Topic Feb / Mar 2021. In our last topic page we looked at the Frontiersmen in 1938, the year before the Second World War was declared. This time we look back at 1913, the year before the First World War. Reading both these topics the thought cannot be erased that perhaps in both cases the Frontiersmen spent a lot of time training for the previous wars and not the one to come. In 1938 much effort was expended on anti-gas warfare which – fortunately – was not to be needed. The Legion also still insisted that every recruit should be able to ride a horse. Excellent for ceremonial purposes, but the horse was only to have a limited use in the coming Second World War. As has been written in an earlier 2020 topic, the Frontiersmen did have the opportunity to involve themselves in preparations for more modern warfare, but declined: The Lost Squadron

Gamages were a well-known London store and they undertook to be stockists of Frontiersmen uniform.

In 1913, although many Squadrons had a cyclists unit and some a motor section involving cars and motor-cycles, the main centre of attention was the horse. Admittedly, motorised transport was confined to the financially well-off. The main feature of Frontiersmen training was in scouting and to some extent guerilla warfare. They were trying to improve on the skills learned with difficulty on the veldts of Southern Africa. When war was declared Driscoll pestered the War Office to be allowed to take his Frontiersmen across the Channel and harass and destroy the German lines of communication. Had it been allowed early enough it just might have worked to some extent, although that has to be unlikely. Driscoll’s fighting had been carried out in Burma and South Africa. Neither he nor, according to available Legion records, any of his trusted senior men had any knowledge of the terrain in Belgium, which was totally different and quite extensively farmed.. The men of his Maritime Command had considerable knowledge of the coast the other side of the English Channel, but the Frontiersmen would have been fighting inland and with very few places to hide after any episode of guerilla warfare. The War Office view of warfare did not include what would virtually have been suicide squads of guerillas. By early 1915 when the War Office were prepared to look at whether they could use the Frontiersmen, war in Europe had become a far more static affair. The Frontiersmen had proved of great value in the last months of 1914 using their specialist skills of handling and breaking in horses in the Remount Depots. Kitchener was right in using those exceptional skills of the Frontiersmen learned in Canada, U.S.A., Brazil, and Argentine the way that he did:

Those well-to-do Frontiersmen whom owned motor-cycles took their own machines across the Channel and served as despatch riders. A most interesting book on that subject is “A Motorcycle Courier in the Great War” by Captain W.H.L. Watson. (Pen & Sword, 2013). Many of these upper-class young motorcyclists were commissioned after a period of time when the army had become organised and it no longer needed these volunteers with their own machines.

Seaside Park Hotel City of Vancouver

In 1913 training was being carried out every week and as often as possible. Every Frontiersman was expected to have his own copy of The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book ¹ and that was their training handbook. The training was very similar in all countries, although climates were notably different. The Vancouver Command reported on a night exercise carried out the previous November when they visited the Sea Side Park Hotel. After a comforting supper the hotel was placed out of bounds and the men had to find a sleeping place outside. Guards were mounted. All went well except for one man “who took an involuntary bath in the chilly waters of Howe Sound and had to be taken off duty and dried out by his sympathetic comrades”. Unfortunately the next day (Sunday) dawned very wet, so much so that the men could not go out on pathfinding duty.

Maritime Sections were not only successful on the east coast of England. They were set up with great enthusiasm in Australia and New Zealand. Travel around the world was by sea and many a Frontiersman who could not afford a fare had worked their passage across the world. There were a number who were ships’ officers, such as Ernest Hyatt.


Captain Archer, the organising officer of the Maritime Section of Vancouver Command called on and addressed a Frontiersmen meeting when in Auckland.

He told of how the idea had caught on in Canada, and spoke of the magnificent opportunity for a maritime branch in Auckland, where ships from all parts of the world continually come and go…Captain Archer pointed out that the average Canadian, like the average New Zealander, was a born frontiersman. In both countries the men, from boyhood, learned to shift for themselves, learned to hunt for food, to find their way across trackless country, to blaze a trail in the forest, to bridge streams, and to make a camp. They were scouts, trackers, hunters, and explorers by instinct, and amongst farmers, bushmen, packers, rafters, musterers, and stock-riders in New Zealand there was some of the finest material in the world for a guerilla force. He offered to instruct and train a Maxim gun squad. It is hardly necessary to add that the boys gave Captain Archer a cordial vote of thanks.

Yes, indeed, they were the ‘finest material for a guerilla force’, but that was not what they were going to be asked to do in France, Belgium and to a greater extent for the Australians and New Zealanders, at Gallipoli. That they performed so bravely did show that they were indeed all of the ‘finest material”.

September 1914, Nottingham Evening Post

A good example of how the Legion trained and performed in Britain can be seen from the Nottinghamshire Squadrons of the North Midland Command who put on public displays throughout the summer of 1913 at events such as the Sheffield Agricultural Show and the Beeston Gymkhana. As an aside, it is interesting that the Notts. Squadrons followed Legion principles and saw no need for a Legion officer. Every Troop was commanded by a Sergeant and the two Squadrons were under the command of an R.S.M.. On 24th July they joined in an exercise with H Company of the 6th Bn. North Staffordshire Regt. who:

…threw out a line of outposts to cover a main body in Burton-on-Trent, and “A” Troop of the Burton Squadron L.F. represented the enemies’ scouts, whose mission was to get through and obtain information on the main body.

The Frontiersmen found the roads well watched. Two members got through in the bottom of a milk cart without being challenged, and four more got through on foot across country. The remaining three made a special effort to get through across country leading their horses.

They had no difficulty in locating the sentries without being seen,but, owing to the necessity of frequently retracing their steps to avoid damaging crops, they had not sufficient time to get through.

The experience gained is that the roads are well watched. Therefore, to get through along the roads means stratagem or disguise. To get through across country the cover is excellent, but unless the men and horses can jump, so as to get from one farm to another, the only way, after locating the sentries, is to leave one or two men in charge of the horses and the rest go through on foot.

It is unusual to find Frontiersmen saying that their horses were a hindrance to them. When the German forces stormed through Belgium in August 1914 they took no consideration of growing crops on farms. “During the day [August 4th] as the boots and wheels and hooves of the German ranks overran villages and trampled fields of rip grain, the shooting augmented…” (“August 1914” by Barbara Tuchman, 1962, p.172) That was one difference between war and an exercise on cultivated land.

General Bethune

From the very start of the war the Frontiersmen were keen to be enrolled as a unit. The Frontiersmen paraded in London to be inspected by General Bethune. Many newspapers were impressed, not least “The Sportsman” of 14th September, 1914:

The Legion of Frontiersmen, who muster over a thousand in London, lined up a fortnight ago in Vincent Square. The Imperial Light Horse formed and drilled an irregular force of about 500 strong, but after the War Office had inspected them they were soon after disbanded.

The War Office has not yet given the Legion permission to go to the Front, but after interviewing Colonel Driscoll and the subsequent review in Vincent Square and nothing having happened since, they have great hopes. Of course they would be accepted as units anywhere, but they naturally wish to be together. They come from all parts of the Empire – from Siam, Newfoundland, Assam, Argentine, and everywhere. There are several late officers of the British Army serving in the ranks, and they were described as one of the finest bodies of men ever seen in London. There are many instances of men in the Legion who had previously served with other regiments, and so large a majority are old Public School boys that no apology is necessary for referring to them. They have served in many parts of the Empire. Wherever Britain has possessions there may be found a contingent of the Legion of Frontiersmen, even in the Fiji Islands.

Last year in the “B” Squadron – Battersea – of only 80 men, there were 90 medals and over 250 “bars”, and at Vincent Square it would have taken a chartered accountant all his time to count the medals and clasps. Two hundred men from Moose Jaw, I gather from the same source, have signed on with Princess Patricia’s Horse [sic] and are on their way to England.

Photograph of an earlier inspection, May 1914, on the London Embankment by Major-General Sir Alfred Turner K.C.B., accompanied by Lt.-Col. Driscoll. The photos we have of the inspection by General Bethune are not of sufficient quality to reproduce.

Bethune’s report was quite favourable and he said that Driscoll had a good hold on his men who Bethune considered were typical “toughs” who could do excellent work as irregulars. Irregulars were not what Kitchener sought. So the Frontiersmen, other than those who chose to serve with other regiments, had to be satisfied with working in Remounts until the call came in early 1915 for them to serve in East Africa.

(Other than noted, quotations are from 1913 Frontiersmen magazines)

¹ The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book has been re-printed by the University of Alberta. It is available from bookshops or online direct from the University. It is highly recommended. Many sections of it still work today as a survival manual.

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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Sir T Astley Cubitt taking salute

Topic Dec 2020 / Jan 2021.  This topic is something we have not featured before. We are looking at one year of the Frontiersmen’s activities; an important year with WW2 just a year ahead. The First War had only ended twenty years before, well within the memory of many people. Quite a percentage of the population of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand plus many a small British colony wanted to avoid war at almost any price. While not wanting another war, Frontiersmen were making preparations and contributors to the “Frontiersman” magazine were writing in complaining of the lack of preparation by the British Government. Countries such as Canada had an additional problem in that they had a large number of German born or German descent settlers whose sympathies could well be with Adolf Hitler. Rearmament in Britain did not really begin until 1935 as before then the emphasis was on reducing the armed forces and trying to negotiate peace. “Frontiersman” magazines gave a remarkable picture of their activities and their opinions from that difficult time. Any quotations here not otherwise noted come from “Frontiersman” magazines of that year.

Winston Churchill, leader of those M.P.s who were campaigning against the appeasement of Hitler said in May 1938: “We are now in the third year of openly avowed rearmament. Why is it, if all is going well, there are so many deficiencies? Why, for example are the Guards drilling with flag instead of machine guns and anti-tank rifles?” (Hansard).

Leo Amery, M.P., the Honorary Commandant of Birmingham Frontiersmen Squadron and keen supporter of the Legion in general, who had been Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, was rightly acknowledged as being a leading critic of Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement towards Germany during the summer and early autumn of 1938.

The President of the Legion, Major-General Lord Loch, gave the opening speech at the Annual General Meeting in May:

At the present moment this country and this Empire of ours were at a time of crisis which it is not possible to exaggerate. It could only be saved if all members of the Commonwealth stuck and worked together. We, of the Legion of Frontiersmen, had, in his opinion, a very important role to play. We were, all of us, men who had seen danger and hardship. We knew what it meant, and, knowing what it meant, knew how foul and filthy war was. We, all of us, wanted to avoid it with honour and without disgrace. Another reason why he thought the Legion was so important was that, being composed of men who knew what danger and hardship were, we should judge what was real danger and what was press scaremongering…We must enlist every man worthy of being a Frontiersman and not forget the rule that no man should be enlisted who was eligible for any branch of the Forces… One of the great forces of this organization was that we had tentacles practically in every part of the Empire.


What was originally Air Command of the Legion had grown rapidly in five years – and enjoyed two name changes. Air Command was absorbed into Northern Command becoming known as Air Defence Branch and from March 1938 as the Air Communication Group. Considering that Frontiersmen had to finance themselves and flying was an expensive hobby, the Air Frontiersmen had become very successful in only a few years. In their annual report published in 1938 they reported that during 1937 their pilots had flown over 609 hours. They had flown in exercises to assist the Territorial Army had had also flown in conjunction with the training of Anti-Aircraft Brigades. Training of the men, other than pilots, was comprehensive, consisting of “Observation, Map-reading, Engines, Rigging, Wireless Telegraphy,Machine Guns, Rifle Shooting, Gas, First Aid, Despatch Riding, Drill”. It looks strongly as if their work, especially in Yorkshire, had not gone un-noticed by the Government because later in 1938 the short-lived but official “Civil Air Guard” was formed after consultation with the Flying Schools around the country. Although the Frontiersmen received no credit, the activities and training appear to have been identical to that of the Air Frontiersmen. The one difference was that those serving in the Civil Air Guard received a small financial subsidy towards their costs plus a free uniform. This was attractive enough to persuade a few Frontiersmen pilots to move their allegiance. Another example of a Frontiersmen idea being adopted (without credit).

Air Frontiersmen with planes

Although they were doing useful work with the Anti-Aircraft Brigades, there was the problem that the Air Frontiersmen were working and training with De Haviland bi-planes of First War design and with obsolete weapons. Modern design aeroplanes were not appearing in the number they should have been.

According to a well-informed MP (Sir Hugh Seely, speaking in May 1938), of the 340 Hawker Hurricane single-seat monoplane fighters ordered in June 1936, only 28 were actually in service and only a single example of a more advanced single-seat monoplane fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire, was on hand. The RAF was still using the 20-year-old Vickers machine gun…¹

The Air Frontiersmen certainly could not be criticised for lack of enthusiasm.

Air Frontiersmen march past Yorkshire – note the uniform


We know that the Frontiersmen were much involved in anti-gas warfare and were to take on duties of Air Raid Wardens and a number of Frontiersmen studied for and were presented with Air Raid Precautions Certificates awarded by St. John Ambulance Brigade. When the war began other Frontiersmen served in what began as the Local Defence Volunteers, later the Home Guard. Another duty taken around the country by Frontiersmen who were still physically fit but not of an age to join the Territorial Army was to join the Auxiliary Fire Service. The Newcastle Troop:

…volunteered as a Unit and were accepted as the nucleus for the City Auxiliary Fire Brigade. To qualify for same we have to undergo one hour’s Gas Training per week, and also one hour in Fire Fighting, which of course takes up the time we had for our weekly parade. We hope in the near future to be able to report that the whole Troop are fully qualified Firemen!



Frontiersmen today still serve the local community in any way they can. In 1938 poverty was rife in parts of London and children had few treats. Islington was one of the poorer areas of London and the Islington Troop organised and ran a children’s party in early January.

Five hundred and sixty children were entertained to tea, and after five hours entertainment left with bags of sweets, fruit and toys -our thanks are extended to those who gave us their help. The cost of the party was heavy and, as we are starting right away to collect for next year, if anyone has any spare cash it will be gratefully received.


We have not discussed Legion medals before because during the last quarter of the 20th century they tended to proliferate, but the subject did arise at the 1938 AGM. The L.M.S.M. was intended to be the sole Legion medal but a motion was put forward to introduce a Long Service Medal.

…That a Legion Long Service Medal be instituted and awarded for 7 years’ continuous service and that, if the medal be authorised, the head of the Founder be embossed on the obverse, in appreciation of his great services to the Legion.

This proposition led to considerable discussion. It was pointed out that it had been turned down last year.

Capt. Pocock said he wished the reference to the Founder’s head be deleted!

The Commandant-General said that he had attended a very large meeting in the Northern Command when this same matter was brought up for discussion. Many were in favour and they asked his opinion. They had the L.M.S.M. and did not want to go on piling it up. It was only a privilege that they were allowed to wear that. For other ranks it had been decided that chevrons be worn as in the army. He felt that was the best thing, otherwise, where would they stop? To give a medal for 7 years service was somewhat ridiculous.

We know that a Long Service Medal was eventually introduced in 1951. For many years most Frontiersmen had campaign medals to wear and a considerable number had gallantry medals.


Nineteen thirty-eight was one of the best years for the Legion worldwide. For the whole year the Legion could bask in the satisfaction that they could add “Affiliated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police” on their letter-headings. For thirty-three years the Legion had been desperate to have some form of official recognition and the affiliation to the R.C.M.P. gave them that acclaim. Since 1926 they had been affiliated to the City of London Police but an official link to a country’s national force which had a Royal honour was an outstanding achievement. It went some way to silencing the Legion’s critics in official circles.

Mounted Frontiersmen at Horse Guards

The honour was not to last. Eight hundred officers and men paraded at Somerset House and marched off via the Strand and Admiralty Arch to Horse Guards Parade. Long before the days when one could hop on a plane and visit another country, there was a surprising number of attendees from other Commands around the world such as India and South Africa, both at the Parade and at the AGM. A notable name was “Colonel” Fitzgerald of “Q” Quebec Squadron Canada which Fitzgerald claimed had 122 active members and was the largest Squadron in the Commonwealth. Fitzgerald contrived to arrange a private meeting with the Cdt-General, Brigadier Morton, partly from which came Morton’s decree in the following year to split Canada into two Commands, which decree was eventually to cause the end of the brief affiliation to the R.C.M.P..²

At the time this was not even a shadow on the horizon as the Parade and the A.G.M. both went off without a hitch and with the reviewing General, Sir T. Astley Cubitt, being fulsome in his praise of the Frontiersmen:

Commandant-General, officers and members of the Legion of Frontiersmen. It is a great privilege and honour to me to be invited to inspect you today. It is also a very great pleasure to have walked round and to have seen so many of you who have no doubt served along with myself. I have seen men who have been in all parts of the Empire. I am astonished that you could carry off a parade so well without a rehearsal – which I know you have not had – and I am most impressed with your marching and your bearing…

You, however, a voluntary organisation, with your magnificent record, are always ready to take any part collectively or individually, should a national emergency arise, and are setting a splendid example to the nation, old and young, and I congratulate you most heartily.

(Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from 1938 Frontiersmen magazines)

¹ Vincent Orange, Tedder: Quietly in Command, [Frank Cass, 2004] p.104. Lord Tedder was a Frontiersman in Fiji for a time in 1914
² See: https://frontiersmenhistorian.info/rcmp-and-the-frontiersmen/

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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The Frontiersman Who Took the Blame

Major Patrick Forbes

Topic October / November 2020. When King Edward VII was on the throne and the Legion of Frontiersmen was founded there were definite class barriers in Britain. In countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand class was not as strongly defined. Many of the Frontiersmen who joined in the early years had worked in the wide-open spaces and more remote lands of the world. To them, ability was far more important than class. The Legion of Frontiersmen was far in advance of British society in holding those ideas. There was an exception. The Founder, Roger Pocock, needed to gain the support of men of power and influence in the land. While such supporters considered that Pocock had introduced a great idea which would benefit Britain and its Empire, they still looked at the social class of the man. Pocock was a minor author and adventurer. He was a member of an acceptable family – but only of a minor branch – also he had the reputation of being an eccentric. There was an additional and serious problem. In 1898 he had led an expedition to the Klondyke and on this expedition a baronet, Sir Arthur Curtis, had disappeared and his body was never found. Rumours continuously circulated that Pocock had murdered Curtis for his money. Such baseless rumours had even reached the ears of King Edward.¹

2 Seton-Karr ILN

Although the first President of the Legion was Lord Lonsdale, another wealthy and influential supporter recruited by Pocock to be the first Commandant-General was Sir Henry Seton-Karr, (1853-1914). Sir Henry was a tall and imposing explorer, a “hunting, shooting and fishing” Tory “grandee” and, until 1906, a Member of Parliament. Although Driscoll was London Commandant, Pocock as Commissioner ² was responsible for the day-to-day running of the Legion worldwide. Pocock’s lack of qualifications for leadership in addition to the rumours about Sir Arthur Curtis were of concern to Seton-Karr and others of the Executive Committee. They felt that the Commissioner should be someone who had been to the “right” school, had held an army commission of suitable rank and was of the “right” class of gentleman. The idea of Roger and of those Frontiersmen who had worked in the wilder parts of the world that their leaders should be elected was not acceptable to many of the wealthy and influential men who Roger had persuaded to join the Executive Council. On February 7th 1908 Pocock recorded in his diary: “S-K [Seton-Karr] very brusque. Wanted my resignation…Told me a retired major had been found to take my place.” ³ On February 13th he wrote: “Ex[ecutive]. Council. My resignation accepted…Met Major Patrick Forbes the new Chief Ex officer.” The appointment of Major Patrick William Forbes (1861-1923) as Chief Executive Officer was somewhat surprising. Although called by the Frontiersmen the “Hero of Rhodesia”, as the commanding officer of the Shangani column he was held responsible, especially by Rhodes, for the death of Allan Wilson and his patrol. Forbes, educated at Rugby and then trained at Sandhurst, had originally been commissioned in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons and had previously held responsible positions in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), being the first magistrate at Fort Salisbury. After the Shangani Patrol affair Forbes was given no recognition for his previous good service, but in 1895 was appointed Administrator of the territories north of the Zambesi, an impressive title but not an impressive job. At the end of the Boer War he moved to England.

18940210 P I P artist impression

During much of 1893 the newspapers were full of praise for Forbes for his part in the success of the campaign against the uprising of Lobengula and the Matabele, but a year later Forbes was given the blame for the death of Wilson and his men. Forbes was in command of the column when Major Allan Wilson (1856–93) and his men were massacred on 4 December 1893. Forbes had sent Wilson out with the Patrol, but Wilson did not strictly follow orders. Although Wilson could be held somewhat responsible for the fate of his patrol, he became a popular hero whose demise brought forth a number of heroic and imaginative paintings of the action.⁴ The only first-hand account by one of the members of the Shangani Patrol is in Frederick Burnham, Scouting on Two Continents, 158–204. Burnham was with Forbes and Wilson, and he actually joined the Canadian Division of the Legion himself when in his eighties. Burnham was a much-liked man with many friends but, as with many another Frontiersman’s accounts of his adventures, there were often doubts raised about his ability to tell the truth. According to Burnham he had left the Patrol under Wilson’s order to carry a message. A number of historians dispute this. The Victorians particularly loved to read stories of patriotic Englishmen who died fighting for Queen and Empire. The story of Wilson and the last few survivors of the Patrol singing “God Save the Queen” as they prepared for death with all their ammunition expended appealed greatly to the British public. Newspapers and magazines, not only in Britain, were full of stories – and imaginative drawings – of the event. As nobody from the Patrol survived the final stand there was scope in the papers for imagination. In later years Matabele warriors who had taken part told their stories, but as these were by now old men, some of the stories conflicted. Brief accounts of the Shangani Patrol can be seen in many publications, but the best examination of the whole story is in the detailed “Pursuit of the King” by John O’Reilly (Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1970), which is well worth reading.

4 18940120 Shangani P I P artist impression

In the June-September 1962 issue of “Canadian Frontiersman” magazine Pocock is quoted as saying in June 1931 that “Forbes ousted me as Commandant-General [sic] of the Legion in 1908 when German spies infiltrated our organization and worked to bring about my overthrow—oh, I served under him gladly, and without the slightest friction, we were the best of friends!” Pocock was seeing German spies everywhere, although he was far from alone in this, as is well documented. Forbes’ organisational ability in command was soon to be seen. As an example, the “Irish Times” of 11th July 1908 reported on the Frontiersmen forming part of a guard of honour to King Edward VII. Men of the Irish Command, based in Dublin, had travelled over especially to take part.

A detachment of the Irish Command, consisting of 12 rank and file, in command of Lieutenant R.P. Fortune, the staff being represented by Captain G.F. Simpson, left Dublin for Leeds on Monday last to join the Yorkshire Command in forming the guard of honour to His Majesty the King on the occasion of his State visit to Leeds. The Frontiersmen, under Major Forbes, occupied a prominent position on the Royal route, being posted at the entrance to the Great Northern Railway Station, and were loudly cheered by the citizens as they took up ground. General Oliphant, commanding the troops, complimented Major Forbes on the smart turn-out of the Frontiersmen, and, on learning that a number had volunteered from Dublin, expressed his admiration, and desired Major Forbes to convey to them that he greatly appreciated their patriotism.

We have already told the story of how Forbes was able to thwart an assassination attempt on the Portuguese Monarch (Friends in High Places).  Patrick Forbes was well known to the Portuguese. Writing for “Canadian Frontiersman” in 1941 Roger Pocock told how in November 1890:

…a report reached Forbes that a Portuguese Military Mission was in British territory, busy swearing in the native chiefs as subjects of Portugal. Forbes took nineteen troopers and rode hard for Messakessie, where he found the kraal held by five hundred native infantry. He charged through them, caught Colonel Andrada swearing in the chiefs, arrested him and his Staff Officers and sent them down as prisoners to Capetown, This lead to an international incident.

According to F.C. Selous, who had fought against the Matabele until he was wounded, it was Fort Salisbury not Capetown. A contemporary of Forbes in Rhodesia rather unkindly said that Forbes had the bravery of a bulldog and the brains of one.

Strangely, the surviving Frontiersmen magazines up to the First War make no mention of him. He rejoined the Army but, being too unfit and too old for active service, he became officer in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Wiltshire. He retired from the army in 1916 and went to live in Salisbury Wiltshire, rather than Salisbury Rhodesia. He died in 1922 aged 61. However much blame was placed on his shoulders nobody could question his bravery and he served the Legion of Frontiersmen with the same loyalty as he always did through his life serving Queen, King, and Country.

¹ For this story see Outrider of Empire by Geoffrey A Pocock (University of Alberta Press 2008)
² The Frontiersmen have always wished to reject any rank above that of Captain, other than for those who have earned such higher rank in the army or navy. They have often used Commissioner or Commandant for senior ranks.
³ Quotations from Roger Pocock’s pocket diaries by kind permission of the Roger Pocock archive at the Bruce Peel Collections at the University of Alberta.
⁴ Illustrations of the Shangani Patrol are from the “Penny Illustrated Paper” and owed more to the imagination of the artist than to actual fact as no member of the Patrol survived the action.

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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Capt A J Dawson

Topic August / September 2020Misinformation – Deception – Persuasion.   It depends entirely your point of view as to what you call it. It was certainly something in which many Frontiersmen were skilled, although we have been inclined to refer to the telling “camp-fire yarns. In wartime such propaganda and persuasion had a definite value. The most notable Frontiersman with these skills was Hugh Pollard.

His most famous propaganda tale is that of the “Phantom Russian Army”. Recent researches throw doubt on his claim to be the inventor of that story and it is pretty certain to say that nobody will ever get to the bottom of how many of Pollard’s stories were true and how many invention.

When in August 1917 Roger Pocock returned from France and his position in the Labour Corps for being “too old and too infirm”, he spent the last weekend of the month staying with Hugh Pollard and his wife. As we know, Hugh Pollard was enthusiastic about inventing stories which could be useful for propaganda and because of this he was working, as were a number of authors, for M.I.7b under A.J. Dawson, another Frontiersman and contributor to The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book. To quote from Dawson’s contribution:-

…Now, by sheer force of personal example and personal influence, they [the Frontiersmen] may do something for Great and Greater Britain, for our house as a whole, for which our children and our grandchildren will have cause to thank them, for which our history will honour them…

England expects and needs that every able-bodied man should do his duty, and fulfil honourably the responsibilities of citizenship, instead of thinking only of its privileges.¹

On Pollard’s recommendation Roger was offered a three month contract. Dawson had a standard letter which he sent to every author who wished to be considered for M.I.7b:-

To that end, I am permitted to suggest to you that you might send me an article, preferably one of about 1,000, or 1,200 words, and certainly not exceeding 2,000 words, dealing in a popular way, and descriptively rather than opinionatively, with any aspect of the war which appeals to you personally, in a manner which you consider would be helpful to the Allied cause. Such an article should be suitable for publication in the Press. For purposes of propaganda, and the information of our own public and the peoples of other countries, regarding the Allies’ part in the war, what may be called the human interest is the most important; descriptive work is always valuable; strategy and tactics are out of place

outriderRoger admitted he was not too successful at the job: “My masterpieces were put into a special drawer, to be disinfected, and never one saw daylight.” ³ Captain Alec John Dawson (1872-1951) was an author, traveller, journalist and lecturer who was very keen on Empire patriotism and unity. By 1908 he had written around twenty books based on his own experiences. His writings were well known in Canada, Africa and Australia and he had knowledge of many other countries. In 1908 he travelled through Canada addressing packed audiences. He edited the weekly “The Standard of Empire” for five years. He was also one who warned of the German menace to Britain. His 1907 book “The Message” was one of those that came out in Edwardian times dealing with the German problem. Invalided from France in 1915 he then worked in Intelligence, firstly in M.I.7 b and later for the Royal Flying Corps, which in April 1918 became the Royal Air Force. It was the influence of S.F. Edge, another Frontiersman and contributor to The Frontiersman’s Pocket Book, which brought both Dawson and Roger Pocock to serve the final year of the war in the Air Force. Selwyn Francis Edge, (1868-1940) was born near Sydney, Australia but moved to London aged 3. He first gained fame as a bicycle racer but by the time that book was published (1909) was famous as a driver of racing cars. He won the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup and in 1907 broke the 24-hour distance record driving a Napier at Brooklands. He also won the inaugural British International Trophy for speedboats in 1903. Frontiersmen’s ability in writing fiction (sometimes about their own lives!) made them highly suitable for writing propaganda stories. Under Captain Dawson, M.I.7b produced an average of 45 propaganda articles a week.

Courtesy Jackson family archive

Propaganda and re-cycling

We can suggest a strange way that propaganda in Britain affected the Frontiersmen in W.W.2. Around the country posters abounded encouraging citizens to “Make Do and Mend” (we talked about this in the topic on austerity), “Careless Talk Costs lives”, and varying posters persuading people to recycle everything from metals, paper, rags and even animal bones. Children also were told to go out collecting these materials to aid the war effort. There has been much discussion about the enforced collection of iron in the way of railings and gates. The writer recalls his father being shocked when he came home from work to find the house gates had been taken away by local Council lorry. Park railings also were swept up. Recently, unsubstantiated claims have been made that the government could not handle all the tonnes of scrap iron and that much of it was dumped. Wives were asked to donate their aluminium saucepans to be used in the manufacture of aeroplanes and photographs exist of lorry- and cart-loads of saucepans being transported to depots. Doubts have been raised since the war whether the quality of the scrap aluminium was sufficiently high enough. Every piece of waste paper was recycled. Nothing was overlooked; even some important official paper archives were sacrificed.

Scunthorpe Bugle presentatation

In the 1930s there were many well-known Legion of Frontiersmen military bands around the country. Some Troops, such as Portsmouth, even had their own dance band, as did Heathfield in Sussex, although Heathfield preferred to describe theirs as an “orchestra”. The Essex Command band broadcast a concert on B.B.C. London Regional radio on 15th December, 1933. Every Squadron, and most Troops, had their own trumpeter or bugler. At summer camps. gymkhanas and training in the country the bugle call was the signal every Frontiersman listened for. Provincial newspapers in the 1930s regularly showed photographs of presentations of bugles and trumpets to Frontiersmen units. These presentations would have either been engraved or had the Legion badge fitted. What happened to all these instruments, particularly the trumpets and bugles? Only one has survived, stored with other Legion assets. A massive nationwide drive was organised between 19th and 31st October 1942 for non-ferrous metals. Every newspaper carried advertisements and editorials. “You all have unused articles of brass, copper, lead zinc…Give them up now and help the war effort.” Even children were urged to find the smallest pieces of brass or copper and take them to school. Brass and copper all had to be imported and any way that the need for imports by ship could be reduced was taken up.

LOF trumpet

Britain was in a desperate situation. The metal was needed for munitions and for making instruments for the much-needed aeroplanes. The public took heed of the barrage of posters and advertisements and the drive was a success. There appears to be no question that any surplus of these particular metals was obtained. The younger Frontiersmen were now in the armed forces and the older men needed all their spare time for their work as A.R.P. Wardens, Home Guard, A.F.S. or Special Constabulary. Some Frontiersmen units managed an occasional meeting but there were no parades at the height of the war. It seems virtually certain that the Frontiersman’s trumpet or bugle hanging unused in the hall would have been sacrificed by the patriotic family heeding the bombardment of propaganda.

Living in this current world of plenty we can nowadays be sceptical about overtures from government sources to follow a certain path of action, treating it as mere propaganda. We can also find it difficult to understand the shortages of basic items in W.W. 2 and how vital it was to waste nothing.

So, we can look at the one surviving Legion trumpet and understand another small but not insignificant sacrifice made by the Frontiersmen.

¹ “The Frontiersman’s Pocket book”, Roger Pocock ed. (University of Alberta reprint of 1909 John Murray publication), p.379
² The National Archives WO339/15228
³ “Outrider of Empire”, Geoffrey A. Pocock (University of Alberta Press 2008) p.251

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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More Than a Local Hero

Jack Gallagher BEM

Topic June / July 2020JACK GALLAGHER B.E.M. (1902-84) is more than a local hero in the village of Selsey, England, where he was responsible for the formation of the local troop of the Legion of Frontiersmen and of what expanded to be “D” Wessex Squadron. He was the epitome of a true Frontiersman. He considered himself just an “ordinary” man, but was one of those very few whose extraordinary charisma stayed with all those who met him, and who can never forget him.

With a twin sister Jennie he was born in South Shields and proud of it, the son of a Master Mariner who was the last to sail a three-masted schooner down the River Tyne in 1895. All through his life, Jack was a deeply Christian man with his beliefs fostered by his father. His father had insisted that Jack learned how to defend himself with his fists and always stood up to bullies at school. “He believed in teaching us in being able to take care of ourselves when need arose”. Jack joined the Boy Scouts and wrote an interesting account of how the Scouts, especially on coastal areas served the country in 1914 after the war started.

Our Scoutmaster and his assistant joined the army, the Troop was left to carry on with only its Patrol Leaders in charge.

Many of us volunteered for “War Service”, some became messengers at the headquarters of the local territorial unit, others went as coast watchers with H.M. Coast Guard. Others went into camp at important railway centres, here they patrolled with the police to see that there were no suspicious trespassers.

On one occasion we found a rather suspicious character and pursued him, we reported him to the police. Later we found out that he had been arrested and it was proved that he was up to no good, and duly sentenced and punished.¹

Boy Scout Messenger Ribbon

Jack was always very proud to wear on his uniform above his medals the small ribbon which showed that he had been one of the pre-First War members of the Boy Scouts who had acted as a messenger and assisted in the defence of Britain in 1914.

At the age of 15 Jack attempted to join the Royal Flying Corps, but the Recruiting Sergeant would not believe that he was “nearly eighteen”. He hoped to be able to follow his father in a seafaring career, but unfortunately he had a problem with the sight in his left eye so was not acceptable for training as a bridge officer. His first job was working for a bank with the chance of a posting to France as he was quite proficient in French, but an indoor career was not for Jack and his health suffered. He joined an agricultural college and learned farming as an apprentice in Northumberland, where he also became a skilled horseman. He then worked for a very mean farmer in Buckinghamshire until he finally had a blazing row with his employer and left him, especially as he learned that the farmer had been a conscientious objector in the war. Farming jobs were hard to find in the1920s so he went to sea doing various menial jobs before deciding to work his passage to Australia and seek a new life. He spent 12 years in the Outback, herding sheep and cattle. Although he worked his passage back to Britain many times, he retained a great love of Australia until his dying day.

Junkers 87

At the start of War in 1939, Jack was again at sea on the collier Tamworth, a vital but unromantic task carrying coal and coke for the factories and homes of southern England. In the summer of 1940, the English Channel became the most heavily fought over small stretch of water in the world. The Germans wanted control in preparation for invasion of England, and required absolute supremacy with the Channel swept clear of all British shipping. Britain needed the vital route kept open. Collier convoys were under constant attack from German dive-bombers. Many of these small old colliers were defended by just one Lewis gun. Jack Gallagher was the merchant navy gunner on the Tamworth and he had a 12-pounder gun in the stern. This was there to deter E-boats, as the limited angle of inclination made it unsuitable for use against the dive-bombers. On 25th July 1940 convoy C.W.8 started with twenty-one merchant ships, including the Tamworth. At four in the afternoon off Kent, Jack saw hordes of specks in the sky coming from the French coast. He reported to the second mate who thought that Jack was seeing spots before his eyes, but before long they were attacked by numbers of Junkers 87s. An E-boat was also heading towards them, but a round from Jack’s 12-pounder caused it to turn back. The Lewis gunner on the bridge began blazing away at the diving planes. The Tamworth suddenly ceased steaming, out of control with engines stopped, as a stick of bombs had burst in the water underneath her keel. For a few moments when the German planes were at the bottom of their dive, they were within the sights of Jack’s gun. He fired and the delighted crew began shouting at him “You’ve got it, you’ve got it!” Dazed by all the noise and slightly wounded, Jack realised that a cloud of smoke and debris in the sky was the remains of Junkers 87, which must have exploded when his round had hit its petrol tanks. A destroyer laid a smoke screen around the surviving lame ducks in the water and a tug came out of Dover to tow in the Tamworth while the Germans continued to dive-bomb the mere half of the convoy left afloat. Attacking E-boats began to come out of France but two British destroyers were sent out in response.

Jack Gallagher was awarded the B.E.M. for his bravery that day and was presented with the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. During that war the B.E.M. was mainly a gallantry medal and not a civilian one. On 26th September, Jack was still on board the Tamworth, which was beginning to be known as the “unsinkable ship” although she was heavily scarred. The ship was unloading coal at Phoenix Wharf in Southampton on one of the much-remembered days when Southampton received a terrible pasting. It is claimed that in ten seconds one hundred and fifty bombs landed in the area and the Vickers Supermarine works on the other side of the river, and an important target for the Germans, was completely destroyed. It was a terrible day for Southampton and the Docks.

Jack’s medals

Just after Christmas that year, Jack was on leave, and during one of the worst fire raids on London he tumbled into a City underground station for shelter, where he actually stumbled into Frances Sympson. She was from a City of London family and lived just around the corner. Fluent in French, her wartime job was as an interpreter to General de Gaulle. It was not to be long after this romantic meeting that they married. After the War Jack and Frances moved around the country until in 1966 they settled in Selsey where his enthusiasm brought about the formation of what was to become for years one of the most active troops of the Legion. He had previously joined the Legion Canadian Division when they were living in Croydon.

When a Government Minister Supported the Frontiersmen

He was regularly to be seen on parades riding his fine horse Tom. He died in 1984, and no-one who ever met Jack Gallagher has ever forgotten the quiet and unassuming, but exemplary and brave Frontiersman.

Information on Jack Gallagher’s service in the War is taken from “The Coal-Scuttle Brigade” by Alexander McKee (Souvenir Press 1957 abridged paperback edition Hamlyn Paperbacks 1981), which is recommended and thought-provoking reading about the unsung heroes of the Channel convoys in the Second World War.

¹Information on Jack’s early life is taken from his own reminiscences, a copy of which is now lodged at the Legion of Frontiersmen Archives at the Peel Special Collections and Library, University of Alberta.

More about the Canadian Division (UK Command) and its visits to Belgium and France are to be found at:

To Parade in Honour

In his later years Jack Gallagher was taken to the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon where there was a Junkers 87 suspended from the ceiling – the first time Jack had looked upwards at one since the war. We have been unable to ascertain if there is any copyright to the excellent illustration of a Junkers 87 (possibly Steam Artwork). We will be happy to credit if advised. This is a volunteer non-commercial website and blog.

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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The Presidents

Earl Harewood Feb 1937

Topic April / May 2020. The Legion has in recent years understandably concentrated with pride on their Patron, the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma. It must not be forgotten that she would not accept the position of President, a long-standing position held by some very distinguished army generals, but she wished to be the Patron. A wise choice. It is time to look particularly at two post-war Legion Presidents whose contribution to the Legion must not be forgotten.

LF pennant with Leeds City crest

When Major-General Lord Loch accepted the position of President in 1923, he started twenty years of active and valuable service to the Legion. When the rift began between HQ and Canadian Division just before WW2, Lord Loch was horrified. He promised that as soon as the war was over he would personally travel over to Canada and sort out the problem. Unfortunately he died during the war and it was not possible to find and appoint a new President. In addition to Lord Loch as President, in the 1930s the Legion acquired some unofficial local Patrons, such as the 17th Earl of Derby for the Lancashire Frontiersmen and the 6th Earl of Harewood in Yorkshire. Lord Harewood allowed the Frontiersmen to use part of Harewood Park and also arranged for them to have access to Harewood Barracks in Leeds. The Leeds Frontiersmen were given permission to use the City of Leeds Coat of Arms on their pennant. As can be seen in the photograph, Lord Harewood attended some Frontiersmen dinners and would also inspect them at the annual parade. His wife was Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, so Lord Harewood was the brother-in-law of King George VI. Another, if minor, link to the British Royal family.

Sir Eric Girdwood

When Colonel Dunn took over as Cdt-General after the war he did his best to find another President, but it was not until 1955 that Major-General Sir Eric Stanley Girdwood, KBE, CB, CMG (1876–1963) agreed to become President, and proved an active and enthusiastic one until his death. A Boer War veteran and one-time Colonel of the Cameronians he well understood the principles of the Legion. From 1927 to 1931 he was Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. One of the officer cadets this time was David Niven, the film actor. In his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon”, Niven told a story of Girdwood which showed that the General had the sense of humour that would appeal to the Frontiersmen. When Niven was in the Intermediate Term he, with another officer cadet Dick Hobson, was given the prestigious position of Commandant’s Orderly for six months. On Sundays they breakfasted with the General and afterwards Niven and Hobson waited in the garden proudly holding silver sticks on which were engraved the names of a hundred years of Commandant’s Orderlies. Across their chests were white belts, on the back of which between their shoulder blades were Victorian silver message boxes. So many cadets asked Niven what was in the boxes, which should in fact have been empty, that he decided to give them something to look at if they investigated. So, he installed a pack of Woodbine cigarettes, a box of Swan Vestas matches, a roll of toilet paper – and a pack of ten condoms. Thereafter, when other cadets enquired he told them “Commandant’s personal supplies” and invited them to take a look. Niven considered that on long Sunday morning inspections when the Commandant was accompanied by some royalty or other extremely important personage the cadets would appreciate that the inspection was preceded by this unusual cargo. One summer morning the Commandant announced that it was time he inspected his two orderlies. Both were confident that they were immaculately turned out until General Girdwood walked round the back of Dick Hobson and opened his message box. By this time the joke of the box had long been forgotten until the General moved behind Niven and began to open his box. Dick Hobson was with difficulty controlling his desire to laugh. Niven thought his military career was about to end before it had even started.

I sensed him rustling about among its horrible contents – Woodbines, matches, lavatory paper and French letters…After an eternity, Major-General Sir Eric Girdwood stood before me…’Niven,’ he said, ‘I had heard about that…thank you very much…you are very considerate…’

It was never referred to again, but immediately after Church Parade that day I cleared out my Message Box. ¹

The attitude of Major-General Sir Eric Girdwood to those serving under him shows that he was to become a most successful President for the Frontiersmen.

Girl Horse Rangers, source: Keystone Press Agency

After the death of General Girdwood, the Legion had no true President for a number of years. Col. Dunn hung on to his position as Cdt-General even when in failing health and in a retirement home. The Legion officers who had been its backbone for some years were also failing in health and dying. The Legion was entering one of its all-too-common periods of internal strife. There was a power struggle between the north and south of England as to where the headquarters should be situated. Overseas Commands such as Canada and particularly New Zealand, which was an example of stability, looked on in horror. For a brief period Colonel Raymond Gordon, whose official address at the time was Royal Mews, Hampton Court, accepted the position of President. He wrote that he had been connected with the Legion since 1928 and was also “businessman and Chairman of several Companies…”² It has so far not been possible to trace Colonel Gordon’s military career or details of his Frontiersmen service. It is not known whether the rank he used was an army one or one bestowed by the Legion. After a few years of frustration he resigned as President to concentrate on his highly successful Girl Horse Rangers, which still exists today. Gordon formed the Girl Horse Rangers in 1954 based at a stable he owned in Shepperton, Middlesex. He realised that many girls were mad on horses but did not have the money to ride. For a weekly payment the girls could ride, but also helped care for them. The Rangers were uniformed and in the early days rather militaristic, which did not please everyone. H.R.H. Princess Margaret, who knew Gordon well, became Patron of the Girl Horse Rangers and a number of Frontiersmen helped with their training, which had some similarities to the mounted Frontiersmen. A British Pathe film of 1959, which can be seen online, shows the Frontiersmen and particularly Philip Shoosmith (in later years to become Commandant-General) helping the girls with horsemanship.


The internal battles resulted in the Legion becoming very much London-centred and over the years the once strong northern units faded badly. The smartest Frontiersmen were recruited into the Legion’s Ceremonial Squadron, which attracted good reports and was regularly in demand.

Another Legion officer, Gordon W.H.Woods was an employee at Hampton Court Palace and he brought the Legion of Frontiersmen to the attention of Major-General Sir Rodney Moore, (Sir James Newton Moore G.C.V.O., K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. (1905-1985)) Chief Steward of Hampton Court Palace, who had been Aide-de-Camp General to H.M. The Queen and was a Gentleman Usher to the Royal Household.

“He told me that he remembers as a boy his father, the late Major-General Sir Newton Moore, K.C.M.G., going off to Legion meetings in Australia, all dressed up, and always talking about it. He supposes his father’s interest was first aroused as he was Commander of an Australian (Cavalry) Volunteer Regiment,” ³

In the same letter about the dining-in of General Moore as the new President, Woods wrote that the General was “…also a personal friend to Her Majesty who comes here [the Connaught Rooms] to private dinner with him”.

1977 Gordon Woods hands to General Sir Rodney Moore the Crest of the 3rd Belgian Lancers

Gordon Woods had been given the position of Records Officer and Publicity Officer, duties which he carried out conscientiously and with great success. No record has yet been found of his military service. He is believed to have been ex-R.A.F., but was certainly ex-R.A.A.F.. He was not helped in his task by being fed inaccurate information on Legion history, much of which was being passed by word of mouth. The Legion has always claimed that much of their records were destroyed in the bombing of London in WW2. This is not true. Their HQ at that time at 21 Bedford Street was indeed damaged by bombing, but:

You will be glad to hear that although the front portion of the building in which Imperial Headquarters is situated was blown out by blast, this office is so far intact and we are able to carry on. We are however sometimes prevented from entering the street or building by the presence of time bombs so that office work is sometimes interrupted for a few days at a time.

Harry Erswell, who wrote this to a Frontiersman in Canada, was a retired senior Indian Army Warrant Officer and a widower. He lived in Hornchurch but travelled into London every day to run the Headquarters office for the Legion. After he had finished his day’s duties for the Frontiersmen he served as an Air Raid Warden. Nobody living in the London area during the Blitz got much sleep.

After the war, the Frontiersmen were given the use of Territorial Army Centres, first at Farringdon Road, then at Offord Road. When the army decided to no longer give the Frontiersmen a home, they were granted the use of Amicale, the Anglo-Belgian Club then in Belgrave Square, as their Headquarters. All these moves obviously made it difficult to keep control of Legion property. This was traditionally the duty of the Records Officer. The Legion backbone of long-serving officers was beginning to crumble as age and ill-health took its toll. Decorated WW1 officer, Captain V.C. Harvey M.C., D.C.M. was followed as Records Officer by Reginald Coleman who had also been a very popular RSM-in-Chief of the Legion. Coleman’s health began to fail and he did not return from what was his final stay in hospital. Not all Frontiersmen marriages were happy ones and not all Frontiersmen wives were pleased with the time their husbands spent with the Legion. We have no idea of what upset Coleman’s widow but a frustrated Gordon Woods wrote in one internal Legion letter:

When C.H.Q. moved from the T.A. Centre at Offord Road, all documents…together with the Founder’s medals were taken by the then Records Officer to his private address, and that he died shortly after, and his widow disposed of a good deal of the Legion papers and the medals before arrangements could be made to collect them.

It has always been a puzzle for years as to what happened to Founder Roger Pocock’s medals which, with some other of his possessions, were willed to the Legion. It is extremely sad that what were some of the Legion’s most historically important assets should be thrown out or otherwise disposed of as worthless. Unfortunately the international historical importance of the Legion of Frontiersmen has not always rated highly in the order of things to many Frontiersmen who were men of action and not of words. The story of documents and assets being destroyed by family when a Frontiersman officer passed away has been told for years and attributed to more than one deceased Frontiersman officer. In fact the claim has also, without evidence, been made against the family of Gordon Woods, who spent his final years in retirement on the Isle of Man away from any Frontiersmen unit. The Legion of Frontiersmen is home to many unproved and usually unprovable stories. Many Legion archives and assets have vanished over the years during the moves of Headquarters. A late Frontiersman who joined the Colour Squadron in 1957 recalled reading through the Minutes Book of Headquarters meetings going right back to the founding days. That is one of many important documents that has been lost without trace.

Like an earlier Legion President, Lord Loch, Sir Rodney Moore was also a Grenadier Guardsman. He had a successful career, serving with the Guards Armoured Division and commanding the 2nd Battalion in WW2. He also served with the British Army of the Rhine and in Malaya. For a period he commanded the Household Brigade and London District. He was an enthusiastic supporter at a time when the Legion was a welcome member of the Reserve Forces Association and appeared at many Army shows, including Aldershot. He resigned in 1983 due to ill-health and was followed by the long and successful Patronage of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Although some of his press releases contained inaccurate stories of Legion history, it should never be forgotten that Gordon Woods was a great servant to the Frontiersmen for some years and managed to arrange for them to be involved in a number of prestigious events: for example in 1975 “when the Legion had the honour of leading the Lord Mayor’s Procession with a mounted detachment carrying the Guidons of St. George’s Cross and the Legion of Frontiersmen Colour, and riding ahead of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers of which the Legion formed the 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion in 1915 for service in East Africa and collected [sic] a Victoria Cross, two D.S.O.’s and twelve D.C.M.’s [sic]”

Thus wrote Woods in a letter in 1977 to Air Commodore Vannech congratulating him on becoming Lord Mayor of London.

Both Sir Eric Girdwood and Sir Raymond Moore were men of distinguished military careers who also had many important contacts and they promoted the Legion and its values widely during their time as Presidents of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

¹ David Niven “The Moon’s a Balloon” (Hamish Hamilton, 1971) p.60

² Raymond Gordon to George Whalley, Northern Command, 30 December 1968, letter in LOF Archives at Peel Special Archives and Library, University of Alberta

³ Woods to Legion Colonel Peter Fitchett 27 October 1976, letter in LOF Archives at Peel Special Archives and Library, University of Alberta

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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The Pioneer Frontiersmen Flyers

Arkell Hardwick

On the Canada pages of this website you will find Historian Will Shandro’s account of the Calgary Frontiersmen’s effort to pay for an airship, although this apparently came to nothing. On another page we tell of the highly successful Air Command of the Legion based in Yorkshire, which during the 1930s flew up to nine small private planes. See: The Flying Frontiersmen.

What we have not covered are the early pioneer Frontiersmen flyers. It is often thought that the Frontiersmen were only interested in horse transport but, as in many other ways, the Frontiersmen were always forward thinking on many subjects. With regards to the Canadian interest in airships, in the First War there was a great fear of the German Zeppelins as in the early years of the War Britain had no real defence against them and their regular bombing raids. It took some time for a way to attack them was devised. The first Zeppelin to be destroyed from the air was shot down by Sub-Lieut Warneford, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his exploits, although he was killed in an air accident a few days later. Air accidents were all too common in the early years of flying. Warneford had been taught to fly by Frederick Warren Merriam, acknowledged as one of the finest of the early flying instructors. Records show that Merriam joined the Legion late 1912 or early 1913 and was given the number 7077. He had qualified as a pilot in February 1912, one of the earliest men to receive an aviator’s certificate, this in spite of poor eyesight, which had necessitated several operations. Having spent several years involved in the infant motoring trade, he was a highly skilled mechanic and moved on to aeroplanes, where he became one of the finest flying instructors at Brooklands, teaching many who would become well-known pilots and later senior officers in the Royal Air Force.

Flying was a highly risky activity – in addition to being very costly. The deaths and serious injuries to pilots in those early years were considerable, even before the War, which was also to take a heavy toll. Warren Merriam was so highly thought of as a skilled instructor that the Royal Naval Air Service decided to bypass their vision tests and commission him as a Flight Lieutenant. His services were even called upon early in WW2, when he was recalled to the Fleet Air Arm at the age of 59 as a Lieutenant-Commander to assess the skill of applicants to the Fleet Air Arm. He evolved a series of tests to ensure that pilots were appointed to the type of plane and duty best suited to their particular skills. 1

Handley Page 1912

It was as early as December 1912 that the first death of a Frontiersman in an air accident happened. Legion Captain Arkell Hardwick, who had spent some years exploring and hunting in Africa, was then the Manager of aircraft manufacturers Handley-Page, although he did not have a pilot’s licence himself. He was flying as a passenger in a Handley-Page monoplane on a Sunday morning flight from Hendon to Oxford. The pilot was Lieut. Wilfred Parke, R.N. It was one of those English December days when the air seems mainly calm, but an occasional gusty squall can burst out without warning. Pilots did not have then the advantage of reasonably accurate weather forecasts. According to spectators, the engine was not running smoothly and Parke, an experienced pilot for the time, decided to return to Hendon as the plane could not rise above 200 feet. Somehow, a strong gust – too strong for Parke to counter with the controls and the power of the engine – caused the plane to crash on Wembley Golf Course. Both men were killed immediately. Hardwick was buried at St. Pancras Cemetery, East Finchley, with a joint escort and bearer party of Frontiersmen and Household Cavalry, as Hardwick’s brother was an officer in the Household Cavalry. 2

F Warren Merriam RNAS

In December 1913, Lt. Col. Driscoll, then Chief Executive Officer (basically Commandant) of the Legion, had his first experience of flying, with Warren Merriam as his pilot. The Frontiersmen wanted to see how good an aeroplane would be at observation and seeing mounted troops on the ground. The plan was for B Troop of the Surrey Squadron of the Legion under Corporal J.F. Addis-Price to see if mounted men under cover of surrounding woods, while also dashing through open spaces, could reach the Bristol School of Aviation at Brooklands unobserved. The weather was cold with a gusty wind and it was a dark late December day. The mounted men could see the aeroplane high in the sky swaying and plunging in the wind. When the machine landed, down climbed Driscoll in Legion uniform – complete with riding boots and spurs. The men asked Driscoll what he thought about the use of an aeroplane for scouting purposes. With much scorn he replied:

“You don’t think I was looking for you, do you? My time was fully occupied trying to keep myself from being bucked off that parrot perch up there. I could have killed this chap for asking me, in the presence of those Germans, to go up and umpire, especially as I had never been in an aeroplane in my life. However, he handled the machine splendidly and is promoted to lieutenant on the spot.” 3

According to the report, they asked Warren Merriam if he had seen the mounted men. He replied that they had indeed succeeded in getting through unobserved, but that the plane was underpowered and unsuitable for flying in such weather conditions. Warren Merriam’s version in his autobiography is somewhat different. He said that: “Much to their surprise, we spotted them in the vicinity of Byfleet and dropped a message to say so.” 4 One of Warren Merriam’s pupils at the start of the First War was one of Driscoll’s sons. Although the Frontiersmen thought that their exercise was a success, we can see from Warren Merriam’s account that it was not. When war came it was soon understood that observation from the air would be a vital way of intelligence gathering and that the use of the horse for scouting had only a limited value.

A number of other Frontiersmen became pilots during the Great War, including three from the Canadian 210th (Frontiersmen) Battalion C.E.F. Lieut. Wensley transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he was commissioned. After the Armistice he worked for the Flying Mail Service between Folkestone and Cologne, Germany. On transfer to the RFC, Lieut C. G. Smith saw action in France, Italy and Egypt. Capt. J.T. Hollonquist, DFC, also joined the RFC and was commissioned. He served in Italy flying a Sopwith, where he was credited with bringing down six German planes. In addition to the DFC he was awarded the Italian Legion of Honour. Also in Canada 1914 another WW1 Air ‘Ace’ Thomas Frederic (Tommy) Williams, M.C., M.M.V. who was born in 1885 in Ontario, joined the Legion of Frontiersmen at Calgary at the outbreak of WW1, then resigned to enlist in the C.E.F. Eventually he received a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and destroyed fourteen German aircraft in aerial combat. He was awarded the Military Cross (M.C.) and the Italian government decorated him with the Valore Militare Medal (M.M.V). Tommy Williams went on to a long and distinguished aviation career in Canada. In 1971, at age 87 he performed one last solo aerobatic flight for 30 minutes, with loops, rolls and a spin and after 56 years of flying was at that time recognized as the world’s oldest active pilot. In 1974 Tommy Williams became a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in Edmonton, Alberta.

Probably the most famous of all the early Frontiersmen flyers was Arthur Tedder. Tedder was only a Frontiersman for a short time in 1914 when he was working for the Colonial Office as an Acting Assistant District Commissioner in Fiji. There the Frontiersmen were putting on a brave show, but with no proper military presence there they had little chance of resisting any rumoured German invasion from Samoa. Tedder left Fiji and the Frontiersmen and returned to England and a military commission. He was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and in 1916 trained as a pilot. Over the following years he rose steadily through the ranks until in WW2 he became head of the Anglo-American air forces in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa. He was then appointed Deputy Supreme Commander to Eisenhower for the Allied campaign from Normandy to Berlin. After the War he became Chief of the Air Staff and was elevated to the peerage. 5

4 Replica Wop Mays Plane Edmonton

As far as Canadians are concerned, their most famous flyer is usually considered to be “Wop” May (Capt. Wilfrid Reid May, OBE, DFC, 1896-1952). Born in Carberry, Manitoba, May’s family moved to Edmonton in 1902. His nickname “Wop” came from his little two-year-old cousin who could not pronounce Wilfrid and called him Wop. That name stayed with him throughout his life. He joined the Canadian army in February 1916, but in 1917 transferred to the British Royal Flying Corps. In 1918 he was transferred to 209 Squadron of the newly formed Royal Air Force. He was involved in the aerial battle when the famous “Red Baron” was shot down. After the War, together with his brother, May opened Edmonton’s first airfield. The area is known today as Mayfield. The R.C.M.P. called on May’s services at times. He was one of the first to fly across the 60th Parallel into the North West Territories. He achieved national fame in 1928 flying diphtheria serum to the extremely remote Fort Vermillion under extraordinarily difficult winter conditions. Later in 1932 he flew even further north as part of the legendary hunt for the “Mad Trapper of Red River” in the North West Territories. The event was made more serious by the killing of RCMP Constable Edgar Millen, who was a Frontiersman on indefinite leave from the Legion while serving with RCMP. In the 1930s, “Wop” May was recorded as a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Edmonton. 6 May arrived just after the Mad Trapper (Albert Johnson) had been killed and a Constable seriously injured. May flew the injured policeman 125 miles to the nearest doctor and saved his life. May subsequently oversaw RCAF training schools in Western Canada in WW2. In 1974 May was declared a National Historic Person in Canada.

The following clear evidence that “Wop” May was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen, printed in the ‘Edmonton Journal’ of 29th April 1931, has now been uncovered by Canadian historian B.W. “Will” Shandro:

1 F Warren Merriam First Through The Clouds, [Batsford, 1954] 151-155. The whole book is a very interesting account of his life and flying adventures.
2 “Frontiersman” Gazette February 1913, p20
3 “New Zealand Herald” 19 March 1914, reporting from “Frontiersman” Gazette February 1914
4 Merriam First Through The Clouds, 63
5 For details of Tedder’s life and career (1890-1967) see: Vincent Orange, Tedder: Quietly in Command, [Frank Cass, 2004]
6 The Frontiersman, October 1936, 8. See also The History of the Legion of Frontiersmen, with particular reference to Canadian Division, [privately published, Regina, c 1980] 96, and R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, [Garden City, 1940] 245-249.

Initial research for this item was by Will Shandro of Canada and the late Bruce Fuller of New Zealand. Canada details are supplied by Will. It was due to Bruce’s research into the death of Arkell Hardwick that the idea for this article came about. This is therefore dedicated to the memory of Bruce Fuller (1934-2013) who was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen from 1957 until his death and was a respected and knowledgeable historian of the Legion.

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The Lost Squadron

Sir J Duncan St John and Morton

Topic February / March 2020The Lost Squadron and Major E. H. Rhodes-Wood.

It is too much to ask you to write to Woodall in India, Brown in Russia, Smith in Malaya, Jones in China and Robinson in Patagonia. Few of us are so keen on letter-writing as to take on a formidable task like that, but most of us would like to hear from or of these men, to share their lives and share ours with them, to make our membership of the Legion of Frontiersmen something real and vital through squadron membership with them and men like them, the real Frontiersmen of today, the salt of our Corps, the men who, their wanderings done, will one day return to the Old Country, and become our leaders of tomorrow.¹

It has always been a problem for the Legion that, by nature of their being Frontiersmen, there were members whose jobs took them to the wildernesses of the world. They could not attend Squadron or Troop meetings or wander down to the local hostelry to share a pint and a chat with fellow Frontiersmen. The first real attempt at a solution, made in 1929, was that all “singletons” around the world should be attached to the Westminster Squadron and attend their meetings on any occasion that they were passing through London. This was not a success, so it was not until the mid-thirties that Frontiersman E.H. Rhodes-Wood offered to organise what he called the “Lost Squadron” and keep up a regular correspondence with these wanderers around the world. It became such a success that by the end of 1936 he could report having just sent out 131 letters around the world, with more to follow. Unfortunately Rhodes-Wood was not popular with the hierarchy, particularly Commandant-General Morton, who Rhodes-Wood was never afraid to criticise in print. In hindsight we can say quite justifiably so. It is never any use accepting a senior position in the Legion without being ready to accept criticism, but the Lost Squadron never became an official unit and Rhodes-Wood never more than Frontiersman in U.K..

Rhodes-Wood was born in 1894 and qualified as an accountant. In 1914 he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and was commissioned in 1916. After the War he sailed for Canada to seek his fortune, although in this he was apparently unsuccessful. In 1927 he was back in Britain and became a Tax officer and civil servant (although we won’t hold that against him). For two or three years Rhodes-Wood’s articles headed “The Lost Squadron” appeared regularly in “The Frontiersman” magazine and it soon became apparent that it was not only the lonely Frontiersmen around the world who were writing to him. His willingness to criticize the “top brass”, often probably with justification, meant that he was soon receiving snippets of information from members in established Squadrons. His accumulated knowledge and readiness to publicise it did not enamour him to senior officers. For many years it has puzzled readers and researchers why the last two pages of the December 1932 magazine were completely blank with a brief note that the contents had been removed due to being controversial. In fact, this was an item which had attracted censorship. It was not until years later, and then only to readers of the New Zealand Frontiersman magazine, that the probable contents of those blank pages were disclosed. New Zealand did not believe in censorship!

In some way Rhodes-Wood had acquired or had viewed an official letter to the Legion by the British Army Chief-of-Staff 1933-1936, Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd. Now we must say at once that we cannot verify the truth of this letter from other sources, but Rhodes-Wood was respected everywhere, both in the army and in civilian life and we can be pretty certain that his sources were accurate ones. The letter does not seem to have survived and there is no reference to the Legion or Brigadier Morton, the Legion Cdt-General in the Montgomery-Massingberd archives. He was a passionate horseman and the Legion’s regular successes at gymkhanas may have brought the Legion to his attention. In May 1939, Rhodes-Wood wrote the following:

…In this connection it is interesting to review a series of articles which were written for “The Frontiersman” (London) nearly six years ago [sic] but which the then Chief of Imperial Staff refused to publish on the grounds that they were contrary to the policy of the Legion in Britain which was being directed towards some form of amalgamation with, or service under, civilian nursing services such as the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society.

There are a number of photographs of C-G Brigadier Morton deep in conversation with Major-General Sir John Duncan, Chief Commissioner of St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. Like Morton, Duncan had been a career soldier and like Morton had become the head of a volunteer organisation. That the two men had discussed some kind of link-up between the Frontiersmen and St. John’s is quite probable, especially as Morton was not a conventional Frontiersman, but a martinet of an army officer who it is believed had been “parachuted in” to the Legion to sort out its endless squabbles. In this he only had limited success and one great failure.

Through the good offices of General [sic] Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, then Chief of the Imperial General Staff of the British Army, the opportunity had presented itself to the Legion of Frontiersmen to train for anti-aircraft gunnery, “provided”, as Sir Archibald wrote, “the Corps voluntarily evinces a desire to adopt this form of training whole-heartedly, and to the exclusion of other military exercises which can be of little or no use to it.”

This was obviously a veiled suggestion that the Legion’s continued love of the horse as their means of transport in Britain and the Legion’s insistence that everyone who joined the Legion had to be a competent horseman was somewhat outdated. Of course in Canada and other countries with wide-open spaces the horse still did, and still does, have its uses.

Official military quarters were at that period gravely concerned at the scarcity of anti-aircraft artillery in the United Kingdom (there were only two brigades, each of three batteries, in the entire country!), and would have welcomed our co-operation with open arms. The articles to “The Frontiersman” were in the form of an invitation to the Corps to accept this great and honourable task.

Regrettably the invitation was never issued, owing to the veto from Imperial Headquarters, and the finest opportunity the Legion ever had to establish a definite place for itself in Britain’s defence system passed never to return.

Rhodes-Wood was himself a Gunner, and had been a gunnery officer in the First War. By the time he wrote this he had rejoined the Territorial Army and was employed as a gunnery instructor. He was soon given commissioned rank and after the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (later to become the Royal Pioneer Corps and composed of men between 35 and 50) was formed in November 1939 he was posted to them. He served with distinction throughout the Second World War ending as a Major. In 1943 he was offered a senior Civil Service post in London but declined, preferring still to be an active army officer.

He was highly critical of the ways and plans of Legion Imperial Headquarters in London for what the Legion could achieve in the coming war.

Never a doubt but our members will do what they can within the confined limits available to them, but nowhere will the Legion of Frontiersmen appear [as a named unit] in the fighting or defence forces of the nation…

Nice enough we looked when it came to a question of mess kit and exhibiting a row of medals on a neat blue tunic, but when it came to a question of brown dungarees and a greasy gun, and a job of work to do – that was a horse of an entirely different colour.²

There is no doubt that Rhodes-Wood was not popular with the top brass of the Legion, who have traditionally seldom sat down and listened quietly to those who have disputed their ways. They had agreed to meet the Executive for what he called a “show down” at I.H.Q. before the 1938 A.G.M.. The Executive categorically refused to give official sanction to the “Lost Squadron”, but they did agree to the formation in every Command of a “U” (unattached) unit of lone members in the area. In this they were following Canada, a country of vast spaces and with members miles apart from each other, and who had set up this system years before. There is no record of this meeting and no record of “U” Squadrons being formed and one wonders whether Rhodes-Wood, who we know did not have a high opinion of Brigadier Morton, was being sarcastic when he wrote:

It will be seen, therefore, that the Lost Squadron is not dead but instead has, under General Morton’s organising genius, become an integral part of the Legion of Frontiersmen throughout the world.³

In any case, World War was soon to descend and any lone Frontiersmen had other duties to perform. Brigadier Morton may have breathed a sigh of relief to see the back of Rhodes-Wood, especially as much of Rhodes-Wood’s time was taken up by his T.A. duties – but Rhodes-Wood’s duties in the Legion were not over. The New Zealand Frontiersmen were delighted with him and the forthright opinions he wrote in their magazine. He had also during his time with the Lost Squadron made many New Zealander Frontiersmen friends, with whom he corresponded. New Zealand duly appointed him as their official Liaison Officer, based in U.K., a duty he performed for many years, most notably in February 1953. That month he visited the British House of Commons and on behalf of New Zealand Frontiersmen, presented Winston Churchill with a cigar box made of New Zealand Kauri wood. A photograph of the occasion appeared in a New Zealand Frontiersman magazine. 4 Rhodes-Wood may also have been representing the Pioneer Corps as they, too, have a photograph of the occasion. 5

Rhodes-Wood died in 1961, survived by his second wife, his first wife having died in 1949. His only child, a daughter, had tragically died in 1938, aged only seven. No wonder he threw himself into his Territorial Army duties that year and was comforted by the many letters he received from around the world from his “Lost Squadron” friends. The two books he wrote are still popular and are recommended. 6 Even though his views were often opposed to what the Legion “High Command” considered were correct, he should be remembered with pride as another of the Legion’s “independent thinkers”. The Legion needs such men and should always welcome them.

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1 “The Frontiersman” (U.K.) February 1936
2 “The Frontiersman” (New Zealand) June-July 1939
3 “The Frontiersman” (New Zealand) August-September 1938
4 “The Frontiersman” (New Zealand) April 1953
5 “The Pioneer”, Journal of the Royal Pioneer Corps, April 2014
6 “It Don’t Cost You a Penny”, written as Eddie Harwood and “A War History of the Royal Pioneer Corps 1939-45” under his own name as Major E.H. Rhodes-Wood. Both books are out of print, but electronic copies can be obtained from the Royal Pioneer Corps Association http://www.royalpioneercorps.co.uk

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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January 1908 Nairobi Frontiersmen Bystander

Topic December 2019 / January 2020.

“The world looks with some awe upon a man who appears unconcernedly indifferent to home, money, comfort, rank, or even power and fame. The world feels not without a certain apprehension, that here is someone outside its jurisdiction; someone before whom its allurements may be spread in vain; some one strangely enfranchised, untamed, untrammelled by convention, moving independent of the ordinary currents of human action.”

Winston Churchill

In spite of what many imaginative Frontiersmen have claimed, Churchill was never a Frontiersman. He did know all about them from the early days and, as a soldier himself who had fought in South Africa and at the Front in the First War, he understood the Frontiersmen. He understood their ideals, their frailties and what they stood for. It was Churchill who supported Sidney Alexander against the desk-bound officers of the War Office.

(See The RSM-in-Chief )

In South Africa he had encountered the irregular forces and the Colonial troops and understood how their attitude differed from the British troops. He understood how they fought with a degree of independence. A substantial number of those who joined the early Legion of Frontiersmen had fought with the irregular units in South Africa. Their attitude of questioning orders which to them did not make sense, but also of expecting their leaders to be there by merit not accident of birth did not fit in well with the British ruling classes. The ruling classes and officers at the War Office were amazed at how quickly the idea of the Legion of Frontiersmen spread throughout the Colonies and Dominions and how fast they recruited at a time when travel and communication around the world was far slower than we expect today and information relied mainly on being passed via the Merchant Navy ships.

In late 1907 as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies Winston Churchill visited East Africa and arrived at Nairobi. As an honoured visitor, he was met at the station by a carriage to take him through Nairobi to Government House. Even though the Legion of Frontiersmen had been in existence for less than three years East Africa already had its own Frontiersmen unit, although uniform and badges were different from what was seen in Britain. They decided to make a show and, all of the Frontiersmen having military experience, decided to provide Churchill with a mounted escort, lined up almost as a Sovereign’s Escort, for his carriage. Unfortunately, as can be seen from the photographs, many of the mounts they used were somewhat moth-eaten and they could not all carry rifles so their armament varied from rifles to elephant guns. The officer commanding was able to lead them carrying a drawn cavalry sword. Churchill must have been somewhat taken aback at what was probably his first view of the Frontiersmen in action as he was escorted by what appeared to be a band of cut-throats with military knowledge.

…Mounts were very various, some awful brutes, but, thanks to turning up early, I got a wiry South African pony which had evidently played the game before, and did not mind military music or the yells of the populace. Winston was late, unlike Royalty, and we had to stand in the sun for nearly an hour. At last he arrived, and I could not help thinking he looked a bit astonished at his reception; certainly we couldn’t have made more fuss for Royalty. His carriage went off quickly along a road lined with masses…

Many within these masses were Masai warriors.

…These men looked fine, with their long bright spears, black and white ox-hide shields, and enormous head-dresses – some of ostrich feathers, some manes of lions. We had a ride of nearly two miles through Nairobi, which was gaily decorated…up to Government House, where Winston interviewed one commander and made some sweetly complimentary remarks. We then rode back into the town, very hot and with mouths full of choking white dust – and didn’t that pint of lager taste good! ¹

Ernest Hyatt in RNWMP Canada from autobiography

Moving ahead two or three years we meet Captain Ernest Hyatt, the man who founded the Legion command in the country then known as Burma. Hyatt was a true Frontiersmen adventurer. He started his 1935 autobiography “All Over the Place”.

…Where shall I commence this story of my adventures, ranging as they do from those of a blue-water-sailor-man on all the seven seas to those of a gun-boat captain on the Tigris and Euphrates; from adventuring variously in Australia and Nigeria to chasing Esquimo murderers in the Canadian North-West.

Hyatt gained his master-mariner’s ticket, and in Burma was captain of one of the many paddle-boat steamers travelling from Rangoon to Mandalay. These shallow draught ships, built specially in Scotland for the shallow Irrawaddy River, could carry 2000 tons of freight with attached barges, or “flats”, and up to 4200 deck passengers. The famous Rudyard Kipling poem refers to the Irrawaddy Flotilla,

Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

Paddle steamer Nepaul near Mandalay by J C Burnie

Hyatt had joined the young Legion of Frontiersmen when he was stopping in London and was determined to start a Command in Burma. The idea immediately caught on with the many English and Scots working in that country. Hyatt got a number of friends together and held an inauguration meeting in the Strand Hotel, Rangoon.

“I shall never forget it. I had put on my Legion uniform for the occasion,but it was the uniform of the London Command, made of thick, heavy material, quite unsuited for the tropical climate of Rangoon. I never felt so hot and airless in all my life. But I stuck it, and made my speech, and the meeting was a great success. At the end, we enrolled forty members. It was not long before this number was raised to two hundred and forty.

From then onwards my Legion work occupied all my spare time. It was better than any recreation in the ordinary sense. I was with a crowd of fellows who looked at life in many respects the same way as myself. We had the welfare of the Legion absolutely at heart, and it was far from being dull work.²

This shows what an extraordinary impact the Legion had on men far away from their homeland. The ideas struck an immediate chord with them. To have recruited two hundred and forty members in such a short time when western Europeans were in such a tiny minority spread out in a vast country shows what a brilliant idea Roger Pocock had brought to fruition in such a brief time. The rules were simple enough and the uniform was varied – it had to be considering the range of climates where the Frontiersmen served. Hyatt had occasion to thank his uniform of stout riding breeches and tough leather leggings and boots – when he fell into a snake pit.

The pit in question was covered in grass, and I suspected nothing until suddenly I found my feet going through. The hole was only about waist-deep, but that was deep enough, I can tell you! There was a whole party of snakes at the bottom – I don’t know how many. They were all wriggling and squirming about, and I landed squarely in the middle of them. Of all the horrible things to happen to a man! I felt the reptiles sliding over my boots and around my legs. It was lucky that I had on my uniform leggings. It was only that which saved me from being bitten…

After much struggling he managed to get a hand-hold on the edge of the pit and drag himself out.

As I got free of the hole and stood on the safe ground once more, a native came up. He looked down into the hole, and in the tone of one imparting valuable information, cried:
“Snakes down there, master!”
As if I didn’t know! ³

On another occasion the Rangoon Frontiersmen went on manoeuvres in the bush. They came back covered in leeches. The servants at the hotel they used as their base were very helpful in removing the leeches by using salt. The servants then carefully saved the leeches in matchboxes. It turned out that they were selling them to the native doctors in the town.

Such adventures never happened to the Frontiersmen in Britain.

We go forward again to 1925 and the Gold Coast, which has also changed its name and is now Ghana. It was one of those West African countries known as a White Man’s Grave due to the incidence of Yellow Fever, but as a country rich in natural deposits it attracted many an adventurer prepared to take the risk. In 1925 a few men who had joined the Legion elsewhere formed a unit in Accra. By May they had enough men to form a Troop and hold an inauguration dinner. They steadily gained more recruits, the use of some horses and a riding range. Their first public appearance in uniform was on Remembrance Day, November 11th when they paraded at the Gold Coast War Memorial and laid a wreath. They created such an impression that they gained even more recruits. On the following day the Governor of the Colony, Brigadier-General F.G. Guggisberg arrived back from leave and the Frontiersmen formed up as a guard of honour in front of the War Memorial. The Governor stopped his car and inspected the men expressing delight at their smartness. By now Accra Troop had grown into a Squadron and Guggisberg attended their annual dinner on November 20th, agreeing to accept the position of Hon. Colonel of the Gold Coast Legion of Frontiersmen. They also recruited Colonel Rose, officer commanding the Gold Coast Regiment, and Colonel Bamford, Inspector-General of Police. Again we had a British Colony whose purse strings were tightly controlled by the Colonial Office in London pleased to acquire a body of trained and disciplined men able and willing to help in an emergency, but at no cost to their exchequer.

On December 2nd the Governor’s private secretary wrote to the Legion:

…His Excellency asks me to tell you that he will in due course provide (a) an armoury with meeting room and store for the Legion; (b) one hundred rifles, two machine guns, and the necessary ammunition…

There was, of course, a condition:

…His Excellency…would like the members to remember that he cannot spend Government money on them until he receives the Secretary of State’s approval. This it is certain will be forthcoming. 4

Here, Brigadier Guggisberg was being unduly optimistic, to say the least. When he wrote to the Colonial Office, they immediately passed it on to the War Office, who were aghast. Not only this, but Edwards-Carter, completely against orders from Lord Loch, the President of the Legion, wrote on 3rd January 1929 to General Sir W. Braithwaite requesting recognition from the War Office. The General had recently inspected the Legion at its annual parade on Horse Guards Parade:

I may say that on the Gold Coast the Legion is recognised as a part of the Defence Force and the Government has supplied it with arms and machine guns… 5

The Colonial Office was to be informed that the Gold Coast authorities had been ‘indiscreet’. Officials in the Gold Coast back-pedalled furiously and only admitted to supplying the Legion with ‘twenty old rifles no longer accurate and some machine guns’.

What is also interesting that, rather than the Stetson, the Gold Coast wore the African double terai hat with khaki drill shirt-jumper, breeches and puttees. Even in full dress with the patrol jacket the hat was the same and puttees were worn rather than leather leggings. Empire headquarters in London was obviously relaxed about variations to uniform and as long as the general regulations were followed there was a considerable degree of independence allowed for units in the Colonies and Dominions.

Lord Lloyd Egypt Frontiersman magazine 1929

Lord Lloyd, when High Commissioner for Egypt, which was then a rather unstable country, welcomed the support of the Egypt and Sudan Command of the Frontiersmen in dealing with disturbances. He was most upset by the attitude of the War Office. In March 1929 he wrote to Sir Austen Chamberlain, then Foreign Secretary, about the Legion:

…the Army Council maintain that they ‘do not recognise but express sympathy and take cognisance of it.’ I find it hard to seize the distinction, especially since I am aware a member of the Cabinet [Leopold Amery] is on the central organisation of the Legion and there was a recent inspection on Horse Guards Parade by the Adjutant-General. 6

Lord Lloyd was not the first, or the last, person to have been unable to “seize the distinction”. In Frontiersmen files there are also confidential letters between Lord Loch and the then Cdt-General Burchardt-Ashton about the possibility of Frontiersmen helping with problems of civil disobedience in India.

It was the independence of the Frontiersmen and especially of their many units scattered across British colonies and protectorates which made them such an unique organisation and so difficult for authority to accept. That individual independence within Frontiersmen units across the British Commonwealth and elsewhere continues to this day.

“It is the business of the very few to be independent; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it, even with the best right, but without being OBLIGED to do so, proves that he is probably not only strong, but also daring beyond measure.

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

1 “The Bystander”, January 1st 1908
2 Captain Ernest Hyatt “All Over the Place” (Hurst & Blackett 1935) 103-4
3 “All Over the Place” 104-107
4 “The Frontiersman” February 1926
5 TNA Kew WO32/10427
6 TNA Kew WO32/10427

Lord Lloyd was a staunch Conservative. When the Labour Government came to power in 1929 he was replaced.

Grateful thanks are due to James Franks, University Records Archivist, University of Alberta for allowing access to Hyatt’s autobiography in their reserve stock of rare books, and to Stephen “Sticks” Gallard of Edmonton, Alberta, for carrying out the initial research.

January 1908 Nairobi Frontiersmen Bystander

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

Posted in Frontiersmen, History, Latest Topic, Legion of Frontiersmen | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Frontiersman Traitor

Wybrow (1956)

…but who was never brought to justice!

Those who have read our most recently published book The Frontiers of Truth will have seen that there have been Frontiersmen who have been accomplished liars, cheats and rogues in their spare time while still performing efficient Frontiersmen duties. It may well be thought by our readers that for us to tell the story of past Frontiersmen is just a case of looking up some old books and documents and writing down their stories – or even “Googling” them.

Not so!

It is surprising how many past Frontiersmen, however brave and exciting their lives, were as accomplished as some politicians at “being economical with the truth” or “mis-speaking”. In other words they exaggerated, told lies both large and small, and generally told what is referred to in the Legion as “camp-fire yarns”, where the old Frontiersmen would sit around the camp-fire and spin tall tales about their adventures to their fellow Frontiersmen.

Does it happen now? Surely not! But that is for others to decide. Our task is purely to tell the stories of 20th century Frontiersmen who held senior positions in Britain, Canada, the Commonwealth and also places such as Egypt. Perhaps somebody out there knows more of the truth – or more fables about the Cyril Hector Arthur (later to become Abraham) Wybrow – who became a Legion Lieut.-Colonel and served both Commonwealth Headquarters and later on Canadian Division. It is only the recent opening by the British National Archives of his files that have shown us that he was in fact a spy and traitor to his country, and a traitor to his swearing of allegiance to the King.

Wybrow was born in June 1894, the son of a tailor. It is possible that the family had Australian links as a photograph has been seen of the tailor’s shop of G. H. Wybrow in that country. According to an undated biography of him in a Canadian Division magazine he:

…at the age of thirteen proceeded to Canada at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. Several months after commencing his studies he suddenly found himself thrown into the world to fend for himself. His first job was driving a lumber team, rather hard work for a youth of that age. He worked his way across the Canadian West and, being too young to officially join the Royal North-West Mounted Police, was attached to that force as a boy, accompanying various outpost expeditions. Eventually he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway at the Winnipeg depot. Returning to England in 1910, he proceeded to France to study French law and languages, with a view to joining the Diplomatic Service. He later proceeded to Rome and Trieste to study the Italian and Slav languages.

Colonel Wybrow was on his way to the East when war was declared, and he immediately offered his services to the Military authorities in Egypt…

On an inspection tour of Canada in 1956 he supplied an article for the Winnipeg Free Press of October 23rd on Russian influence in the Middle East and appears to have claimed that he had joined the P.P.C.L.I. in 1914 at the outbreak of war.

On reading all those claims carefully any Frontiersman could be excused for crying “Hold your Horses!”, especially as there is clear documentary evidence that in 1911 he sailed from England to Port Said (3rd class) with a trade of tailor. Surely, even in those days, no university would have accepted a thirteen-year-old boy as a student? Possibly R.N.W.M.P. Constables might take a boy along to help them, but he would not have been listed on the strength. So in 1910 he went to France to study law and languages and then to Rome and Trieste to study Italian and Slav? All in one year? The P.P.C.L.I. records will also show it would have been impossible for him to have been back in Canada to be one of their originals. He certainly set up in Cairo as a tailor as advertisements appeared in The Sphinx around 1922 for “C.H. Wybrow, Tailor, 19 Sharia Manakh, Cairo”. Whether he did much tailoring himself or employed local labour we do not know. In 1915 he married his first wife in a Consular marriage. All we know about her is that her name was Mary Britz. There is no record of what happened to her. In 1933 he married again in London to a Clara V. Ashwin, probably bigamously. He joined the Legion in Cairo in 1914 and was attached to the Remount Depot. There is more in the army form B199A which all officers had to complete, but he was probably being “economical with the truth” when he filled that in in 1940. He claimed service between 1911 and 1914 in the Royal Fusiliers T.A., but as the shipping records clearly list him sailing to Egypt that was another lie. Oh, and he had a BSc from Brussels University! He liked to say that he joined the Australian Light Horse when they transferred to Egypt. He may have been attached to them, but was certainly never on their strength.

Sphinx advert 1922

Owing to his knowledge of languages he was attached to ANZAC Headquarters and, finally, he volunteered for duty in the Secret Service, during which time he went five times behind the enemy lines and had many thrilling experiences on the deserts in Arabia, Tripoli and Syria. He was wounded in an ambush in the Sinai Desert early in 1915 and was thrice taken prisoner by the Turks, Arabs and Sudanese rebels. He was condemned to death by a Turkish Field Court Martial but made his escape.¹

Had this been true you would have thought he would have listed it in that army form, but that tells us a different and more mundane story:

EGYPT. (Interpreter–clerk and later Intelligence Agent attached to A.I.F., H.Q., (Canal Defences); attached S&T branch)²

It sounds as if his “adventures” were not as exciting as he made out.

Australian Light Horse Damascus 1918

It seems that he did have an aptitude for languages and was proficient in several. That is also indicated by his Second War service, where he was commissioned 2/Lieutenant in 1939 (General Service) and by 1944 had been promoted to war service Major.

After the First War he continued to live in Egypt. Although newspaper advertisements show him as running his tailor’s shop, the biographical account we have quoted says:

After peace was declared he joined the Egyptian Civil Service and for some years he was lecturer in the English language… and various other high-sounding positions. It also says that he formed the Egypt and Sudan Command of the Legion. That is not strictly correct. Although he was responsible for the name of the “Egypt and Sudan Command” and was their organising officer, the Frontiersmen had a unit in Cairo and another one in Port Tewlik, Suez, at least as early as 1912. In the late 1920s when Lord Lloyd was High Commissioner for Egypt he called on the assistance of the Frontiersmen in subduing riots. This was greatly appreciated by Sir Peter Strickland, G.O.C. Egypt. Strickland gave his support to the Frontiersmen. Needless to say, when this came to the notice of the Colonial Office and War Office in London, a furious row ensued. Lord Lloyd accused the War Office of double standards as Leo Amery, then Colonial Secretary and a member of the Cabinet, was on the Legion’s Executive Council and senior Generals regularly inspected the Frontiersmen on Horse Guards Parade. The row only cooled down when a Labour Government was elected and Lord Lloyd was recalled.

Wybrow returned to live in London around late 1929 or early 1930. A Legion officer whose name was not written clearly, although his first name was Robert, wrote in March 1930 to the Legion’s (Acting) Cdt.-General Burchardt-Ashton that:

I have heard from my brother in Egypt who says that the Legion of Frontiersmen have taken a new lease of life since Wybrow left. He apparently was no loss. The moving spirit is now Brig. Gen. C.S. Wilson whose address is The Turf Club, Cairo. My brother says he is a good fellow and will run things properly. ³

Judging by the names listed in the Egypt and Sudan Frontiersmen magazine after Wybrow left, it had then become more or less an officers’ club. Wybrow seems to have given up being a tailor and worked as a moderately successful impresario around England. He attempted without success to set up a film studio in Sheffield to rival the London area ones. In a 1934 interview he gave to a Sheffield newspaper about his film studio plans he told them that:

…Prior to the war he was in the 2nd City of London Royal Fusiliers (!)

At the outbreak of war he happened to be on his way out East and he joined the Frontiersmen at Cairo on 1 September 1914. He was attached to the Australian Light Horse, and when the Turks attacked the Suez Canal he was ambushed, and his troop was cut up. He was badly wounded, and owes his life to the fact that his camel fell over him, while later, a groan saved him from being buried alive.

When attached to Anzac Headquarters he volunteered for work behind enemy lines. The fact that he speaks several languages fluently as well as seven dialects of Arabic helped him considerably in this intelligence work. In various disguises he was dropped by ‘plane on five different occasions behind the enemy lines in Sinai and other places in the Arabian desert, as well as in Palestine and Gorizia Italy.

This is the problem with so many past Frontiersmen, they tended to give conflicting accounts at different times. Which accounts do you believe – any, few, or none? There can be no doubt he liked people to think that he was an adventurous man. After Brigadier Morton had taken over as Cdt-General and Edwards-Carter had died, Wybrow became Chief of Staff at Legion Headquarters until Col. Dunn took over from him. We can wonder why that change came about.

According to the 1939 Register, Wybrow was living in a flat in Talbot House, St Martins Lane, London with a singer-actress-dancer Gwendoline Burke-Mills and her mother. No sign of his 1933 wife Clara – but of course he was a Frontiersman and they seem to have been traditionally fond of the ladies. We find that by 1950 Wybrow was still living at the same address but:

…with a woman ROBINSON, who has changed her name (not through marriage) to WYBROW

He was listed as a Lecturer in Economics and other skills, and was on the Metropolitan Police War Reserve.

As regards WYBROW. We all have the dimmest view of this bogus and shifty individual

In short he’s an undesirable character altogether.

Because of his fluency in Arabic, French and Italian, he was granted a war service commission in 1940 and posted to Egypt and Palestine. In 1943 he returned to England under a cloud and narrowly escaped trial by GCM for financial irregularities. He had been rather too close to Jewish activists. His excuses having been accepted, he was posted to secret work on the Inter-Services Topographical Department. Once he had been released from the army, he joined the Joint Intelligence Board, the successors to the Joint Services Topographical Board. During investigations into a Jewish agent, it was discovered that Israeli Intelligence had a source known as “Cyril”. This was found to be Wybrow.

Nowadays most of the time Western Intelligences work quite comfortably with the Israelis, but it has to be understood that in 1949/50 Israel was considered a hostile power. During Britain’s peacekeeping duties in Palestine before the state of Israel was formed, Jewish terrorist or freedom fighter gangs (whatever you choose to call them) kidnapped and killed several hundred British soldiers. Once what became known to the British as the Stern Gang (LHI) kidnapped two sergeants and hanged them. They then booby-trapped the bodies so that the officer who cut them down was badly injured. There were considerable feelings of anti-semitism in Britain.

Wybrow’s salary in J.I.B. was £48 a month, and his various businesses did not seem to be making much, if any, money. He was, however, known to be supporting a mistress and to have a number of woman friends. There were some dozen amounts for round sums of £50, £100 and £150 which had been paid into the account of the Amalgamated British Exporters, one of the subsidiary companies run by Wybrow from 17 Charing Cross Road.

Wybrow was regularly followed (medium height, 5’7” or 5’8”; portly build, with paunch and fat bottom; sandy hair, bald on top; small untidy moustache; fresh reddish complexion; snub nose, a bit bulbous; fattish about the jowl.) and his mail was also officially opened without his knowledge. That included mail from the Legion of Frontiersmen (Canadian Division) in Edmonton and from the Legion of Frontiersmen in New Zealand. It is a relief to say that nothing incriminating seems to have been discovered in Frontiersmen correspondence. Sufficient proof was found from the other enquiries that Wybrow had been working for the Israelis and was the source of leakage of information to them. In May 1950 he was “made redundant”. It was decided that no prosecution should be undertaken.

After his army duties in the war, for some reason he had decided not to return to serve with Frontiersmen Headquarters, but moved instead to the newly formed U.K. Command of Canadian Division and became its Commandant. Many Canadians who had fought in the war, or men who had worked in Canada, felt considerable affinity to Canada, so Canadian Division, U.K. Command, of the Frontiersmen became quite strong, based mainly in parts of Greater London, in Bristol and in the north of England. In 1956 Wybrow visited Canada and made a tour of inspection across the Dominion, visiting most substantial Frontiersmen units and writing a full report for Canadian Headquarters. He told the Canadians he would have liked to re-locate his professional activities to Canada but could discover no opportunities. He eventually moved to France and operated a “Legal Financial Service” in Paris. He certainly had “many strings to his bow”.

Wybrow photos in TNA file

Not only did he sell secrets to the Israelis but he threw, perhaps totally un-necessary, doubt on those British Jews whose racial and ideological ties with Israel may be at variance with the allegiance they owe to the Crown. How much harm he did we may never know.

Wybrow always promised to write an account of his life for the Frontiersmen, but apparently never did, even had he done so it is doubtful how much truth he would have told. There still remain many unanswered questions about his life. He was not the only Frontiersman about whom we could say that!

How often do we come across such men? Surprisingly often but so far no more traitors. That is why we can seldom include men whose stories we would really wish to tell.

But we keep on researching. It can be very difficult, but when we do manage to unravel a complicated story it can be rewarding for us – and for our readers.

¹ “Mugs and Memoirs” from an undated “Canadian Frontiersman” magazine, reprinted in “History of the Legion of Frontiersmen” p. 105 published by the Legion of Frontiersmen, Canadian Division n.d.
² TNA KV2/3292
³ Letter in Legion of Frontiersmen files held in the archives
₄ TNA KV2/3293

All other brief phrase or sentence quotes come from KV2/3292 and KV2/3293

Photograph of Australian Light Horse by courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. General Allenby wrote that the Australian Light Horse had “earned the gratitude of the Empire and the admiration of the world”.

http://www.lighthorse.org.au/the-mounted-soldiers-of-australia-2/ (external link)

Photograph of Cyril H. Wybrow by courtesy of the archives of the Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division. This is the best resolution photograph of him we have been able to obtain. Note that a fuller version of the photograph was filed in KV2/3293 with an inset photograph of him in civilian clothes. It is likely that a copy was taken of this Canadian Division photograph when his correspondence with the Legion of Frontiersmen was officially but secretly opened. The file contains another photograph of him in army officer uniform.

© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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