An Oddity: “The Imperial Legion” and the Kaid

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

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Not All Battles – But Definitely Some Conflicts

Canadian Division UK Belgium Sept 1964

Topic August / September 2021.  We show on this website how busy the Frontiersmen have always been both in war and peace. They have carried out many duties and served their communities and their countries. Behind the scenes, not everything went smoothly. This time we will take a look at the disciplinary files. We will not be giving names and the events described all happened fifty and more years ago.

For many years the Frontiersmen visited Belgium where they were welcomed due to the Frontiersmen’s links with the 3rd Belgian Lancers. There are many photographs of the Frontiersmen at official parades. The Frontiersmen always took their ladies or their partners making it also a pleasant social event. But of course there was the occasional problem. The Canadian Division (U.K. Command) also attended. The following is an official complaint to Commonwealth Headquarters by an n.c.o. of Canadian Division: Continue reading

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Legion of Frontiersmen Medals


Topic June / July 2021. The Legion historians and archivists regularly receive enquiries about Legion medals. So far we have hesitated, the reason being that, whilst the story is reasonably straightforward until about 1975, the picture afterwards becomes extremely cloudy. Commands, independent units and breakaway groups all proceeded to introduce medals for all sorts of reasons – and of variable quality. It is not our duty to judge these medals or the proliferation, so we will concentrate here on the three Legion medals which were, and still are, issued by Headquarters with universal agreement and issued throughout all official Commands. At an Executive Council meeting in 2012 the Commandant-General of what has become Countess Mountbatten’s Own Legion of Frontiersmen reiterated that only the three medals should be awarded. This was confirmed by the Executive. Continue reading

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Not All Battles and Conflicts

Roger Pocock sketch of Trooper 1902

Topic Apr / May 2021Frontiersmen Artists.  It is well known that Frontiersmen have always brought special skills of many kinds to the Legion. These were men of action, but it has not often been realised that there were also men of artistic skills. Quite a number believed they could write poetry and yearned to follow in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling. Unfortunately what they wrote was verse, and sometimes bad verse. One or two even got into print, although they were often more followers of William McGonagle than of Rudyard Kipling. What the Legion did have over the years was a number of skilled artists, including at least two who exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Even the Founder, Roger Pocock, had some skills as an artist. He produced a number of drawings when he was in the N.W.M.P.. The early drawings were somewhat naive, but by the time he had travelled to South Africa to fight in the Boer War his sketches of other soldiers had much improved. Continue reading

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Major George Harris Heaney, VD

George Heaney

5th South Australian Imperial Bushmen

Commandant, Cape Town, Legion of Frontiersmen

Chief Organising Officer, Queensland Command, Legion of Frontiersmen

Article by Major Christopher Moon (late Royal Australian Engineers), Special Consultant to H&A.

Major G. H. Heaney was educated at Woolwich, Kent, England, and was for seven years in the Royal Arsenal under Colonels Tulloch and Clarke and was in the Construction School. At the early age of sixteen he was enrolled in the 10th, now the 3rd Kent Royal Arsenal Artillery and served for 5 years under Colonel Ellis, with Major Cheetham as Adjutant. Whilst with this Corps he had the honour of being one of the guards of honour to receive the Princess Alexandra at Gravesend prior to her marriage to the Prince of Wales.

Arriving in South Australia when the military spirit seemed to a great extent to have died out, he had no opportunity of being identified with the military movement until the formation of the National Rifle Association. Then in 1881 he formed the Yorke’s Peninsula No 2 Company and also the Minlaton and Curramulka Companies and was appointed Senior Lieutenant, Captain J Waddell being in command. Subsequently he was attached to the Quorn Company as the Adjutant of the North Battalion R V F. In 1887 by order of Colonel Owen, then Commandant in South Australia, he enrolled the Mounted Rifles in the North, forming the Hammond, Quorn, Booleunda, Port Augusta, Gordon, Wilmington, Carrieton, Eurelia, Johnsburg and Pamatta Divisions and was appointed Captain and Adjutant to the new force. He retained this Position until, after examination in Adelaide, he was promoted to the rank of Major. Continue reading

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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:

© 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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