A Royal Marine who served with the Frontiersmen

R.M.L.I. badgeSurprising Snippets 2: one of a series of brief items about the history of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

CAPTAIN JAMES FREDRICK ELLISON M.C., D.C.M, R.M.L.I.: a Royal Marine who served with the Frontiersmen.

Towards the end of their campaign in East Africa, many officers of the 25th (Service) battalion Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen) became unfit for active service due to wounds or serious illness due to the extreme climate and conditions in which they had to fight. Other officers had been seconded to other units as their skills were much in demand. Much to Lt. Colonel Driscoll’s disgust, a number of largely undistinguished officers with none of the Frontiersmen’s spirit were posted in. One great exception to this was Captain James Ellison, M.C., D.C.M., of the Royal Marines Light Infantry, who for a brief period became their acting second-in-command and who until now has not had the acknowledgment due to him.

In 1900 Colour Sgt. Ellison earned the D.C.M. in October of that year while serving in East Africa with the Uganda Rifles during punitive operations against Nandi raiders on the Nyando River. Due to sickness among the officers he was on several occasions in independent command of detached columns. In his book “The King’s African Rifles: Volume 1”, Lt.Col. H. Moyse-Bartlett wrote:

On the night of 12th October two columns left the camp. The first under Colour-Sergeant James Ellison, R.M.L.I., marched east over the Nyando River, attacked one of the bomas early on the following day, inflicted severe losses on the Nandi and returned to camp before nightfall. Owing to sickness among officers, this was not the first time Ellison had held independent command and conducted operations with ability and success.

When in 1914 there was a shortage of junior officers, this led to the direct commissioning of Ellison as Lieutenant, who was by that time a Sgt.-Major. He was aged 45. Ellison served with the Royal Marines Brigade at Dunkirk and Antwerp and subsequently at Gallipoli where he was wounded in May 1915. A gunshot wound gave him a compound fracture of the pelvis and he also suffered from frostbite.

In 1915, by then a Captain, he was back in East Africa on active service this time with the R.M.A. (Royal Marines Artillery). He took part in a number of bombardments with a battery of 4 inch guns and in December was in command of a troop of 12-pounder guns on clearance operations out of Dar-es Salaam,

In 1917 he was commanding a sub-section of a R.M.A. Heavy Battery where he suffered a number of bouts of malaria, was Mentioned in Despatches and in January 1918 was awarded the Military Cross. Captain Ellison was seconded for service to the army on 6 July 1917 and was granted the acting rank of Major whilst second in command of a battalion (25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) from 21 July 1917 to 23 September 1917.

Returning home, he became temporary Adjutant at Plymouth before joining the recruiting service and retiring with the rank of Major in 1922.

He died in 1943 aged 74. Sadly, although the position of this brave Royal Marine’s grave in a Portsmouth cemetery is known, it remains so far unmarked.

Research and article: Brian Tarpey M.B.E., Legion Mediterranean Historian

(additional information from “Turn of the Centuries 1700-1900”, Royal Marines Historical Society)

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L.O.F. and Mounted Designations 1914-18

Surprising Snippets 1.
ELLIOT’S HORSE
[a.k.a. INDEPENDENT FRONTIERSMEN SQUADRON in the BELFAST WEEKLY TELEGRAPH December 1917 cross referenced with THE DAILY COLONIST, Victoria BC, 08 Nov 1936]. Eighty-three men formed by Victoria BC Legion of Frontiersmen [LOF] Command arrive overseas prior to the Canadian Army. They appear to have been informally slated to join 2 nd King Edward’s Horse, but did not as they generally preferred Canadian units. A number of these LOF did enroll into Royal Canadian Dragoons, possibly Lord Strathcona’s Horse as well and others went into British units.

Uniform details, background and context of find indicate this photo to be of Calgary Legion of Frontiersmen c1912.

VICTORIA VOLUNTEER MOUNTED RIFLES, a Victoria BC association led by John Briant Howes enrolled 08 October 1915 into the Victoria BC Command of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

UNITED FARMERS OF ALBERTA MOUNTED INFANTRY CORPS, roll into the LOF’s home guard becoming the politically acceptable EDMONTON BATTALION OF RESERVE MILITIA.

BRITISH COLONIAL HORSE, LOF formation became 5 Platoon, 3rd BELGIUM LANCERS engaging in action early WW1. Frontiersmen involved would later receive Belgium’s Yser Medal.

REMOUNT SERVICE, LOF newly arrived in England were initially placed breaking horses while the LOF HQ was attempting to form a named unit.

METROPOLITAN POLICE MOUNTED RESERVE, LOF served City of London throughout the First World War.

EAST AFRICAN MOUNTED RIFLES, LOF form one of the six squadrons for Imperial defence in British East Africa.

OTAGO MOUNTED RIFLES, New Zealand LOF squadron rode into camp to enlist in OMR.

2nd KING EDWARD’S HORSE, 60 LOF were eventually recruited from Remounts duty where they were awaiting other placement.

….. and possibly other bodies.

19171201 Can Fman R Can Dragoons Belfast WeeklyTelegraph

Belfast Weekly Telegraph Dec 1917

© Barry William Shandro & Geoffrey A. Pocock, September 2017. 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 Call of the Wild

Escott North

Topic August/September 2017.  Throughout its history the Legion of Frontiersmen has attracted countless men, and more than a few women, whose travels had taken them all over the world. Many was the story they could, and sometimes did, tell of their adventures in lands where you could travel great distances without encountering another human being. Some did write about their experiences. Occasionally long-forgotten books about their adventures turn up on the dusty shelves of second-hand bookshops. The stories of some of them we will never know as they did not consider there was any need to commit them to writing or to print.

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?

Over the years the writer of this topic page has been fortunate enough to meet several old Frontiersmen, now no longer with us, and hear some of their stories. There has to be one major regret regarding a Frontiersman who could have told so many splendid tales. Back in 1978 I received a couple of letters from 90-year-old Percy Escott North who lived at the charmingly named Casa Lareda in Lambley, Nottinghamshire. There he could hear the sound of horses’ hooves through the village, which took the old man’s mind back to his young days in the “Wild West”. He had joined the Legion in 1911 and was given the Legion number of 4576, knew Roger Pocock and many of the original members, had met Driscoll and F.C. Selous in East Africa, and even knew Buffalo Bill Cody. He had been told of my researches into the Legion of Frontiersmen and Roger Pocock by Edgar Vigay, who was the commanding officer of U.K. Command of Canadian Division of the Legion. Vigay had re-enlisted the old man into Canadian Division. Would I care to travel up to Nottinghamshire and meet him? I would very much wish to, but with a young family and large mortgage to support I could afford neither the time nor the money. That was an opportunity I always greatly regretted being unable to take.

Escott North on thoroughbred mount

There is a lot we do not know about the life and adventures of Escott North. What we do know has been pieced together from his writings and accounts of the very popular radio broadcasts and illustrated lectures he gave all round Great Britain. With no television or internet, such lectures by travellers illustrated with photographs they had taken drew in substantial audiences. Percy Escott North was the son of innovative lace dyer John Hallam North (1857-1936). Nottinghamshire was the centre for quality lace manufacture, the products of which were much in demand around the world. He does not appear to have had any desire to follow his father into business. He had spent much of his early life in Sherwood Forest and had a passion for horses and horse-riding. It looks as if he took a passage to America and went to his Uncle Spencer at Salem Massachusetts. Although Escott North was originally intended to make his living as a trader, he then wandered the country often working as a range-hand. He rode along the Mexican border line, which even in those years was not the most law-abiding area. Eventually his travels took him to Wyoming where he met up with Buffalo Bill Cody, who was by then an old man. Buffalo Bill took an immediate liking to Escott North, who had an extraordinary resemblance to one of Bill’s greatest friends, Major Frank North. North had been Bill’s partner in buying a large cattle ranch on the Dismal River north of North Platte. He had been with Buffalo Bill in his Indian fighting days. Some of the re-enactments in the Wild West Show were actually of North’s exploits rather than Buffalo Bill’s. Frank North appeared in the Show and did not seem to mind Bill claiming some of his exploits, just laughing when asked and saying “I am not in the show business”. ¹ Frank North was appearing in the show in Hartford Connecticut:

…while the scouts and the Indians were chasing each other around the arena, Major North fell when his saddle girth broke. Most of the riders following him managed to swerve their mounts aside, but one trampled him. He was removed to the hospital with a crushed spine and broken ribs and never appeared as a performer again. Less than a year later he died of his injuries. ²

This young man, Escott North, who showed a quite extraordinary resemblance to the young Frank North and bore the same surname, must have given the old man quite a jolt. Was there any relationship? It has to be possible but we will never know. In any case, Buffalo Bill made young Escott North very welcome and told him many stories of his adventures. In his illustrated lectures around the country – often in front of audiences of up to fifteen hundred people – Escott North used to re-tell the stories that Buffalo Bill had related to him:

Bill brought his great Wild West Show to London in 1902, and King Edward visited it. The King begged permission to take a ride on the famous old Deadwood Stage Coach, and to bring some of the Royal guests who were at that time staying at Buckingham Palace. Cody expressed himself delighted and the matter was arranged.

In due course the King and his guests arrived and, having packed his friends in the coach, King Edward climbed up on the box beside Cody, who was to drive. Cody was surprised to see the King wink portentuously to him, and to hear him whisper, “Now, drive like hell, Cody!” Never did coach travel so wildly as did the Deadwood stage around the Olympia arena. Cody put himself into the driving as never before, and the six cayuses tore around the ground at mad speed.

At a given signal, Cody’s rough riders and Indians appeared, and yells and pistol shots urged the wildly galloping animals to still greater exertions, until King Edward at last gasped out, “I think they’ve had enough now, Cody!”

When the sweating horses came to a stop, to quote Cody’s words, “you never saw such a bunch of dishevelled Kings in your life!” (There were five monarchs there altogether.)

Before they left the showground, Edward VII, knowing Cody was an expert poker player, remarked, “Cody, I’ll bet that’s the first time you’ve ever had five Kings in your hand!”

Buffalo Bill, who was noted for his quick wit, instantly replied, “Yes, King, and it’s the first time I’ve held the Royal Joker!” ³

As far as can be ascertained, this story has not appeared elsewhere. We know that in his Show Buffalo Bill re-enacted as his own adventures those that were experienced by other men, so probably would not be averse to telling “tall stories”. King Edward VII did visit Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and it is not impossible that he would have requested a private showing. Whatever the truth, it is a good yarn which went down well with Escott North’s audiences.

Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

As with so much of Escott North’s life we know almost nothing of his First War service. There is no record of him serving in the British army, but he was in German East Africa serving as a scout. There he met the 25th Bn Royal Fusiliers with F.C. Selous and Lt. Col. Driscoll who no doubt welcomed him as a Frontiersman. In 1923 he sailed for Canada and, according to “The Frontiersman” magazine, was asked to carry out Frontiersmen business. No doubt he was asked to recruit, as the Frontiersmen had a strong representation before the First War, particularly in Western Canada where he was based. It does not seem that he had any real success at recruitment. During the four years he was there he made many friends, particularly Guy Weadick, the main originator of the Calgary Stampede, and gathered information for his very popular 1942 book “The Saga of the Cowboy”. In this book and in his many lectures he sought to correct inaccurate impressions of cowboy life and lore, which he mainly blamed on the film industry.

When in later years, I rode the range in a strangely big saddle, upon a pony with a curious loping gait that discouraged my English tendency to “bump”, and found myself accepted (by what virtue of mine I still cannot comprehend) by the hard-visaged, erect, steel-muscled, cold-eyed men whose horsemanship put me to shame – and whose courtesy to a bungling novice was the most gracious and unobtrusive I had yet seen – I knew that my hero-worship [as a boy] had not been entirely misplaced. It was also borne in upon me that so far as the cowboy of popular conception is concerned, well, “there ain’t no such person”. ⁴

Escott North with Pete Grant Piegan Chief

Escott North also made many friends among the Canadian First Nations, particularly Pete Grant, who was a Peigan Chief. There is also a picture of Escott North in full splendid headdress after he had been made an honorary Blackfeet Chief. One of the many amusing stories he told in his lectures went back to his days in New Mexico. In those days bathing was a far more primitive activity that nowadays:

Once when he was having a bath in the open air outside his shack, a group of cowboys came round and lassoed bath and occupant, dragging him for miles over the prairie until he was tossed out. Having taken this baptism in good part, Escott was accepted as one of the fraternity and presented with a new bath. ⁵

In addition, his ability to play the piano earned him the friendship of cowboys, even in the wildest places. The Legion of Frontiersmen attracted as members many other men who had worked as cowboys and range-hands in both the United States and Canada. As well as using the Legion motto of “God Guard Thee”, these men also used “Vaya Con Dios”.

Escott North kept his many notebooks of his travels over the years. You never know, perhaps one of his descendants still has those prize notebooks, which would be of substantial historical interest. Escott North was far from the only Frontiersman to have had such an adventurous travelling life. An Australian Frontiersman who also gave countless very popular lectures, in his case across America, was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, as was Escott North. Following pre-war journeys of thousands of miles across Australia, this other extraordinary Frontiersman was awarded during his service in the First War not only the D.S.O. but – most rarely – the M.C. followed by two bars to it. As we have run out of space, his amazing story will have to wait for some later month.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sage-brush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert’s little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o’er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the wild – it’s calling you.

(Robert Service, “The Call of the Wild”)

Escott North c1920s


¹ John Burke “Buffalo Bill, the Noblest Whiteskin” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973) p.64
² Burke “Buffalo Bill” p.146-7
³ “Dundee Evening Telegraph”, 16 November 1927
⁴ Escott North “The Saga of the Cowboy” (Jarrolds, 1942) p.vii
⁵ “Dundee Courier” 13 December 1952


© 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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Defending against CHEMICAL WARFARE

Britannia and Eve magazine June 1936 p.25.

It can truthfully be said that nowhere, outside the Government Schools, are such facilities available as are offered by the Central Gas School of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

Topic June/July 2017.  We covered the Legion’s work in anti-gas warfare to a certain extent in GAS!!.   Further research recently has shown the extent of the fear – almost terror – of chemical warfare being carried out particularly against Great Britain. This has encouraged us to expand the story of what the Frontiersmen were doing to support the general public and give them advice and help. The use of chemical warfare in countries such as Syria and the warnings that terrorists might attempt to use small scale chemical weapons make this story even more topical. In the years leading up to World War 2, the extraordinary knowledge and skills of the Frontiersmen in dealing with chemical weapons is something which needs further explanation. The story applies mainly to Great Britain as planes had not then been developed with the capability to easily cross large oceans and return.

Replying to a question in the House of Commons in May 1935, the Home Secretary, Sir John Gilmour, said:

I understand that the Legion of Frontiersmen like some other voluntary organisations is in touch with the Order of St. John and the British Red Cross Society with a a view to assisting those bodies for the alleviation of the consequences of air attack. I have informed the Legion that, in my opinion, assistance of this nature would be of national importance.¹

The British government did everything it could to calm public feeling, but there was deep concern, especially in big cities:

Mrs J Gubbins, a Kensington Councillor it is reported has stated, “I’ve travelled a lot abroad lately – and wherever you go they are working overtime at the manufacture of gas for War purposes.

In consequence a small guest room has been prepared ready to complete in five minutes a gas-proof shelter for about eight people with a safety margin of twelve to sixteen hours. Mrs Gubbins wants every householder in the country to know how simple and cheap it is to gas-proof a room…²

The Legion of Frontiersmen Central Gas School at Edmonton (London) was fully equipped with:

…Gas Masks, Decontamination Suits, Oxygen Breathing Apparatus, Charts, Visual and Smelling Sets, Asbestos Suit.

All the best standard books on Gas Warfare and A.R.P. have been purchased and are available for reference.

A complete set of all the Home Office publications, including Memorandums etc., are held and copies of new issues purchased immediately on publication, so that the school is kept constantly up-to-date.

Even books written against A.R.P. are purchased and studied, so that instructors are not only cognisant of what is stated therein, but are prepared to answer.

In addition a unique collection of photographs has been obtained. These have proved invaluable as authentic reference.

The German publication “Die Sirene” is subscribed to so that instructors are informed of what is being done abroad.

Another important feature of the school’s equipment is a collection of old and modern gas masks. These have proved to be of exceptional interest and frequent requests have been made for their loan to A.R.P. exhibitions. Instructors from the school attend these exhibitions and explain the various exhibits…

Many A.R.P. officers and C.A.G.S. [Civil Anti-Gas School]³ instructors have applied for copies [of “The Frontiersman” magazine] and expressed their appreciation of their value. One C.A.G.S. instructor stated: “You people have forgotten more than I know.” Others ring up regularly asking for advice…

The Central Gas School have undertaken and completed with success the training of the staff of a well-known Government contractor.

Lieut. Bushell, the officer in charge, has been selected to attend an extensive course at Porten [probably Porton Down in Wiltshire], his qualifications making it unnecessary to take an examination first. He is at present training the staff of the R[oyal] A[rtillery] Records Office at Sidcup.

2nd Lieut. Gunn has rendered inestimable service to the Legion. Samples of all the latest Gas Masks – German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Dutch, etc. are regularly provided by him for inspection. His expert knowledge is a great asset.

It can truthfully be said that nowhere, outside the Government Schools, are such facilities available as are offered by the Central Gas School of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

Strict discipline is maintained and enthusiasm is great. All dues to I.H.Q. are paid. There is a credit balance. Accounts are audited by three officers and certificate sent to I.H.Q.

All this has been achieved without one penny grant from I.H.Q. funds, the school being entirely self-supporting.

Much has been done by the school to uphold the prestige of the Legion.

Fees are charged, but Instructors have been able to recover much more by payments for lectures. Positions have been obtained and promotions secured as a direct result of the training given at the school.⁴

Legion of Frontiersmen gas warfare display with 2/Lieut. Gunn inset

As can be seen from the illustration, 2nd Lieut. Gunn designed and made an asbestos fire-proof suit. In those days nobody was aware of the serious harm to the lungs caused by asbestos. An advertisement in “The Frontiersman” magazine shown here illustrates the different gas masks that were available. What has not been publicised is that the main gas protection agent in the masks was also asbestos. Eventually every citizen of Britain was issued with one and ordered to carry it around with them in its box. There were “Mickey Mouse” ones for children. Those of us who were around at the time recall the unpleasantly strong rubber smell of them and how difficult it was for a child to breathe through them. Nobody was aware that they were breathing in dangerous asbestos which could have an effect in later life. The main public concern was that most families could recall the horror of gas warfare of the First War and the men who came home with their lungs ravaged by gas fumes. The advertisement from a Derby newspaper shows the concern – and how some firms were able to profit from it.

3 advertisment in Frontiersmen magazine

Gas mask advertisement which appeared in copies of “The Frontiersman” magazine.

What happened to that irreplaceable collection held at the Legion of Frontiersmen Gas School? Some of it can just about be seen in the photo shown here. Nobody knows, except that like many Legion assets the collection has vanished. From the end of 1937 “The Frontiersman” magazine contained extensive details about various war gases covering their history, effects, first aid, treatment and protection. Among the gases covered were “The Blister Group” such as Mustard Gas, “The Tear Group” of Tear Gases, “The D.M. Group” of nose gases which contained arsenic, “The Choking Group” of Phosgene, also basic chlorine gases. There was also a detailed article on incendiary bombs and how to deal with them and extinguish the fires. Fortunately, all this training apart from dealing with incendiary bombs was not needed as the Germans did not start gas warfare. Did they have the facility other than the gas they used in the gas chambers? Of course they did. They were trying to manufacture a more stable, deadly and reliable form of gas for warfare but, again fortunately, they did not succeed. Their stockpiles were discovered when the British army entered Germany:

Concentrated in a big forest covering an area of four square miles is one of the greatest stocks of poison gas in Germany, wrote a Daily Telegraph special Correspondent with 21st Army Group on August 6, 1945. He tells of the fate intended for it, and of the chambers where it was housed…

Dotted over the forest which I visited were strongly built storage sheds, very commodious and above ground…In each of these sheds thousands upon thousands of gas-filled shells were lying horizontally in wooden frames. There is ample evidence of Hitler’s preparations to use gas.⁵

What happened to this deadly store? It was sent to the coast and loaded on board a ship, crewed by Germans, and dumped into the sea 200 fathoms deep not too far from the Channel Islands. Although the shells were of three-quarter inch steel it was estimated that even this would corrode in some 200-300 years time. Possibly an environmental time-bomb for some future generation.

Although the Frontiersmen did not need to utilise their specialist anti-gas warfare skills, a far higher proportion of those too old to join the armed forces joined the A.R.P. rather than the Home Guard, particularly in big towns and cities. After being out at night dealing with the results of German bombing they carried on their normal daytime activities and those who could do so kept up their Frontiersmen links. Harry Erswell had served many years in the army retiring as a senior n.c.o.. After a night’s bombing he would laboriously pick his way past bombed London buildings, often by strange alleyways and back passages to the Legion offices then in Bedford Street. Although the front of the building had been blown out, he was still able to get through to the offices at the back of the building and carry out duties at the Legion office. Sometimes he was prevented by some unexploded time bomb until it was made safe, but he never had need of his gas training. As he wrote to Canada in 1941 with customary Frontiersmen optimism, “Still, there’s a lot of London left and will be even when this show is over.”

Will today’s terrorists try to use chemical weapons and if they do, will they use the more modern gases or the simpler older ones? The Legion still has full training details archived on how to deal with those older gases, but not the modern complicated lethal ones. We must hope that none of this will ever happen.

Advertisement from a Derby newspaper.

¹ “The Times” May 24, 1935, p.8.

² Quoted in “The Frontiersman” January 1939, p.9.

³ The British Government set up the Civil Anti-Gas Schools. Their name was later changed to the Air Raid Precautions Schools and the duties became more generally air raid precautions.

⁴ “The Frontiersman” March/April 1939, pp.18/19.

⁵ “War Illustrated” October 12, 1945, p.378.


© 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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Money Matters

1 King Edward's Horse badge

Badge of King Edward’s Horse

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.

Badge of 2nd King Edward’s Horse

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

Lt.Col. James, who served with King Edward’s Horse throughout and was its last commanding officer.

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

Badge of the “Imperial Legion”. This was a unit which broke away even from the original breakaway unit of the I.O.C. It is believed to have been formed by Kaid Belton and was initially suspected of having political aspirations. Note that the badge is almost a copy of the badge of 2nd King Edward’s Horse. It also illegally featured the Royal Crown.

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.

© 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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Elliot’s Horse

ELLIOT’S HORSE [LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN] 1914: AN OVERVIEW

© Barry William Shandro M.Ed.

Edmonton Canada – 10 October 2016, revised 20 April 2017

Elliot’s Horse was the title given to a Legion of Frontiersmen squadron from Victoria, British Columbia who were organized and equipped for overseas service immediately after the 1914 call-to-arms. – This historical information may be of particular interest to the Royal Canadian Dragoons and perhaps the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) as well.

According to a surviving partial document from the Legion of Frontiersmen Calgary Command and other sources, “Elliot’s Horse” was a squadron composed of Legion of Frontiersmen from both Victoria and Vancouver Commands. This “free-lance cavalry” was sponsored by R.T. Elliot KC of Victoria B.C.

The 1914 news of the day stated that “Elliot’s Horse” was to be composed of men who could fulfill the recruiting requirement of being “veterans with previous active service”. The squadron list of 83 men indicates that most of the men wore one campaign medal or more, primarily the Queen’s and/or King’s service medals for the South Africa War. Other medals worn by the Legion of Frontiersmen re-titled Elliot’s Horse were the “Indian Frontier Medal”, Khedive Medal, Natal Native Rebellion Medal, Matabele War Medal, and “Mexican Madero Medal”.

A detailed firsthand account by Colonel W.K. Walker DSO, MC published in 1936 stated that although he had not seen active service prior to his 1914 enrolment he had Officer Training Corps experience and was able to join Elliot’s Horse. Once overseas he was subsequently elected* officer in command. *Note that the election of officers was a unique practice followed by the quasi military Legion of Frontiersmen active throughout the British Empire.

Upon departure from Victoria, Elliot’s Horse was reviewed by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Premier of B.C., Victoria’s Member of Parliament, the Mayor of Victoria and the squadron Founder Mr. R.T. Elliot KC. Beyond the uniform illustrated, Spencer’s Department Store of Victoria provided boots and under clothing for the Squadron. The store owner Victor Spencer “became a colonel in the Canadian Army Service Corps and held a very responsible appointment.’’ [The Daily Colonist, 08 Nov 1936].

A review of information indicates that the initial plan was to have the Squadron join the British 2nd King Edwards Horse once overseas. This changed as most men appeared to have a preference for joining a Canadian unit. Any confusion resulting from this seemed quickly sorted out. Colonel W.K. Walker DSO, MC stated that this body of 83 men, with the exception of four specified officers, was then greeted by the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Subsequently Walker and others were enrolled into the army proper. He stated, “I felt it a great honor to become an officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and was especially glad it meant my remaining with so many of my pals of Elliot’s Horse.’’

The regimental placement of each member of Elliot’s Horse has not been researched; however, Colonel Walker DSO MC commented that some members of Elliot’s Horse rejoined their previous British units and that Lieutenant Sloan had also rejoined his old regiment the Scottish Horse and was later killed in action. – G.H. Sloan was originally from Hamilton Command had become an Organizing Officer circa 1911 with Vancouver Command, Legion of Frontiersmen. – Walker also noted that Lieutenant H.L. Houlgate of Elliot’s Horse joined Lord Strathcona’s Horse as a trooper, later being commissioned into the 2nd Battalion Border Horse. As well a curious retrospective quotation regarding Lord Strathcona’s Horse follows: “In 1914 on the outbreak of the Great War, a contingent of the Canadian Command of the Legion joined Strathcona’s Horse and formed their own Legion Squadron distinguished from the other Squadrons by a distinctive flash” [Frontier Post, Autumn 1933]. – If correct, could this have referred to the members of Elliot’s Horse? More research is required regarding this matter.

Referring to those who perished, Col. W.K. Walker DSO MC an original trooper in Elliot’s Horse stated that as of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 only 12 men had survived the Great War of 1914-1918. Sadly, this fatality rate was extremely high and it is little wonder that the story of the Legion of Frontiersmen as Elliot’s Horse is virtually unknown. – As a tragic comparison the overall Legion of Frontiersmen casualty count From the Great War 1914-1918 was initially quoted as follows: “out of the 13,500 members over 12,000 have been on active service and of this number nearly 6000, or 50%, have been killed or incapacitated by wounds or sickness.” [The Sydney Morning Herald, 1919]

The badge worn by Elliot’s Horse was not described; however, it may have been the maple leaf badge of the Legion of Frontiersmen British Columbia Command. This bronze badge had slightly different versions indicating a homemade quality to some. The khaki uniform was described as follows: Stetson, a mackinaw jacket, khaki shirt, puttees and boots. A likeness of this uniform is illustrated and interestingly this style of a uniform was typical of most Legion of Frontiersmen Commands throughout the British Empire.

X

References:

  1. Calgary Daily Herald, 17 Nov 1914.
  2. Untitled partial document, Loose pages 1 [2 and 3 missing]to 9, published by Calgary Command LF, 1915. University of Alberta Archives.
  3. The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Aug 1919.
  4. Frontier Post, Autumn 1933. University of Alberta Archives.
  5. The Daily Colonist, Victoria BC, 08 Nov 1936.
  6. The Frontiersman (Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen, Hamilton, Ontario), Dec 1951.
  7. Legion of Frontiersmen Notebook, online document, 2017.

For Detailed Discussion and L.O.F. background information,

  • Contact History & Archives Section, Countess Mountbatten’s Own Legion of Frontiersmen, bwshandro@hotmail.com
  • Refer to LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN NOTEBOOK, a 91 page online document.

Background of the Author – Barry William Shandro B.Ed, M.Ed, SBStJ graduated from the University of Alberta and the University of Ottawa. He was commissioned into the regular army, but resigned to pursue education and graduate studies. As well, he served briefly with Edmonton city police. – Overall, teaching high school was his primary career with a focus on family and community activities until disabled as a relatively young adult. During a period of forty years he maintained an association with the authentic Legion of Frontiersmen [Countess Mountbatten’s Own] and has pursued Legion of Frontiersmen historical investigation as a hobby.

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Telling the Truth?

Topic April/May 2017.  There is no doubt that over the years many a military unit has considered itself badly treated and poorly supplied by their bases and headquarters. Many had cause for complaint about the way they were treated by Staff officers. We have covered some of the Frontiersmen’s complaints when they were serving in East Africa as 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen). A couple of examples of their complaints and frustrations based on the writings of those who served can be found at: www.frontiersmenhistorian.info/skirmish.htm and frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/the-frontiersmens-lorry/

Frontiersmen on the march in East Africa.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s other examples appeared written by various men in “The Frontiersman” and other Legion of Frontiersmen magazines. Lt.Col. D.P. Driscoll gave an interview to journalist and author Max Pemberton for a newspaper (issue not yet traced). Driscoll’s comments were measured and, although critical, not controversial. An extraordinarily powerful two-part article, highly critical of the way the Frontiersmen were treated, has just come to light in a May 1919 London evening newspaper “The Globe”. We make no excuses for featuring much of this article. This was written by T.A. Macdonald, about whom little is known other than he had spent some time in Turkey and after “The Globe” failed he went on to be a regular writer for another London evening newspaper “The Evening Standard”. Earlier in the same month, Macdonald had written a highly critical article about the way the whole campaign in East Africa was carried out:

…Like many another British war in Africa, the East Africa campaign was from start to finish a long, pathetic, and hopeless concatenation of blunders which neither the suppressio veri tactics of the late and unlamented Press Bureau, nor the indiscriminate showering of decorations and honours on South African and Indian Staff officers can camouflage into a piece of history apparently creditable to those responsible for the conduct of the campaign… ¹

The criticism carried on in similar vein over many paragraphs. Macdonald concluded that it would be hopeless to expect an independent and unbiased enquiry into the fiasco.

It seems highly likely that a number of men who had served with the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) in East Africa came forward to tell Macdonald of their experiences so that Macdonald then wrote a two-part article on 13th and 14th May in an even more critical tone, producing damning evidence of the incompetence of most of the Staff officers and of the disgraceful way the Frontiersmen’s battalion had been treated.

…To make clear the nonchalant attitude taken up by the War Office towards the struggle in East Africa, and to draw attention to the other great factor in our failure, namely, the bungling methods and petty jealousies of many of those who were on the spot and responsible for the actual conduct of the campaign, I cannot do better than recount in brief form some of the experiences undergone by one of the two Imperial battalions which served… ²

Macdonald told how the War Office “dillied and dallied” before finally asking Driscoll to form the 25th Battalion. He went on to write about the poor billets the men were given in London and the virtually useless rifles with which they were issued:

Rifles and equipment were issued to them only two days before they sailed, and I doubt if such rifles have ever been handed to men going on service before. Nearly all of them were obsolete and marked “D.P.” (drill purposes) and all were in lamentable condition. Some of them fell to pieces in the men’s hands when they were drilling, and others were so worn that a .303 bullet could be dropped down the barrels from muzzle to breech… ²

This story is confirmed by articles in Frontiersmen magazines. In March 1925 Capt. Sutton Jones wrote that “On leaving England we were armed with forty-five Martini-Henries which were so old that some of them were practically smooth bores but on reaching Malta we got the service rifle issued to us through the kind offices of the military commander there.” Driscoll’s contacts from his South African days came in useful. At a 1931 Frontiersmen dinner Major Hazzledine commented that “…the battalion obtained the right up-to-date rifles at Malta. That was one advantage of having a commanding officer who knew what was necessary and got it.” The military commander of the arsenal at Malta had served with Driscoll in South Africa.

The War Office had emphasised that it was important to get the battalion to East Africa and into action. When they arrived, for some strange reason and in spite of the entreaties of Col. Driscoll, they were split in two, with some being sent to Kajiado and the rest sent to Nairobi, allegedly on a musketry course.

The men who went to Nairobi were kept there for many weeks before they ever fired a round on the range, although in the meantime all the men at headquarters at Kajiado had been through a full course on a range which they had built for themselves and had incidentally participated in the one great success of the campaign at Bukoba; further, the camp at Nairobi appears to have been regarded as a happy hunting ground by any Staff officer who wanted to purloin a Fusilier for employment as his clerk or his servant or for some other similar work. Many of these men never saw the battalion again.

The next experience the Fusiliers underwent was at Maktau, to which they were moved in August 1915. Here, despite the fact that there were hundreds of natives in camp, [employed as labourers and bearers] the men were made, again in direct opposition to the wishes of their colonel, to work some eight hours a day at digging trenches… ²

Brigadier-General S.H. Sheppard.

The arrival of General Smuts did improve matters for a while, as did their posting for a period to General Sheppard’s brigade. Macdonald seems to have received a letter from at least one of the officers of the Frontiersmen:

Here…they found themselves for the first time under a staff which treated them fairly and, furthermore, was well disposed to all of them, from the colonel downwards. Under General Sheppard they did splendid work, both on the march to Moschi and at the taking of Kahé, but unfortunately they were not allowed to remain very long with him.

Instead they were placed in another formation where, thanks to the obstructiveness and indifference displayed by its staff, they underwent what was probably the most trying time ever suffered by troops in East Africa. Space does not permit of my giving a series of specific examples of the treatment meted out to them, although such examples abound. ²

Macdonald goes on to describe how the Frontiersmen, after a long forced march, were ordered by Staff officers to remain in the heat of the sun for a brief rest and forbidden to seek shade under bushes or to go bush clearing for native troops. Flour was issued at the end of the day instead of biscuit, but they were forbidden to light fires to cook. Plain flour washed down with water is not the most palatable of meals, especially after a long march. As a reward for turning the German flank at Lukigura and taking German guns by the point of the bayonet, they were rewarded with a double rum ration – the first they had seen for two months, although rum was supposed to be issued each week. Eventually the survivors of the battalion were sent to South Africa to recuperate. Their next posting was to Lindi:

On landing at Lindi they found absolutely no preparations had been made for their reception. Though they, on previous occasions, had been required to pitch camps for Indian troops, none had been pitched for them, and at first sanitary arrangements were conspicuous by their absence, rations were short, and there was hardly a field dressing obtainable in their camp. This, it should be noted, was at a port; the condition of affairs further up country can better be imagined than described…

Thrown into action time and again against superior numbers, before who native troops had hopelessly failed, they covered themselves with honour, but at the same time suffered appalling casualties. In the end, the few who were still on their feet were gathered together and shipped off to England – in the depth of winter. ²

WO32/5826 T.N.A. Kew. One of many sketches by Capt. Angus Buchanan who was regularly used for scouting.

In another article in the newspaper Macdonald was also highly critical of the way the surviving Frontiersmen were treated on their return to England. He reported also that an armoured car brigade that arrived at Grantham Lincolnshire from Mesopotamia were forced to spend a bitterly cold night without blankets and a number later died of pneumonia, but considered that the treatment of the Frontiersmen was possibly the worst:

Orders were given to disembark at 11 a.m., but it was after 6 p.m. when the battalion got ashore. Late at night, after a long train journey, they found themselves in Barnes [south of London].

Although ample notice had been given of their arrival, nothing whatever had been done for their reception. After waiting two hours on the roadside, the men, many of them shaking with ague or semi-delirious with fever, were marched into empty houses without rations and without fuel. Early next morning they found some teashops, and there they arranged for themselves the best substitute for the welcome which had been denied them. Later in the day some rations arrived, but still no wood or coal to cook them with. In the end fuel was issued, and so were profound apologies; but the colonel merely remarked that his battalion was well used to such treatment, and a little more or less of it didn’t matter much. ³

The shameful treatment Macdonald reported was surely worse than many soldiers had to endure? Probably the fact that this treatment received such coverage by an independent journalist in a London newspaper yet again did not endear the Frontiersmen to the War Office. The Frontiersmen were always considered an irritation and, even though they had a number of highly-placed supporters ⁴, it was only in desperation that Driscoll was instructed to form the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and lead them into action. As we saw in: www.frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/supporting-the-authorities/ the Dominions and the Colonial Office found the Frontiersmen a useful auxiliary as they did not have enough men to maintain the law in the large areas they usually had to administer. These Frontiersmen were well-trained men who cost the authorities little or nothing and who continued to train with enthusiasm. They were also extremely loyal to the King and to what between the wars was still the Empire. Time and again they proved their value. We will cover further aspects of this in future Topic pages.

The Colonial Office were expected to refer any matter that might come under a military heading to the War Office. We can and will be giving examples of the War Office instructing that the Legion of Frontiersmen were unofficial, not approved, and not to be supported or encouraged.

Bivouac.

The War Office had long memories and articles such as Macdonald’s publicly criticising in the strongest terms the way the Frontiersmen had been treated in East Africa were not going to improve their opinion of the Frontiersmen. The War Office was convinced that they were a body independent of thought and action and unwilling to tread an official line. To Frontiersmen, this attitude was grossly unfair, but an outsider might consider that, among the regular army officers at the War Office steeped in a far different culture, it was to some extent understandable.


¹ “The Globe” 6th May 1919, T. A. Macdonald writing on East Africa

² “The Globe” 13th and 14th May 1919, Macdonald writing about the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers in East Africa

³ “The Globe” 29th March 1919, Macdonald writing about the problems and poor treatment of some troops returning to Britain.

⁴ Notably Lord Cardross who in September 1914 wrote several times to the Colonial Office urging them to use the services and skills of Driscoll and the Frontiersmen. (T.N.A. CO537/28/212)


For exceptional details of the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) in East Africa we highly recommend viewing the excellent website http://www.25throyalfusiliers.co.uk/

Another website well worth studying is that of the Great War in Africa Association http://www.gweaa.com


© 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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