Over the past 112 years the Legion of Frontiersmen has always been much in need of money. It has been fortunate with the generosity of members and officers, but when a nice fat sum of money seemed to be coming its way, this money has regularly disappeared like a magician’s illusion. The Legion could be forgiven for pointing the finger of suspicion at the British War Office, as their distaste for the Legion, except in times of emergency, has been documented.
We have evidence that in 1909 the Esher Committee was planning a subsidy of £500 and £300 a year. It is highly unlikely that much or indeed any of this money, which represented a lot of cash in those days, ever reached the Legion.1 It is quite likely that the influence of the War Office was felt. Twenty years later, the Legion sought a share of another fund. The long-serving Permanent Under-Secretary at the War Office, Sir Herbert Creedy K.C.B., was then to be instrumental in stopping any chance of the Frontiersmen gaining the £500 that could have come their way in 1930.
That story goes back to 1914. Lt.Col. Driscoll was bombarding the War Office with demands that the Frontiersmen as a unit should be taken into service and suggesting various plans as to the most beneficial way they could be used towards the war effort. It is very difficult to trace the official British War Office position regarding the Frontiersmen before they were given their named unit in 1915. A researcher could be excused for thinking that War Office files on the Frontiersmen in the British National Archives are selective: only retaining those showing the Frontiersmen in a poor light. At the end of 1914 the Frontiersmen were running the Remount Depots and breaking horses near Southampton, Bristol and Manchester. We have photographic and documentary evidence that the Legion was doing this officially and in uniform. Obviously, the men were being paid for their unusual skills, but they were being paid as civilians and not as military. It was the only way Driscoll could keep the Frontiersmen who flooded into London from all round the world eager to serve King and Empire. Lt.Col. Sandeman, who commanded King Edward’s Horse from 1914-16 and Major (later Lt.Col.) Lionel James called on Driscoll at Legion Headquarters. They were desperately short of men and begged permission from Driscoll to attempt to recruit some of his Frontiersmen. Driscoll gave his permission and Major James and the M.O., Major Henderson, visited Swaythling, near Southampton, where they recruited 50 men and Manchester where 16 were recruited. No details of Frontiersmen remounts in the Manchester area have so far been discovered. Frontiersmen were the right men for King Edward’s Horse, which had been formed in November 1901 as the King’s Colonials, for it attracted men from all the British Colonies. Originally, the four squadrons were known as the British Asian, Canadian, Australian and South African squadrons. In July 1910 the name was changed to King Edward’s Horse (King’s Overseas Dominions Regt.). Referring to the separate 2nd King Edward’s Horse in his History of King Edward’s Horse, Lionel James also echoed the Frontiersmen’s opinion of certain renegade Frontiersmen groups by writing “…the ephemeral regiment known as 2nd King Edward’s Horse has neither official, nor unofficial connection with the subject of this history.”2
James pointed out that several of the Frontiersmen he recruited were “hard case” overseas men, although all then served with great distinction. One, Sgt R.R. Ewbank, was recommended for the Victoria Cross but was awarded the D.C.M. and later a Bar to his D.C.M. Two of the other Frontiersmen, B.C. Newbold and R.A. Griffin, were later commissioned into other units. After distinguished service in France and Italy, the Regiment was stood down in 1919.
In July 1929 the King Edward’s Horse Endowment Fund came to the attention of Capt. H.C. Edwards-Carter, the Legion of Frontiersmen Adjutant. The original draft trust document allowed for half this fund to go towards the erection of a hall in memory of King Edward’s Horse to be erected at Imperial Service College, Windsor.3 Most of the rest of the money was to go to scholarships for boys from the Dominions, particularly sons of former members of King Edward’s Horse below commissioned rank. £500 was then to go to the Legion of Frontiersmen and any balance to be awarded for any other purposes as decided by the Trustees. Edwards-Carter’s letter was very detailed in explaining the origins and service of the Legion, but he did state that the Legion needed the money to finance its forthcoming application for a Charter. This he believed would cost at least £200. The War Office was consulted and they made it quite clear that they would be opposing any application for a Charter by the Legion and that any money given to them would be wasted. The scheme was therefore re-drafted to eliminate any reference to the Legion of Frontiersmen from the document. It was left to the Trustees to decide in their wisdom whether or not to donate any money at all to the Legion.4
It is well documented that the Legion did make its application for a Charter and this was opposed by the War Office and so it failed.5 It is not known where the money was found to cover the cost of the application. Possibly the Trustees did feel a duty of honour to make a small donation to the Legion, but more probably, as often has happened, the more well-to-do members of the Legion made donations to cover the costs.
The War Office in Britain was not the only official body in Commonwealth countries around the world to find the Legion of Frontiersmen an irritation for most of the time. However, there have been many occasions when officialdom in a number of countries has sometimes unofficially turned to the Legion to “do their dirty work” for them.
But that is a much larger subject!
1 Geoffrey A Pocock Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen [Chichester: Phillimore 2004], 51-58
2 Lt.Col. Lionel James, D.S.O. The History of King Edward’s Horse [London: Sifton Praed & Co, 1921] 43. For details of the links with the Frontiersmen see 83-4
3 For details and picture of the hall see: http://www.thamesweb.co.uk/windsor/windsorhistory/isc.html Apparently all that now remains of the hall is the clock tower.
4 WO32/3040 National Archives, Kew
5 Pocock Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen, 146
The article above was originally published on http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info in December 2007 and has since been revised and updated.
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