What Caused the Rift?

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Canadian Division badge 1939 onwards

Topic December 2016 / January 2017. Seeking the causes of the breakaway of the Canadian Division:  a more complicated story than at first seems likely.

As has been stated before, the mistakes of the past can be made beneficial, if they are noted and remedied. (From the Canadian Division magazine December 1966, Commandant’s message.)

Surprisingly, the seeds of the problem can be traced back all of thirteen years to the death in 1925 of Cdt-General Tamplin. Colonel Herbert Tamplin was a much respected Cdt-General who was regarded with affection by the Frontiersmen. He had been an unspectacular middle-ranking officer in the Boer War. His great success was bringing in Lord Loch as President of the Legion. Loch was a man of great influence with friends in very high places and he did a lot for the Frontiersmen. Bringing in Lord Loch may have been the greatest action Tamplin did for L.O.F., however his steady hand at the helm when the Legion was trying to re-build after the losses of WW1 was of almost equal importance.

When Tamplin died there was no obvious successor. The Legion treasurer, Arthur Burchardt-Ashton, took on the position of Acting Cdt-General but refused to accept any substantive Legion rank higher than Legion captain. Burchardt-Ashton was “Acting C-G” for the whole of his time in office. His great advantage was that he was seriously wealthy and many times funded L.O.F. out of a desperate financial plight. The Legion subs were very low as the working man could not afford much, so he subsidised it very quietly and himself paid some of its outstanding debts. But, and it is a big but, Burchardt-Ashton had no campaign medals to wear as during the Boer War he had been in Hawaii and he was too old to serve overseas in the First War. His favoured assistant was H.C. Edwards-Carter about whom there were split opinions and who also had no war medals to wear. They were trying to lead men who had faced, and had seen, death at first hand.

(For information on Edwards-Carter see: The Frontiersman who wrote to the King)

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Cdt General Morton CBE

In 1927 those unhappy with the leadership of Burchardt-Ashton and Edwards-Carter (who during much of the war had been involved in munitions manufacture in England) broke away to form the “Independent Overseas Command of the Legion of Frontiersmen.” Although they had enough articulate members to become organising officers, they did not attract many of the rank and file Frontiersmen. Their terms of membership were very strict. The fighting soldier had a poor opinion of men who had earned good money back in Britain making munitions, when other men had faced death every day.

Lord Loch and the powerful men on the Legion Grand Council must have been horrified by the turn of events, especially when after much consideration and lobbying the application was made in 1933 for a Royal Charter. The Legion had many powerful supporters including Lord Derby and the Duke of Portland. To the disgust of the Grand Council, I.O.C. filed an official protest and a counter-petition, making some strong complaints about the Legion leadership and senior officers.

Brigadier E. Morton appeared suddenly out of the blue in 1932 as an officer in the Legion’s London Command. Our belief is that Lord Loch asked the W.O. for a retired officer as a safe pair of hands for the L.O.F. Although not an official body, they were called on regularly as Royal bodyguards. Loch would have been concerned at the depth of feelings about Burchardt-Ashton and Edwards-Carter. No doubt there were rumours that Edwards-Carter had been forced in 1914 to resign his commission as a captain in the Royal Warwickshire Regt. due to his bouncing cheques. Lord Loch, as a retired Major-General would have easily discovered that the rumours were true.

(See also: Friends in High Places)

The death of Edwards-Carter in 1934 solved part of the problem enabling Burchardt-Ashton (who was by then well into his eighties) to be ‘promoted’ to an invented position. Nothing was ever really said about the number of times Burchardt-Ashton used his fortune to save L.O.F. from bankruptcy. I.O.C. had to set their membership fees far higher at a guinea (£1.1shilling) which would have been almost half the take home pay for a working man’s week, effectively stopping many ordinary chaps moving to I.O.C.. Minutes of the first annual meeting of I.O.C. showed their world-wide membership as considerably less then fifty. Many of their units consisted of nothing more than the organising officer. The 1934 funeral of Edwards-Carter brought together representatives of both the original Legion and I.O.C. Discussions were held and what was probably the great Driscoll’s last letter before he died pleaded for the warring factions to come back together. This they did, and Founder Roger Pocock agreed to again take up the standard of recruiting. In 1935 he embarked on a world tour of as many Frontiersmen units as possible. This brought great publicity to the Legion wherever he went and much success. Shortly after his return to Britain, something for which he had always hoped, the affiliation of the Legion to the R.C.M.P. was announced. Not only that, but in Britain the Frontiersmen were appointed alongside St. John Ambulance to be responsible for all anti-gas warfare training. The horrors of gas in the First War were still well in the minds of the population. (See: GAS!!)

The Frontiersmen had also been called for to be on duty at the funeral of King George V.

A representative detachment of Frontiersmen was invited to participate in the funeral of His Late Majesty. It was allotted a position at Hyde Park Corner and, being asked to assist the police to keep the crowds from invading the route, was able to render some slight service for which the Legion was subsequently thanked by the Asst. Commissioner of Police. (The Frontiersman magazine, February 1936).

This prestigious position at Hyde Park Corner would not have been awarded to the Legion without authority from the Royal household, probably the new King Edward VIII, who when he was Prince of Wales had enjoyed the services of the Frontiersmen as Guard of Honour and even as bodyguards. (See: From the Hangman’s Noose to Royal Bodyguards)

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Col Dunn OBE CIS and later Cdt General

Another reliable retired army officer in the person of Colonel E.C. Dunn suddenly appeared on the Legion’s membership and became Morton’s Chief-of-Staff. The problem with this, although it was not recognised at the time, was that you now had a powerful body of trained men all around the old British Empire with the Commandant-General in a position to give orders with no real challenges possible to this. It was not until the 1970s when there were worries (unjustified) of political infiltration that what had become the Ministry of Defence insisted that the Legion must be governed by an elected Council of Frontiersmen representing all units around the world. Morton would be remembered today as the man who steered through the negotiations to re-unite L.O.F., had it not been for his ill-judged action over Canada when he acted as if he was still in the army and could give an executive order that would be obeyed without question. L.O.F. has never worked like that. As it is, Morton is remembered as the one who caused such bitterness in Canada that it has taken nearly eighty years to heal the wounds. There is evidence that Morton was capable of impulsive actions. In July 1939, by overtaking very rashly when driving his car, he caused a serious road accident. He could easily have caused death or serious injury and was prosecuted for his bad driving and found guilty.

What of Canada? What was happening there? Canada had suffered terribly in the First War and a very high percentage of those enthusiastic Frontiersmen who volunteered at the beginning of the war did not return. Those who did return were damaged in health and wished to concentrate on rebuilding their lives. Many did not wish to see a uniform again. Considerable efforts were made around the country to re-start units, but these attempts were often made by older men. In the mid-1920s a Frontiersman from Croydon near London, Larry B. Blain, emigrated to Alberta and set about attempting to re-form a Frontiersmen unit. He managed to recruit the dynamic Louis Scott, DCM, who was ex-P.P.C.L.I. and had been post-war commanding officer of the Edmonton Regiment. From 1929 Scott had considerable success in building the Legion, mainly in Alberta and Saskatchewan. (See: Legion of Frontiersmen in Canada Timeline (Part 5))

In spite of his success, what Scott could not solve was the perennial rivalry between Western and Eastern Canada, and also, to a lesser extent, the independent spirit of coastal British Columbia. Another success for Scott was the granting of a Dominion Charter, something Imperial Headquarters had not been able to achieve in Britain. What Scott did not do was to involve anyone from outside Alberta in the official application, not necessarily a wise diplomatic move. He did refer his application to I.H.Q. in London. They seem to have given it no more than a cursory glance without studying it deeply and passed it back as approved. They then forgot they had approved it, which was another mistake.

Canadian Division began to recruit successfully in Eastern Canada, especially Quebec, in the mid nineteen-thirties and believed their numbers to be greater than Western Canada. Whether or not this was true cannot be proved, but it certainly grated with the members that they were responsible to Edmonton for everything. The commanding officer in Quebec, Capt. Maurice Fitzgerald of Loretteville was a very enthusiastic Frontiersman, but his military record has not been fully uncovered. He is believed to have been an engineer officer in the First War, for some reason in the United States Navy. In civilian life he managed a business owned by his father-in-law selling items such as snow-shoes and canoes, manufactured by a local First Nations tribe. In 1935 the Founder had undertaken a recruiting World Tour for the Frontiersmen. The final leg took him across Canada from west to east. As well as visiting many Frontiersmen units, Roger Pocock met many in authority in Canada, especially in the R.C.M.P. where he was still held in respect, as he had never ceased to champion the Force.

In the discussions he had with Mounted Police officials during his stay in Canada, Roger [Pocock] recommended closer cooperation between the Mounted Police and the Legion, and he explained how his well-trained and well-run Legion could be a valuable auxiliary to the Mounted Police. The Frontiersmen in Canada were quite convinced that they owed a great deal to Roger’s negotiations, which enabled them to announce with great pride a year later:

Affiliation. Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The following extract from General Order No. 695, Part 1, week ending 26-9-36, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is published for the information of all members:

By Authority of the Honourable, the Minister in Control of the Force, The Legion of Frontiersmen is hereby affiliated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in the same manner as Units of the Canadian Militia are affiliated with regiments of His Majesty’s Forces in the United Kingdom.

(from “Outrider of Empire”, Geoffrey A Pocock, University of Alberta Press 2008 p312-3)

In 1939 the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Canada called the Frontiersmen into action as a successful and efficient back-up to the R.C.M.P. This was to be the high point, as in October 1939 the R.C.M.P. terminated the affiliation due to the internal squabbles and divisions within the Legion.

What had happened to cause this? Louis Scott was a strong leader, but that was not enough. He was not in a position to travel across the country to west and east – a time-consuming and costly exercise in those days. There were also political rivalries between the Prairie Provinces and Eastern Canada. Although they were happy to have orders from their Imperial Headquarters in London, the Eastern Canada Frontiersmen objected to being commanded by a man who they had never met and who was from a Prairie Province. As to British Columbia, the Frontiersmen there considered themselves closer to the British Mother Country than any other Canadian Province. Until evidence came to hand, the accepted version of events was that of Scott’s Frontiersmen published in their own Canadian journals. It was claimed that Capt. Fitzgerald of Eastern Canada travelled to London where he met Cdt.-General Morton and persuaded Morton that Canada was too big to be run by one man. Morton agreed and directed that Canada should immediately be split into two Commands, Western Command under Scott and Eastern Command under Fitzgerald. It now seems certain that Fitzgerald himself never visited London.

What did happen was that “V” Sqn British Columbia was commanded by a Legion Captain (Major) H T Guest, the most senior Legion officer in B.C.. Guest was a relative of the very wealthy Guest family who made their money in iron and steel in South Wales. He was a stockbroker and exporter who often visited England. On a visit to London Guest made an appointment and called into HQ to meet Morton, bringing a letter from Scott as he had stopped over in Edmonton on his journey. Morton asked him a number of searching questions about CHQ in Edmonton and obtained Guest’s opinion.. Guest reported on what he knew and what he had seen. Afterwards he considered that he had been set up as the sacrificial goat and would get the blame for the decision to split Canada’s Frontiersmen into two Commands. He promptly resigned from the Legion. Morton’s big mistake was to carry this out arbitrarily without first consulting with Scott. In spite of the fact that he had served as a young man for a few years in the Canadian N.W.M.P., his many years as a senior army officer had persuaded Morton that he only needed to hand out orders. He never really accepted that Frontiersmen can be led, but not ordered. What Scott and his supporters did not know was that the R.C.M.P. had, very unofficially, suggested to IHQ that they were unhappy with the activities of some of Scott’s senior staff. At that time right-wing political views were not uncommon in Alberta and some of Scott’s men came close to being political in Legion uniform, which was totally forbidden in the Legion. IHQ had also received a letter from the highly-respected Larry Blain. According to letters in our files two of Scott’s senior men, who we will not name here, XXXXXXX and YYYYYY were alleged to be habitual drunkards, and even to be fighting-drunks in uniform. Frontiersmen serving in these two men’s Alberta Squadrons were considered by some to be of a poor type and also heavy drinkers. Blain wrote:

In Edmonton we have four Squadrons…The O.C. of …. Squadron is not a fit person to wear the uniform of the Legion of Frontiersmen. There is not a Parade or meeting that doesn’t turn out to be a drinking bout. This while in uniform…We have Capt. ….., who is a Drunkard and is despised by everyone who knows him. There is [sic] very few people who have not seen him at some place making an exhibition of himself…since I have mentioned the R.C.M. Police I might state that although they are proud to be associated with us in other parts of Canada, they do not think very highly of the majority of Frontiersmen here.

In a letter to a British Columbia Frontiersman, seen also by IHQ in London, Blain wrote:

He [Scott] re-wrote the Constitution, which was passed at a H.Q. meeting in spite of protests by members elected by the local Squadrons and by myself. Owing to many protests by members this was brought up at the annual dinner, held months after, and was voted on by a show of hands, the majority present being drunk…This “constitution” places the control of the Canadian Division entirely in the hands of a few members of Canadian H.Q. The Charter was obtained without the knowledge or consent of IHQ [sic] and without the sanction of the members at an AGM and practically places the ownership of the Legion and all its assets in the hands of three men – Lt.Col. Scott, ……. and 2/Lieut, ……., neither of the latter two men having seen any service.”

Scott was a clever man who was able to run rings around Fitzgerald and his supporters. Scott had gained the Dominion Charter mentioned by Blain, but this nearly turned the Canadian Frontiersmen into a private company. IHQ had indeed been told of the Charter, but had not been sharp enough to demand details in advance. Refusing to accept the division of the Legion in Canada, Scott broke his Canadian Division away from IHQ and used the Charter to prevent Eastern Canada from using the title Legion of Frontiersmen. The Canadian Secretary of State eventually told both parties to concentrate on the War effort. When the War ended a new attempt would be made to resolve the problem. The Legion President, a highly distressed Lord Loch, had involved his many influential friends without success, but he indicated that after the War he would make a special trip to Canada to seek a solution personally. Unfortunately he died in August 1942. At the end of the War Britain was exhausted and the British Frontiersmen needed to concentrate all their efforts on rebuilding the Legion there. And so the dispute continued to simmer.

Had Morton consulted Roger Pocock early on with the full story, he could have contacted his many friends in Canada and probably resolved the matter. Morton did not; Pocock only heard Scott’s side and angrily supported him. A sad example of arrogance of one man at the head causing untold harm to an organisation. Had so many mistakes not been made, the Legion might currently still be proudly claiming that affiliation to the R.C.M.P..

Secure in his position and knowing that the Frontiersmen were being called upon all around the world to assist the local authorities, Morton made an executive decision as if he was still a serving army Brigadier. By that one mistake, all his successes as Cdt-General would be ignored and his time at the head of the Frontiersmen would be remembered by that one decision, which was to have repercussions that lasted for almost eighty years. He had forgotten, or ignored as unimportant, the Dominion Charter of Canadian Division, which was under the control of Scott and his senior staff in Edmonton.

Fitzgerald began a recruiting drive which was highly successful with men who did not wish to be beholden to Edmonton, Alberta, but to their own region of Canada and from there only to Imperial Headquarters in London. Morton’s staff asked for the Canadian Charter to be passed to his headquarters, claiming that the request for the Charter had not been authorised. Scott immediately produced evidence that it had indeed been authorised and also copies of letters granting him total control over the Frontiersmen in Canada. The R.C.M.P., who had thought that London HQ had control of the Charter looked on at the infighting with horror. Because of their concern at some of Scott’s officers, behind the scenes both they and the Government at Ottawa were quietly supporting Fitzgerald and advising him. In the end, matters became so bad that the R.C.M.P. could only withdraw the official affiliation of the Legion, although they still made unofficial use of favoured Frontiersmen units. An additional problem was that, as Scott had control of the Charter, he made it clear to Fitzgerald that he would happily make use of the law to prevent Fitzgerald’s Eastern Canada Frontiersmen using the title of Legion of Frontiersmen and wearing the Legion badges. Once again, Fitzgerald consulted the R.C.M.P. and the Government and it was decided that the name would have to be changed. So, Eastern Canada Command became the “Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen”‘, but still affiliated to and serving under the Imperial Headquarters of the Legion of Frontiersmen in London.

It is not generally known that the title “Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen” was in fact suggested by the R.C.M.P. and that their Dominion Charter was eased through with the help of both the R.C.M.P. and the Canadian Government. For very many years there was both a Canadian Division of the Legion of Frontiersmen, now independent from L.O.F. worldwide, and a Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen working in Canada. There were still disputes over territory and the whole affair showed no credit on the Frontiersmen. On 4th November 1938, Colonel Dunn, Morton’s Chief-of-Staff, wrote to Fitzgerald:

…The whole trouble is that we were ill-advised both in not having consulted Scott in the first place, which really mere courtesy demanded quite apart from the question whether he would or would not agree in the re-organization, and also in the matter of the Dominion Charter…

The Commandant-General is much displeased with the tone of your cables, making all allowances for brevity. While he will support you, as far as possible, a situation has arisen for which you are partly responsible…

The words “ill-advised” lack accuracy as it is not thought that Morton took any advice before making his decision. At the 1949 General Meeting of the Legion of Frontiersmen in London, the following appears in the minutes:

Col. Dunn, Chief of Imperial Staff, followed with a review of the past ten years; a sorry story culminating in his reading a letter from the Commandant-General (Brig. Morton) announcing his resignation, a retirement which was accepted without comment or protest. And so another leader of the Legion of Frontiersmen passed from our ranks into the shadows of obscurity.

Not “obscurity”, but in fact to be remembered sadly not for his several successes, but for one major error of judgment, which was to have such serious consequences that they were last for more than a lifetime. At the 1950 annual meeting: A motion was then carried that an Executive Council as was functioning before Gen. Morton wiped it out should be elected.


This attempt at explaining a painful event in Legion history is based on files of HQ letters etc. discovered only in recent years. We have concentrated on the errors of one man, rather than other contributory factors, as the errors of a Commandant-General with supreme executive powers were central to the story. Nowadays no one person can wield such powers in the Frontiersmen and because of that it is a better, even if smaller, organization.


© 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 Canada, Frontiersmen, History, Latest Topic, Legion of Frontiersmen | Leave a comment

The Frontiersmen’s Lorry

Indian Army Ox Carts. Source: Imperial War Museum

Indian Army Ox Carts. Source: Imperial War Museum

Topic October/November 2016. A tale of the First War in East Africa and the frustrations of bureaucracy.

By the time the 25th battalion Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen) arrived in East Africa in 1915, the actions of the Indian Army Staff officers given charge of the campaign against the Germans probably left a lot to be desired. The war in Europe needed all the troops Britain could find, so what was considered a sideshow in Africa was delegated to the Indian Army. As far as the officers whose command was of desks in the War Office in London this had advantages. Their own departmental budgets have always been more important to bureaucracy than overall costs, so this delegation was good as far as both the War Office and the Foreign Office were concerned. According to the blinkered racism of the time, the Indian troops had brown skins and would be quite at home in the African climate. Little thought was given to their dietary requirements. Their first task on landing was to capture Tanga. This proved one of the most embarrassing debâcles of the early war years and one which shocked the establishment in Britain and East Africa. The story of that failure is covered in many books, most notably Edward Paice’s Tip and Run.¹ The War Office took over the running of the war in that part of the world, immediately receiving requests for British troops to be sent out. The best Indian Army units and most of the British Army battalions based in India had been sent to the Western Front. The Indian Troops who went to East Africa where the war was considered to be a side-show were not all of the best. Only one British battalion, the 2nd battalion of the Loyal North Lancs was sent to Africa. Before they left England as the one British unit the War Office would send, the Frontiersmen were aware of Tanga. In his account of the Frontiersmen’s exploits in East Africa serialised in the Frontiersman magazines in the early 1920s, ‘Adjutant’ made his own sharp comments:

The Indian Expeditionary Force had landed at Tanga without first bombarding it and wiping it out. Gossip said that the officials of the new Government-that-was-to-be had not the heart to destroy such comfortable quarters as they could see through their telescopes…

Soon after that an Indian garrison at Jasin, on the British East African border, had to surrender, and were taken away into captivity – to degradation, forced labour, starvation, disease and death.²

Map East Africa, 1915.  Source: Ordnance Survey

Map East Africa, 1915. Source: Ordnance Survey

There is strong evidence that ‘Adjutant’ was in fact Captain (later Major) George Douglas Hazzledine, who wrote under a nom-de-plume so that he could criticise the attitude and behaviour to the Frontiersmen of the Staff officers. Francis Brett Young, a medical officer with the Rhodesians who wrote an account of the capture of Tanga later in the war, Marching on Tanga, was so frustrated because he was not allowed to tell the whole truth that he later wrote a fiction book Jim Redlake, in which he put into the mouths of the characters his disgust at the behaviour of the Indian Army Staff back at Nairobi.

Our own mistakes were small things in our eyes compared with the mistakes we thought those in authority over us made over us. We took some of the world’s most famous big-game hunters in our battalion, but they were not used as scouts…We had Colonial engineers and experts of all kinds among our officers, but they were not used, except unwillingly, as when they pointed out that it was impracticable to cut a road with picks and shovels along the face of a rock slope at Turiani.³

Motor Lorries Bringing up Troops. Source: “Times History of the War”.

Motor Lorries Bringing up Troops, “Times History of the War”.

There were many other examples quoted. There was a need for men who could speak Swahili, not a common skill in the Indian Army although there are some similarities between Swahili and Hindi. The Frontiersmen had a number of men who were fluent in the local language, but they were seldom used, and then only in a very subordinate position with native carriers. The Staff would not listen to Driscoll and only called on him to save the day when things became desperate. Many times Driscoll and his Frontiersmen saved matters in an action.

One example of Staff pigheadedness may sound amusing to us a hundred years on, but at the time it was frustrating and infuriating. That is the story of the Frontiersmen’s lorry. One of the officers Driscoll insisted on taking with him in the first draft was W. Northrup Macmillan. Driscoll had to bend the rules somewhat to get him accepted by the War Office. For a start he was sixty-four inches around the waist, which was an enormous size in those days when men were generally far smaller than today. The other problem was that, although he had lived for years in East Africa, he was by birth an American. His advantage was that, being immensely rich, he was keen to give much financial support to the British cause. That advantage outweighed any problems as far as the War Office was concerned. In their early days in East Africa the Frontiersmen were based at Kajiado and also served an area between there and the Besil River (see map). Some of the men called the camp on the Besil River “Bissel” and it had other translations, being nowadays known as Ilbisil. Transport was a great problem. The Indian Army had shipped over …

hundreds and hundreds of single-shafted two wheel carts with which India fondly hoped to follow up and supply her army of conquest…but what earthly use were they in the strains and stress and hurry and bustle of war in the Tropics?…If one of the two oxen fell sick or died or would not pull, the other was also put out of action and could only go round and round on one wheel, if at all. With the ox-whallah sitting, barelegged, at the roots of the shaft, the carts were no doubt excellent for a slow walk from the rice fields along the sunlit road in Ceylon; but for war – Hapana. (hapana is Swahili for an emphatic NO.) The designers of our little invasion out there had little imagination and less knowledge of countries other than their own..⁴

For the Frontiersmen, possible help was forthcoming. Knowing the country well, Macmillan considered that it was an area for lorries, not oxen. Much to their delight he gave them a three-ton lorry, calling it a loan. This single lorry increased their mobility beyond measure.

Once at Kajiado, there was great excitement because of news coming in from the Bissel [sic] Road that some native drivers had mutinied and were looting the convoy and playing merry Harry generally. Orders were issued that the Royal Fusiliers would proceed to the spot about five miles away, with one officer and twenty rifles and so many rounds per man and do any necessary destroying.

Motor Lorries. Source: Imperial War Museum Powell Collection Q15632

Motor Lorries. Source: Imperial War Museum Powell Collection Q15632

On receipt of the order a platoon of the duty company climbed into the lorry and ran out to the place instructed. There they found the natives had also looted some alcohol and were all drunk. The Frontiersmen bundled them into the lorry and delivered them to their HQ “for medical and other necessary attention”. The Frontiersmen were back in camp for their meal, probably before headquarters had time to blot off the five copies of the orders and distribute them as required. That one example should have shown HQ Staff the value of lorries in the campaign, but it was not until Smuts took command that lorries in any number were used.

The Frontiersmen were to lose their prized lorry long before that happened.

First we had a long wrangle with H.Q., where those who were responsible for our equipment and the conduct of the campaign for a long time failed to understand a mere battalion having a lorry. They almost gave the impression that its possession was irregular and might be a military offence under some code they had in the office.

“A battery, yes; a G.H.Q. mess, yes; but a battalion of Sepoys, no; of course we know you are white men, but you are not regulars, you know, and after all you are only a battalion. Where? In what book, red or buff or pink, can you point out a lorry on the establishment of a battalion? Shall we cable Simla about it? Will they be able to give us the reference to your order?”

The casual racism was common for the time, but the insults to the Frontiersmen were unacceptable behaviour. As in so many occasions in the history of the Frontiersmen, that has been the attitude in varying degrees – until they have been needed to dig someone or some official body out of a hole.

At last the General said he didn’t think there would be any objection, and he would take the risk of allowing us to have the lorry with us, unofficially, of course, and without giving us any right to indent for a renewal. So, when the great day of the advance came, we took it with us; and lost it. We lost it because at Bissel [sic], twenty-four miles out, the Supplies discovered that our special authorisation of the lorry said nothing about petrol, and, there being no Army petrol to spare in wartime for private cars, Colonel Driscoll shrugged his shoulders and sent it back to Nairobi with thanks.⁵

Anybody with military experience will be able to quote stories of official rule-book bureaucracy. According to the opinions of the many Frontiersmen who told their stories in the pages of The Frontiersman magazine, the way the Frontiersmen were treated by the Staff officers, many of whose only experience had been in military India and never of the wildernesses of the world and especially Africa, exceeded the bounds of simple stupidity. Even the gentlemanly F.C. Selous in a private letter to W. Northrup McMillan commented that “Many officers detest our Colonel and our Battalion…”⁶ The sacrifices made over the years by Frontiersmen were often discounted, and evidence can be produced that they can sometimes still be discounted today. It is our task to remember those sacrifices and make sure they are not forgotten by studying their first-hand stories.

Finally, the following quote is from Will Shandro’s “Timeline” on our history website http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info and further illustrates the issue of military intolerance, directed in this case at the New Zealand Frontiersmen:

1918 – Compliments to Legion’s character vs military chauvinism. “A doctor recently returned from the Front after much service, expressed this opinion of the Legionnaires: “They are the finest, cleanest, straightest crowd of men I ever met. They never had half the credit they deserved for the work they did.” This was quoted by way of contrast to the opinion of a drawing-room military officer who prior to the war declared the Legion was a crowd of drunken swashbucklers. That officer, by the way, has not yet reach[ed] the Front!” AUCKLAND WEEKLY NEWS, page 51, 14 FEBRUARY 1918.


¹ Edward Paice Tip and Run (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2007)
² “The Frontiersman” magazine August 1922
³ “The Frontiersman” magazine August 1923
⁴ “The Frontiersman” magazine March 1923. The author of this wrote under the nom-de-plume of O.C.A. and made numerous other contributions to the magazine in subsequent years. There can be no definite identification of who was this O.C.A. We have consulted Steve Eeles, whose website: http://www.25throyalfusiliers.co.uk is dedicated entirely to the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) in East Africa, and whose website we heartily recommend. He suggests that the letter could most probably have been written by Oscar Lindley, who “was the battalion’s Orderly Room Sergeant, later C.Q.M.S., and who would have been ideally placed to know all the workings of the battalion…” The evidence is circumstantial, but there is no other likely candidate. We are very grateful to Steve Eeles for his help and advice. Please do visit his website.
⁵ “The Frontiersman” magazine March 1923
⁶ W.N. McMillan scrapbooks at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth & African Studies at Rhodes House.


© 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 East Africa Frontiersmen, Frontiersmen, History, Latest Topic, Legion of Frontiersmen, New Zealand, World War I | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Supporting the Authorities

2 Komagata Maru 1914 Library and Archives Canada PA 034014 LAC

Komagata Maru 1914 Library and Archives Canada PA 034014 LAC

Topic August/September 2016.  Supporting the Legal Authorities (even when their cause may be doubtful).  Although in most countries the Frontiersmen have not received official recognition, their services have regularly been sought. Sometimes the tasks they have been given may have been in the grey area of what is legal. To explain this, we have to look at countries such as New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. Many areas of these countries were sparsely populated and so policing services were stretched. A body of disciplined men with experience of working under pressure and in danger, and in particular whose services were provided at no cost to the taxpayer, was an attractive bonus to the system.

Our country of New Zealand is about the same size as the British Isles in area, but our present day population [1984] is not yet 3¼ millions, so compared with Britain we are not densely populated. Just imagine what it was like sixty or more years ago with a population of around 1½ millions. We really had ‘great open spaces’ in a big way and the concept of the Legion of Frontiersmen had full scope. Our ties with Police, Transport Dept., and other Civic bodies was constant and close, even to the extent where we, the Legion, were mobilised in this Bay of Plenty area, and with police officers we spent more than a week under arms in a search for an armed murderer. As it happened he had meantime shot himself so there was no gruesome finale to our efforts. This was not a happy episode, but it does show how close we were to the forces of law and order. ¹

This shows the confidence that the police had in the Frontiersmen to use them as armed auxiliaries. The first claim of their use by the authorities comes from South Africa in 1906 at the Zulu uprising in Natal. This was claimed as a revolt, but started as protests at a hut tax, or poll tax. Poll tax protests are well known in England in living memory. Roger Pocock wrote of this in his second autobiography:

Our nearest man rode with the news, but his horse fell dead in the outskirts of Maritzberg, so he ran on afoot to the nearest telegraph office, and cabled to me “Zulus rising instruct.” This message reached me twenty-four hours before news was received by Government or Press. I mobilized our two thousand men in the Johannesburg Command, then offered them armed and mounted to the Government of Natal.²

1 Hollamby1912

Hollamby 1912

The problem of this story is that, while Pocock’s accounts of his own adventures were basically truthful, although with a personal slant, he was far too inclined to believe stories told him by Frontiersmen to be factual. The tale of the early cable is no doubt correct, but the “two thousand men” is a gross exaggeration. No official account of the uprising mentions the Frontiersmen. No doubt many did volunteer, serving with the Umvoti Field Force, but not as Frontiersmen. The man in question, Capt P. Gordon Huntley, is listed in 1907 as the Legion’s sub-commissioner for Natal, but ceased to appear in Legion records in subsequent years.

The next record of the Frontiersmen aiding authorities comes from China in 1912. It is a story, all too common over the years, that although Government departments, such as the Foreign Office in London, had rather a poor view of the Legion, their services were often welcomed locally. The best-known adventure of the China Frontiersmen was the Shensi Relief Column. This a story fully covered elsewhere ³ and too complicated to be explained here. China was a somewhat lawless place and most British working there were men who chose adventure above security. In some towns every male British citizen had joined the Frontiersmen, although that often numbered less than ten men. Another point against them was that they seem to have ignored HQ orders regarding ranks. In 1912 the “Far East Command” comprised seventy-three members, of whom fifty were officers. The twenty-three other ranks included two Quartermaster-sergeants and three sergeants. Nevertheless, the assistance of the Frontiersmen was greatly appreciated by the British navy:

…Capt. Hollamby, in his launch, was specially useful in delivering the message from the Consul at Wuhu, to the Chinese Admiral, and so enables me to maintain a strict neutrality, which otherwise might have been questioned had my boats and officers been observed communicating with the latter.

He also rendered services in other ways, particularly as regards communicating with the British Hulks moored up river; while his launches have always been at my disposal during the siege, many of the services have been performed at considerable personal risk from rifle and shell fire, and I therefore have much pleasure in bringing them to your notice.

This letter was signed by Capt Marcus Hill of H.M.S. Hampshire and written to the C-in-C of the China Station, Vice-Admiral Jerram, who also added his own congratulations:

I have also much pleasure in stating that I myself am equally indebted to Capt. Hollamby for his ready assistance whilst I was at Nanking.³

3 B.C. Frontiersmen auxiliaries

B.C Frontiersmen Auxiliaries

If the British Foreign Office, as recorded in their files at the British National Archives, had a poor opinion of the value of the Frontiersmen in China, it seems that the British navy found at least Capt. Hollamby of service, carrying out a task which would have been difficult or diplomatically impossible for the British Navy.

Moving on to 1914 and British Columbia, Canada, we come to a story that has embarrassed Canadians for one hundred years. This is the story of the ship, the Komagata Maru, that arrived off Vancouver with 376 Punjabis who were would-be immigrants. At that time there was a widely-held view that Canada was a white man’s country and, to enforce national immigration policy, the Punjabis were refused entrance to the country and surprisingly even food and water. There followed a long and heated stand-off, which was reported in newspapers around the world. The local authorities did not wish to inflame the matter by involving the navy, so a plan, thankfully not needed, was considered in June to use the local members of the Legion of Frontiersmen to do what could be described as their “dirty work”:

A conference with the officers of the warship will be held and, if this procedure offers no solution, present plans are to call into service the Legion of Frontiersmen, a semi-official military organization of Canada, to go aboard the Komagata Maru, subdue the hostile passengers and give the vessel armed guard until she is outside the three mile limit, and there turn her over to the Japanese cruisers for escort across the Pacific. This step, if taken, will be made late Saturday night and Sunday morning.⁴

The full story is a complicated one but covered fully on the internet. It was not until 2014 that the Canadian Government made an official apology. There is no doubt that racism was common around the world at that time and, although we may find it unacceptable today, that sort of opinion was not considered unusual at that time.

In 1922 the Frontiersmen were used in the Johannesburg miners’ strike. This was another country enforcing a racist colour bar. As a result of a pay reduction enforced by the mine owners, the white mineworkers went on strike. A number of occupations were protected by the colour bar, but the mine owners decided to abolish the agreement. Jan Smuts dismissed the idea of compulsory arbitration and the strikers held the view that Prime Minister Smuts and the capitalist mine owners were hand-in-glove. The strike turned into a revolt and murder and mayhem followed. The police, fifty of whom were killed, and the troops struggled to cope and the Frontiersmen came to Smuts’ aid. What had threatened to turn into a full-blooded revolution was ruthlessly crushed in a few days.⁵ Smuts had been a hero to the Frontiersmen when they fought under him in the First War as the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers. Smuts had always respected them and treated them far better than did the many Indian Army Staff officers. Below are some extracts from communications received at Legion Headquarters regarding the “services rendered by Frontiersmen in the recent Rand Rebellion”:

I am pleased to say that all members who were on active service came through safely. Trust the old dogs for the hard road. The snipers were the worst to contend with. One never knew whether you were speaking to friend or enemy. On Tuesday morning, March 14, as the town clock struck 11 our balloon went up and we started closing in on Fordsburg. The revolutionaries had a trench across Commissioner Street coupled with the Market Place. That was the Fordsburg stronghold in the centre of the town. They used the big buildings as a way of communication, holes being made through the walls. The majority of the revolutionaries were Greeks, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Russians, very few British and Dutch…

The following was received from the G.O.C. Witwatersrand:

The General Officer Commanding desires me to convey to you his regrets that the distribution of the Forces in conformity with military exigencies has precluded any opportunity of his viewing and addressing your unit on parade.

He instructs me to state that despite the manner in which your men have been distributed over various defensive posts, he has had opportunities of observing the efficient and soldier-like manner in which various detachments have carried out their duties…⁵

4 Crystal Beach Frontiersmen

Crystal Beach Frontiersmen

This was signed by G.H. Jeppe, Captain and Adjutant, 5th Mounted Rifles R.L.I..
Were the Frontiersmen brave fighters against a communist rebellion, or merely strike-breakers? As with anything to do with history there is usually more than one opinion.

In 1926 the London Frontiersmen formed the Mounted Reserve of the City of London Police and were praised for their work during the General Strike. In spite of the British upper classes’ fear of the kind of red revolution experienced in Russia ten years earlier, this was very much a British type of strike, which in no way looked like leading to revolution. Once again the question can be asked as to whether the Frontiersmen were strike-breakers or patriots serving their country’s best interest.

The official duties the UK Frontiersmen performed in the 1930s and in WW2 have already been fully covered on our website both on The Frontiersmen Historian: Gas! and on Definitely Not a Dad’s Army

Strong links were formed in other countries. The Frontiersmen were regularly called on for support by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, culminating in a rather too short-lived official affiliation in the late 1930s. Various cities’ police departments also sought the support of the Frontiersmen. As one example, Edmonton Police Chief A.G. Shute can be seen in photographs lining up with the Frontiersmen. On his retirement in 1942 he immediately joined the Legion. The Frontiersmen in Canada were issued with official Police shields as auxiliaries. In British Columbia Frontiersmen were sworn in as Special Constables and carried out duties in first aid, air raid precautions and many others. The vast and lightly populated west coast of Canada was vulnerable to Japanese invasion; for this reason woodsmen and associated citizenry were recruited and outfitted to become Pacific Coast Militia Rangers patrolling ‘’eyes and ears’’ for the Canadian military. One role of the Legion of Frontiersmen, made up of often older Great War veterans, was to support the PCMR, who were the fore-runner of today’s Canadian Rangers. The story of the Legion’s association with, and duties with, the police and R.C.M.P. in Canada is far too long and complicated to be covered here. It is expected to become a subject for post-graduate university research.

The final story we will cover is that of the notorious Crystal Beach race riots of 1956. Crystal Beach, Ontario was a popular amusement park located across the USA border from Buffalo, New York. Although social norms of 1956 did not encourage comfortable racial intermingling, this Canadian park was not ‘’segregated’’. It was a popular summer destination for both black and white U.S. citizens via a 45 minute excursion on the Buffalo, N.Y.‘s vessel, the ‘Canadiana’. Racial tensions strained by civil immaturity and escalating intolerance erupted into violence at Crystal Beach and continued on the Buffalo ferry homeward bound. “The Argus” (Melbourne, Australia) newspaper report stated that “Canadian and Buffalo police are forbidden, under international agreement, to board the excursion craft. Two special police aboard the Canadiana were helpless.” It seems virtually certain that the “two special police” on board were actually Legion of Frontiersmen volunteers, uniformed “citizens” rather than sworn policemen representing any province, state or country. If this was the case, as is evidenced by the rather faded newspaper cutting shown here, authorities on the spot must have hoped that these citizen-volunteers would have provided some sense of authority in lieu of sworn police officers. This “bluff” at policing 1700 agitated ferry passengers obviously failed, as two persons were not a deterrent to youths, both black and white, intent upon intimidation and racial conflict:

RACE RIOTS SHOCK US CITY

BUFFALO, NEW YORK, Thursday: A day-long race riot between white and negro teenagers reached a violent climax last night when knife bearing gangs seized control of a crowded excursion boat on Lake Erie. Six persons were admitted to hospitals with minor injuries, and Buffalo and Canadian police arrested several youths. The riot began yesterday morning as the excursion boat Canadiana was taking a mixed group to the opening of the Crystal Beach Amusement Park, across Lake Erie. It continued throughout most of the day and was not broken up by police until the boat returned to Buffalo late at night. Police who met the boat took 30 hysterical white girls to headquarters. The boat carried about 1,700 passengers, of whom 1,300 were negroes. “Gangs just took over the boat and roamed at will,” one witness said. Forty white boys and girls barricaded themselves in a dining-room for protection from the gangs.

Nightmare of knives

Margaret Wynn, a reporter for the “Buffalo Courier,” who was on the boat, said it was a “nightmare of flashing knives and sobbing, frightened teenagers. “Gangs of negro girls roamed the boat “attacking and molesting white girls.” Canadian and Buffalo police are forbidden, under international agreement, to board the excursion craft. Two special police aboard the Canadiana were helpless.⁶

The news photo shown here mis-identifies the Frontiersman as “provincial police.” There are other references to be found of “provincial police”, “park police” and that the vessel had on board its own “privately contracted special police.” Analyses of the riot were made years later when the Frontiersmen were not so much in evidence, so the mis-description of their then little-known uniform is unsurprising. Victoria Wolcott’s “Recreation and Race in the Postwar City” is an informative analysis. ⁷

Here we have one final example of the Frontiersmen being asked to do the “dirty work” for the authorities. There are many more we could have quoted. Frontiersmen have always tried to do their duty for the legal authorities, at times receiving credit for this, but usually being treated by those at the very highest level as something of an embarrassment. Frontiersmen were, whatever the reaction, happy to do their duty by society.

¹ Letter from Claude Bathe, New Zealand Adjutant, 10th December 1984, in Legion archives
² Roger Pocock, Chorus to Adventurers, (Bodley Head, 1931) p.53
³ The Frontiersman magazine, December 1913, p.251
Morning Oregonian, http://www.oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1914-06-20/ed-1/seq-1/
The Frontiersman,June 1922, p.31. See also F.S. Crafford, Jan Smuts, a biography, (Doubleday Doran & Co 1944) 190-198
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/71806425
⁷ Wolcott, Victoria W., Recreation and Race in the Postwar City: Buffalo’s 1956 Crystal Beach Riot, The Journal of American History; June 2006; 93; 1; ProQuest Central, p.63.


© 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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Tasting Adventure and Revolution

H B C Pollard with car

H B C Pollard with car

Topic June/July 2016. For the first thirty and more years of the history of the Legion of Frontiersmen, its leaders tried hard to dissuade members from taking part in revolutions around the world. They could not prevent the many adventurers among the Frontiersmen from taking jobs in countries, of which there were many, where revolution and regime change was virtually part of the culture. When a spoof advertisement for Bandits Limited appeared in a 1920’s issue of The Frontiersman magazine beginning:

The Bandits Association Limited, beg to announce to the nobility and gentry that they have made arrangements to supply spies, scouts, pirates, blockade runners, assassins, press gangs, tax extorters, rebels and agitators of all descriptions on reasonable terms and at the shortest notice…

There was some element of historical truth in the advert as there had been few revolutions and local wars from the very early days where one or more Frontiersmen had either been involved or at least an interested spectator. We will be centring this topic on one of the most puzzling of Frontiersmen adventurers who, in later life became steadily more secretive and reticent than when he was a young adventurer. This desire to escape publicity followed his most famous (or infamous) adventure and one that brought much criticism on his head, although he always maintained that what he did was for the right reasons.

Pollard book on Pistols

Pollard book on Pistols

If you do a web search on Major Hugh Pollard, you will find quite a bit of information about him, much of it incorrect, some of which would have amused him, and some of it politically opinionated, which would have infuriated him. Here we will tell more about this Frontiersman adventurer, one of a distinguished list of such men, and will tell the unbiased truth, such as we can discover it. In a letter written just before he died, Macdonald Hastings, father of Sir Max Hastings, wrote about his good friend Hugh Pollard:

 

He was a fascinating person, who probably had a greater impact on events than he cared anybody should know. If you can unravel him you need to know all the tricks of Mr. Smiley and James Bond. I confess that all I know about him is mischief. He was a remarkable man.¹

In spite of that warning we have discovered much – although far from all – about a remarkable Frontiersman. Because of his importance to history as well as the Legion of Frontiersmen, this particular Topic will of necessity be longer than most.

Hugh Pollard was a soldier and author who was also a criminologist, a microscopist, a photographer, an authority of firearms, and a scientist with a useful knowledge of anatomy and chemistry.²

Kaid Belton Morocco

Kaid Belton Morocco

He was born in January 1888, the son of an eminent physician, Joseph Pollard. At the age of nine he was sent to Westminster School in London, but seems to have lived most of his free time on his grandfather’s farm and estate in Hertfordshire. There he learned to shoot and soon became an expert shot with a great interest in firearms of all types and in country sports and pursuits. This interest and skill was to stay with him for the rest of his life.

As a day boy at Westminster… it was his practise to arrange his journeys to and from school to include as many gunmakers’ shops as possible.³

One of his favourite shops was Churchill’s. After the First War he became friends with Robert Churchill who had taken over the business from his uncle. At the age of fifteen he left Westminster and went to work with major engineering company Armstrong Whitworth, and then until 1908 he attended the Crystal Palace School of Practical Engineering. In that year his taste for travel and adventure encouraged him to join the Redmond-Hardwick exploration syndicate on an allegedly prospecting venture in Morocco. A photograph exists of a William Redman serving as a Lieutenant under Belton, so, knowing how commonly surnames were mis-spelt especially in newspapers and magazines, there has to be the likelihood that this was the same man and prospecting was only part of the adventure. Alfred Arkell Hardwick was a Frontiersman and adventurer in many lands. He was killed in an aeroplane accident in 1912 while working as General Manager for Handley Page. Morocco was in a state of revolution, which was so complicated it has never been fully described. The ruler was Abd El Aziz (various Europeanised spellings can be found). He was supported by the French. The British wished to keep away from it but did not want the Germans to gain a foothold. The most recorded Britisher was the “Kaid” or General Maclean whose name regularly appears in accounts of events. There has to be doubt that Maclean was quite the gallant figure he has since been made out to be.

[Abd El Aziz] did surround himself with Europeans, at whose heart was the comic opera figure of Caid Maclean with his tartan bernous and his English hunting boots…no question…[he was] feathering his own nest handsomely.⁴

5 Pollard with pistol

Pollard with pistol

The Pretender was Mulay Hafid, who did not have the benefit of any European military advice until another Frontiersman adventurer, Andrew Belton, came onto the scene. Belton had left home at 17 to follow his brothers into the Imperial Yeomanry and serve in the South African War. He remained in South Africa and in 1906 was the officer in command of the Capetown Command of the Legion of Frontiersmen. Belton offered his services to Mulay Hafid and demonstrated his abilities by organising and drilling Mulay Hafid’s men. He was then appointed as Mulay Hafid’s Kaid and for the rest of his life (even on his WW1 officer file) was known as “Kaid” Belton. Events were as complicated as could be expected, but at a totally confused pitched decisive battle it became evident that Mulay Hafid’s army had won. It was suggested that was because Abd El Aziz’s army was able to run away faster than Mulay Hafid’s. The result did not please the French or, indeed, the British, who were concerned that the Germans might take advantage of the situation. We know that the War Office was less than enthusiastic about the Legion of Frontiersmen. A similar opinion would have been held by the Foreign Office. Not only was Belton training the army for what they considered to be the wrong side, but also Pollard and Arkell Hardwick plus Alan Osler and Charles Beadle, all Frontiersmen were there. Pollard said nothing about any involvement in the conflict but both sides employed Europeans to train and instruct their military. Pollard, being already a crack shot and a skilled horseman, would have been in demand. How Pollard at such a young age was accepted into the Legion has never been explained, although the Legion has always treated its rules and regulations as somewhat elastic in interpretation. Pollard wrote to Roger Pocock asking for enrolment forms as he reckoned he could enlist several Vice-Consuls. Strangely, the best account of the battle is to be found in a fiction book City of Shadows by Charles Beadle. This adventure story moves at a cracking pace and might be considered a bit “steamy” for the time it was written. The hero was based to some extent on Belton, who was not known for his sense of humour and disapproved of the book. In the heat of battle the hero rescues a Sergeant Burnett who was serving as an instructor with the other side. During the rescue both sides were shooting at them with ancient muzzle-loaders but firing high and taking a long time to re-load. The nominal Arab commanding general of the hero’s side was armed with a modern Mauser rifle, but he had already jammed his gun and taken refuge in a village corn bin. Sergeant Burnett’s comment was:

Yes, but ‘strewth, it got too hot for me with all our own men shooting at me. Lord, you never saw anything like it! Our men killed more of each other than your’s did! ⁵

France was happy still to sponsor the new regime and the British who had assisted earned the reward of some prospecting concessions. Pollard asked Pocock for a silver Legion badge to present to the new ruler as an honorary member and thought the new ruler in return might have some useful rewards and jobs for Legion members. Needless to say, the Foreign Office was aghast when they heard of this. Things soon went wrong when Mulay Hafid failed to keep his promise not to exact violent revenge. Belton was disgusted to see public executions, crucifixions and the severing of hands of some of the enemies, being solemnly told that this was their tradition. He received much coverage of his Moroccan adventures in The Sketch.

Post Morocco and back in England in 1909, Hugh Pollard took a Royal Geographical Society course. He was listed as the official organiser of the famous Boy Scouts Rally at Crystal Palace in September 1909. Many other Frontiersmen were also much involved in the organisation. He was listed in The Times as “Captain Hugh B.C. Pollard”. ⁶ It is a puzzle as to how he acquired that rank. Lt-Col Driscoll would surely not have permitted a youngster who had not held a military commission in the British army or another acceptable service to hold officer rank in the Legion of Frontiersmen. There remains the possibility that he served in Morocco under Belton and was granted the equivalent rank as an instructor in the army of Mulay Hafid. Pollard’s next adventure was to be sent as a surveyor to Mexico, which was a somewhat lawless country subject to revolution. Pollard wrote an account of his adventures in A Busy Time in Mexico published in 1913. When he arrived, the local office manager was not best pleased. He was short-staffed and had been expecting a qualified and certified surveyor, book-keeper, salesman and fluent Spanish speaker. Pollard had himself been led to believe the tiny salary for a year’s contract was a step to a well-paid position. After a day or two the manager found a job for him. He was to visit a ranch some distance away and collect a substantial sum of money owed. The owner of the hotel where Pollard lodged cheerfully told him that the last three men who went on that task had been shot. Towards the end of an adventurous trip of several days a local Indian took a pot-shot at Pollard with an ancient muzzle-loader. One gets the impression that Pollard’s Moroccan experiences had stood him in good stead so, covering the Indian with his carbine, he persuaded the man to lead him to his destination. The rancher eventually handed over the money and demanded a receipt, which Pollard said he had no authority to issue, knowing that he would have been murdered on the return journey and the money made its way back to the rancher. He insisted the rancher return with him to hand over the money, so Pollard’s guile brought the adventure to a satisfactory conclusion. In Mexico according to Pollard,

…the people in the next village , or over the next mountain, or in the next state, are inevitably evildoers, murderers, and bandits.

After many more adventures, vividly described in the book, Pollard returned to London,where in May 1912 he was commissioned as a T.A. officer. He also began his journalistic career as assistant editor of The Cinema, editor of The Territorial Monthly and technical editor of The Autocycle as well as a correspondent for the Daily Express.

At the start of the World War 1, Pollard was mobilised as officer i/c despatch riders, London. In November he was seconded to the Intelligence Corps as a staff lieutenant. He served through both the first and second battles of Ypres until he was blown off his motor-cycle into a crater, wounded at Ypres and invalided home. He was granted five month’s leave to recuperate and worked during that period for his new father-in-law James Gibbons at his engineering works in Wolverhampton managing grenade production. During this time he also wrote a short book The Story of Ypres, a well-written account of the battles. It was:

..a blazing indictment of the Germans’ systematic bombardment and complete destruction of the ancient, gracious city when their attacks failed. It was an extremely moving document, written at white-heat yet with controlled passion and pathos ⁷

Probably Hugh Pollard’s most notorious story was the one he, along with Alan Osler, invented of the “Phantom Russian Army”, that an army of Russians had travelled by train from the north of Scotland and was embarking to support the British Expeditionary Force. ⁸ It was Pollard’s own invention of the charwoman who “knew it was them Roosians” as she had swept the snow off their boots from the carriages. The story caught on so well that it even gained a leading feature in the New York Times. Pollard’s second propaganda invention was of the particularly horrible one about German “corpse factories” – that the Germans were melting down corpses to make margarine.⁹ Pollard’s inventiveness got him recruited into M.I.7 (b) working with another Frontiersman Captain A.J. Dawson and, for a brief spell, Roger Pocock. The first of Pollard’s many practical books on firearms The Book of the Pistol and Revolver was published in 1917.

After the War, Pollard was appointed to Dublin Castle in Ireland as an Intelligence officer, where his varied skills were called into use. References to Pollard’s many cloak and dagger operations in Ireland are seldom clear. In an uncompleted manuscript dating from about 1921 Pollard wrote that:

In a period of lawlessness and unrest such as succeeds a great war, the pistol becomes a weapon even more important than rifle or machine gun…In fighting, nothing ever happens as it does on the range. You are in a hurry, you are excited, short of breath…In range shooting, the target is static; in fighting shooting, it may be incredibly mobile. It may not be front ways on…I once missed twice at about ten yards by shooting through the median line of a windblown raincoat! The slender rogue was on the windward side [of the raincoat] but I have never forgotten how puzzled I was momentarily at his apparent invulnerability.¹º

Pollard concluded this by writing, somewhat chillingly, “Then I corrected”. Pollard had struck up a friendship with Robert Churchill the gunmaker and the two men were regularly called on as expert witnesses in famous murder trials. It was Pollard’s observations that led to the invention of the comparison microscope, which proved by the markings that a bullet could only have been fired by one particular gun. When Pollard was serving as an Intelligence Officer in Ireland,

…he had connived with Churchill to ship a consignment of naval pompoms and Hotchkiss machine-guns to the Sinn Feiners. By arrangement, the guns were intercepted and confiscated. The object of the exercise was to drain off some of the funds which American sympathisers were providing to finance the rebels.¹¹

Pollard was not only a special correspondent to the Daily Express, but also editor of Discovery. He was the author of many books on firearms and country pursuits and even, unknown to his family, wrote fiction books under the name of “Oliver Bland”. His most well-known book A History of Firearms remains a standard work today. In 1922 he was transferred to the Regular Army Reserve and notified by letter that he had been gazetted Major. Seeing the Army List of 1924 showing him as Captain, he wrote to the War Office. After standard slow investigations the War Office wrote to him saying that his Majority had been a “clerical error”, which rankled with him, as can be seen from some of his notes, such as “The River Wool in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich is so narrow that even a Brigadier could jump it before lunch”. No wonder he had an affinity with the Frontiersmen. In spite of his many achievements, there is one adventure in Pollard’s eventful life for which he has been remembered and sadly misjudged. In 1936 Pollard was busy writing, enjoying hunting in the season, and visiting London on business and also to visit his long-term mistress. Pollard was one of the many early Frontiersmen who were popular with the ladies. He was also working with his favourite projects, guns of all types. He had the habit of letting off revolvers in some of the places he visited:

When I asked him once if he had ever killed anybody he replied “never accidentally” ¹²

The Spanish Civil War has been covered by a multitude of books, although a substantial number are from a fixed political viewpoint. Sufficient to say that many dreadful atrocities were carried out by both sides. The most noted player in that scene was General Franco. In a London-based plan to “rescue” General Franco from the Canaries and return him to Spain, Hugh Pollard’s thirst for adventure caused him to be involved in

…the most controversial, most misunderstood and misreported incident of his career. ¹³

Pollard has often been treated as the central character in the plot, whereas he was in fact only a part player. The most recent book on the escapade Franco’s Friends by Peter Day, features Pollard strongly, even referring to his involvement on the dust cover. How much the sticky fingers of British Intelligence were involved in the matter is something that will never be fully known. Luis Bolin, the London correspondent of a Madrid newspaper who had an English grandfather had lived in Britain for twenty-five years. Bolin was directed by his employer, the Marquis de Luca de Tena to act as an agent and charter a plane to fly to Casablanca and then on to the Canaries to “rescue” Franco from virtual exile. Bolin went to see one of his greatest friends in London, Douglas Jerrold, a publisher, devout Catholic and High Tory with strong anti-bolshevik views, which were shared by Jerrold’s good friend Hugh Pollard, another devout Catholic and pillar of his local Conservative association. Bolin wanted a respectable man with two girls to act as a party of wealthy tourists as a diversion. Jerrold immediately thought of Pollard and phoned him up,

Can you fly to Africa tomorrow with two girls? Pollard immediately agreed and invited the men to tea that afternoon. …whatever Pollard guessed, he was not told the purpose of the flight at first. He was captivated by the mystery and hint of intrigue; and besides, his friend Jerrold had vouched for Bolin. Pollard had a weakness for all things Spanish…since his early days in Mexico and in the Atlas Mountains in Spanish Morocco.¹⁴

When Pollard guessed or was told something of the plan, he was more than pleased. He was now a fluent Spanish speaker, had involved himself in revolutions from his earliest exploits in Morocco and approved of Franco’s strong support for the Catholic Church. Pollard was anti-Fascist and definitely anti-Bolshevik, but the delights of an adventure would have been enough to make him enthusiastic to take part. He was accompanied by his daughter Diana and a young friend. Following an eventful journey the plane was delivered and Franco and his staff took their places on the plane, while Pollard and the two girls came home by sea. The tale of the adventure is, as with most of Pollard’s adventures, too long to be recounted on these pages. The story can be read, although not necessarily with full accuracy, in many works including those quoted and listed below. Well over thirty years ago, the main author of this Topic had correspondence with and telephone conversations with Pollard’s daughter Diana, who expanded the story and showed that her father has over the years often been unjustly treated by those who have written about these events.

Pollard’s service as a Reserve officer ended officially in 1938, but in 1940 he wangled his way back into the army and began working in Intelligence again, this time for S.O.E.. His file in the National Archives at Kew again poses as many questions as it answers. We know he also went to Estoril in 1940 and was involved in smuggling about three hundred Vickers machine guns that the defeated Republicans in Spain had moved into France across to England.

“I am rather a good pirate in the best English tradition”, he wrote [in some unpublished notes].¹⁵

These had been designed for the Russian service cartridge and had never been unpacked. They were quickly modified to use .303 cartridges. He worked for a while with Dr. Roche Lynch of the Department of Chemical Pathology. He had worked with Dr. Lynch, the official government pathologist, on criminal cases for some years. What could have been the reason for this co-operation between a ballistics expert and a leading pathologist? Could it have been something to do with chemical warfare? We do not know the reason, but Pollard was suddenly dismissed from S.O.E. and spent the rest of the War at the Inspectorate of Armaments at Woolwich Arsenal. All we know from his file is that a letter from Col. Jeffries, the Commandant of the Intelligence Corps, said;

“Certain jobs Pollard apparently could do well, but he was definitely unreliable where money and drink was concerned.”

After D-Day he was sent with Patton’s forces into Thuringia in technical intelligence on small arms.

Here, he did another semi-practical sort of job…and took out a great many arms and designs before the Russians moved in. Later, he was o.c. Intelligence, Technical, in Vienna where, he wrote, he had to deal with anything from atoms to looters. The latter were troublesome. “But” says Pollard, “in three weeks I stopped all the nonsense…with sawn-off shotguns.”¹⁶

One item in his file has excited those who considered Pollard to have Fascist tendencies, but it is a case of rushing to conclusions on false evidence. There is a letter in Pollard’s S.O.E. file from a Capt. Grassby of Tonbridge Wells (evidently an MI5 operative) to Mrs. Archer who had some senior office position in MI5. Grassby claimed that Pollard was an ardent fascist who flew Franco in from the Canaries. He also said that Pollard and his daughter Diana’s names were in a book which also included Mrs. Dacre Fox. Mrs. Archer wrote to Col. Vivian that Mrs Dacre Fox was an active and industrious member of the British Union of Fascists and was at present interned. Mrs Archer told her officer at Tunbridge Wells to “lay off” Pollard. She was obviously happy with him. She was satisfied that Pollard had helped Franco because Pollard was an ardent Catholic and wished to help the Church against the communists.¹⁷ There is a simple explanation as to why Pollard’s name appeared alongside Mrs Dacre Fox (a.k.a. Mrs. Dudley Elam or Mrs. Norah Elam) The Elams were members of the same local Conservative Association as Pollard until they resigned in 1934 to join the British Union of Fascists under Oswald Mosley. Dudley Elam had been a very active member of the Conservative Association. There is no way Pollard would have supported the Fascists or even been friendly with the Elams. Pollard would have hated the Fascists’ anti-semitism due to his friendship and his family relationship on his mother’s side with the orthodox Jewish banking family, the Montagus. In addition, Norah Elam was a long-term member of the Anti-Vivisection Society and fervent opponent of hunting, which was one of Pollard’s favourite country pursuits. How easily some modern writers come to false conclusions without proper investigations!

After the war Pollard lived a quiet life enjoying his country pursuits, disgusted, like many country gentlemen Conservatives of his generation, that Britain had a Labour government. He moved to Clover Cottage in the sleepy town of Midhurst, where none of his neighbours had the slightest idea of the adventurous life he had lived. In 1966, one of the great Frontiersmen adventurers died peacefully. No doubt if he could have foreseen the future, he would have considered all those who have maligned his intentions to have been a ‘bunch of Bolsheviks’, but he would have chuckled at how today’s Frontiersmen have found it so difficult to piece together the tales of his adventures. He would have enjoyed being a “man of mystery”.

¹ Letter from Macdonald Hastings in H&A files, 21st September 1982

² Macdonald Hastings, The Other Mr. Churchill (Harrap 1963) p.97

³ Hastings, The Other Mr. Churchill p.98

⁴ Walter Harris, Morocco That Was (Blackwood 1921) p.57

⁵ Charles Beadle, The City of Shadows (Everett 1911) p. 211. Pages 202 to 215 tell probably the best account of the final battle that it is likely to find although, as a novel, most of the names are changed.

The Times 6th September 1909, p. 10

⁷ John Brewer, A Memoir of Hugh Pollard (Blackwoods Magazine August 1973) p. 447

⁸ Roger Pocock, A Short History of the Legion of Frontiersmen, written especially for the Canadian Division 2nd June 1941 written for the Canadian Division magazine and reprinted in History of the Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division n.d. (c.1980) p. 148

⁹ Ivor Montagu, The Youngest Son (Lawrence and Wishart 1970) p.31

¹º Brewer A Memoir of Hugh Pollard p.449

¹¹ Hastings The Other Mr. Churchill p.98

¹² Douglas Jerrold, Georgian Adventure (The Right Book Club 1938) p.95

¹³ Brewer A Memoir of Hugh Pollard p.459

¹⁴ Brewer A Memoir of Hugh Pollard p.460

¹⁵ Brewer A Memoir of Hugh Pollard p.462

¹⁶ Brewer A Memoir of Hugh Pollard p.463

¹⁷ The National Archives, HS9/1200/5


© 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 Mystery of the Union Flag

Union Flag

Union Flag

Followers of this website will know that the Legion of Frontiersmen has by its nature attracted many strange tales and not a few myths. We have tried to resolve the mysteries and stories in a constant search for the truth. That task has not been made easy as Frontiersmen over their 110 year history have been men of action and few of them have been keen to ensure stories are recorded accurately for the future.

A story that has been passed by word of mouth over the years is about the Union Flag shown here. This is a large flag some 9 feet 7 inches by 5 feet that has been carefully stored and folded with other Legion property for many years. It is very soiled and worn. The rumour has always been that it is the flag that covered the coffin of the Unknown Warrior. This has to be a myth as the flag used on that coffin was the one previously used on the coffins of Nurse Edith Cavell and Capt. Fryatt, both national heroes in their time. The story of the flag that covered the coffin on its journey from France was explained in the magazine Best of British in November 2010 by Douglas Rowden, whose father George was involved in the movement of the coffin from France to England in 1920. A flag in a new condition neatly folded had been found and was used. The flag now displayed in Westminster Abbey is 6 feet by 3 feet.

Frontiersmen Southend

Frontiersmen Southend

A better possible answer to the mystery has been uncovered from the Essex Chronicle of August 26th 1938 in an account of Southend Carnival over the weekend of Friday 19th to Sunday 21st August. As is suggested by the photo here of one Frontiersmen unit, the Legion had a considerable presence throughout the weekend. They put on a number of demonstrations to entertain the crowds. On Sunday 21st a drumhead service was held in Chalkwell Park with several thousands taking part; these included the Mayor and Mayoress and the local Member of Parliament. Other distinguished guests were Brigadier Morton, C.B.E., the Cdt-General of the Legion, and Capt.Roger Pocock, Founder of the Legion, and also the Commandant of Shoebury Garrison, Col. Curtis. “The Colours, including an Ensign which was formerly on the Whitehall Cenotaph, were received and placed on the drums by Archdeacon Gowing”. Here we have a possible explanation: the Union Flag featured as a Standard on the Cenotaph would have been subject to exposure to the weather and would have been replaced when its condition became unacceptable. The Union Flag put in a later appearance in 1972 when, according to Legion Orders:

Laying up of the old Colours Sunday May 14th
… The Ceremonial Officer, Capt McLeod, has issued detail to those engaged in the actual ceremony, including Colour Parties for the Old and New Colours, also for the Union Jack to be laid up, this being one of the two Cenotaph originals, having been presented in succession by King George V as an honour to one who later presented it to the Rev. Peter Royston Ball of Christ Church, the Colour Squadron Chaplain, who has now presented it to the Squadron…

The problem remains that we do not know who was originally given the flag. A Union Flag of such significance would have been in the gift of the Sovereign to dictate to whom it would pass.

Cenotaph unveiling

Cenotaph unveiling

Another word of mouth story has been that the Legion originally led the parade at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Day. This has always been discounted as a total fallacy but, as often with Legion myths, there is a grain of truth in the story. Once again we have to look at provincial newspapers to discover that truth. The Dundee Courier prided itself that it had a London correspondent, although they may well have shared him with other journals. In the issue of Monday 12th November 1923 he wrote a long emotional and moving account of the Remembrance Day parade on Sunday 11th at the Cenotaph in London with the Royal family present. This was only five years after the War had ended and almost every family in the land had suffered losses. The country was still grieving for a lost generation. After a description of the tributes of Royalty and the armed forces he continued:

Now begins the pilgrimage of the people. In unbroken procession they parade past the Cenotaph. First the ex-servicemen, their breasts ablaze with hard-earned medals and decorations. Then the Legion of Frontiersmen. Then the brave band of black-robed women, proudly wearing the medals of their departed menfolk, bringing tributes to their memory. Then a party of bruised and battered men in hospital blue – a terrible reminder. Five years since guns ceased fire; and still in hospital blue! Nurses, WAACS, disabled men, the British Legion, Boy Scouts – all bringing tokens of grateful remembrance to old comrades. Here and there a sturdy figure in kilt and tartan remind English eyes of Scotland’s part…

British Legion Festival of Remembrance Nov 36

British Legion Festival of Remembrance Nov 36

What was probably the arrangement was that the Legion was to lead the civilian section of the parade. Although uniformed and wearing ranks, the Legion is indeed a civilian organisation. For many years we have become used to the British Legion taking the lead part, but they were not formed until 1921 and were a new organisation, whereas when the above was written the Legion of Frontiersmen had existed for nearly twenty years. They had a named unit in the First War and many Frontiersmen had fought and died in countless armed forces all round the world, so therefore enjoyed considerable public respect and approval. The Boy Scouts were three years junior to the Legion and had indeed taken on board some of the Legion ideas. Hence the Legion of Frontiersmen could be considered as the senior civilian organisation on parade and could be relied upon to lead the parade with smartness and great dignity. Over the following years, the Frontiersmen co-operated with the British Legion. They were also held in high regard and used on many official occasions. As just one example, the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin gave a major Empire Day speech on May 24th 1929 in front of a crowd of many thousands. The speech was broadcast to many of the Dominion countries. The Daily Express of the following day in a caption to a photograph of the event said that “The Legion of Frontiersmen, bearing the flags of the Dominions, were prominent in this demonstration”. There is a brief British Pathe film showing the crowds in Hyde Park with the Frontiersmen clearly visible at the back bearing the Standards. This can be viewed at:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq1Fjy6tGg8

We have proved that they also worked closely with St. John’s Ambulance in the 1930s on training for anti-gas warfare. The Frontiersmen’s co-operation with the British Legion carried on for many years, as can be seen from the photograph showing the Frontiersmen bearing Standards lining the front of the stage at the British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall in 1936.

This is the evidence as it stands. At the moment these explanations can be taken as highly probable, rather than completely proven beyond doubt. When further information comes to light, then the story will be fully featured on this website.


The article above was originally published on http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info in February 2015 and has since been revised and updated.

© 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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Definitely not a “Dads’ Army”

Source: War Illustrated June 12 1942

Source: War Illustrated June 12 1942

Topic April/May 2016. In the previous Topic page we looked at the Frontiersmen leading up to WW1. We must now look more closely at what they did up to and including the early years of WW2. They may not have been given a named unit, but they certainly gave important service and carried out vital duties in many different ways. Our first explanation as to why they were not granted a named unit has been covered on the history website at www.frontiersmenhistorian.info/reason.htm.

On the history website at www.frontiersmenhistorian.info/between.htm we see that Thomas Cushny, in a far too often quoted and highly inaccurate article in the South African Military History Society Journal Vol. 4 No. 2 (www.samilitaryhistory.org/vol042tc.html), wrote that “at general mobilisation in 1939 IHQ received a single letter addressed to this Legion Captain instructing him to report for air raid duties. He locked the door and departed and the office was unoccupied for six years.” Nothing could be further from the truth! The office was constantly manned and many Frontiersmen still turned up at Frontiersmen parades, while on different occasions wearing their other uniforms as A.R.P. Wardens, A.F.S. Firemen, or Home Guard. A Legion officer wrote to a senior officer in Canada that he was delighted that so many Canadian Frontiersmen, now serving with the armed forces, had taken the time to visit Legion HQ and introduce themselves.

Frontiersmen ARP badge

Frontiersmen ARP Badge worn on Legion uniform

The much-loved BBC series “Dads Army” has one major flaw in that it promotes the Home Guard, whilst playing down the work of the A.R.P. Wardens, making Chief Warden Hodges a figure of fun. In fact the Home Guard trained for an invasion which never came and which Hitler was very reluctant to carry out, but the A.R.P. Wardens were constantly at the heart of danger, usually being the first on the scene after a bombing. They were the first responders, a duty for which today’s Frontiersmen train, ready to hand over to the specialists when they arrive. In the meantime, the Wardens put their own lives at risk attempting to rescue anyone from dangerous bombed buildings. It was not just a task of going round the neighbourhood shouting out the instruction to “Put that light out!” Many more active older Frontiersmen served with A.R.P. than in the Home Guard. In September 1935 British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin caused a circular to be produced and sent to all local authorities inviting them to make plans for protecting their people in the event of a war. This circular was titled “”Air Raid Precautions”. Not all local authorities were prepared to take action and in April 1937 the government created an Air Wardens’ Service. As we have mentioned elsewhere, the horrors of the gas warfare of the First War were still vivid in the minds of the population. The fear of gas attacks from the air steadily grew stronger right up to the first years of the Second War. That fear in the early years of the war can be compared with, and was probably much greater than, the fear in Britain in the 1960s of nuclear attack. Certainly the Germans did have gas bombs, as the Allied troops discovered when they moved into Germany late in the war and were shown stockpiles by the defeated Germans, which had to be destroyed safely.

1939 Major General Majendie, Liverpool inspection.

1939 Major General Majendie, Liverpool inspection.

In May 1935 the British Home Secretary announced in the House of Commons that the Legion of Frontiersmen working with St. John Ambulance was officially “assisting in measures to be organised…in alleviation of the consequences of air attacks.”¹ He had informed the Legion that “…assistance of this nature would be work of national importance.”² An officially recognised task for the Legion at last! In association with St. John Ambulance the Legion set up an Air Defence and Chemical Warfare School of Instruction at the Duke of York’s Headquarters in London. By September1935 the Air Command, which had been formed about four years earlier became known as the Air Communications Group. Individual Flights became known as “Air Defence Units”. The idea was to provide men to assist A.R.P. and T.A. with men who were no longer able to meet the physical and training standards of the Auxiliary Air Force. They were able to provide two hundred self-supporting and self-financing Air Frontiersmen backed up by around five hundred regular Frontiersmen in Yorkshire alone. Elsewhere on the website can be seen how the Air Command, whose members owned about nine small planes, put on demonstrations of defence against air attack, particularly from gas.³ In his address at the Legion’s annual conference in May 1938, the Cdt-General, Brigadier E. Morton encouraged all Frontiersmen to become involved with A.R.P.

I believe that too much attention cannot be given to this matter, which is of national importance and one in which the Legion should take a prominent part. We have a most efficient Gas School in London with a full and capable staff…I consider that every officer should undergo at least a preliminary course in A.R.P. and obtain a certificate of proficiency.4

By August 1938, the Derby Telegraph was able to report that almost all Derby Frontiersmen were also working as A.R.P. Wardens and M. Mothersill the Troop Secretary was additionally Head Warden for two areas. Lt. H. Smith, the Troop o.c. was Secretary of the Head Wardens’ Committee for Derby.

Coleshill House Memorial Tree

Coleshill House Memorial Tree

At the start of the war, the A.R.P. Wardens were considered an irritation as their task was to patrol the streets to make sure that everyone’s blackout was secure and no chink of light showed. They carried a police whistle, a torch and a first-aid kit. When the bombing began in earnest the job became highly dangerous as they had to look out for incendiary bombs landing and starting fires while people were in the air raid shelters. They also dealt with unexploded and time bombs that had landed, making sure that the streets were clear of people and then to wait for the Army bomb disposal team. They were often first on the scene at any bombed house as first responders to attend to the injured and the dead. All back doors of houses had to be left unlocked at night so the rescue services could get in to deal with casualties. The Wardens also acted as Special Constables and dealt with looters. Although there were no gas attacks, the many Frontiersmen who served as A.R.P. Wardens in general had more dangerous tasks than many in the Home Guard.

 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 ncos 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 resume their old ranks of sergeant-majors and sergeants and went out to France, where there are now eight of the Sheffield Squadron on active service.

Five of the members were Naval reservists and went back into the Navy, others joined the Army again in the ranks, four went into the Balloon Barrage section of the R.A.F., one was with the Police Reserve, and those who, like their o.c., a veteran of the Boer War, were too old for the uniformed service joined the A.R.P.5

In June 1939 Major-General Vivian Majendie, C.B., D.S.O.⁶ opened a new Legion H.Q. in Liverpool.

Recently the Legion received official recognition from the War Office, and the Liverpool Squadron has a waiting list and is almost up to full strength. Major-General Majendie congratulated the men on their parade and smart turnout…Major-General Majendie said the Legion of Frontiersmen bore a great responsibility. They could set a fine example to others and he did not believe any government could afford to waste the services of such a body.⁷

Here was the G.O.C. 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division accepting the Legion as an officially recognised body! But this was not the view of all senior officers or of some at the War Office. One is led to wonder what was “official recognition”? At how senior a level did this recognition have to be announced? One of the younger Frontiersmen, Ernest Meacock wrote:

When the Territorial Army was doubled overnight, we were asked whether we could supply n.c.o.s and officers to help with the training and there was an immediate response naturally. I vividly remember a T.A. 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.’ ⁸

It was admitted that many Territorial Army units were superior to some of the regular ones.

In fact the Territorial units often managed to recruit officers of a higher calibre than those who joined the Regular Army. Many Territorial officers were well used to leadership and management in their professional careers.⁹

This could well be applied to the Frontiersmen who offered a multitude of skills. No wonder they were sought out by many units.

What about the Home Guard and Frontiersmen service with them? There may well have been fewer Frontiersmen in the Home Guard than serving as A.R.P. Wardens, but in some areas they formed an important part. One Government file goes almost as far as crediting the Legion activities as the trigger to inspire the founding of the L.D.V. In a March 1945 report Lord Cobham said:

In the present war the first move in the formation of the above bodies [LDV] was made at the end of November 1939 when Col. Sir Francis Whitmore, Lord Lieutenant of Essex, came to see me, who then occupied the position of Under-Secretary of State for War at the War Office, on a matter that was causing him concern. It appeared that an odd formation known as the Legion of Frontiersmen was carrying out rapid recruiting from men in Essex who were not liable to be called up for the Services. Sir Francis wanted the War Office to know all about this quite unofficial undertaking particularly as he was not satisfied that the man at the head of it was the best person to run it. The following morning I had a talk with the Adjutant-General Sir R. Gordon Finlayson about this, and he agreed that if encouragement were given to the creation of a voluntary force of this nature, it was likely to meet with a very ready response all over the U.K.¹º

The suggestion that the Legion was the trigger that caused the formation the L.D.V., later the Home Guard, is an odd one, especially as the Essex unit numbered no more than 75. Not unusually, the Frontiersmen were yet again in advance of official thought:

The majority were mobilised on August 25 1939 and did duty on bleak airfields and elsewhere during the trying winters of 1939-40 and 1940-41…The average age of the men was 50 to 55.¹¹

In Salford in the north-west of England Legion Captain Bob Moyse M.C., D.C.M. received a phone call from the police. According to his family he disappeared for a few days and when he returned the L.D.V. was up and running in his area. After the war Bob Moyse was awarded the B.E.M. for his services to the Home Guard. The question this poses is whether he was just working with the Home Guard, or whether he was involved in the highly secret Auxiliary Units – Auxunits as they became known. These were set up mainly with Home Guard members with specialist skills augmented by some regular soldiers posted to them. In the event of a German invasion these men, and a few women, were to go underground (often literally) for a couple of weeks and then disrupt the Germans lines of supply and communication. Although it was thought that the main area of attack for the Germans would be south-east England, there were Auxunits all round the country including a complex communications network of Auxunit Signals. The training of the men for Auxunits was remarkably similar to some of that shown forty years earlier in the Frontiersman’s Pocket Book, and the instructions for use of explosives and demolitions in that handbook would have been of considerable value. Did Frontiersmen serve with the Auxiliary Units? We cannot say for certain as not until some fifty years after the war only a very few of the survivors of those units even began to talk about their experiences. We have no record of any Frontiersman admitting to serving in the Auxunits. As we have always said, Frontiersmen were men of action rather than words. When the Auxunits were stood down in 1944 they were all told that their service must stay secret. In those uncertain times there always remained fears that an invasion of Britain might occur in the future. Even if those who had trained in that war became too old, a younger generation would be needed to follow, so all the plans and arrangements had to stay on the secret list. There have always been internal suggestions that some Frontiersmen did serve, and what is intriguing is the memorial tree to the Frontiersmen who served with them, whose plaque is shown here. This was planted at the headquarters of the Auxunits, Coleshill House.

In Canada there was little threat of invasion and bombing. Older Frontiersmen put a lot of effort into recruiting for the armed forces. There were concerns of possible terrorist acts by dissidents and spies. The Frontiersmen served as auxiliaries to the Police, with A.R.P., and in providing volunteer ambulances. At times the Frontiersmen were asked to take part in exercises using their skills to attempt infiltration into guarded areas. In this they proved as successful as British Frontiersmen had been since before the First War. In June 1942 the Canadian Reserve Militia asked a local Frontiersmen Squadron in Guelph Ontario to act as German spies and cross the Speed River by any of the four bridges. Twelve Frontiersmen were used and their descriptions given to Militia Headquarters. Ten of the twelve – even with weird assumed names – succeeded easily, although it is surprising that Legion Captain Corke in women’s clothes as “Leni Belchenburp” was not picked up as “she” was smoking a pipe while crossing a bridge. Only two of the twelve were captured and one of those, who had been recognised as a local taxi driver, seized the rifle from his careless guard and held up the whole Militia Headquarters Staff officers.¹²

Throughout its history the Legion of Frontiersmen in Canada gave great service to the Canadian authorities, particularly police forces. A major dispute and split in Canada in the late 1930s caused great problems and, due to the Canadian Division Charter, Eastern Command, had to be re-named by official request as the Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen, although the C.I.F. still held allegiance to Frontiersmen Headquarters in London. The story of the Frontiersmen in Canada working as auxiliaries to the Police and other authorities is something to be covered on these pages in the future. Be prepared for yet more surprises about the Legion’s importance to history.

¹ Sunderland Echo 23 May 1935, see also the same newspaper 9 September 1935.

² Sunderland Echo 23 May 1935. A number of other provincial newspapers also carried this story.

³ frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/gas/

⁴ Legion of Frontiersmen Annual General Meeting minutes, 14 May 1938, report and address by Cdt-General E. Morton, Bruce Peel Special Collections and Archives, University of Alberta.

The Star, Sheffield 15 December 1939.

⁶ Major General Vivian Majendie, CB, DSO, later became G.O.C. Northern Ireland and President of the War Office Regular Commissions Board until he retired in 1946.

Liverpool Daily Post, 19 June 1939, report and photograph.

⁸ Personal letter from the late Ernest F. Meacock held in Legion archives.

⁹ Arthur Ward, Churchill’s Secret Defence Army, (Pen & Sword 2013) p.151. This is a highly informative book about the Auxiliary Units that is well worth reading.

¹⁰ The National Archives CAB106/1188.
¹¹ Letter from Troop Sergeant Pilgrim, Essex Chronicle, August 30 1946

¹² History of the Legion of Frontiersmen, with particular reference to the Canadian Division, private publication, Regina, Sask, n.d. c1980 p.156-7.

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Listen to the band

Annual Parade Trafalgar Square London Nov 1935

Annual Parade Trafalgar Square London Nov 1935

It may come as surprise to many to hear that the Legion of Frontiersmen had a strong musical tradition with a succession of acclaimed Legion bands over the years.  However, we may never again see what is shown in the main picture, the Legion band marching around Trafalgar Square in London in November 1935 followed by a succession of Squadrons of Frontiersmen stretching into the distance up The Strand.  The Northern Command Band gave many public concerts playing a diverse and attractive selection of music, as did the Headquarters Band that often played in Kensington Gardens and had many engagements, which included seaside towns.

From the very early days, no Legion unit of any reasonable size was without its band.  Right up until the start of World War 2, many men learned to play a musical instrument.  This was a time before television entertainment and until the late 1930s not everyone had access to a radio, although it may additionally surprise readers to learn that various Legion bands featured in broadcast concerts on the radio, usually on the regional programmes.  In the 1930s during the heyday of the British Dance Band and even during WW2 the Frontiersmen Dance Orchestra based in Portsmouth performed regularly at dances in the south of Hampshire.

1912 Lieut Insens LOF Band

1912 Lieut Insens LOF Ban

February 1st 1911 saw what the Frontiersmen magazine called a “red-letter day” for the Legion.  This was the day of the launch into Bow Creek on the Thames in front of 2000 guests of one of the Dreadnought battleships, HMS Thunderer,  “Thunderer” was the largest warship ever built on the Thames.  The Guard of Honour was not provided for this occasion by an army or navy unit, but by 150 Frontiersmen.  The launching ceremony was performed by the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the music of the Legion of Frontiersmen London band, who also accompanied a local choir singing hymns.  Unfortunately we only have a very grainy photograph of the occasion, which is not suitable for use here. In 1910 the Legion had provided the band for the Whitsun Carnival at the cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire.  The best known touring band was Lieut. Insen’s Frontiersmen band.  Lieut. Insen had been the Bandmaster of the 5th Bn. Durham Light Infantry and supposedly when 22 was the youngest Bandmaster in the British Army.  Around 1912 the Legion Band shown in the Insen photograph travelled much of the British Isles giving concerts, which were usually sold out.  There were a number of Legion bands around Britain, most notably in London, but Insen’s band was the band of the Yorkshire (Cleveland) Command.  His theme was “Music in the Forest”, which can be seen from the stage setting shown in the group photograph.

What seems likely is that these were army band musicians who had served their time and this was a way to make a living after leaving the services.  Civilian bands would not have been as attractive to the paying public as a Frontiersman band with their distinctive uniform.  They mixed popular music with humour and also had some good soloists and singers.  One can be a little puzzled at the attraction of Frontiersmen Dunn and Dixey who, when in Dundee in January 1912, in addition to some “fine music” gave a demonstration of paper tearing, showing how a sheet of paper can be transformed into a “tablecloth of artistic design”.  An exhibition of lasso rope throwing was an additional and typically Frontiersmen attraction.  This was demonstrated by Frontiersmen Shields and Rogers.

Headquarters Band 1932 IMMI Journal March 2012

Headquarters Band 1932 IMMI Journal March 2012

In April of the same year the band appeared in front of a full house at Exeter Hippodrome. The Devon & Exeter Gazette wrote that they were a well-balanced association of 22 performers: “…flute, six clarionets, oboe, bassoon, French horns, three cornets, three trombones, euphonium, two bombardons, and the usual instruments of percussion.” The audience was highly impressed by Insen’s arrangement of Haydn’s “Farewell” symphony, which he entitled “The Strike”. The players all left one at a time, leaving only the bassoonist playing. The only way they agreed to return was if they could play what they wanted. This resulted in a clever blend of “Monte Carlo” and “Home Sweet Home.”

One of the great military music composers and adjudicator at contests, James Ord Hume, served as a Lieutenant in the Frontiersmen. He died in 1933. His military rank was Lieut.Colonel, but, as were many other officers, he was happy to serve in the Legion with a lower Legion rank. His Legion of Frontiersmen band before WW1 was based in Edinburgh and gave concerts mainly in Scotland.

LOF band instrument

LOF band instrument

In the early 1930s the London Headquarters band under their Director Lieut. Louis Julien gave many summer concerts in London in such venues as Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Alexandra Palace followed by summer bookings at the seaside at Worthing, Folkestone, and Kent. This appears to have been a band with dual duties as it also served as the British Legion band for the Bethnal Green branch.¹

Over the years there have been probably nine marches written especially for the Legion. We have traced five of them, but there are still the others to be re-discovered. The first Legion march, known as the Legion Hymn, was composed by Stanley Hawley. Although he was the conductor of just a theatre orchestra, he attracted top musicians, and composer Eric Coates and Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Beecham played in his orchestra.2 Unfortunately the words to this, written by the Legion Founder Roger Pocock, are too Edwardian and tend towards the jingoistic so cannot be sung today. The most recent of the compositions, “Far Frontiers” specially written for the Legion by Sir Patrick Moore, is very tuneful and worthy of being played much more often.

It is also not well known that the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) took its own band with it to East Africa. Not only did they play as the Frontiersmen marched through London to Waterloo in April 1915, they also played on the ship Neuralia as it entered and left Malta harbour and they entertained the residents as the Frontiersmen marched through Nairobi on June 12th 1915. They played a Royal Salute to Governor Bellfield. He inspected the Guard of Honour “whose movements had been executed with commendable smartness.” ³

In Canada there were several mentions of early bands, for example in 1912 at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where the sub-unit held its annual meeting in December 1912 at its HQ, Boulton’s Garage, 2nd Avenue North. “Captain Boulton in his opening speech spoke of the splendid advance the Saskatoon Sub-unit had made in the past twelve months, and also how the Unit increased, considering that in January of 1912, there were only six in the Troop. There were now one Captain, one Lieutenant, one Sergeant-Major, one Sergeant, one Corporal, and 54 Troopers, beside the band. There are also two honorary members who have made up their minds to join the Legion” … Reviewing the recent past parade for, and inspection by, the visiting Duke of Connaught; Captain Boulton and all Frontiersmen had been complimented. The Duke of Connaught said: “Captain Boulton, you have one of the finest bodies of men I have met in my travels through Canada”.

The Edmonton Battalion Reserve Militia of 1917 was the politically correct format for the time allowing the already well-organized Legion of Frontiersmen to integrate into the wartime Canadian Militia (army). The Reserve Militia adopted the basic battalion structure with four Companies within the city proper, and three mounted rifle squadrons primarily outside of the city. Auxiliary groups like the bands, the LOF ambulance section that offered the first mens home nursing course in Edmonton and surrounding area, and the signals section were taken into the overall Edmonton Battalion Reserve Militia. Furthering both the social and military aspects, the Edmonton Battalion Reserve Militia also incorporated bands into the unit’s overall structure. A regimental band initially of twenty-two members was reported, under the direction of Bandmaster H.H. Collins with H.H. Sellars assisting as secretary. Sergeant Marston was in charge of the bugle band. The pipe band under Piper Sutherland was accused of scaring recruits as well as hardened South African War veterans with the skirl of the Scottish tunes. 4

Certainly this shows that there were Legion bands in Canada and the tradition continued right through until at least the 1960s, but we have so far not been able to confirm any in Australia and New Zealand. One Legion march was discovered in New Zealand, although it was written in China. AGM minutes from the early 1960s show that there was still a post-war Legion Headquarters band in London. The uniforms were to be centrally held and issued when required, although that would have required all bandsmen to be of a size to fit the available uniforms. The latest band of which we have a photograph is the “Maple Leaf Band” of Canadian Division U.K. in 1952 based in Croydon, England.

What has happened to all those band instruments from over the years? Just one solitary clearly-marked instrument (shown here) remains with the Legion assets.

Will there ever be another Legion band? We can only hope so.

1 Information kindly supplied by Philip Mather in the International Military Music Society UK journals March 2012 and June 2012
2 Lena Ashwell Myself a Player [Michael Joseph: 1936] p.149/50
3 East African Standard, June 28 1915.
4 Research by Will Shandro, who specialises in the history of the Legion in Canada pre-1919. Taken with permission from his paper “Timeline” © Barry W Shandro, M.Ed 2000-2011


The article above was originally published on http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info in August 2011 and has since been revised and updated.

© 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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