to accurately preserve the unique story of the Legion of Frontiersmen and its eccentric Founder Roger Pocock. (see Outrider of Empire published by University of Alberta Press).
Reorganization of an association designed for mounted rifles to a refocused Legion of Frontiersmen in the 21st century is a challenge taken up by (Countess Mountbatten’s Own) Legion of Frontiersmen.
God Guard Thee
B.W. Shandro, Capt., Historical & Archives Section, Legion of Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth.
Thanks and acknowledgements are due to Will Shandro for supplying the details for this page and for his general assistance and advice.
© Copyright B.W Shandro. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.