Real Austerity

First Armistice Day Parade, Leeds, 1919

Topic August / September 2019. It was not until 1922 that the Legion of Frontiersmen recovered in any way from the losses of the First War. The Legion had grown so rapidly in its first ten years and with such enthusiasm that it had outgrown any structure. Communication across the globe was far from easy and a letter to or from Australia, New Zealand or Africa could take many weeks. Not only had the Legion lost many thousands of members in the conflict, but the influenza epidemic that followed the war took the lives of many who had survived all that four years of war could throw at them. Many units had lost every single member. In 1922 the “Frontiersman” magazine began to be printed and distributed again. It might take until the end of 1922 or even early 1923 for the first magazines to reach units and sub-units in distant parts of the world, but it was read with delight and began again the old bond to Headquarters in London and Frontiersmen friends around the world. In parts of England, such as Yorkshire, Frontiersmen had begun to meet again as early as 1919 in comradeship, especially those survivors of the campaign of the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) in East Africa.

At the end of the Second War the Frontiersmen had far fewer communication problems. By the end of the 1930s the structure and chain of command was well-established. That continued throughout the war with a number of dedicated volunteers who, in addition to their duties in the Home Guard, as Air Raid Wardens, Auxiliary Firemen and Special Constables, still gave their time to ensure that communication carried on not only in Britain, but to other countries. The Legion made use of telegraphic communication, unavailable in the First War, especially to Canada as mails could not be guaranteed to reach their destination. In Canada and other Commonwealth countries, the Frontiersmen continued to be used as auxiliaries to the Police and other official bodies. It was in post-war Britain that the Frontiersmen had to seek another role, as their particular preparations for the past two wars would not be needed again. Frontiersmen in Britain had a major problem which did not affect other Commonwealth countries in the same way.

And that was – Rationing.

The country was almost bankrupt and everything manufactured had to be sold abroad wherever possible. There has been much talk in recent years in Britain about “austerity”, but to those living or even surviving during the years after World War 2 the idea that Britain suffers austerity nowadays will be considered risible. The Legion was also in major financial difficulties. Apart from the fact that the front of the building in Craven Street, London used as Headquarters had been bombed out, the Legion could no longer afford the rent. Throughout the war and in the first years afterwards subscriptions were hardly coming in at all. It was only generous donations from the Frontiersmen in New Zealand and the affiliated Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen in Canada that kept the Legion financially afloat. The much-prized Air Command had to be disbanded as there was no petrol for private flying. It was also nearly impossible for the Legion to offer use of Frontiersmen’s private vehicles in any emergency. Those who had been able to keep their pre-war cars could seldom get petrol for private use. The country was making as many cars as it could, but almost all for export. If anyone could afford to buy a new car the waiting list was at least two years. The situation was such that if anyone was lucky or influential enough to be able to buy a new car, they could sell it after six months for a profit. Virtually every commodity and most foodstuffs were on ration. Town gardens were turned over from flowers to vegetables and perhaps a few chickens as a luxury. Nobody was over-weight, even those lucky enough to have relatives in U.S.A. and Canada who could send food parcels. Meat was the final item to come off ration, but not until the summer of 1954. Many houses in cities and towns had been bombed in the Blitz and people, including many Frontiersmen, had lost not only their homes but also their possessions. Since its formation, the Legion had been proud that every Frontiersman had to be able to ride. There was little or no fodder for recreational horse riding. That was needed for working horses. Because of the shortage of fuel, deliveries, such as coal, milk, fish etc. were still being made locally by horse and cart. Cities and towns were gritty and grimy with whole areas reduced to rubble by the bombing. Except in the country where wood was available, the source of heat was coal, but as the best coal was being exported all that remained for sale (on limited ration) was poorest quality contributing more to pollution “smogs” and grime than heating. Fortunately the Legion had the support of the Territorial Army and for several years were allowed the use of T.A. halls and barracks for their meetings and often borrowed army horses. For a few years after the war, the Headquarters of the Legion of Frontiersmen was a Nissen hut in a bombed out area of London off the Pentonville Road, which was also the HQ of one of London’s T.A. units.

The one item which greatly affected the Frontiersmen was the uniform of which the Legion was so proud. Clothing coupons were needed by the family for more important items. Newspapers reporting on Frontiersmen parades said how smart they were, but how sad it was that only around half of the men wore the distinctive uniform. There was a belief in “make do and mend”. A man’s wife or growing child might need a coat to keep them warm. There in the wardrobe was a Frontiersman’s patrol jacket made of fine pre-war quality navy serge and enough material could be taken from that to make a serviceable coat. The strong bedford cord of the breeches would make a useful skirt for a lady. Every area had a seamstress or a tailor happy to make a conversion. Those demobbed from the services were issued with a “demob suit” but older Frontiersmen who had served in the Home Guard, with A.R.P., the A.F.S. or similar gained no such benefits. The few clothing coupons allowed had to be considered carefully for their need before being spent. Even bed sheets when they had become threadbare were given an extra lease of life by being cut down the middle and the sides sewn together. That was true austerity.

1950 Officers

It took until 1949 for the Legion to have its first post-war A.G.M., held in a Pentonville Road Nissen Hut. Colonel Dunn, still officially Chief-of-Staff, read out the report and announced that Brigadier Morton had resigned as Commandant-General. This was accepted without comment and it was decided that no discussion would be undertaken about the errors of Morton’s time in office, particularly the disastrous events regarding Canada. Dunn said that it had been impossible to find an officer from any of the services who was prepared to associate himself with the Legion. It was not until the 1951 Annual General Meeting that Dunn finally agreed to accept the position of Cdt.-General. The Legion returned from the dictatorial time of Morton to an active advisory Executive Council. Dunn led the Legion wisely throughout the 1950s until advancing years and failing health intervened. The Treasurer announced that the financial records from pre-war years had gone missing and auditors were appointed to carry out an enquiry. This was not the first (or last) time that financial irregularities appeared in Legion accounts. It was apparent that, although the overall structure of the Legion was mainly sound, without a generous donation from New Zealand the Legion would have gone out of business in 1948. By 1950 the Legion had moved its HQ to the T.A. hall at Penton Street, Islington. In 1951 with regard to the large numbers of Frontiersmen in Yorkshire, the annual meeting was moved to the Northern HQ at Gibraltar Barracks in Leeds. At all three meetings there was a representative from New Zealand and in 1951 also one from Nigeria. Capt. C.J. Cocksedge, the o.c. of “L” Squadron was there to represent New Zealand.. Visitors to Britain were welcome as their money was needed but no H.Q. officer could travel abroad. Travel abroad was not encouraged except to promote exports and for several years even those Britons who could afford to travel were prohibited from taking any more than ten pounds with them to spend abroad.

3 NZ Whakatane 1949 AGM

NZ Whakatane, 1949 AGM

Canadian Frontiersmen were independent and successful. Canadian Division had of course separated before the War and had successfully recruited a number of Canadian ex-pats in Britain to form several U.K. Canadian Division Squadrons. The Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen were involved in security duties in Canada but retained their affiliation to Imperial Headquarters. The reports that went back to New Zealand were very concerned about the state of affairs in Britain although there appear to have been little or no mention of the problems caused by the severe austerity. The possibility of moving Legion Headquarters out of Britain to one of the Dominions such as New Zealand was seriously discussed in that country, but the British Frontiersmen slowly dragged themselves back on their feet again, although only as a shadow of the inter-war years. They searched for a rôle because future technical wars would need more than their frontier skills. Other than commemorating the past on parades, they began training in basic skills as first responders until specialists could arrive in any emergency. In the 1970s extremists of both left and right considered that the Legion could be a useful tool in Britain and attempts were made around the country at infiltration. These were completely unsuccessful as the Legion still remained and remains completely non-political, but that is another story for another time.

Yorkshire Evening Post caricatures, 24th June 1955

Notes:

The second photograph shows staff officers of the Legion in 1950. Left to right: H.J. “Bish” Bishop, Col. E. Dunn, D.S.O. (Cdt.-General), George Hawkins, and Dr. Russell V. Steele, O.St. J. Dr. Russell Steele was Senior Medical Officer for the Legion of Frontiersmen and also held a senior position with St. John Ambulance.

The third photograph was taken at the New Zealand Conference in 1949 and shows how strong the Legion remained in that country. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of New Zealand Command.

The fourth picture, from the ‘Yorkshire Evening Post’ is of splendid caricatures by “Thack”of some senior officers taken at the dinner following the Legion A.G.M. held at Leeds in 1955. Note Major-General Sir Eric Girdwood KBE, CB, CMG (1876-1963), the distinguished retired army officer who had just become President of the Legion, a post he held enthusiastically until his death in 1963. He had been the popular Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from 1927 until 1930


© 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, New Zealand, World War II | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Answering the Call

Roger Pocock at Northold, 1937

Topic June / July 2019. As the threat of another world war grew ever more likely in the 1930s, Frontiersmen had hopes that they would be granted a named unit as they had in the First War. As retired senior officers, both Cdt.-General Brigadier Morton and his Chief of Staff, Colonel Dunn, had contacts in the War Office. They were made to understand that there was absolutely no chance that this would happen, but, as we saw in the last topic page on Yorkshire, the army was keen to recruit as many trained Frontiersmen of suitable age as possible. Colonel Dunn wrote to all Squadron O.C.s instructing them to forward to H.Q. a nominal roll of all ranks between the ages of 41 and 55 who were physically fit and able to pass a medical examination and who were not in a reserved occupation. There can be no doubt that these men were needed as senior n.c.o.s because of their past experience. Junior ranks of the army had no experience of battle conditions on the continent. We will never know how many sergeants and sergeant-majors who crossed the Channel with the British Expeditionary Force had gained the benefit of training and service with the Legion of Frontiersmen.

In Canada, Australia and New Zealand the demand to go and fight for the Mother Country which we saw in 1914 was nowhere near as fervent. In Canada, the Frontiersmen who did not join the armed forces were in big demand as auxiliaries to the Police. Police in many towns and cities in Canada relied heavily on the services of the Frontiersmen. They wore their own uniform which they paid for themselves with an auxiliary police badge above the left breast pocket. If extra auxiliaries were needed in nearby towns the Frontiersmen would travel there, again at their own expense, to provide back-up. Some Frontiersmen even used their own vehicles. In the town of Guelph, Ontario, Cpl Walter Smale used his own van, or panel truck, displaying a temporary sign on each side reading “Guelph Auxiliary Police”. This in spite of the fact that the R.C.M.P. had ended the official affiliation of the Legion. In New Zealand there was to be great concern about possible Japanese invasion, especially after Pearl Harbour, and so the Frontiersmen were used in home defence.

Some of the City of London Squadron, c. 1935.

Two letters written by Ernest F. (Fred) Meacock (1904-1985) in 1979 give the clearest picture possible of life in the Frontiersmen in the period before World War 2 and how the military eagerly recruited any trained Frontiersman they could at the start of that war. Meacock commanded No. 1Troop of “A” City of London Squadron, which has always been the elite Squadron of the Legion. He was also Equitation Officer for London Command. The Squadron was commanded by Capt. Lazenby. On the formation of the LDV/Home Guard Meacock was seconded as a weapon training officer until he joined the Royal Tank Regiment. He was badly wounded in the leg at El Alamein and invalided out of the army, but he did manage to wangle himself a position in the T.A. Reserve of Officers in a Cadet Unit. Although he was invited to rejoin the Legion after the war he declined as he could no longer ride due to his wound and he believed that all Frontiersmen should be able to ride.

City of London Squadron, 1938

Meacock remembered meeting Roger Pocock when he reviewed the City of London Squadron at a gymkhana at Northolt in 1937. Roger stayed the night under canvas and chatted until well into the night. Unfortunately Meacock did not say or did not remember what they talked about. Next morning Roger reviewed the Squadron and Meacock “was horrified to see behind him the cookhouse dog busily gnawing the Sunday joint in the grass. I have never known an inspection last so long.”

We will quote in full from Meacock’s second letter as this is the best and most well-written surviving account of what it was then like to be a Frontiersman:

“…I suppose my best plan will be briefly to outline the position as it appeared to me, a very young [age 33] troop commander in a squadron composed of hard-bitten troopers – many of them ex-commissioned officers all be-medalled and many decorated, most of them refusing to take any sort of rank, but all determined to have a good time in what was an incredible elite force. The discipline on parade was harsh – almost Prussian, but off parade was another matter. It was a very happy period of my life, especially as we knew that war was coming and we hoped, indeed we were promised, that we should serve as a unit under our own officers. When the Territorial Army was doubled overnight, we were asked whether we could supply NCOs and officers to help with the training of the new intakes, and there was an immediate response naturally. I vividly recall a TA Sgt-Major whispering in my ear,

‘Sir, when you call the parade to attention, you must not address them as Frontiersmen. The order is Squad!’

When the LDV was formed (soon to be the Home Guard), the Legion melted away as our highly trained Frontiersmen were gladly embodied by whichever unit could grab them. I served as Adjutant to General Gough in ‘Z’ zone, until I was called into the Royal Tank Regiment…

During the whole of my service with the Legion I knew nothing of any internal difficulties. Probably the coming conflict made for greater unity and the burying of quarrels. I don’t know. I only know that each monthly copy of ‘The Frontiersman’ carried on the inside front and back pages the whole lay-out of the LF over the Empire with names,squadrons, right down to troop commanders and at our occasional regimental dinners in London and elsewhere there were usually representatives from overseas. At the gymkhana of which I told you the crowd were greatly entertained to hear, booming over the loudspeaker, the R[ough] R[iding] Sgt-Major from Woolwich Squadron shouting:

‘Where the hell is that B****** from Hong Kong? He’s supposed to be riding in the next event. Find him someone!’

And so it was. The only real dispute was between the Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen and the Legion itself. My memory grows dim, but I seem to recall a message from Danny Driscoll to the assembled representatives of both organisations, ‘Let there be one flock and one shepherd!’ Which happened and went to war reconciled, although in many and various guises. I recall one Barrage Balloon Unit entirely composed of a troop of the Legion, while the early days in France and Belgium took heavy toll of the best and youngest, and I know very little of events afterwards…

…unfortunately the old man with the scythe has been too busy and is finishing what the German Schmeisser machine guns started and survivors are not very thick on the ground. Roger, Driscoll, even Lord Loch, had a vision and for a while we walked in the high places in their wake. All I am sure of is that the High Command in all the Armed Forces, whether they appreciated it or not, owed more than could have been ever foreseen to the stiffening imparted by my comrades of the L[egion of] F[rontiersmen], in which it was an honour to have served.

In the First War many Frontiersmen were proud to serve in the named units of 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers or 210th Frontiersmen Bn. Canadian Expeditionary Force; some New Zealand and Australian Frontiersmen got away with wearing the little button badge of the Frontiersmen when serving at Gallipoli, in Mesopotamia, in Palestine. In the Second World War, there were to be no named units, but the Frontiersmen did their duty around the world – in the British Expeditionary Force where many did not survive and we are unaware how many came back from Dunkirk, in famous battles such as El Alamein where Fred Meacock was seriously wounded, or in what were considered side-shows in places like Africa. Those who did not fight abroad did their particular duties as we have seen in earlier topic pages – in the A.R.P., the Home Guard, as Auxiliary Police and in defending their countries against possible Japanese attack. As Fred Meacock wrote, the free world owed more than could have been ever foreseen to the Frontiersmen who rushed to serve. Many laid down their lives.

collageIndex to photographs

1. Roger Pocock at the 1937 Northolt camp. Note the delight on the faces of the men taken in the photograph with him. He was very much a famous man at the time, and people were keen to have their photographs taken with him.

2. Lazenby is stood to the left of Capt Dale who is at the centre front.

3. Although we cannot confirm it, Fred Meacock is probably the officer in the front row, third from the left as you look at it, and not wearing medals. He had been too young to serve in the First War. He must have worked abroad to be accepted in the Frontiersmen and also been a highly-skilled horseman to be appointed as Equitation Officer for London Command. In daily life he was the Catering Manager for one of the London Clubs.

4, 5, and 6 are badges and a shoulder title issued to Frontiersmen as Auxiliary Police across Canada.


© 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 Badges of the Legion of Frontiersmen, 1904-2001

Nowhere is there to be found a list of the metal badges of the Legion of Frontiersmen, so this should explain them and how they came to be used, more or less in chronological order.

Five shilling piece worn as original badge on Stetson by Founder1) The infant Legion had decided on a uniform, but the idea of a badge for the Stetson or Slouch hat only came in gradually, apart from the Founder Roger Pocock who wore a five shilling piece on his Stetson as a badge. Five shillings was a decent sum of money in 1905, being almost a quarter of the weekly wage for some working men. The first ever badge, shown here, was a lapel badge which was worn with pride at all times, even out of uniform. Many was the occasion w1 lapel badgehen a man visited some far away foreign land to catch sight of another man wearing the same badge and an immediate bond of friendship was formed. There are also photographs showing it worn on the uniform hat. This badge was designed by Manoel Herreira de Hora, an out-and-out rogue who was an enthusiastic early member, but who was dismissed allegedly for having the Bandmaster flogged on parade. See:

German Spies are Everywhere

also

The First Ten Years: 1904-1914

2) The first Legion hat badge proper was the LF in laurel wreath. There are variations of this and no clear evidence of how it came into being. In Canada during the First War it was, as the Legion of Frontiersmen badge, accepted as an official Canadian military badge.

2 LF laurel wreath hat badges

3) There are two main types of early collar badge, a miniature LF in laurel wreath and a simple LF scroll.

3 collar badges

4) The badge of the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen). Again there are slight variations of the badge. There may have been some locally made in East Africa as the Frontiersmen troops, like many other soldiers, were inclined to give them away as souvenirs.4 25th Bn

5) The United Farmers of Alberta MFA. For details see:

United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command

5 United Farmers of Alberta MIC

6) This is the badge of the 210th Bn. Frontiersmen, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Note it contains the emblem of the Legion button badge. See:

Legion of Frontiersmen in Canada Time Line Part 3

6 210TH Bn

7) Not a Frontiersmen badge, but the badge of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. This is included because a high percentage of the Original Patricias were Frontiersmen. See:

Legion of Frontiersmen in Canada Time Line Part 3

7 original Princess Patricia's Canadian Light. Infantry badge

8) This is a very rare badge which cannot be dated, except that it is pre-1926. The rose shows it is English, but it is highly likely to have been a Yorkshire badge featuring the white rose of Yorkshire. Until the 1970s, Yorkshire was one of the most active Frontiersmen areas with a number of Troops and full Squadrons.

8 pre-1926 LOF cap badge England possibly Yorkshire

9) In 1926 it was decided to re-design the badge. Not only could “LF” be considered to represent the Lancashire Fusiliers, but the LF in laurel wreath was very similar to the LG in laurel wreath worn as a trade badge in the First War by lewis-gunners. A request was made to have the new design surmounted by the Royal Crown, probably due to the links with the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers, but this was immediately declined and the mural crown was adopted instead..9 Mural Crown badge

10) In 1927 the short-lived Independent Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen/Imperial Overseas Legion of Frontiersmen (its name was changed) broke away from the Legion and continued until 1934, when it was re-absorbed. One of the early breakaway members, whose name we do not know, enthusiastically had a large quantity of these badges and collar badges struck, hence mint versions appear regularly for sale. They are often inaccurately described by badge dealers as officers’ badges of 25th Royal Fusiliers and sold at a premium price. Caveat Emptor.

 

 

11) Another short-lived breakaway in the early 1930s was the Imperial Frontiersmen. Note the great similarity to the badge of 2nd King Edward’s Horse. They used the Royal Crown without permission, which was strictly illegal.

 

 

12) In 1939 the Canadian Division of the Legion of Frontiersmen broke away and they changed the mural crown to a beaver. Many Frontiersmen in Eastern Canada became the Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen. We do not have an illustration of the C.I.F. metal badge. See:

What Caused the Rift

12 Canadian Frontiersman

13) This is another rare badge with the starburst added.  This badge was produced for the Mounted Troop and was to fit onto the breast-plate of horse harness, which is a vee-shaped leather strap which goes on the horses chest area.  There remains a possibility that it may also have been worn on the Wolseley helmet used by one Troop on ceremonial occasions instead of the Stetson.

13 unknown LOF badge possibly for Wolseley helmet


© 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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Yorkshire, the Heart of England and the Heart of the Frontiersmen

Lieut Smalley and Halifax Troop 1934

Topic April / May 2019.  The first unit of the Legion of Frontiersmen in the county of Yorkshire, England was formed, as can be seen from the copy of the original invitation card shown here, in October 1906. For well over sixty years Yorkshire was to be the strongest and most loyal Frontiersmen county outside of London. If you look at the most excellent website dedicated to the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen) in East Africa:

http://www.25throyalfusiliers.co.uk

you cannot but notice the large numbers of Yorkshiremen who enlisted in that proud battalion, estimated by Capt. A.W. Lloyd, M.C. at between 300 and 400. It has been suggested that this is a conservative estimate and there could very well have been considerably more. Capt. Lloyd was one of the few officers to serve right through the campaign until he was seriously injured in the Frontiersmen’s final battle. He knew more about the men than most of the officers. More Yorkshiremen wrote back to their local newspapers describing life in that campaign than from any other county. We can be grateful for the excellent pen-pictures they painted of the fighting and of the local flora and fauna. What was it about the Legion of Frontiersmen that attracted this organisation to men from this particular county?

There is something characteristic about the very physiognomy of the Yorkshireman. He is much more of a Dane or a Viking than a Saxon. He is usually a big upstanding man, who looks as if he could take care of himself and those who depend upon him in an emergency. This is indeed the character that his neighbours give him; the southerner may think him a little hard: but if ever our country is let down by its inhabitants, we may be sure that it will not be the fault of Yorkshire.¹

! Bradford card

Looking at the political picture during the first half of the 20th century, the Yorkshiremen did not seem particularly political as they voted different parties in at different elections. Frontiersmen had a tendency, whatever Headquarters in London said, to meet at a local hostelry and they were probably more interested in the quality of ale than in political movements. A family member said that the Halifax Troop had arranged special licensing hours for their meetings, so that would have made membership of the Legion popular.² Yorkshiremen have always claimed to be almost a race of their own, descended from a different tribe of invaders of England, and had a strong belief in democracy. That is what would have attracted them to the Legion. In East Africa the Frontiersmen had little time for Staff officers who seemed to them to only hold their position due to which school they had attended and the fact that they were upper class. Class consciousness still existed, even after the First War. Frontiersmen wanted to be led by born leaders, irrespective of class and therefore elected some fine men to be their officers. As ever, army rank made no difference to them. For example, in 1938, the Medical Officer for “B” Squadron, Legion Lieutenant G.H.L.Hammerton, C.M.G., D.S.O., T.D. had been a full Colonel in the army, whereas the Legion officers in charge of Troops or Squadrons had often served as n.c.o.s in the army – but they all held those positions because they had won the respect of the men. When the new club headquarters of “B” Squadron (Dewsbury, Wakefield, Halifax and Barnsley Troops) was opened officially on 15th June 1935 by Brigadier R.F. Sugden,:

” Captain Leonard Shaw, Officer commanding “B” Squadron, presided and announced that Brigadier-General Sugden wished to become a Frontiersman.

General Sugden said that he was thoroughly tired of being a general, and wished to become an ordinary member of the Legion. He had started his military life as a trooper It would not be the first time he had been a trooper, and had been corporal, a sergeant and many other ranks. The Legion of Frontiersmen was a body well worth belonging to.” ³

Leeds Mercury Selby parade photo

Yorkshiremen in addition had a strong sense of law and order and support for the community. We already know that the London Frontiersmen formed the mounted reserve of the City of London Police, but at the time of the General Strike in 1926, twenty-seven Yorkshire Frontiersmen signed up as Special Constables, not to break the strike, but to ensure that everyone on both sides of the argument followed the rule of law. In 1928 a motor transport section was organised under Legion Captain Rowland Winn to help in any emergency where there was a disruption of essential civil transport. By 1936, the Air Command was in full action with nine privately-owned planes. They were ready to assist the authorities with the transport of urgent medical supplies and other duties in any emergency. The Frontiersmen received great support from Mayors and other dignitaries and also the Earl of Harewood. The Leeds Squadron was permitted to have its Headquarters at the Harewood Barracks, where they were able to experience physical training and horse-riding training with the Yorkshire Hussars.

In 1937 the government were busy recruiting auxiliary firemen in preparation for air attacks. Most of the Leeds Frontiersmen volunteered and undertook training in ladder and hose work. Those who did not re-join the armed forces were to be needed in a very few years. In September 1938, the Town Clerk of Bridlington reported that he had received a telegram from the War Office:

“Give your Frontiersmen special job in your district. Ask your men to stand by further in case war breaks. Strength for each geographical district? Very urgent.” ⁴

By December 1939 all 60 members of the Sheffield Frontiersmen were reported to be serving again in some capacity or other.

“When the war came the Sheffield Squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen was ready.

The War Office at once sent out an appeal to the Legion squadrons for senior n.c.o.s from the 1914-18 war to take up their old rank in the army and accompany new battalions to France and Sheffield sent its quota.

With very little training they were able to assume their old ranks of sergeant-majors and sergeants and went out to France…” ⁵

Shipley Frontiersmen at the Cenotaph

After WW2 the Legion numbers throughout Britain made a surprisingly speedy recovery when consideration is given to the numbers of men who had lost their lives in the conflict. Most older Legion officers had served in the Home Guard , A.R.P. and A.F.S. and ensured continuity of the L.O.F. after the war. Fortunately, Colonel E. Dunn, D.S.O., who had been Brigadier Morton’s Chief of Staff before the war agreed to take over as Cdt-General and proved to be a very steady hand on the tiller right through the 1950s until old age affected him. It may be wondered whether he would have been a wiser choice than Morton for Cdt-General before the war. Although their numbers were not as great as between the wars, Yorkshire again proved to be the most successful area for the Legion outside London. Photographs show substantial groups. A grainy newspaper photograph here shows the Shipley Troop on their way to London for Remembrance Day 1949. The Legion was then still welcomed at the Cenotaph in Legion uniform. They did not just lay one wreath on behalf of the whole Legion but, as can be seen here, individual Troops and Squadrons brought their own dedicated wreaths. Another faded photograph shows many Yorkshire Frontiersmen in 1954 turned out for the St. George’s Day Parade, which was then always enthusiastically commemorated.

Until the late 1960s the Legion’s A.G.M. was held alternate years in London and Yorkshire. By this time Col. Dunn was a very old man in a care home. In his dying years he was persuaded to hand over command to a younger man, but a power battle ensued which meant that headquarters and all meetings were held in London. The old Yorkshiremen who had done so much good failed to find the next generation of the right quality to follow them and so over some twenty years and a cumulation of problems Yorkshire ceased to be at the heart of the Legion. Will one day some more proud Yorkshiremen take up the independent and patriotic spirit of the old Frontiersmen? Who can say?

¹Read, Herbert (31 January 1929). “Review of Frederic Richard Pearson, Yorkshire”. The Times Literary Supplement. p.79.
² Letters from Mrs Rita Gill, daughter of Sgt Greaves of Halifax Troop, 1990, in Legion files.
³ “Yorkshire Post, 16th June,1935. The topic page which will follow this one in due course will expand on the subject of rank in the Legion of Frontiersmen, how it was treated, and how trained Frontiersmen were eagerly sought out by the services at the start of W.W.2
⁴ “Hull Daily Mail” 29th September, 1938
⁵ “The Star” Sheffield 15th December, 1939


© 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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Now Available: The Frontiers of Truth

Now available exclusively from Lulu:

The Frontiers of Truth is the third book by Geoffrey A. Pocock, a handsome, casewrapped hardcover volume, 236 pages.

The Legion of Frontiersmen was formed in 1904 for fellowship and service to the State at any time of need. Its first official historian, Geoffrey A. Pocock, has written two books in connection with the Frontiersmen, One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen, and his biography of the founder of the Legion, Outrider of Empire.

The Frontiers of Truth is an extensive new article that has never appeared on either the official Frontiersmen history website or the blog, detailing the (mis)adventures of some of the Legion’s most notorious early members. Their stories raise an important question about autobiographies, and why they should never be entirely trusted by historians without extensive research to establish corroborating evidence.

Also included in this volume are over thirty articles that first appeared on the official Frontiersmen history website or blog, fully revised and updated where appropriate, brought together for the first time here in a print volume. They cover diverse topics from the long history of the Legion of Frontiersmen, including: Frontiersmen and the Boy Scouts, Frontiersmen in their Own Words, Frontiersmen and the Sea, Friends in High Places, When a Government Minister Supported the Frontiersmen, On Parade in front of 139,000 People, The Mystery of the Union Flag, What Caused the Rift?, The Flying Frontiersmen, Defending Against Chemical Warfare and A Murder Mystery.

View/Buy “The Frontiers of Truth” on Lulu.

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Frontiersmen Independent Thinkers

Collage001Topic February / March 2019A brief look at some Frontiersmen characters who some might describe as eccentric.

The late, great, Patrick Moore (who was also a Frontiersman) was always fascinated by what might be called eccentrics by some, but who he preferred to call “Independent Thinkers”.

“The Independent Thinker is a genuine, well-meaning person, who is not hidebound by convention, and who is always ready to strike out on a line of his own…”¹

The Legion of Frontiersmen has been the natural home for the independent thinker and we have seen many times when the independent thoughts and ideas they produced were either ahead of their time or not acceptable to their military or official masters.

Lieutenant A.Harold Reed, an officer of 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) was a man of considerable bulk weighing some 300lb and known to the troops with army humour as ‘Baby’ Reed. He had enjoyed an adventurous life as what might today be considered a mercenary. He had fought in the 1898 Greco-Turkish War, the South African War, with the Mexican forces from 1910 to 1912 and then in the Honduras army. He had been originally commissioned and posted to the Shropshire Light Infantry, a strange posting indeed. The Colonel took one look at his size and gazetted him out as “appearance unfavourable”. Lt.Col. Driscoll saw no problem and saw his experiences as an advantage and took him on to command his Stokes Mortar Battery. Reed decided that he could help solve the problem of the lack of guns transportable by just a few men. He was permitted the use of the Uganda Railway and a short film of a demonstration of his gun in front of senior officers is held at the Imperial War Museum. The projectile did travel some distance, but it exploded the barrel on its way as the quality of metal was not strong enough. Reed was not permitted to continue working on his invention. ²

Before the First War Legion Lieut. Clifton West was another Frontiersman who fancied himself as an inventor. Born in Rochester, Kent, in 1879, West had served in the Army Service Corps in South Africa and had been one of those besieged at Ladysmith. For some years after the War, Clifton West worked as a fishmonger at Poole on the Dorset coast, eventually selling his business and moving to London. In 1912 he was appointed organising officer for the Poole sub-unit of the Legion of Frontiersmen. It is not apparent what other life experiences, if any, gave him qualifications as an inventor, but in 1913 paragraphs appeared in a number of newspapers reporting that he had invented a new type of projectile. Zeppelins had caused considerable shock and trepidation among the British public and there were discussions about how attacking Zeppelins could be brought down.

“The weapon is fitted internally with radiating steel propeller blades, which are released automatically on leaving a gun. On coming into contact with the inflated sides of a dirigible, large openings are rent by the propeller blades, so that the hydrogen is bound to escape and cause the destruction of the airship. From the moment of its leaving the mouth of the gun the projectile is in action ready to ignite any hydrogen or gas through which it may pass. The projectiles are non-explosive and are quite harmless before being fired. Furthermore it is claimed that they offer a minimum amount of damage when returning to earth.” ³

Clifton West claimed that each projectile would pass through the air with a tail of fire like a comet. The igniting of the gas would be as simple as the way in which a gas cooker was then lit, presumably by a flint lighter. The propeller blades would not spin but only present a knife edge to the air, causing little resistance. He seems to have overlooked the fact that the projectile itself would be spinning as it would have to be fired from a rifled barrel to obtain the distance. In 1914 the newspapers again ran a version of the story, but this time our inventor claimed that the War Office were interested and that he had also received an approach from the German company Krupps. Nothing more seems to have been heard of Clifton West and no further mention in Frontiersmen magazines. It is believed that he may have died in 1915 with his invention still at the planning stage. Anyone with a school education in science can see the problems with West’s invention, but as Patrick Moore wrote, the Independent Thinker “…makes other people concentrate hard; and from this, nothing but good can emerge”. ⁴

Frontiersmen at Cenotaph, 1980

Edward Knoblock was a man whose life was interesting and intriguing rather than full of excitement. He saw his share of danger, although he chose to write about very few of such events in his life. He was an American who was born in New York in 1874 and who died in 1945. Roger Pocock knew him through his sister Lena Ashwell and the Edwardian London stage set. They often met and Pocock recruited him into the Legion of Frontiersmen. Lena Ashwell managed and starred in Knoblock plays, the plots of which would be considered today as too intense even for television dramas although Edwardian theatre audiences loved them.

In 1916 Knoblock was introduced to S.I.S. intelligence branch under Smith-Cumming (C) by Somerset Maugham. He was promised a commission in the RNVR, but it was discovered that, as an American citizen, he was ineligible although in 1915 that did not stop Northrup McMillan getting a commission in the 25th Fusiliers (Frontiersmen). Instead, a commission for Knoblock in the RNAS was suggested, but no sooner was the uniform bought than it had to be changed to an army General Service commission as an intelligence officer. He served for a while in Switzerland, but was then sent to the Mediterranean to serve with Compton Mackenzie. It was decided that it was best to take all the uniforms, including both naval and military swords. Compton Mackenzie dedicated one of his books “Aegean Memories” to Knoblock, who was his lifelong friend. In 1917 Knoblock suffered a severe bout of dysentery and was invalided home. After a period working in Smith-Cumming’s offices, he went to France working from an SIS out-station in the French Alps. He returned to civilian life in 1919, but told Smith-Cumming that he would have liked to stay in SIS:

“One doesn’t have to think. You do the thinking for us. We just obey orders. That’s the beauty of the service. I wish I could remain in it for the rest of my life.” ⁵

Knoblock remained a confirmed bachelor and very theatrical. There is a story of him going to lunch with actor Sir John Gielgud, who was utterly forgetful about names. A man approached them at lunch, nodded to Gielgud and moved on. “Thank Heaven”, said Gielgud, “I thought he might be that crashing bore Eddie Knoblock.”

“But I am Eddie Knoblock” commented Knoblock. “Oh,” said Gielgud, thinking wildly for an explanation, “I meant the other Eddie Knoblock”. ⁶

Knoblock’s most famous play was “Kismet”. His script was eventually turned into a Broadway musical in America, using the music of Borodin, and was later made into a 1955 film musical, starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Vic Damone. An earlier 1944 film version of the play starred Marlene Dietrich and Ronald Colman.

We will now move on to 1972 and a story of an enthusiastic Frontiersman who, to avoid any delayed embarrassment, we will just call John. John lived at a comfortable address in London and from the start was a keen Frontiersman and also a royalist, particularly attracted to Princess Anne. He had an idea, which unfortunately he did not pass before senior Frontiersmen before acting on it. We quote from a Legion letter in a disciplinary file:

“Please request from the above individual a full and detailed report to you of a private enterprise in uniform in which he recently engaged himself according to his own semi-coherent account, laced with considerable verve and aplomb, when meeting him in the Club…

That without permission and in defiance of established regulations he donned uniform to engage himself in a private adventure.

That this extraordinary and no doubt unique adventure and feat of imagination could result in not only embarrassment for the Legion but bring disrepute on its good name.

That in furtherance of this remarkable and stupid escapade, he hired a horse in defiance of the recently published Order, in accordance with an established Regulation, that no member is allowed to ride in uniform on any occasion, official or otherwise, unless he has been certified as proficient in equitation by a qualified Riding Instructor or a member qualified by experience, he having been checked by Capt. McCausland and deemed far from proficient.

That the scheme then entailed riding to Buckingham Palace armed with a stuffed soft-goods dragon, roughly three feet long, in order to present it to Princess Anne, her name having been inscribed in gold gimp by his own fair hand on a large velvet cushion supporting the dragon.

Answers are required to the following questions; (the mind boggles at the idea of the possibility of this apparition having succeeded in proceeding down The Mall)

1. At what stage was he prevented from riding to the Palace?

2. Did he then proceed by taxi?

3. What were the exact circumstances of the refusal at the Palace to accept the proffered gift?

4. Does he re-affirm his claim that the Princess had previously accepted a gift from him? If so, was it made in uniform or any reference made to the Legion?…

Note: he has now presented the stuffed dragon to the Royal Society of St. George, who are not at all grateful. Not only is it a Welsh dragon, the Society claiming the Lion Couchant as their emblem, but they find xxxx an unbearable bore. Frankly I was too stunned to express fully my opinion and views at the time…”

When asked these questions and before disciplinary action could be started John tendered his resignation from the Legion claiming pressure of work. He shortly afterwards moved to Australia and lived there for some years.

To return to Patrick Moore: “…there are still many people who can branch out for themselves without being restricted by conventional ideas”. Over the years the Legion of Frontiersmen has attracted those who believed in thinking for themselves and not just being directed, often by those less imaginative than themselves. Sometimes they were right and sometimes wrong. Possibly it is the many occasions on which they were right that infuriated the regular military services who do not understand the constitutional entitlement that Frontiersmen had, and still have, to elect their own leaders and also to dispense with those who do not rise to their standards.


¹ Patrick Moore “Can You Speak Venusian?” Star paperback 1976 p.8 (originally David & Charles Ltd. 1972)
² Geoffrey A Pocock “One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen” Phillimore 2004 p.84
³ “Banbury Advertiser” 6th November 1913
⁴ Patrick Moore “Can You Speak Venusian” p.150
⁵ Edward Knoblock “Round the Room” Chapman & Hall 1939 p.283
⁶ This story and variations of it is repeated in many books and in obituaries for Sir John Gielgud.


© 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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United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command

UNITED FARMERS OF ALBERTA MOUNTED INFANTRY COMMAND*
LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN, BREMNER DISTRICT

Barry William Shandro M.Ed – 12 January 2019
History & Archives Section, Countess Mountbatten’s Own Legion of Frontiersmen

*The United Farmers of Alberta executive member Mr. Rice Sheppard stated, “The force in Alberta will be called U.F.A., M.I.C., L.O.F., the letters standing for United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command, Legion of Frontiersmen.” Ref: The Grain Growers’ Guide, Page 20, March 29 1916.

1916 – ’17, United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command* or “Corps” in the local newspaper, was formed by an agricultural association that was recruited by the Legion of Frontiersmen to provide mounted rifles in outlying areas around the City of Edmonton. “Capt. Rice Sheppard stated 600 men had signed up out of the U.F.A. for a mounted corps.” The UFAMIC reported formations in Edmonton, and in the rural villages and districts of St. Albert, Bremner, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Winterburn, Horse Hills, Belmont Park, Clearwater, and Leduc. Ref: LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN NOTEBOOK [online].

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The United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command photograph, compliments of the Strathcona County Museum and Archives (Boag Family), was brought to the attention of the Legion of Frontiersmen via the efforts of Mr. M. C. Boyd. To date this is the only known photograph of the United Farmers of Alberta Mounted Infantry Command, Legion of Frontiersmen. Shown are six members of Bremner District wearing Stetson hats common to the Canadian West. This writer is confident that the two members in the colonial style slouch or “bushranger” hats are from Edmonton Command of the Legion of Frontiersmen. The L.O.F. including the U.F.A.M.I.C. morphed into a politically acceptable Edmonton Battalion of Reserve Militia or “R.M.” in the news of the day. Interestingly, the ongoing Edmonton newspaper reports headed “Military Gossip” or “Military Orders” occasionally had the Legion of Frontiersmen badge preceding E.B.R.M. information, leaving no doubt as to Legion of Frontiersmen genesis. Ref: Glenbow Photo Archives and the Edmonton Bulletin.

Mr. M.C. Boyd commenting about this historic photograph given to the Strathcona County Museum and Archives wrote: “We received it from the Boag family photo album and two people are identified in the album. Third from the left is Archibald Boag and standing right behind the little girl is J.C.C. “Chas” Bremner. … J.C.C. Bremner died in 1928 at the age of 60. If this photo was taken in 1916 or 1917 he would be 48 years old in this photo (too old for active service).” Ref: Email 08 January 2019.

In 1916-’17 the Bremner District was an agricultural area with established farms of 160 acres or larger located immediately east of the small capital city of Edmonton, Alberta. Today this district is in Strathcona County which is home to Canada’s Legion of Frontiersmen War Memorial honouring the British Empire’s 9000 Legion of Frontiersmen war service casualties.

The two newspaper extracts below comment on the role of the UFAMIC Legion of Frontiersmen, including the Bremner District, mounted units. Ref.EDMONTON BULLETIN.

Edmonton Daily Bulletin, ‘Mounted Division’ Extract 1.

extract2

Edmonton Daily Bulletin 1917 ‘Mounted Division’ Extract 2.

Article © 2019 Barry William Shandro. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.

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Publicising the Legion and Recruitment

Tatler Kent camp 29 Apr 08

Topic December 2018 / January 2019. Certainly the Legion of Frontiersmen showed skills in recruitment and promoting the Legion, especially in the early years. With no television and no radio to occupy their relaxation time men went out in search of entertainment. The Frontiersmen skilfully attracted men, especially those who had served in the Boer War. Right through until the Second World War, the Legion was constantly putting on “smoking concerts”. These had been popular entertainment in South Africa and the Legion decided to repeat the popularity and use them as a way of recruiting men who had served in the military. The entertainment was often by gifted amateurs or semi-professionals. The evenings were for men only, so the men could smoke their pipes, cigars or cigarettes and engage in banter, reminiscences and risqué stories without have to take care that their language was acceptable in front of ladies. Other than temperance smoking concerts, which the Frontiersmen never promoted, there was usually a good supply of beer as they were normally held at licensed establishments. Frontiersmen ‘smokers’, as they were colloquially known, in the London area often attracted known music-hall artistes. One who was a particular attraction was Frontiersman George Leyton who was a highly popular performer of military based songs and monologues and who often appeared at leading music-halls. He was known to be a supporter of old soldiers and carried out charity work in that connection. In 1914 Leo Dryden, another well-known actor/singer of the stage was singing his patriotic songs on the music-hall stage dressed in his Frontiersman uniform promoting the Legion. Men who missed the comradeship of their army days enjoyed those evenings out at smoking concerts. The uniformed Frontiersmen present were keen to persuade them to join the Legion.

Roger Pocock the Founder, usually together with Lt. Col. Driscoll travelled the country putting on meetings and where possible with the aid of recently-formed local Frontiersmen units. Roger on his own attracted reasonable audiences but nowhere near as large as when Driscoll was in attendance, due to Driscoll’s reputation as a Boer War hero. Roger’s photographs of his adventures in America and Canada, shown with the aid of the ‘magic lantern’ and aided by his personal eccentricity were certainly some attraction, but Driscoll’s magnetic presence drew larger crowds. Roger’s promotional concert at Portsmouth in January 1907 was well reported in the local newspaper:

In the course of the evening’s amusement – and capital amusement, too – Mr. Roger Pocock, the founder the Legion, made a speech upon its objects. He was introduced by one of the leaders, Capt. J. A. Foster, and appeared in Frontiersman uniform, which appeared to be of grey cloth, with a tinge of green together with a black silk neckerchief, slouch hat, revolver in case at the side, with the belt full of cartridges, knee breeches and heavy black leggings, and spurs. As he was being introduced Mr. Pocock stood at attention, and then made a seventeen minutes speech in a soldierlike manner. His remarks were illustrated by limelight views, and when he wanted another lantern slide slide he banged the butt end of his riding whip on the platform. The sharp concussion was distinctly alarming, and you could hear ladies jump with temporary terror. They were quite prepared for a war whoop or a revolver fusilade of blank cartridge…

The lecturette was most interesting. The slides showed cowboys on the plains, frontiersmen in the Rockies, Canadian Mounted Police in the North West Provinces – their Military system of independent commands and non-red-tape has given the Legion its model – and the Union Jack and Stars and Stripes floating side by side over the snowflelds beside the Yukon, the trapper, with frosty moustache, was seen in his buckskin, and also the Rocky Mountain Dick Turpins, whom Mr. Pocock, camera in hand, caught at tea…¹

There was a supporting musical programme with a “humorist”, a conjuror, vocalists, a sword display and “ Miss Winsor’s string band”. The evening entertainment was well received but no mention was made of how many recruits were obtained for the Portsmouth Frontiersmen.

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 17th October 1908.

Driscoll was in attendance alongside Roger Pocock at a recruiting meeting at Yarmouth, Norfolk. The attraction of having Driscoll present was indicated by the presence of the Mayor of Yarmouth presiding over the meeting. As well as old soldiers they wished to attract…

…hunters or travellers and any who had special knowledge of foreign countries, and who could perform useful services in time of war…men who had been on frontiers, and were trained in handiness and adaptability…Cowboys, big game hunters, trappers, and forest rangers had a life’s training that made them perfect scouts…They wanted colonial teamsters who could drive down the roof of a house without an upset, also an accomplished cow-thief who could steal and drive off his meat, butcher it and cook it…Such a one was a useful man. ²

Many thousands of men had travelled and worked in cattle country in the United States, in Canada, in South America, Africa and in Australia, in the mines and forests of Africa. They had returned to the home country or were just passing through on their way to the next assignment or back to where they had been working. They picked up the idea of this new organisation with its comradeship across the world, simple and inexpensive uniform and principles of duty and service to King and the Empire. They spread the word among expatriates and those with family ties to the ‘old country’. The meetings and shows staged around Britain enthused these men.

Frontiersmen Recruiting Show 1907. Due to the unavailability of ladies on that occasion, the “damsel in distress” unfortunately sports a substantial moustache.

Not only were there meetings and shows, but the Frontiersmen also staged mounted displays and assaults-at-arms. They threw open their summer camps to the press and any possible recruits who showed an interest. They put on exhibitions at shows, for example in 1913 at Handsworth Flower Show in Birmingham they gave a demonstration of mounted skills, including lassoing by ‘Prairie Dick’, an Australian Frontiersman. Frontiersmen who had worked as cowboys often adopted western names. The Legion attracted many such men. It may be surprising nowadays but, particularly in late Victorian times a steady stream of men seeking adventure travelled abroad to work at what could be described as ‘Imperial cowboys’. It was in the British nature to be a skilled horseman. We have written about ‘Texas’ Thompson before, but there was also a ‘Broncho Bill’ who appeared in Frontiersmen displays. This was not the original Broncho Bill, William Irving, who featured in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows, for he had died in 1903. A showman, J Howard Laurie, adopted that name in Edwardian times, but he was not the only Broncho Bill on stage or early film. For years it has been assumed that ‘Montana Bill’, a music-hall artiste, was a Frontiersman as he was pictured in Frontiersmen uniform, but in 1916 he was sentenced to three month’s imprisonment for unlawfully wearing Frontiersmen uniform and Canadian decorations to which he was not entitled.³ It is to be assumed that, although an American, he wished to wear uniform to prevent being given a white feather by ladies who considered anyone not in uniform to be a coward. It is most interesting that in those days the law considered that wearing Frontiersmen uniform when not a member of the Legion to be an imprisonable offence.

We have seen in earlier pages how the Frontiersmen displays at Regent’s Park were a great success. In January 1907 they produced a ‘grand assault-at-arms’ at St. James’s Hall, Manchester. This grand hall was capable of hosting an audience in the thousands and was ideal for Frontiersmen to put on a show in the depths of winter. The Earl of Lonsdale, President of the Legion, was present as was the Lord Mayor of Manchester. When the public were not in attendance members were able to hold the first ever Legion national conference with Frontiersmen coming from all around the country. The public display, on both the Friday and Saturday evenings, included sword, rapier and bayonet fighting. There was a wrestling and a boxing match between Lionel Palmer, of the very wealthy shipbuilding family and a Legion officer, who had once been amateur middle-weight champion of Canada, and Billy Bell, some time middleweight champion of England. ‘Broncho Bill’ gave an exhibition of roping. What was unusual was the despatches that arrived during the evening for Lord Lonsdale. These had been sent by relay teams from all round the country, the furthest coming from Portsmouth. These relay teams were cyclists. The Legion was advanced in its ideas as most squadrons had a dedicated cyclist troop. Their belief was that wheeled despatch riders could be used efficiently by the army as well as mounted ones, so it is evident that they were not wedded to the idea that the Legion should always be horse-mounted.

Manchester Courier 4 Jan 1910

Among Legion members were a number of newspaper men, usually those who had served as war correspondents. Legion camps were a source of interest to newspapers and photographs of them appeared in provincial as well as national newspapers. Photographs of Frontiersmen bareback riding, wrestling on horses, scouting, rope-making, cooking and carrying out many other outdoor activities were aimed at attracting recruits. The Legion sought out anything else that might attract publicity. One charitable action that produced column inches and newspaper photographs around the country in 1910 was the funeral of 93-year-old James Williamson, who was one of the few surviving Crimean War veterans. He had been in the Charge of the Light Brigade and wounded in the hip. George Leyton discovered Williamson in a workhouse in his final days, although the old soldier was happy to be there rather than out in the world trying to survive on a meagre pension. The Master of Newington Workhouse treated him as an honoured guest. When he died, Leyton alerted Colonel Driscoll and not only did the Frontiersmen purchase him a grave but paid the funeral expenses and gave him a military funeral with a revolver volley over the grave. The Prince of Wales personally presented a Union Jack to be draped over the coffin. The story of the funeral and the charitable action of the Frontiersmen was reported around the country and a photograph appeared even as far away as in the “Manchester Courier”, bringing excellent publicity for the Legion. The photograph shown here of the revolver volley may seem unusual to our eyes, but until the 1920 Firearms Act was passed by the British Parliament it was quite legal for the Frontiersmen to bear side-arms in a holster at their hips.

These are only a few examples of the intelligent ways the Legion of Frontiersmen boosted recruitment before the First War bringing in many thousands of men. Publicity and promotion have changed totally over the ensuing hundred-plus years and social media, unthought-of in the early days, has a considerable bearing on these matters. The task of these pages is just to report the past. It is for today’s Frontiersmen to think up and to carry out modern ways of recruitment.

¹ “Portsmouth Evening News” 30th January 1907
² “Yarmouth Independent” 2nd November 1907
³ “Manchester Evening News” 3rd November 1916


© 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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A Brave soldier and Unusual Frontiersman

H.H.R. White as a young officer, 1899 (reproduced by courtesy of his grandson, Mr Ron White)

Surprising Snippets 9

Major H.H.R. White, D.S.O., O.B.E.

Henry Herbert Ronald White was born in February 1879 into a wealthy military family. He was a man of great bravery and a highly efficient soldier, who could probably have risen to be a General like his father, had he concentrated his considerable energies solely on a military career. He was highly respected and admired by the men of the 25th Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) but he was from a different mould than the toughs of the 25th. He was their first adjutant, and for much of the time their 2 i/c. The contrast in type is best illustrated in a quotation from “Kenya Chronicles” by Lord Cranworth:

The battalion was essentially a tough one and not altogether easy to handle, excepting always in action. I remember the Adjutant at this time occasionally found this trait somewhat trying. He was an admirable, conscientious and painstaking soldier but not of quite such rough fibre as most of his command. Some of his problems he brought to me. One of them was, what was the most appropriate action to take with an officer to whom he had issued an order, and who responded by telling him to go to hell and commit a peculiar and indecent offence with spiders! ‘As if I could,’ he pathetically added. I only trust that I advised him aright.

White was commissioned into the 60th Rifles in 1898 and served in South Africa 1901-2. On 10th January 1904 he was seriously wounded by a bullet through the right chest at Jidball, Somaliland. In April of that year he was promoted Capt, an unusually fast rise. He became adjutant of 5th Btn , 60th Rifles from 1906-8. He was due to be posted to Bermuda that year, but he decided to resign his commission as his father had died suddenly, and to run the family estate at Lough Eske Castle, Co. Donegal, Ireland. He modernised the castle and proved to be a wise employer. He employed a dozen workers and made sure that half were Republicans and half Unionists. When he returned after the First War, he found both political factions coming to him asking for the advice of an experienced soldier. His advice was always the same: “War is the worst of events, and killing a waste which does no person any good whatsoever.” Eventually, the Irish Troubles forced him to sell the estate.

He was a keen and skilled polo player, winning many trophies, and a dedicated fly fisherman, often spending summers after the War in Norway. Many influential men were guests at Lough Eske Castle and in 1914 many discussions were held there. We cannot be certain how this model soldier came to join the most irregular 25th Fusiliers. Driscoll was also Irish so there could be a link there, but Major White’s grandson has suggested that they may have been brought together by Col. Kitchener, the brother of the more famous Kitchener, who was sent to East Africa on a fact-finding mission. Driscoll had no vacancies for a Major, but White was happy to be listed and paid as a Captain. He still retained his Major’s insignia on his uniform and was always referred to by the Frontiersmen as “The Major”.

According to his son Henry (who died aged 99 more than fifteen years ago) “Father was a great story-teller – entertaining – and told of a prank they played on the German Commander (Von Lettow-Vorbeck, perhaps). Having at that time the higher ground, he told his gunner to put a couple of shells left and right of the commander’s tent – but not to hurt him. This done on a hot afternoon, out comes the commander in his underpants. Siesta interrupted. Father used to say that wars were a little more friendly in those days, in their peculiar ways.” We have no confirmation of this tale, but it tells us that the Major was not always the stiff and straight regimental officer. Major White’s actions on June 24th 1916 at Kwa Direma on the Lukigura were probably instrumental in his being recommended for the D.S.O. According to Charles Miller in his “Battle for the Bundu”, the Fusiliers stormed the German positions “in one of the wildest bayonet charges yet seen in the campaign.” Before the action, the men had been marching twenty-four and a half hours, fully laden and without proper food. Angus Buchanan in his “Three Years of War in East Africa” said, “ I have never seen men more utterly tired and woebegone.” There is a superb account of the action in C.T. Stoneham’s “From Hobo to Hunter.” It is a pity that Charles Stoneham never wrote a full account of his time with the 25th Fusiliers, but merely chapters and paragraphs throughout his many books. The Frontiersmen’s tiredness was soon forgotten as they got involved in the action. Stoneham wrote, “The Colonel said in his loud hearty voice, ‘All right, go forward then, and as soon as you see them get into them with the bayonet and drive them off this hill.’. My heart took a dive into my boots. The Major answered ‘Very good, sir,’ and came striding past us…..We got up and followed the Major.” Finally the enemy fled and the Major superintended the operation to sort out the wounded, a big pistol in one hand and a sandwich in the other. After an incident of this kind, Stoneham wrote, everyone felt the need for a lunch break. The natives had been told by the Germans to stay in their huts. Suddenly an old woman, apparently driven demented by her experiences, rushed forward and seized the Major’s sandwich which she proceeded to devour at his feet. “Well I’m damned”, said the Major.

The citation for Major White’s D.S.O. of February 13th, 1917 said “He displayed great courage and initiative in handling two companies under heavy fire. He has performed consistent good work throughout, and has at all times set a splendid example.” Suffering badly from malaria, Major White moved to South African Military Command in 1917 and in 1918 he became acting Lt. Col. with the Nyasaland Field Force. He was then awarded the O.B.E. After the War, the Major, as he was still always known, returned to the life of a gentleman, travelling the world, fishing and sailing motor boats. His Frontiersmen experience did tell once around 1927 in Mexico City, when a taxi driver drove the Major and his wife out into the country rather than returning them to their hotel. The Major hooked his walking stick around the driver’s throat and pulled hard, making himself understood in true Frontiersman terms. The shaken taxi driver promptly returned them to their hotel. The Major died at only 60, the wound to his chest, malaria contracted in East Africa and heavy smoking from an early age shortened his life. His advice to his son was “Here are the cigarettes and here is the whisky and any boy who takes them is a fool.” His son took notice and lived to a ripe old age.

Many thanks are due to the Major’s son, the late Mr. Henry White, and his grandson Mr. Ron White, who lives in America, for their information, permission to use the photographs and help in producing this tribute to the very brave Major H.H.R. White.


© 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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Chaplains of Adventure

A Harry Leigh Pink photo reproduced courtesy of the Leigh Pink family

Topic October/November 2018.  The first Legion Padre was Bishop H.H. Montgomery, who we will know of in the main as being the father of the famous Montgomery of Alamein. He was succeeded by several mainly London-based clergymen, often with somewhat unusual surnames. In 1909 there were two Chaplains: Arthur Humphrey Townsend (1867-1942) an eccentric curate, and W Grome-Merrilees. From 1912 the duties were shared by F.W. Everard Digby-Digby, F. Houlden Merrick and C.P. Casey. From 1914 until after the end of the war, the sole Chaplain was Rt. Revd. E.N. Powell (1859-1928) who between 1908 and 1910 had been Bishop of Mashonaland.

In the 1930s, the enthusiastic Padre was the Revd. William Pennington-Bickford, well-known in London. Although not a Frontiersman traveller, as he had spent his whole career as Rector of St. Clement Danes, he was an outstanding publicist and his Church was central to many Frontiersmen parades in the capital. In 1919 he had restored the church bells and 1920 he used the carillon to play the tune of “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St. Clement”. Other London churches have claimed that they were the original St. Clement but Pennington-Bickford made the rhyme his own, holding an annual service when fruit, the gift of the London Danish community, was handed out to children. On May 10th 1941 St. Clement burned down as the result of a German incendiary bomb. Pennington-Bickford was so broken-hearted that he died a month later and it is believed that he took his own life. His wife fell from an attic window shortly afterwards and this was also believed to be suicide because she could not face life without her husband.

The best-known Canadian Padre was Legion Major Harry Leigh-Pink. He wrote many lively western and adventure books under the name of Hal Pink, as well as the biography of a man whose name will be familiar to Canadian Frontiersmen, “Bill Guppy, King of the Woodsmen, life–long friend and tutor of ‘Grey Owl’”. One of his more lurid fiction books was “The Screaming Plant.” “Flower-shaped suckers there were indeed, opening and shutting like so many mouths waiting for food…” The plant’s first victim is the cat, the plant sucking all the blood out of the poor animal. Leigh-Pink was a good friend of the Legion Founder, Roger Pocock, and told the story of Christmas 1930 when Leigh-Pink worked for London General Press.

Strong tea was his tipple in those days – he was 63 (actually 65) – and usually he managed to arrive in my office just when the typist had made a steaming brew. Off would come his trench-coat and hat, dripping wet from the London rain; he would plump in the captain’s chair beside my desk, I would push a packet of Gold Flakes towards him, down went the tea, up went the smokes, and some chance comment of mine would set him off on a chain of reminiscence. 1

Leigh-Pink interviewed many Frontiersmen and wrote excellent accounts of some of the events they had experienced in East Africa.

1908 photo of Cave from The Sketch.jpg

However, the strangest and most adventurous of the Legion padres has to be Sir Genille Cave-Browne-Cave who took over the duties during the 1920s until his death in 1929. Born in 1869, his escapades caused his family many problems. His father sent him to a training ship of the Royal Naval Reserve, but after 6 months his father was told to “take the little devil home”. The boy wanted a life at sea so his father apprenticed him to serve on the sailing ships sailing to Australia. Still causing problems he signed on in the 13th Hussars claiming to be 18 instead of 16½ becoming a“gentleman ranker”. As we have seen in earlier pages, it was not only Buffalo Bill who ran a Wild West Circus and the young man became involved with “Mexican Joe’s” Wild West Show. This made him determined to become a cowboy. After service in India he bought himself out of the army. He spent some time wandering and working in Burma, Australia, America and Greenland and finally made his way “out west” in America to become a cowboy. He soon became an expert both with a lariat and with a gun. First of all known as “English” his nickname changed to “Kit”, short for Kitty. For the full entertaining story of how that came about the reader will have to search out a copy of his very rare (and nowadays very expensive) autobiography “From Cowboy to Pulpit”. 2 Other stories tell of how the westerners found their way around prohibition. He served in the Spanish American War of 1898. He would have liked to have fought in the Boer War but instead found himself on a ship going to China. Even then he was unable to get into action in the Boxer Rebellion as he could find no way to leave his ship. He returned to his cowboy life in the west of America. What he said about the life there confirms everything Roger Pocock wrote about it.3 He told some fascinating stories:

One fine old judge that I remember was coroner as well, but he had only two formulas for the death certificates – that is to say, when he remembered to fill them in. One of them was that the deceased died from lead poisoning – that was when he was shot; the other was that he had died from lack of breath, which was when he was hanged.

1908 Cave Wild West Show from The Sketch

His skills in all of the cowboy arts became well known and he was offered a job running the Circle Dot ranch. This belonged to a wealthy man who had entrusted it to his son who knew little about cowboy work. The word soon got around the local town that this Englishman would be taking over the ranch, and not everyone approved:

‘Be careful, English, Big Nat is going to get you.’

Not only was Kit skilled at handling cattle, he was also fearless and a crack shot with a revolver. One evening he went to the town and found that everyone was giving him a wide berth, when out of a local eating house stepped Big Nat, obviously well-lubricated with liquor:

“You damned English,” he said, ‘going to run an outfit, are you,’ he said huskily, ‘I’m going to blow you apart.’ He made a grab with his gun, but as it came out of the holster my Colt roared, and his went flying out of his hand. I shall never forget the look of surprise and terror on his face as he saw my gun covering him and expecting me to drop him where he stood.

‘I can shoot straight and quick,’ I said, ‘and can draw as quick as I can shoot. But it will do me no good to kill you. Get out of town as quick as you can.’

The street by this time was full of men, curious as to what was going to happen, but he slipped away like a hare, and not even stopping to pick up his gun. In ranch law I should have been quite justified in killing him. I was never bothered there again.

Roping with lariat

Kit began work at the ranch and was kept busy mending fences until one evening a group of three or four men rode up They seemed far from friendly and one of them remarked:

‘Goin’ to run this outfit?’

‘Sure thing,’ I said.

‘Huh, and what’ll yo do if yor cattle get stolen?’

‘Look here, stranger,’ I said, ‘if I lose one head I get two back for it, understand? We hang cattle thieves round here. I’m chancing things, and I am running this outfit to suit myself.’

After a few more remarks they rode off, but I felt there was trouble brewing, and that night I gave my two .45 Colts an extra clean. It was always best to carry one, although while working on fences I had not been packing a gun.

Now, by this time I had got to know my herd pretty well, and although things went on pretty smoothly for a time, one morning I missed several head from the herd, and on counting them I found it was exactly ten. That night I went off alone looking for night herds. In the end I found one and in the early morning I returned to the ranch with twenty head, which I turned into my herd. This was rank stealing, of course, and that day I carried two guns. I had made up my mind to see it out, testing myself several times that day. I knew exactly how fast I was on the draw.

Towards sundown I saw what I took to be the same four men riding towards the ranch, and I slipped round to the back of the the ranch house and waited with my back to the corral fence, so that no one could get round and attack me from behind. Riding up, they dismounted and came towards me.

‘Where in hell did you get them cows?’ shouted one.

‘Stole ’em,’ I replied at the top of my voice.

‘Hell,’ he yelled, and I saw his hands move.

In a flash both of my guns were out, and here I remembered a very useful hint given me by an old Texas gunman. When facing more than one man always keep your eye on something midway between them, then you cannot miss the slightest movement on the part of anyone. In addition, a very useful gift I possessed was the ability to read a man’s thoughts. When the brain sends a signal to the muscle to pull a gun and take the risk of life or death, the eyes always open slightly wider. That knowledge has saved my life more than once. You can shoot while the other man has hardly got his gun out. But in the case I am relating the men had come to a dead stop.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I can get two of you if the other two get me. Now move, and I’ll blow you wide open.’

There was not as much as the tremor of an eyelid on either side for the moments that seemed like minutes: then the leader said ‘Put up your guns.’

I did so.

‘Now shake hands,’ he said holding out his own with a friendly laugh.

We shook. ⁵

The men all then sat down together for supper and a chat, although the ranch cook had been scared out of his life. That night Kit returned those twenty head of cattle and within a few days the missing ten cows had mysteriously returned.

Kit and the leader of the men soon became firm friends.

The way of the West.

It was a boisterous life and the brotherhood of the cowboy never left any man. This explains why so many who had worked in the American west were to join the early Legion. Eventually his father died and “Kit of the Circle Dot ranch” became an English Baronet, although he continued to work as a cowboy when he could escape the press who plagued him on his visits to and from England. Being an expert with the lariat, he was called upon by Colonel Cummins to appear in his Wild West Show, also referred to as “Colonel Cummins’ Wild West Indian Congress and Rough Riders of the World”, at Liverpool. When that show moved to Europe he set up his own show persuading some of those who had been performing with him to join his show. In spite of the fact that there were over a hundred “Wild West Shows” touring U.S.A. and Europe, he experienced some success at the Hippodrome arena in London. His father had left him an estate deeply in debt and “Kit” was determined to earn enough money to pay off the family debts. Shortage of money was to plague him for the rest of his life. Unable to settle down, he moved between America and England. One day by chance he attended a Salvation Army meeting in New York and became a converted Christian and left his cowboy life to work in the Ministry.

Londesborough church parade with the padre

At the beginning of the War in 1914 he tried to gain acceptance as an army chaplain but was too old. Eventually he got taken on by the C.E.F. and served in England as a corporal. On demobilisation he was ordained in the Church of England and settled down as the Vicar of Londesborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire, becoming in the 1920s until his death the Frontiersmen’s Padre who had lived a life as adventurous as any other Frontiersman, but was now a man of peace who had laid aside his Colt revolver. As seen in the photograph, the Frontiersmen regularly attended a church parade at his church.

The Legion’s Padre in uniform

Will any of the Legion’s more recent Padres be able to tell of such an adventurous life story as their predecessors? We will have to wait until after they have departed this world and then future historians will be able to record their lives as part of the Legion’s long history.


1 “Canadian Frontiersman” Oct-Nov-Dec 1964. More about this is to be found in “Outrider of Empire: the life and adventures of Roger Pocock”, by Geoffrey A Pocock. For more of Leigh Pink’s stories see: Frontiersmen have always been found in the most unlikely places and http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info/bukoba.htm

2 “From Cowboy to Pulpit” by Sir Genille Cave-Browne-Cave (London, Herbert Jenkins, 1926, see also extracts published in the “Dundee Evening Telegraph”, November 1926)

3 “Outrider of Empire” tells much of Roger Pocock’s experiences as a cowboy and with cowboys, particularly when he rode the “Outlaw Trail” from Canada to Mexico in 1899

⁴ “From Cowboy to Pulpit” and “Dundee Evening Telegraph”.

⁵ Ibid

The photograph of a Legion Church Parade at Londesborough together with the Padre is from an unidentified newspaper cutting in the Legion archives and therefore reproduced as well as is possible.


© 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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