Origins of the Legion of Frontiersmen and the formation of MI5/6

From Le Queux Invasion of 1910

This is a summary of the talk given by Dr Anne Samson1 on 19 May 2018 to the Victorian Military Society.2

The question to be answered was “how was the formation of the Legion of Frontiersmen linked with the formation of MI5 and MI6 and what was the role of novels (yes, you’ve read this correctly) in all this?”

Three strands come together as a plait to form what is known in South Africa as a koeksister – a cake/baked sister described once as sickly sweet and twisted:

Strand 1: The spy novel as epitomised by William le Queux in The Great War in England in 1897 (1894) and The Invasion of 1910 (1906).

Strand 2: The Legion of Frontiersmen started by Roger Pocock in 1904/5.

Strand 3: The political and social structure of Britain.

Strand 3 is most important to understanding how the secret service came to be. The Crimean War (1855) and the earlier Peninsular Wars (1807-1815), the American Civil War (1860s) and Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) changed perceptions of the army. Technological developments such as the railways, steam engines, telegraph, wireless and photography as well as flight, changed the nature of war and people’s ability to travel. This all linked with the scramble for Africa and the development of Empire which needed to be protected to ensure a source of raw materials and markets for the sale of manufactured goods. This brought countries into conflict with each other, a point reflected in the novels of the day. During the 1800s France was enemy number one as depicted in William Le Queux’s novel The Great War in England in 1897. This was to last until after the Boer war, as France supported the Boers in spirit being anti-British at the time. When Britain reconciled with France in 1904, Germany became the ogre as seen in Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910. Follow through to today and the same holds true: think of James Bond, Die Hard, The Bourne series and more recent television programmes such as NCIS, Crossing Lines and Deep State.

Strand 2: At the start of the previous century, Germany was increasing the size of its navy which posed a direct threat to Britain’s mastery of the sea. With the growth of Empire came colonisation and the need to protect the Empire’s assets which is where Roger Pocock saw a role for the frontiersman and woman – the person who helped maintain some sort of order along the borders and pushed into other territories to see how far he could go. Roger was inspired with how the amateur or frontiersman could support the Empire, ideas gleaned through his experience of visiting the Crimea in about 1895 and later in 1904 when he visited St Petersburg. He was able to share his information with the Admiralty, in particular with the Director of Naval Intelligence, Prince Louis of Battenburg who saw the value of what he’d been given.

Roger Pocock had served as a Canadian frontiersman and learnt the hard way about survival and friendship before heading to South Africa and the Boer or South African War of 1899-1902. Between his time with the North West Mounted Rifles, later Police, when he lost some toes due to frostbite, and going to South Africa in 1900, Pocock had travelled widely taking work on ships to pay his way. In 1898 he organised the Klondyke expedition which aimed to take pack-horses to the new mining frontier in Canada, an expedition which failed, and which hounded him for the rest of his days when Sir Arthur Curtis disappeared, believed murdered. Soon after, Roger undertook to travel on horseback from Canada to Mexico, a distance of 3,600 miles through the American deserts. He then went to South Africa in 1900 where he served with Waldon’s Scouts and the National Scouts until his time expired on 31 March 1902,3 two months before the war ended. Between his travels, he was based in London where he wrote and published novels detailing his adventures.

This experience together with his travels led Roger to suggest the formation of the Legion, ‘to keep the frontiers quiet lest any affair of outposts give the Kaiser excuse for picking a quarrel.’4 On Christmas Eve 1904, he sent a letter to ten newspapers announcing the arrival of the ‘Legion’ which was to be ‘for good fellowship, mutual help and possibly service to the state in time of war.’5 On 10 April 1905, the Legion of Frontiersmen was launched with the Earl of Lonsdale as President. By 1908 they had 3,500 names enlisted and issued ‘a somewhat flamboyant “Second Annual Report” of their activities, and a prospectus in which many well-known names appear.’6

The Boy Scouts, Territorial Army and National Reserve all followed in the wake of the Legion, Roger believing the Legion had influenced their organisation.7 Baden-Powell was apparently visiting Lonsdale at the time the formal organisation of the Legion was being discussed.8 The Boy Scouts organisation was founded on 24 January 1908, later that year, Pocock’s friend and fellow author, Owen Vaughan also known as Owen Rhoscomyl and Robert Scourfield Mills published a book on scouting and Baden-Powell himself followed with On scouting in 1909. The Territorial Army having been under discussion as part of the army reforms introduced by Lord Haldane following the Anglo-Boer War was finally inaugurated on 1 April 1908 and the National Reserve came into operation around the same time. Roger had led the pack.

The next years saw internal struggles in the Legion. Roger became strongly opposed to everything and everyone, wondering why he continued as ‘After all, the whole visible Legion was only a mask for the secret service, which they had never heard of. The vital duties from which I had been ousted, consisted of squashing incipient filibustering expeditions to preserve the British Peace, and watching the German Menace while the nation slept.’ However, he would go down fighting and complete his book on the ‘first formulation of the science of pioneering’.9

In 1909 he published The Frontiersman’s Pocket-book, the list of contributors including some of the ‘well-known names’, a number of whom were members of the Legion of Frontiersmen, others specialist in their field but all determined to support the Empire in its time of need. Significantly, Roger did not ask Daniel Driscoll to contribute to his Pocketbook, despite Driscoll having been significantly involved in recruiting for the Legion and his own frontier experiences including participation as a scout in the Anglo-Boer War. His exclusion might have had something to do with his close association with exaggerated numbers of spies. Members of the Legion who did not feature in the book included those linked with spies and stories of invasion, most notably Lord Roberts and Henry le Queux.

Strand 1. The way to engage the public and to make the army ‘real’ was to create a need on home soil which could be more easily understood than issues around far-off places which the majority would never get to see and would probably not even hear about unless it was mentioned in the newspapers. The way to get the home front on board, was through a real or imagined invasion of the island and a supportive newspaper owner.

Alfred Harmsworth, from 1905 to be known as Lord Northcliffe and from 1908 owner of The Times, in 1888 started a paper called Answers to Correspondents. Between December 1893 and 2 June 1894, Harmsworth ran William Le Queux’s The Great War in England in 1897 under the title The Poisoned Bullet as a serial which focused on conflict between Britain and France. Le Queux’s next big seller, The Invasion of 1910 was serialised in 1906 with the launch of the Daily Mail on 4 May. The Invasion of 1910 had been informed and endorsed by Lord Roberts who was keen to use it to encourage support for National Service (conscription). The serial and later publication in book form were a success. Wesley Wark in Spy Fiction, Spy Films and Real Intelligence says that William Le Queux was the pioneer of the faction industry – deliberately blurring lines between fiction and fact, presenting himself as spymaster. ‘With Le Queux apparent realism first showed its amazing potential.’10 In 1908 when Northcliffe took over The Times, the paper became the voice for National Service. The Boy Scouts were encouraged to report a German spy for their good deed a day,11 and when the Weekly News offered £10 for evidence of German spies operating in Britain, letters poured in thus providing the evidence required by the War Office to set up a secret services bureau in 1909.

An Intelligence Department had been set up during the Anglo-Boer War which continued after the war with reduced staff and status. Eventually, James Grierson, was appointed Director of Military Operations and Intelligence (DMO & I) replacing William Nicholson on 11 February 1904 at the order of Lord Esher. In 1907, James Edmonds was promoted head of the Special Section or MO5 which was responsible for intelligence gathering. Simultaneously, Esmond Slade became Director of Naval Intelligence in October 1907, and was dismayed to discover that the secret service was not organised. Counter-espionage work was also required, but initially this posed a little challenge. Again, Le Queux’s novel Spies of the Kaiser (1909) and Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907) provided the impetus. The success of the literature can be judged by The Times newspaper starting to complain that spy mania was detracting from conscription promotion.12

Edmonds requested a subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) in 1909 to approve the formation of a counter espionage group as ‘we have … no regular system or organisation to detect and report suspicious cases, and are entirely dependent on casual information.’ Lord Esher, chairman, believed the threat posed by spies was not as great as was presented, however he was eventually worn down with the evidence supplied by the War Office and Lord Haldane. The Secret Service Bureau was formed and split between the military and navy, but within a year, a home department responsible for counter espionage replaced them, eventually becoming known as MI5.

A foreign department was responsible for espionage. It was later to be known as SIS and then MI6. To start, it remained responsible to the Admiralty but little evidence of an invasion was forthcoming – the plans did not exist. A system of spies was set up in Germany by Manfred George Smith-Cummings as head of the foreign section and this helped in supplying accurate information about weapons and ships, and from 1913 on zeppelins and their possible usage.13 When the Great War eventually broke out in 1914, another rearrangement of the organisations eventually resulted in the formation of MI5 for internal security and MI6 for international. In effect, Le Queux’s work influenced that of MI5 and Roger Pocock that of MI6, both members of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

The illustration is from Le Queux’s Invasion of 1910. In the text he tells how the brave Frontiersmen were involved in the defence of London.


  1. Dr Anne Samson is Special Advisor on Africa to the History and Archives Section of the Legion of Frontiersmen. She is an independent historian who has published widely on the Great War in Africa.
  2. The complete paper will be published in the Victorian Military Society Journal, Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ) in late 2018. VMS kindly allowed a summary of the talk to be made available.
  3. TNA: WO 339/69712, long service record H Roger Pocock
  4. R Pocock, Adventurers, p57
  5. R Pocock, Adventurers, p23
  6. TNA: WO 32/10426
  7. Pocock, Adventurers, p39
  8. Tim Jeal, Baden-Powell: Founder of the Boy Scouts (Yale University, 2007) p347
  9. Pocock, Chorus to Adventurers, pp83-84
  10. Wark, Spy Fiction, p3
  11. Morris, The Scaremongers, p157
  12. Morris, The Scaremongers, p157
  13. Andrew, Secret Service, p79

© Copyright Anne Samson. 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 RSM-in-Chief

SJ Alexander, Buckingham Palace, courtesy IWM

Topic June/July 2018. Before we located the I.W.M. photograph of Sidney James Alexander M.C. outside Buckingham Palace, all we had to start with was a rather faint photograph of him in Frontiersmen uniform. By that time he had acquired some rotundity and his face had filled out from the gauntness it showed when he was presented with his Military Cross by the King, but he still retained his military bearing. The Legion of Frontiersmen used a rank “RSM-in-Chief” that was quite clear to all. The first RSM-in-Chief we have traced was Sidney Alexander. Legion records tell us no details about him, but we have discovered a little more about a brave and sometimes controversial soldier. We do not yet have anywhere near his full life story, but his military career is evidence of the social divides of his time.

Sidney Alexander was born on 28th May 1874. His army career began officially at the age of 18. As an ordinary soldier, no military record was held of his service and in what campaigns he fought. We only know that he was discharged after 21 years service in February 1914 with the rank of Battery Sgt. Major in the 49th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. His service record won him a responsible job as an attendant at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. This would have been the equivalent today of a security officer at the Courts that saw the most serious cases come to trial. Whether he volunteered for service in the First War or whether he was approached first is something else we do not know, but obviously due to his experience being needed he was granted a wartime commission in February 1915 as Lieutenant. In August 1915 he was promoted to Captain, so we can assume that he was a good and reliable officer. The next notable date on his military record is January 1st 1917, when his award of the Military Cross was gazetted. The citations for Military Crosses were then seldom published. There is no mention of any specific incident and New Year’s Day Military Crosses gazetted were often given for general long-term bravery rather than for one particular occasion. What does seem highly unusual is that his Military Cross was presented by King George V himself on 29th August 1917. There were so many Military Crosses awarded that the King would not have been able to present all of them himself.

SJ Alexander

So far, Sidney Alexander seems to have had a spotless character, but he let himself down when he was charged that on the night of 11th-12th February 1918 he was drunk in the field and secondly found to be taking part in a disturbance together with n.c.o.s of his section. He was tried on both charges at Clartres on 23rd February. Initially he planned to plead not guilty to the second charge, but was persuaded to change his plea,although it is doubtful that this was sound advice. He was found guilty and dismissed the service. This seems to us to be a very harsh treatment to a man who had given 25 years of his life to the army. Many an army officer much senior to him had got drunk in uniform and for three years Alexander had been through all the horrors of war. What would have upset Staff officers would have been that he got drunk with n.c.o.s rather than other officers. Today we can understand how, under the pressures he had suffered, and after 21 years as a ranker he would have been far happier with the company of senior n.c.o.s of his own class rather than the young public school officers around him. The class system was still strong in those days and both Staff officers and those running the bases and the War Office would have looked down on ranker officers, often referred to as “temporary gentlemen”, however good they were at their job. The original sentence of the Court was that he was to be Cashiered. This was a most severe punishment and meant that on return to civilian life he would not have been able to work in any part of the Civil Service, even as a postman. He would have lost his job at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and would not have been able to join the Territorial Army after the war. The Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Douglas Haig, saw this and commuted the sentence to the lesser one of being dismissed the service.

To discover the attitude of Staff officers, we have to look no further than the writings of Douglas Jerrold, a great friend of one of our most notable – and controversial – Frontiersmen, Hugh Pollard. Jerrold fought with the Royal Naval Division both at Gallipoli and in France and wrote the history of the Royal Naval Division in 1922.

“I remember meeting, in a pleasant little village behind Abbeville in 1916….. a charming young man, immaculately dressed and wearing the insignia of a famous regiment and several decorations. I asked him, over a drink, what he was, and was told, ‘Oh, I’m the D.L.O.’ I showed my ignorance evidently in my face. ‘Divisional Laundry Officer,’ he explained, with quiet pride, but without a touch of hauteur.”1

Writing about the Lens area, Jerrold expressed the opinion,

“Too many men, too many officers, far too many generals, and a thousand times too many jacks-in-office, R.T.O.’s. Town Majors, A.P.M.’s, Traffic Control Officers, Laundry Officers, Liaison Officers, Railway Experts and endless seas of mud.”2

In an article in the “Pall Mall Gazette” Jerrold told of his acute embarrassment,

“…when two young public-school boys of eighteen who had served with my battalion in the ranks through the Gallipoli campaign were suddenly commissioned. The picture of harassed adjutants crying out for young public-school cricketers was, I pointed out with some acerbity, just moonshine. What were wanted at the front were man with experience in dealing with other men; men with initiative, capable of taking decisions on their own…”3

What the army needed was more Alexanders, even if they did break the rules at times, rather than eighteen year old public schoolboys as Second Lieutenants.

There is something of a mystery regarding what happened to Alexander after he was dismissed. What seems unbelievable to us is that the desk-bound officers at the War Office seriously discussed whether he should be stripped of his M.C.. Eventually they decided that his offence was not sufficiently serious. Such a request would have had to be made to the Palace and the King would have been most displeased if he had been asked to strip a man of his gallantry award for mere drunkenness. In fact the War Office did prepare a request the King to have him stripped of his Military Cross. This went first to the then Secretary of State for the War Office, one Winston Churchill. Churchill had served at the Front and knew his soldiers. His response to the War Office was somewhat terse and very much to the point:

“A Military Cross won for gallantry should not be forfeited for any offence which is not of a criminal nature.”4

Field Gun

By 1918 the call-up age had been extended and at 44 Alexander became due for this. He could not be traced but was believed to be working in Wales in what was termed a “controlled establishment” and this made him exempt. Alexander claimed that he had in fact re-enlisted and served as a private soldier in Russia, but this could not be substantiated. After the War he enlisted in the 7th London Brigade R.F.A. (T.A.) and in April 1920 he was made Battery Sergeant Major. Again the War Office had to be consulted as to whether it was permitted for a man who had been dismissed as an officer to serve as an n.c.o. in the T.A.. After much discussion over many months, in January 1922 the desk-bound officers in the War Office decided that this was indeed permitted and also that he would be allowed to wear the ribbon of his M.C. on his uniform. It would have been most unusual for a B.S.M. to be seen on parade wearing the M.C. ribbon. When he retired from the T.A. he was enlisted with alacrity by the Legion of Frontiersmen as the Legion’s R.S.M.-in-Chief. We know he was still serving in 1936, but have not discovered the date of his death.

The reader can see from the above that we have much still to discover about him. It is currently not known what happened to his M.C. and other medals, although most came up for auction in 2017. They are not in the Royal Artillery Museum. This is a most human story of a true Frontiersman and it is appropriate to commemorate him one hundred years after the end of a war in which he fought with great bravery and dedication.

The photograph shows the principal British field gun used by the Royal Field Artillery throughout the First War, the 18-pounder covering a canal crossing in 1918. The heavier pieces were manned by the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery accompanied the cavalry. (details from “The World War One Source Book” by Philip J. Haythornthwaite Arms & Armour Press 1992)

1 Douglas Jerrold “Georgian Adventure” (1937) p111
2 Ibid p175
3 Ibid p 199-200
4 The National Archives WO 339/22795

© 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 Persistent Mystery

Frontiersmen Remounts Shirehampton

Surprising Snippets 8: An unsolvable mystery is, who was the person from which official government or military department who decided that the file on the Frontiersmen and Remounts in the last quarter of 1914 was not worth saving at The National Archives? The matter was probably controversial at the time as, although for the first months of the First War Remounts were handled by private contractors and not the army, what position did the Legion of Frontiersmen hold? We know that during those first months Lt.Col. Driscoll bombarded the War Office with requests to use the Frontiersmen as a named unit for various duties on active service. The War Office rather vacillated before they finally instructed Driscoll early in 1915 to form the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen). Inspections of the Frontiersmen in their uniforms were arranged at a special London parade and the War Office thought they might be able to use them on active service, but then changed their minds.

The army required thousands of horses – far more than could ever be provided in Britain even by commandeering all the horses in private hands they could find. Horses were plentiful especially in Canada but also in the U.S.A. and other countries. These began to be shipped over in quantity. The problem for the War Office was that the horses were unbroken and they did not have the number of soldiers with the skill to break them. Private contractors were employed but they could not find enough skilled men. In the meantime Frontiersmen were pouring into the country from all round the world desperate to enlist and serve the Mother Country, often working their passage as they could not afford passenger fares. Many of these men had been working with horses on ranches in the big countries of the world and also many of the British Frontiersmen had done such jobs when abroad. It was a pre-requisite to being accepted by the Legion that you were a skilled horseman. All these men were keen to serve the Empire in uniform; they were men of experience and years who had often fought in South Africa. Driscoll was keen to keep them until he was granted a Frontiersmen unit, but these men had a multitude of skills which caused them to be eagerly sought by existing regiments so there was a steady loss of numbers which Driscoll was keen to minimise.

The solution was an extraordinary one by War Office standards. Two big camps were set up over many acres at Shirehampton, near Avonmouth Docks, and Swaythling, near Southampton Docks. Both camps were under the command of a semi-retired senior officer, but the day to day running of these camps was undertaken by the Legion of Frontiersmen. For the records, they were considered as private contractors, but wore Frontiersmen uniform and ranks and were under the control of Legion London HQ with Driscoll at its head.

Capt. Prior, O.C. N.E. Squadron, has received instructions from Col. Driscoll, D.S.O., that a few hundred men are required to go into mounted depot for provisional training, either at Shirehampton, Bristol, or Shrewsbury. As already two of the Southern Squadrons are doing duty, it is probable that only one hundred or one hundred and fifty men will be required for the first contingent in the Northern Command. The date will be between October 10th and 15th. The rate of pay is 24s per week and barrack accommodation, all men to enlist as troopers, and N.C.O.’s will be made according to qualifications. (“Sunderland Echo”, 29 September 1914).

Calculating on the six-day week current at the time, the pay was 4 shillings a day, which compared very favourably with the pay of a private soldier of one shilling and one penny a day and a cavalry trooper of one shilling and ninepence a day, even though that would be for a seven day week. (twelve pence made a shilling and twenty shillings one pound).

On the same day, the “Wigan Observer” from the western side of England made a similar request:

Information has been received at headquarters London from the War Office to the effect that the Legion of Frontiersmen will not be called to the Front until all the Regular Forces are called on, and have made the offer that the members of the Legion be called on for remount duty as Troops and Squadrons, and be located in the several Remount Depots now being mobilised for the breaking in of horses from abroad…

On 4th November the “Nottingham Daily Express” featured an account by a Nottingham Frontiersmen of his experiences at Shirehampton:

Just a few lines to let you know all is well up to the present. We are ‘up to the neck’ with Canadian horses – emptied one more ship load today, and there is another one due tomorrow. The accommodation is not yet complete, and we are having to turn them out in the large meadows and catch the bounders as we want them with lassoes [sic]. The meadows are one vast mass of partially wild, unbroken horses which afford us some great excitement.

It is not a matter of flying shot and shell but of flying hoofs. However, it is a magnificent sight and worth the risk. We get any amount of spectators while we are putting the animals through their schooling. I have been chosen with a few others for this somewhat risky job, while the remaining portion are otherwise occupied grooming, etc. We have often to ‘throw’ the horses before we can get on the bridle and saddle. I like the life very much.

It is not surprising that they attracted many spectators for what amounted to a free “wild west show”! Meadow after meadow was fast being converted into a great township of wooden structures with corrugated iron roofs.

…one pauses in wonderment at the mere spectacle of a young [poetic licence!] Frontiersman astride a rearing and plunging horse, which bucks and jumps, side-slips and feints, in a manner which would astound many a clever circus equestrian.

There are many types of horses included in the remounts supplied from across the water. Some appear somewhat tired until a saddle is placed on their backs, and then the fun begins. Yesterday there was splendid scope for the cinematograph operator. The scenery was such as the Vitagraph Company or their compeers [sic] could revel in, and the ‘action of the piece’ lacked nothing in sensational movement and incident. (“Western Daily Press” 30 October 1914).

It has to be regretted that the official file on the Frontiersmen work on Remounts, which was of great importance to the early months of the war, has not survived; it shows the Legion at its best. Perhaps the War Office was careful not to show that it was bending a few rules and recognising the value of the Legion of Frontiersmen?

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

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Before James Bond Was Invented…

2 Cushny wedding 1927Topic April/May 2018.  Before James Bond was invented the Legion of Frontiersmen had at least one of its own adventurers, womanisers and Intelligence gatherers – that is if you believe the writings of Tom Cushny. Fortunately his accounts of his life written for Frontiersmen magazines were far less colourful than that which he wrote in his autobiography. This was first published in 1967 and appeared under two titles “Legionnaire No. 31022” and “Escape from the Legion” – no, not the Frontiersmen but the French Foreign Legion. By the second page of the book he had already seduced a novice nun: “…once you get a nun out of her dark habit and boots – she is just like any other woman” and continued much in the same vein. We will draw a polite veil over the stories he told of the many other young women with whom he had involvement.

His autobiographical notes for Frontiersmen magazines were much more staid:

“I was born during the Boer War, amid the roll of guns and the thunder of pom-poms, of Scottish parents, during the fall of Johannesburg. At an early age, shifted to British East Africa and went through the Nandi Rebellion. At the age of 12, while shooting meat for my father’s labourers, was charged by a rhino… At the age of 14, when proceeding to England to one of her famous public schools, the train I was in was blown up by a German raiding party…”

He then claimed he was training for a commission in the army when the war ended and as he was no longer needed he looked for a job with the prospects of going to China. He thought this was too tame so decided to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. This disagrees with his account in his autobiography where he said he had been selected age 21 as a pilot in the Royal Air Force but failed the medical due to his colour vision so, disappointed, decided to join the Foreign Legion. British records show him as a seaman in the Merchant Navy in the final year of the war. According to the announcement of his marriage in a 1927 “Frontiersman” magazine he had been “four years in an Officers’ Training Corps followed by two years and eight months in the London Scottish…” Something odd there?

Cushny’s wife, 1927

If you wish to learn of his travails in the Foreign Legion you will have to read his autobiography, but his description of life in the Foreign Legion is much the same as other written accounts, except that he did not seem to have too much trouble attracting female companionship at regular intervals. Cushny was one of the small number of men who managed to escape the clutches of the French Foreign Legion, in his case thanks to the assistance of his father who rescued him. On returning to London he found a job in what was then the Federated Malay States (now Malaysia) carrying out field work for a company specialising in non-ferrous metallurgy and smelting. It was when he moved there in 1923 that he was recruited into the Legion of Frontiersmen. He had been working there for a year or two when he:

became aware of the danger to the new Naval Base then under construction in the Straits of Johore being out-flanked by the simple manoeuvre of establishing an enemy base in Coconut Bay, 150 miles due south. Here lay a vast anchorage in a commanding position, cutting the sea route to Australia and sealing off Singapore.

This was from his brief autobiographical sketch in a Frontiersmen magazine. In his published autobiography p.117-118 he was far more detailed:

A feature that struck me as unusual was the presence of some half dozen German engineers, in good jobs, with the Banka Tinwinning. They all spoke excellent English and were all rattling fine types of men, so it was natural that I should become friendly with them.

They appeared to despise the Dutch and hold themselves rather aloof from them. I learned that they had all served with the German cruiser ‘Emden’ or her feeder ships in World War 1 as engineer officers.

They had operated from the neutral territory of the Dutch East Indies by sheltering in the numerous islands of the Rhio Archipelago, where her feeder ships ran the gauntlet of the allied blockade and kept her supplied with everything from a pin to torpedoes.

It was with great skill and superb intelligence that they not only evaded the drag-net of an Allied Naval Force, but inflicted heavy losses on allied shipping along this vital trade route to Australia, the Far East and Europe.

I made a point of piecing every aspect of these operations together…

At this time Britain was already putting down test holes for what was to become the great Naval Base of Singapore, against which, they fondly believed, the might of Japanese Naval Power would one day dissipate itself.

In the light of the information that I had collected, I came to the conclusion that by skilful utilization of the Dutch East Indies the Japanese, too, could partially neutralise the value of the Base at Singapore.

He passed this information to Legion Headquarters in London who contacted the War Office. Very strangely they referred the Legion to Naval Intelligence rather than M.I.6, to which this should have been passed. In the letter the Legion Adjutant wrote he stated:

I am in receipt of information from one of our members who is travelling in the East relating to a Coding Station in Sumatra, and I have been advised by Captain H. Simpson, Private Secretary to the Adjutant-General to bring it to your notice.

No record of a reply or any subsequent meeting is in Legion archives. There could be a number of reasons for this, not least that the authorities were always unsure of any information coming from the Legion of Frontiersmen, although there are other factors to be considered. As to codebreaking, from April 1922 this was taken over by the Foreign Office. Even before the Germans introduced the Enigma machine, Britain had very little success in breaking German codes. In spite of the fact that they were allies, Britain regularly decrypted American and French codes.* What British Intelligence was most interested in was Russia. As we know from other items on our websites, the main fear in Britain was of Bolshevism and revolution and unrest spreading from Russia. Perhaps, had the British shown a bit more interest in Intelligence gathering in The Federated Malay States and the Dutch East Indies rather than concentrating their limited resources on Europe, they would have been more prepared at the start of W.W. 2? In 1927 Cushny gave up sewing his wild oats and married the very attractive Madeline Horley, with whom he had two daughters and a son.

In 1929 Cushny was transferred to Kenya, where he again served the Legion this time under Lt.Col. Driscoll. In 1934 he moved to Zanzibar which was ruled by the Sultan under Britain as the protecting power. This was not a Protectorate as the Sultan ruled, but he had the British Resident as Adviser. In February 1936 there was a riot mainly due to the Mange Arabs of whom there were some 18,000 living in and around Zanzibar, so the majority of Europeans were armed and equipped as Special Constables. The Port Captain delegated Cushny to take a Customs cutter with 25 men and intercept an Arab dhow from Muscat which was in the harbour and believed to be loaded with arms for the rioters. On boarding the dhow, Cushny discovered 170 Arabs with a cargo of some hundreds of weapons. The dhow was taken in tow and unloaded in the harbour, then allowed to anchor in a position where it was covered by the Shore Battery. After several more alarms and patrols in the city the tension died down. An enquiry determined that the riots were an attempt to take over the government by force and massacre all Europeans. Cushy received official Commendations from the government and from the Sultan of Zanzibar. The Legion also awarded him their Meritorious Service Medal. The L.M.S.M. was introduced in 1931 to be the one Legion award and given only for some truly noteworthy action. Consequently in those early days few were awarded. Aware that war with German was inevitable, Cushy and his family returned to England and settled in Cornwall. Considered too old for a commission, he joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry as a private, rising quickly to Colour Sergeant before being commissioned and drafted to France. He was one of those who fought their way back. Dunkirk was over so he was one of a number who were rescued by the Royal Navy from the Bay of Biscay.

It was back in London that his major comment in error has always shown the Frontiersmen during the war in a bad light. He claimed that he found the London office of the Legion closed for the war and this claim appears in
and has often been repeated since. We know that this was one of the inaccuracies he wrote as we have considerable archives of letters and activities by Headquarters during the war and, to quote from

To put the record straight, in the case of IHQ London, Cushny’s account runs contrary to the clearly recorded facts in the archives. Although they had other official duties to perform, both Cdt-Gen Morton and Chief of Staff Dunn continued to work for the Legion. The Legion did suffer a major problem in August 1942 when the highly influential Legion President, Lord Loch, died. The office was busy and dealt with considerable correspondence, particularly from Eastern Canada. The Staff officer in charge of the office was Legion Major H.W. Erswell, a time-served soldier and probably one of the very few Frontiersmen to have achieved the unusual military rank of Conductor. Erswell never allowed the bombing of London to stop him attending the Legion office daily. On 15th May 1941, Erswell wrote to the O.C. British Columbia Frontiersmen in Canada:

“You will be glad to hear that although the front portion of the building in which Imperial Headquarters is situated was blown out by blast, this office is so far intact and we are able to carry on. We are however sometimes prevented from entering the street or building by the presence of time bombs so that office work is sometimes interrupted for a few days at a time. As Jerry usually pays his visit at week ends one always wonders what the situation will be on Monday morning. On Monday 12th inst.. The only way to get to business from Aldgate Street to Charing X was to make for Liverpool Street via Middlesex St. and walk through all the back passages and alleyways imaginable. I heard some wag describing it as the Great Trek to the West. Still, there’s a lot of London left and will be even when this show is over.”

There can be no question as to his bravery, not only from his early exploits, but from WW2, where after returning to England he served in Ireland, India, Persia, Palestine and the Western Desert, rising to the rank of Major. After the war he worked until 1948 for U.N.R.R.A. (U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Trieste and for that service was awarded an official Diploma of Merit. He then moved to live in South Africa where he died in 1977.

Some day it would be good to know more about this archetypal old Frontiersman other than what are mainly his own accounts and possibly, as with other Frontiersmen’s accounts, was slightly embroidered. Wiry and fit rather than a big man he was, like many of his generation of Frontiersmen, attractive to the ladies. On his return from the Foreign Legion he recounted on page 94 of his autobiography his first romantic encounter back in England:

“…gasps of approving wonder seemed to be coming from her as she watched me peel off various items of clothing.
‘My! You are strong,’ she said.
It hadn’t occurred to me before, but after service in the [French Foreign] Legion I was immensely fit and every muscle rippled with strength…”

Follow that, James Bond!

* See: Christopher Andrew “Secret Service” (1985) p.260-1 and Keith Jeffery “MI6: The history of the Secret Intelligence Service” (2010) p.172 and Chapter 8

Photograph of Cushny’s wedding at best resolution possible from “Malayan Saturday Post” 30 April 1927, p.28. Copyright: Newspaper SG, Singapore Government.

© 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 Skipper

Tobin with Roger Pocock c1934. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Tobin family.

Surprising Snippets 7: Known to his children, who were all devoted to him, as “The Skipper”, Vahd William Tobin was known always as Bill. According to his son Peter (who himself became very well-known in southern Africa as a broadcaster and actor), Bill “always seemed the biggest, strongest and most capable among the Frontiersmen and either the leader or innovator in just about everything.”

In the Founder’s later years, Roger Pocock and Bill Tobin became very good friends:

I remember the great Roger Pocock very clearly in his Frontiersmen uniform and with his grey/white beard. He was a kindly quiet-spoken man for whom the Skipper had a tremendous regard…I treasure the memory of Bill Tobin, splendid in his uniform, a big, strong, big-hearted man, every inch the soldier, astride an enormous horse.

(letter Peter Tobin to his sister Daphne, 30/03/1984 in response to an enquiry from us).

Bill Tobin appears in our page on the Frontiersmen Remounts:

and in his account of F.C. Selous in the previous “snippet“.

His early military career has not been verified but he is believed to have served in South Africa in the Imperial Yeomanry and then in the Transvaal Mounted Rifles (where he was wounded) also in the 1906 Zulu Rebellion. After this, until July 1914 he was working in Rio de Janeiro where he married his Brazilian/Irish wife. Like Lt.-Col. Driscoll, Tobin originated from a land-owning Irish family and with their common links it seems likely that Driscoll would have wanted to take Tobin to East Africa as one of his officers, but his complement was quickly filled. Tobin was commissioned into Winston Churchill’s old regiment, the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars until he was discharged in May 1917 with serious shrapnel wounds to his neck and face. After he had recovered sufficiently he served as a Captain commanding a company of the officer cadet unit of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry. Following the war he returned to Brazil for some years. On returning to England in the late 1920s he became O.C. of the Erith, Kent, Squadron of the Legion. He worked for the Atlas Preservative Company, owned by the Thatcher family, which was made very successful due to the skills of the young Denis Thatcher. Denis became a well-known name when he married politician and later Prime Minister, Margaret. According to Bill’s daughter, the actress June Tobin, Denis was not much liked by the firm’s staff.

In W.W.2, Bill Tobin was called back to the army and given the rank of Major (acting Lt.-Col.) and given command of the 56th Kent Battalion Home Guard. Although we have found more Frontiersmen serving in the A.R.P., here was a Frontiersman holding a senior position in the Home Guard in one of the most badly bombed areas of the Blitz. Charles Graves’ 1943 “The Home Guard of Britain” tells us the story of just one night in the life of the C.O. of 56th Kent Battalion Home Guard:

Fighting had been going on one September afternoon, and from his house the C.O. 56th Kent Battalion Home Guard watched formation after formation of Hun ‘planes broken up by our fighters. There was an incessant crash of fire from our ant-aircraft guns, light and heavy. Prudent people were either in their own dug-outs or in air-raid shelters. There seemed to be no pause between the enemy daylight attack and the even heavier raids which began when darkness set in. It was only when night fell that the full effects of fires could be seen.

That night he had to go on duty as Umpire at an Exercise, but he left home at five o’clock because of a number of Home Guard duties he had to perform. So he went straight from his Headquarters to Dartford Heath, where the exercise was laid on, and which was to begin at 9 p.m.. Elements of the Battalion were opposed to a detachment of the Guards.

By 9 p.m. the blitz was at its height. Fires were burning across the Essex side of the river. There was an enormous blaze at some oil depot on the Thames. Woolwich Arsenal seemed alight, judging by the enormous glow in the sky. Searchlights were probing the skies in all directions, and the A.A. guns on and around the heath cracked out continuously in almost deafening uproar. In this ideal setting the exercise commenced.

Shortly after 10 p.m. the O.C. was nearly run down by a Regular D[espatch] R[ider] on a road skirting the heath. He stopped and asked for the Major in charge of the Scots Guards Detachment. The O.C. found this officer for the D.R. and stood by him while he read the message the D.R. had delivered him. Then, turning to the O.C. he said: “Exercise off. I suggest you make your own way back to your Battalion area. Orders are for my Battalion to prepare to move within the hour.”

The O.C. thought: ‘ Well, here it is, the invasion has come.’ His men were ordered back to their respective Company areas and he returned to Headquarters and waited for orders. A little later he left and returned home on being informed that he could remain in the vicinity and be contacted by ‘phone if the necessity arose.

On arriving home the O.C. found the family up, but his wife away. She had gone to Woolwich. The glow over there was brighter than ever, and as he had some posts to visit out in that direction, near Plumstead, he stepped into his old car and set off. On the outskirts of Plumstead he was stopped by a Home Guard picket, whose orders were to allow no cars to pas through, as the road further on was impassable. In the middle of the argument as to whether or not he should proceed any further on his way, a Hun ‘plane above dropped a cluster of incendiaries. Some of these fell upon some houses close by, and off dashed the picket to help put out the fires. Plumstead was only a little way ahead, so the C.O. went along in his car and soon found that the road was indeed impassable.

He spent the night visiting posts in the Battalion area and returned home at six in the morning. Five minutes afterwards his wife walked in, having spent a nerve-racking night in Woolwich. She had gone there to have her hair dressed, in the middle of which the blitz struck the town. The hairdresser, however, was a plucky girl, for she stood up to the ordeal and finished the job. A kindly police officer conducted the C.O.’s wife to a public air-raid shelter, where she spent the night; and a companion in the shelter, who turned out to be a bus driver, took charge of her at daybreak and managed to find a bus on the outskirts of the town to take her home to Erith.

Life for many Frontiersmen was a succession of adventures. We continue to attempt to relay any of their stories that we manage to discover.

© 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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German Spies are Everywhere

William Le Queux

Topic February/March 2018.  The early Legion of Frontiersmen attracted a number of men whose characters varied from the slightly to the very eccentric. One of the most eccentric of all was the novelist, journalist and writer William Le Queux. Le Queux was the leading scaremonger of a number of other writers, usually members of the Legion, who warned that nests of German spies were to be found all over the British Isles. Even though many of Le Queux’s claims of spies were ridiculous, his evidence was listened to by the sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence (The National Archives file CAB 16/8). ‘The evidence which was produced left no doubt in the minds of the sub-committee that an extensive system of German espionage exists in this country, and that we have no organisation for keeping in touch with that espionage and for accurately determining its extent or objectives.’

‘That naive conclusion, which owed as much to the imaginary spies of Willam Le Queux as to the real machinations of German Intelligence led directly to the foundation of the British Secret Service.’ (“Secret Service” by Christopher Andrew p.58).

In his book Professor Andrew is quite scathing about Le Queux and his stories of spies, but, even if virtually all the stories were complete fiction, the above statement by Britain’s most noted historian of Intelligence means that Le Queux was historically important. The problem was that Le Queux, being a good storyteller, latched on grains of truth, on suspicions, on imaginations, embroidered them out of all proportion – and then believed the whole lot himself.

‘At least part of Le Queux’s secret lay in his immense clubability. He moved effortlessly around clubland and society dinners, establishing a reputation as a wit and raconteur.’ (“Secret Service” p.45).

Much of newspaper and writing circles centred around the Savage Club, whose members included many of the ‘German spy menace’ writers. Roger Pocock, the Founder of the Legion of Frontiersmen wrote in his diary how he was asked by Edgar Wallace to propose Wallace for membership of the Savage Club. Roger Pocock, himself a romantic, eagerly followed the words of the master story-spinner William Le Queux. Legion members were convinced of the German menace. The stories they told in the early Legion days of German spies – and of revolution in some far-off countries – may have owed more to fantasy than fact, but the German spy scares were believed by a considerable percentage of the British population. Le Queux’s highly successful “The Invasion of 1910” first appeared as a serial beginning in March 1906 in the “Daily Mail”. Assisted by a naval expert, H.W. Wilson and advised by the elderly Lord Roberts, Le Queux had reconnoitred much of England to discover what he thought would be likely invasion routes for the Germans. When it was presented to Lord Northcliffe he instructed that some of the routes be changed to cover areas where he considered sales of his newspaper could be boosted. Northcliffe then advertised in other newspapers the districts the Germans would be attacking the next day. On the first day of publication the “Daily Mail” sandwichboard men paraded through London streets in blue uniforms with spiked helmets. The Prime Minister was furious, telling Parliament that Le Queux was a ‘pernicious scaremonger’ and that the story was calculated to inflame and alarm. Northcliffe was more than happy as it boosted the sales of his newspapers. When it came out in book form “The Invasion of 1910” sold more than a million copies in twenty-seven languages, including German, although the Germans changed the ending to show a German victory.

The Frontiersmen featured heroically in the book ‘…that splendid corps, the Legion of Frontiersmen…’ (p.289), ‘…the daring actions of the”Frontiersmen”…’ (p.335), ‘This place was held strongly by British Infantry, many members of the Legion of Frontiersmen, – distinguished only by the little bronze badge in their buttonholes -‘ (p.359), among other mentions.

The War Office found some of the German spy stories passed to them most irritating, although Vernon Kell, who in 1909 became the head of the newly-founded Secret Service Bureau, in 1910 found the activities of the Frontiersmen of interest.

‘I saw L at the officers on his return home from the East Coast where he had been trying to get in touch with some of the Legion of Frontiersmen…I will enter them among my likely agents.’ (T.N.A. KV14).

The east coast was the home of the very active Maritime Division of the Legion and included Erskine Childers whose “Riddle of the Sands” had made such an impact, and also the influential E.G. Pretyman, M.P. who had served as a Navy Minister in the earlier Conservative government. The Maritime Section also included Linton Hope who was a highly successful yacht designer and J. St. A. Jewell who had a high reputation as a writer on sea and yachting matters. Vernon Kell also commented that:

‘The first commandant of the London Command of the Legion of Frontiersmen was almost certainly in the secret service of Germany and therefore had to be got rid of.’

De Hora

His report had an additional marginal note by some unknown officer “Who is this?”. “This” was Manoel de Hora, who was even more of a fantasist than Le Queux and has been the subject of a biography by Bruce G. Fuller.**

There is no doubt that most Frontiersmen in Britain were convinced by the stories of German spies. In his 1931 “Chorus to Adventurers” Roger Pocock tells many stories based on the Le Queux scare stories and others that were circulating, most of which sound ridiculous to modern ears but did not do so then when the threat of German military aggression was generally believed.

‘There was to be a German feint upon Essex, made in the hope of containing our Southern Command on Epping Forest for the defence of London. On the details of this operation Lord Roberts gave three month’s instruction to a member of the Legion, Mr. William le Queux, and the result was a forecast novel in the “Daily Mail”. (Chorus to Adventurers, p.63).

Forecast novel it may have been, but Le Queux steadily began to believe that his own predictions were based on facts.

Even the great Baden-Powell was convinced that the Germans were planning to invade:

‘When the German invasion scare was at its height in Britain between 1906 and 1910, Baden-Powell was sold a bogus invasion plan by an enterprising group of German-American forgers who had set up a ‘spy-bureau’ in Belgium. They contrived to sell similar material to Major-General J.S. Ewart, the Director of Military Operations, and to William Le Queux, the espionage writer.’ (Baden-Powell, by Tim Jeal, p.153).

1 19060730 Invasion advert

Convinced by the bogus invasion plans he had purchased, Baden-Powell gave a series of very successful lantern lectures to fellow officers on how 90,000 German troops would land in Yorkshire once the Straits of Dover were blocked by mines and submarines. Reports about his talks inevitably found their way into the newspapers. Members of the Legion other than Le Queux were also reporting on German spies. Believing both the stories of Le Queux and the highly-respected Baden-Powell they began adding their own accounts:

‘Each district upon the eastern slope of Britain was allotted to one German officers, who spent his furlough there…He knew…every detail of military interest. German officers were not welcomed at country houses, or popular at inns. They had a club on the east side of Regent Street, and large numbers frequented an hotel at Ventnor [Isle of Wight]. Along our coasts an astonishing number of respectable “Swiss” residents had houses overlooking the sea…(Chorus to Adventurers, p.64).

In November 1908 a question was raised in the House of Commons if a ‘party of officers from the Royal Naval College in the course of reconnaissance in the Isle of Wight recently found German officers engaged in selecting suitable places for the landing of troops.’

On 2nd February 1909 the “Sheffield Daily Telegraph” reported that: ‘a party of foreigners including three Germans made a systemic photographic survey of the coast between the Tyne and the Tees.’

In his 1909 diary, Roger Pocock wrote about suspicious activities that had come to his own notice:

‘4 m[iles] inland from either Stranraer or Port Patrick private firm have meadows, this is a blind. German expert Depot, 2 Zeppelin ships – being tested in suitable place hilly. For 3 years a wooden airship has been building and testing in a factory at Friern Barnet nr. London. Germans opp[osite] an Institute called the Freehold.’ ***

After Roger Pocock had all official position in the Legion withdrawn from him in 1909 even the London Commandant (later Chief Executive Officer) Lt. Col. D.P. Driscoll made a highly extravagant claim about the number of German spies in Britain. From 1910 onwards the Legion concentrated on preparing for the war with Germany that they were convinced would come.

We may find many of these spy scares bordering on the ridiculous, but the Edwardian reader of the populist newspapers such as the “Daily Mail” and the “Daily Express” (edited by another Frontiersman, R.D. Blumenfeld) was genuinely scared of a German invasion. William Le Queux had touched a raw nerve and picked up and played on the mood of the British public. We may wonder how much of his writing ever came to be believed, but those were different days and we have to return to Christopher Andrew’s comment that William Le Queux was a catalyst – even a major cause – of the setting up of M.I.5.

And you thought that “Fake News” was a recent invention!

** Since the death of Bruce Fuller, the handling of his biography of de Hora has passed to his research associate Susan Hora.  Please contact us if you require contact details.

*** Quotation by kind permission of the Roger Pocock archive at the Bruce Peel Library and Archives, University of Alberta.

More on the Frontiersmen and Intelligence and German spies can be seen in Professor John Ellis’ account of Owen Vaughan, General Gordon’s “magic ring” and the Legion motto in:

© 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 Inspirational F.C.Selous.

Official inspection of Frontiersmen London 1914

Surprising Snippets 6: Let us face it, biographies can be boring. Especially when the biographer relies on his academic reputation and merely distils the work of previous biographers. The subject needs to be fully understood and the writer needs to dig deep to find what forgotten friends of that person thought and knew. Frederick Selous’ life as an officer of 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) is a case in point. In the “Bulawayo Chronicle” in 1937 Vahd W. (Bill) Tobin told us more about Selous in a few paragraphs than any recent biographer has achieved. Bill Tobin has already featured in the story of Swaythling Remounts:

Here is his view of F.C. Selous as an officer and very much a gentleman:

The G.O.C. London Division passed slowly down the ranks of a great body of men drawn up on the Horse Guards Whitehall. It must have been a novel inspection for one even of his long military experience; for here, he knew, were men forgathered from almost every part of the globe, men whose ages ranged from 25 to 50, and more; yet all, irrespective of their age, destined for active service overseas.

Some of these men attired in civilian clothes, noticeably of Colonial cut and style; the rest, however, in parade kit of a picturesque, not to say strikingly unorthodox pattern, comprising broad Stetson hat, brown silk neckerchief, blue shirt-tunic emblazoned with shoulder chains, cord breeches, belted and holstered, and spurred riding boots.

Campaign medals glittered on the breasts of a lot of these men, before many of whom the General passed with either a nod of recognition of their decorations, or to exchange a few words with the wearers of them.

Slowly he passed along; until at the whispered suggestion of the unit Commander, he stopped squarely opposite an unassuming looking, well set-up, middle-aged man in civilian rig. Introduced, the General instantly shook his hand and stayed to chat with him for several minutes, with the Staff gathered round to listen.

And that was way back in February, 1915. The parade referred to was a muster of several hundred members of the Legion of Frontiersmen. The middle-aged man with whom the G.O.C. shook hands and chatted was Frontiersman F.C.Selous.

It was Legion Commandant. Colonel “Jerry” Driscoll (Driscoll o’ the fighting scouts) who, shortly afterwards, introduce me to Selous, thereby achieving for me a long hoped-for ambition. By then Selous had been promoted Lieutenant, a rank he accepted with characteristic reluctance, averring that there were many in the Legion better qualified than he for commissioned status. He would have been content to remain a simple private, just so long as he once more was in his country’s service.

For up till a week before the parade I mention, he had offered his services to the War Office over and over again, only to be rejected each time as too old for military duties in the field. In vain, it appears, had he begged the officials to consider his usefulness, no matter in what capacity, on any of the fighting fronts of Africa. But all in vain. To the official mind (at that time) the full scale of his unrivalled knowledge and experience of Africa, East, West, Central and South, was inexorably counter-weighed by his age.

Selous, however, had been a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen almost from its inception. So when, in that month of February, the remnant of the Legion was accepted for service, after hundreds of the organisation, tired of waiting for official recognition, had drifted into the new armies – Selous automatically enrolled with it, age objection no longer held, for the unit had been accepted en bloc, subject only to its members passing medical examination. And Selous, as all knew him anticipated, passed as one of the fittest men. He was then 63.

To any student of human nature, to anyone who has knocked about the world, and learned thereby to judge men, Selous, at very first glance, stood revealed for what he was, a man. His serene grey eyes mirrored a nature at once gentle, kindly, lovable. One took to him instantly, and felt the urge to know him, to go on knowing him, and, perhaps, become in time esteemed by him. One just felt the better for knowing him, for being with him if only for a little while. That was how I felt about him as, I know, did others who claimed his acquaintance.

There was little opportunity to talk with Selous after my introduction to him in Legion headquarters, in Adam Street, Strand. For he was surrounded by old friends, to whose talk he was listening quietly, this unassuming man with the pleasant, kindly smile. He left after a while on some military errand and the room seemed empty without him. Not that he had dominated it. One was just subtly, pleasantly aware of his presence. That was the magnetism of him; of Selous the man – of his very name in fact.

It was the last I ever saw of him.

If this is the impression Selous made on Tobin, it is understandable how in East Africa “…the word that their great hero had been killed soon spread round the Frontiersmen and they were so maddened that they managed to take the strong German positions and drive the enemy back”. (One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen, p.92). It is quite likely that this resulted in the Royal Fusiliers being awarded the Battle Honour “Behobeho”. Driscoll already had his full complement of officers so could not find a place for Tobin who was commissioned into Winston Churchill’s old regiment, the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. We hope to tell you more about Bill Tobin in the future.

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