The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging



Military History Journal
Vol 4 No 2 - December 1977

The Demise of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Africa - North, South, East, West and Central

by Major Tom Cushny, LMSM

Editors note: The author of this interesting article, Major Tom Cushny, LMSM, was born during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 of Scottish-English parents. His early years were spent in British East Africa and at the age of 14 he was sent to a public school in Britain.

Major Cushny writes: 'Was training for a commission in the new armies to go to France when the First World War came to an end. Obtained an Eastern Cadetship, as it was called, with prospects to go to China. Found it too tame however and joined the French Foreign Legion. Saw service with the Engineering Company of the 1st Regiment when Abdul el Krim had defeated the Spaniards under Franco and was attempting to establish himself as Sultan of French Morocco and Caliph of all the Faithful. Escaped with the aid of my father who had seen service in Afghanistan and in the Jameson Raid.'

Tom Cushny joined the Legion of Frontiersmen in London in 1923 on his way to the Far East. In Malaya, where he worked for a firm of non-ferrous ore merchants and smelters, he was commissioned for 'services to Intelligence' in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, and was also Organizing Officer for the Legion of Frontiersmen in Southern Sumatra, Siam and Perak.

After six memorable and exciting years he returned to Britain in 1929 from where he transferred to Kenya to take up farming 'but found prospecting for gold more profitable'.

In Kenya he was commissioned in the King's African Rifles Reserve of Officers and served as Intelligence Officer with the Kenya Defence Force.

In 1934 Cushny obtained an appointment with the Clove Marketing Board in Zanzibar where he assumed duties as Organizing Officer of the Legion.

During the riots of 7-12 February 1936 when an attempt was made to massacre the Europeans in Zanzibar and take over the reins of Government by force, Cushny commanded a platoon of Armed Police and was instrumental in the capture of 170 hostile Arabs and 450 weapons. For this action he received the 'thanks of the Government' and those of H.H. the Sultan of Zanzibar.

The Legion Meritorious Service Medal was awarded to Cushny in November 1936 for his outstanding record of service.

Whilst on leave in Britain in 1939, and realizing that World War II was inevitable, Cushny enlisted in his County Regiment, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He served with the BEF in France, and later with the Home Forces during the Battle of Britain, the British Forces Northern Ireland, the British Military Mission India, Persia-Iraq Force, Middle East Force, finally serving in Palestine and Transjordan.

After the War Major Cushny was seconded to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and worked in France, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and Italy, receiving the Diploma of Merit for services to humanity and for saving life in liberated Europe.

In 1947 Major Cushny came to South Africa where he served as OC South Africa Command, Legion of Frontiersmen. He eventually settled in Rhodesia with his family where he served as a Deputy Warden in the British South Africa Police Special Reserve until his death in May 1977.

This article was forwarded to the SA. National Museum of Military History by Major Cushny's widow, Mrs Madeleine E. Cushny, shortly after his death.

Like all other formations of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Africa we, in South Africa, operated directly under the authority of Imperial Headquarters in London, whose lethargy and ineptitude, not to mention their complete inability to move abreast of a changing world and complete lack of leadership, over a phenomenal period of time, undermined and eroded morale at home and abroad, particularly in the 'Outposts of Empire.'

This in no way, of course, affected the Great Formations of the Legion in Canada and New Zealand who operated independently under Dominion Charter though bound by a thin red line fraternally.

The circumstances, broadly speaking, were something like this. In 1926 the average man-in the street was pretty sick of the aftermath of 'the War to end War', but the chaps at Legion Headquarters, London, were basking in the self-glorification derived from wearing the uniform of a corps that had acquitted itself with great honour. These opportunists, however, had in no way contributed personally to the acquisition of this glory, but rather had usurped it whilst those who did were away fighting.

Stars and crowns shone brightly from their chain epaulettes, thus blinding them from after-the-War realities, trivial as though such things may have seemed to them. The views of Legion formations scattered over the four corners of Empire registered disgust.

The end result was the first real 'fragmentation' - the whole U.K. Command broke in two in 1927 and many overseas commands elected to follow what was to be known as the Independent Overseas Command, the Legion of Frontiersmen, with headquarters in London, under the direct command of Major General, the Kaid Belton, late of the Morrocan Army as Deputy to the Commandant General, no less a Legion personality than Lieut Col D.P. Driscoll, CMG, DSO.

With the advent of Adolf Hitler to the Chancellery of the Third Reich it became apparent to the hierarchy of the independent Overseas Command of the Legion that now was the time to think in terms of the imminence of the Second World War breaking out, and the necessity to prepare the legion of Frontiersmen for an active role, so as to be in a position to offer battalions of trained men to the War Office. This would be in the finest tradition of the legion and, indeed, the Empire. But how, with the legion in a state of fragmentation and the other half playing a passive role and basking in the sunshine of past glories?

It was imperative, therefore, to reunite the Legion in the U.K., and appont Lient-Col Dan Driscoll, as Commandant-General of the re-united Legion. Dan Driscoll not only raised the Driscoll Scouts, but also commanded them during the Anglo-Boer War, as well as the Frontiersmen Battalion of the 25th Royal Fusiliers in the East African Campaign during World War I.

The question was how were these feats to be accomplished?

The `big brass' of the Legion of Frontiersmen in the U.K. would only accept the Independent Overseas command as a returning fragment. Col Driscoll was absolutely adamant on one point, namely, that he would only accept the Commandant-Generalship with the proviso that he had the right of veto as far as any officer selected for his staff was concerned. The Independent Overseas Command, Legion of Frontiersmen, would only re-unite with the Legion of Frontiersmen, London, on absolutely equal, repeat equal, terms, with Lieut-Col. Dan Driscoll as their combined Commandant-General.

An absolute impasse? No, not at all, for the Independent Overseas Command, Legion of Frontiersmen, with astute lobbying and the somnambulism of the Legion of Frontiersmen, London, felt that at the A.G.M. Lieut-Col Driscoll would carry the day and, by so doing, his powerful leadership combined with the strong leadership of Col Louis Scott in Canada with the equally strong leadership in New Zealand of Col Findlater, though entirely independent commands, could make a substantial contribution, not only to their own Dominions but to the Empire as well.

Just as this scheme was about to reach fruition and a new vista was about to unfold for the Legion of Frontiersmen, Col Driscoll died suddenly on his coffee shamba in Kenya in 1934. A great soldier, beloved leader and charming personality, friend and gentleman, had crossed the last great frontier and was buried with full military honours in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya Colony.

Major Hazzledon and Captain F.E. Smith, both of whom had served with Lieut-Col Driscoll in the 25th Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen) as second-in-command and adjutant respectively, now chose resignation rather than serve under any other commander. So it was agreed to liquidate the Independent Overseas Command of the Legion of Frontiersmen, allowing its members to accept an offer to rejoin the original formation, retire etc.

Some rejoined, whilst others retired and lost interest. We were now back to square one, and, the Imperial HQ Legion of Frontiersmen, London, under the same 'top brass' now securely ensconced from any further threat of change of leadership, entered into a deep state of hibernation only to emerge, as a drug-addict might from a 'trip', to make one of the most dastardly mistakes that had ever been perpetrated in the history of the Legion of Frontiersmen, resulting in the second great fragmentation.

Just as Britain, in the incident known as the 'Boston Tea Party' tried to override the rights of the American Colonists in 1773, which occasioned the War of Independence and the subsequent loss of America to Britain, so did the attempted interference in 1938 of Imperial HQ London, try to impose major changes in the Canadian structure without, in any way, consulting the Canadian Divisional HQ and subsequently refusing to admit an error in constitutional procedure, blindly tried to bulldoze through their errors of judgement with bullying tactics and personal insults.

The Canadian Divisional Frontiersmen would not accept this situation and said so emphatically, in unison, at the same time cutting all ties with Imperial Headquarters in London.

It was from this moment in time, in spite of the inevitable approach of World War II and the gigantic effort of everyone else to prepare against the coming onslaught of Adolf Hitler, that Imperial HQ in London allowed their part of the Legion to die of shame. Thus, the opportunity to make this 'the finest hour' in the history of the Legion was irretrievably lost.

Imperial HQ consisted of a small office at Covent Garden. A single Frontiersman reported here daily for which he received a retainer of 50 a year. His normal routine was to brew tea for himself, then open the mail, assuming there was any. This he would peruse and place in marked pigeonholes: sometimes there was difficulty in finding room so great was the accumulation of unanswered correspondence.

A day or two before the clarion call rang out announcing that general mobilisation had begun in 1939, he arrived, as usual, swept the office floor and polished up the big brass plate that boldly announced that somewhere up steep and narrow stairs was: Imperial Headquarters, the Legion of Frontiersmen, London. This task completed, the Frontiersman, a captain by the way, brewed tea and awaited the arrival of the postman - this wait eventuated in the delivery of a single letter, albeit a very important one for him, personally, as it was his mobilisation order to report for air raid duties immediately!

After a hurried telephone call or two to the top brass which were quite unsuccessful, he locked the office door and departed.

Some six years later (1945) I was passing through London on my way back from the War, when it occurred to me to look in at Covent Garden. It was gratifying to see that at least the building was still standing and the brass plate was there, too, though encrusted with six years of London grime!

Undecided as to whether to climb the uninviting stairs or to turn away, I saw an elderly gentleman coming down, so decided to wait. Pointing to the brass plaque I asked: 'Is the Imperial Headquarters Legion of Frontiersmen open?' To which the gentleman replied: Oh no! he hasn't come back from the War yet!'

These few laconic words seemed to put paid to the Imperial HQ, London, but not to the Legion as a whole, for the spirit of the Frontiers of Empire was still with us and, those still interested in keeping alive the flame that Roger Pocock had lit, begged the Canadian Division to accommodate them by opening up in the United Kingdom. The wheel of fate really had turned a full circle!

In 1948 Field Marshal J.C. Smuts, PC, MP, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, was not only personally defeated in the general election but his party was, too, and they were replaced by the extreme right Nationalists. Faced with the hostility of the newly made independent Afro-Asian states that now emerged as self-governing nations of the British Commonwealth, South Africa declared herself a Republic in 1961, outside this Mendelian hybrid of incommensurable diversity. The South African Constitution was rewritten and allegiance became indivisible and absolute - clearly, this was the sounding of the death-knell of the Legion in the very country of its conception.

Nigeria, too, at this period in time, had evolved from a former British Protectorate to an independent state within the British Commonwealth, followed shortly afterwards by Kenya Colony in 1963. The former had a Legion command under Capt Black and the latter a much larger command under Major Logan Hook. Both faced the same stumbling blocks - the question of allegiance, the forbiddance of wearing of uniforms other than those of the State and an absolute clamp down on private armies, quasi, neo or otherwise. I guess this put paid, with no uncertainty, to the services of the Legion so freely given, in peace and emergency, over long periods in those areas.

Rhodesia declared unilateral declaration of independence in 1965, severing its connection with the United Kingdom and becoming a Republic outside the British Commonwealth. The same position arose in Rhodesia as had arisen with the other commands of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Africa which were all constituted under the Imperial Charter in which they owed allegiance to H.M. the Queen.

In 1967 the OC Legion of Frontiersmen, Rhodesian Command, Lieut-Col Archard, OBE, 'solved' this complication by turning his unit into a Legion of Frontiersmen Old Comrades' Rifle Club! I would very much have preferred to have seen this done in traditional military style with the pomp and solemnity of the ceremony of the laying-up of colours on the disbandment of a regiment.

In 1971 I, as OC, South Africa Command, Legion of Frontiersmen, prior to immigrating to Rhodesia, completed the winding up of the Legion in South Africa. These ceremonies were conducted in all solemnity in the presence of the now disbanded Frontiersmen dressed in Legion blazer and tie, standing as stiffly as ramrods, fighting back the inevitable tears in their eyes as a trumpeter blew the Last Post.

Thus, the last of the formations of the Legion of Frontiersmen in Africa was laid to rest with honour.

Achievements of Frontiersmen in many lands

It was in South Africa that the Legion of Frontiersmen was first conceived by Roger Pocock whilst serving as a captain with the famous Waldron Scouts during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.

His experiences as a `mountie' in the frozen North-West of Canada as well as in the red-skin rebellion of 1885, combined with those in the Boer War, led him to thinking of the idea of forming a chain of 'Listening Posts', not only across the frontiers of the British Empire but, indeed, throughout the world.

At the turn of the century it was often necessary to ride hell for leather for days and often nights in order to get to the nearest telegraph station before being able to send vital information to the nearest military garrison. Thus in 1904, Capt Pocock founded the Legion of Frontiersmen in London.

Applications poured in from every point of the compass, and amongst these were: Sir Ernest Shackleton, explorer and leader of the 1914-16 Antarctic expedition in which his ship was crushed in the ice packs; Joseph Conrad who saw service in the Boer War and was the author of some of the world's most famous sea-faring adventure stories; Patrick Hastings who also served in the Boer War and was later to become one of the greatest criminal lawyers of all time, living to receive the accolade of Knighthood from the hands of the King; Capt Frederick Courtney Selous, big game hunter and naturalist, Chief Intelligence Officer to the column organised by Cecil John Rhodes to defeat the Matabele King, Lobengula, and annex Matabeleland; (Rider Haggard of Zululand, though not a Frontiersman, had modelled Allan Quartermain on Selous); Capt Robert Falcon Scott, RN, of South Pole fame who, after reaching the Pole, perished with his party during a blizzard. With them was Capt Oates, also a Frontiersman, who died that the others might have a better chance to live.

There was Dan Driscoll, known in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 as the `King of the Scouts' who founded and commanded the corps of irregulars - Driscoll's Scouts, and later became Commandant- General of the Legion in World War I; William le Queux, best selling novelist of the 1920s; Lord Baden-Powell who, as a colonel, had commanded the relief force that had come up from Bechuanaland to relieve the laager at Bulawayo during the Matabele Rebellion of 1896 and later, the hero of Mafeking.

Another was Capt Cherry Kearton, big game hunter and greatest photographer of wild life as well as being amongst the first. He too, saw service in the Anglo-Boer War.

Amongst other illustrious personages on the roll of the Legion were Lord Roberts, General French, General Alfred Turner, Lord Kitchener and many others too numerous to mention. All had seen active military service in Africa.

By 1906 Capt Pocock's dream had indeed materialised - the Legion of Frontiersmen was a reality.

Within a few weeks of its founding, a horseman who had answered Pocock's call, unshaven, unwashed, exhausted and dead-beat, his horse foaming at the bit and ready to die (he did die in fact) rode up to a small railway station and dismounted.

On entering the station, he rapped out an order to the only railway official he saw to telegraph the Natal Command that Zulu Impis were already on the march with the declared intention of killing the entire European population, men, women and children.

As our founder had visualised, this timely communication from one of his newly formed 'Listening Posts' enabled the Commander at the Fort in Durban to despatch a force that was to destroy the power of the Zulu King.

Fred Burnham, the great American Scout, was hired by Cecil Rhodes for service with the Pioneer Column in the capture of Mashonaland in 1890 and, later, against Lobengula, the Matabele King, in 1893.

In this fight the odds against the tiny English force which marched into Matabeleland were colossal, in spite of their Hotchkiss and Gatling guns. Lobengula had 80 000 spearmen and 20 000 riflemen, armed with nine pound Martini-Henrys which were modern arms at that time, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, whilst the English force comprised the Victoria Column of about 400 men, under Major Allan Wilson, and the United Salisbury Columns of less than 300 men under Major Patrick Forbes.

At Ihbembezi on November 1, 1893, in broad daylight, this tiny force destroyed the power of the Matabele, killing thousands of the enemy and putting Lobengula to flight.

Burnham and Forbes both became Frontiersmen many years later but Allan Wilson died in the heroic action at Shangani.

John Boyes (later Lient-Col) ran away to sea at the age of 13 and served in all sorts of ships from fishing smacks to a man-of-war. Tiring of the sea, he arrived in Rhodesia in time to see service in the Matabeleland Rebellion in 1896. He then found himself caught up in an inter-tribal war in East Africa and threw his weight in with the Wakikuyu becoming a blood-brother of the leading Chief which, in time, led him to become the 'uncrowned king' of the tribe that was to emerge as the Mau Mau. His influence, however, enabled the British Governor to retain nine tenths loyalty of this tribe of some million souls.

Johan Colenbrander (later Lient-Col) had arrived in Matabeleland in 1888 as interpreter to Cecil John Rhodes' concession-seeking parties. By virtue of his command of the Zulu language and his calm and friendly manner, he won the confidence of Lobengula, the Matabele King, and was sent down with an 'impi' (a Matabele regiment) to intercept the Pioneer Column at Tuli to ensure that Rhodes was not up to any funny business.

Major Pretorius, the great Boer scout, big-game hunter, Intelligence Officer and author was yet another Frontiersman whose greatest exploit was, perhaps, the tracing of the great sea-raider, the German battle cruiser 'Konigsberg', to her lair in the Rufiji River during the German East African campaign in the 1914-18 War.

This ship had been the scourge of all allied shipping that passed through the Indian Ocean from the Far East, India, Australasia, round the Cape or through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

Pretorius found that great activity was taking place under heavy concealment, so he built an observation post almost under her bows in the jungle that grew almost to the water's edge, so close that sometimes he could hear the crew talking.

He observed that there was something strange about the warship's armourment: 'God', he whispered, `the barrels of her guns have been replaced with wooden ones, probably coconut palms'. From this information, he deduced that these guns had either been or were about to be mobilised as field pieces and sent up to the front to support the German forces in the fierce battles now raging. He favoured the latter assumption, as this would account for the feverish activity, the sound of machine tools and incessant hammering - he must get a message to his Commander-in-Chief, General Smuts, but how?

There was only one way and that was to go himself through enemy lines. This he did in the best tradition of the Frontier. Those guns never reached their destination but were captured intact. Major Pretorius received an immediate award of the Distinguished Service Order and promotion to Lient-Colonel.

The clarion call announcing the beginning of World War I rang out loud and clear. Frontiersmen from all over the world began arriving in England from abroad. They had come under their own steam and paying their own expenses, most of them electing to serve with King Edward's Horse (The King's Overseas Regiment).

Members of the Manchester Squadron, Legion of Frontiersmen, were so anxious to get to grips with the Huns that on the day war broke out, they offered their services as a complete unit to the British War Office. When this was refused, they paid not only their own fares to Belgium but those of their horses as well and joined the 9th Belgian Lancers, first going into action with the 9th Lancers on the 16th August 1914 - a week before the famous `Old Contemptibles'joined battle at Mons.

Brigadier W.D. Hearn, late Officer Commanding The Queen's Own Cape Town Highlanders, was one of the Frontiersmen from the Manchester Squadron who served with the 9th Belgian Lancers in 1914, receiving the Ysier Medal from the King of the Belgians.

Frontiersmen were arriving from everywhere: 100 from China, 20 from South America, 130 as individuals. All were sent to a remount depot to break-in wild horses that were being sent to Britain from America, as well as those being rounded up in the New Forest, the ancient Royal hunting ground in Hampshire that had been planted in that beautiful part of southern England by the Normans after the Conquest.

30 Frontiersmen served throughout the duration of World War I as Mounted Police in London. Meanwhile, Col Dan Driscoll of the Legion of Frontiersmen raised the 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers at War Office behest.

Within 14 days from commencement of selective recruiting of men with frontier experience, the Battalion sailed for East Africa and fought throughout that campaign under Driscoll with Capt Selous, DSO, as his Intelligence Officer and Lieut Wilbur Dartnell being awarded a posthumous VC.

Out of the 1170 original men who went into battle in May 1915, only 85 remained on Battalion strength by December 1916; the rest were reinforcements.

In Canada, the entire Legion Commands at Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat, some 600 Frontiersmen in all, enlisted in the newly raised Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on the outbreak of the War and were among the first Canadians in action in World War I. They were in the line at Ypres in the first gas attack - barely 20 survived!

Meanwhile, the Legion in Canada raised the 210th (Frontiersmen) Battalion for services with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Nearly every original non-commissioned officer of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was a Frontiersman.

Of the Australian and New Zealand Frontiersmen who joined the Anzacs and fought with tenacity and gallantry in Gallipoli, France and Flanders, some 1500 died in the Dardanelles alone. They died as Frontiersmen would wish to die, facing their enemy, gun in hand.

Of the eleven VCs awarded to New Zealand in World War I, six were won by Frontiersmen.

Evelyn ffrench, one of the early members of the Legion and the world's greatest horseman, was wounded in seventeen places with shrapnel while serving in the Ypres Salient during the 1914-18 War and was unfit for further trench warfare. He joined the Royal Air Force and became a pilot at the age of 42. He was killed in a crash just after the Armistice was sounded. In the Savage Club, London, the War Memorial is a closed door. Blocking the doorway is a broken aeroplane propeller, in the form of a cross, and is a perpetual reminder at this famous club that the death of this Frontiersman closed the Great War.

On the outbreak of the 1914-18 War, some 800 South African Frontiersmen offered their services to the Governnent and were asked to enlist as individuals in any regiment or corps of their choice, or in either the Imperial Light Horse or the Rand Rifles `en bloc'.

Later they were to endure the hardships of a lightning campaign in German South West Africa, followed by an even harder one in German East Africa, in both cases adding laurels to their battle standards.

Other Frontiersmen who, as individuals, had joined regiments of their choice in South Africa, proceeded to the United Kingdom as the South African Brigade, from whence they went to France and Belgium with the 9th Highland Division and covered themselves with glory in the epic of Delville Wood.

South African Frontiersmen played an important part in the quelling of the Rand Uprising in 1922 and General Smuts was so impressed with their achievements that he joined the Legion as a Frontiersman!

By the time the clarion call to arms again rang out in 1939, strong contingents had already been formed in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Kenya, with lesser formations in Australia, India, Malaya, China, Egypt and many other isolated, but nevertheless, important, `Listening Posts'.

At this period in time, the whole concept of warfare was revolutionised. This was the era of the blitzkrieg - the quick, violent campaign intended to bring speedy victory by intensive land, sea and air attack. A lightning war of devastating aerial bombing was quickly followed by heavy armour closely supported by infantry and artillery.

Traditionally the Legion was essentially a mounted force, originally geared for operating in wild and rugged terrain. Quickly realising this, Frontiersmen from all over the world abandoned their spurs and flocked to join modernised regiments or corps of their choice - the days of the sabre, the lance and the carbine were over!

Amongst the first troops to have moved into position were Frontiersmen detailed to guard the coastline of New Zealand, whilst Canadian Frontiersmen were embodied as a battalion of the Defence Forces as well as presenting a Spitfire to the Canadian Air Force for immediate combat.

Mounted Frontiersmen of Northern Command in the U.K. patrolled the Yorkshire Moors to watch for possible landings of German paratroopers.

Meanwhile, 600 South African Frontiersmen either joined regiments or corps of their own choice or, once again, followed the First World War pattern and joined the Rand Light Infantry en masse.

When the total dead of the two World Wars was finally totalled up, it was found that at least 11 000 men of the Legion of Frontiersmen had laid down their lives in the highest tradition of the Frontier - facing their enemy, they had crossed the last frontier of all.

1954 saw the commencement of the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya with its frightful murders, rape and torture. The Mount Kenya Squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen, under Major Logan Hook, LMSM, went into immediate action in support of the Police while regular and territorial units of the army were still in the cumbersome process of mobilisation.

Thus, it was in Africa that a Frontiersman, his horse falling dead at his feet, first brought the news of the 1906 Zulu Rebellion to the Natal Command and, now, it was in Africa again that a unit of the Legion of Frontiersmen was amongst the first in action against the Mau Mau and, probably, the last ever likely to see action again as a unit of the last of the great Corps of Irregulars - the Legion of Frontiersmen.

In Canada and New Zealand the Legion of Fron-tiersmen, under Dominion and Provincial Charters, holds high its head and is deeply committed, as it always has been, to voluntary police duties and civil defence in their respective areas of the world.

And in the United Kingdom, under Brigadier Shoosmith, LMSM, the Legion of Frontiersmen parades its Regimental Colour with pride in the City of London that was the birthplace of the Legion in 1904.


The following addendum is placed as a result of e-mails received in 2007 from James Reeve:

I was very surprised to stumble across the story of the Legion and, in particular, the exploits of the Manchester Squadron. It is my home city, and the story appears to be completely unknown here.

I must make a correction to the account given here. The Belgian Army of 1914 had 4 Regiments of Lancers, and a fifth was formed upon mobilisation. The Regiment to which the Manchester Squadron was attached was the 3rd Lancers. The story is told on their website, which is at: http://users.skynet.be/les.cuirassiers/anvers.htm The details are on the above page in the section entitled "Yser".

The small number of accounts of the Squadron's movements contains several conflicting versions. The date of departure for Belgium is variously given as June 24th, July 24th, and early August. However, one Belgian account gives the date of arrival in Ostend as October 6th, 1914. It could be that they had been in France before that date, since there is a claim that they had offered their services to the French Army and been turned down. On arrival in Ostend they seem to have had a non-combatant role, building barricades and tending to the wounded. Belgian accounts say that they were not pressed into action on October 16th or 18th, at Saint-Pierre-Cappelle, being sent to reinforce the 3rd Lancers.

Sadly, it might be that the Frontiersmen were not in action before any other British Empire troops, but I continue to investigate and hope to clarify the facts of this most unusual episode.

James H. Reeve
jamesh@ukf.net
Manchester, England.


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