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The legion of Frontiersmen

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BerichtGeplaatst: 25 Jul 2010 16:16    Onderwerp: The legion of Frontiersmen Reageer met quote

The legion of Frontiersmen

The headline in the London Daily Sketch of November 14th, 1914 read "These men paid to get in the firing line".

The Frontiersmen in Belgium 1914

The claim that the Manchester Frontiersmen were the first British troops in action at the beginning of the War in August 1914 at the present time remains far from proved and in any case may well turn out to be inaccurate,. The evidence collected from contemporary sources is such that there is no more than a small possibility that they were the first British in action who were not part of the Regular troops of the British army.
The claim that Frontiersmen were the first into action can so far only be based on the memoirs of Trooper Rennie Roberts held in official Frontiersmen archives but these memoirs were dictated at the end of his life. They contain a number of inaccuracies. For example he stated that, with other Frontiersmen, he was riding at the Wild West Show at White City. This is quite likely as many Frontiersmen were highly skilled riders. However he also claimed that “we got word from the London Headquarters of the Legion of Frontiersmen if we would find some riders for Buffalo Bill’s Show at Earls Court” and also later “Bill Cody asked us to stay over the weekend”. In fact it was the 101 Ranch Show at White City and Buffalo Bill had not been in England for ten years. Roberts also said that “on 24th August His Majesty King Albert of the Belgians came to Earls Court to ask for volunteers”.

No evidence can be found that King Albert was in London at that time. The history of the 101 Ranch The Real Wild West states that: “Frequently the audiences included not only prominent Londoners…and an assortment of high-society types but also British nobles and several European monarchs.” An official visit would have been mentioned in The Times but there is no mention of the King being in England. Of course it could have been an unofficial visit but that would have been rather strange with his country under threat. Also the King would surely have had to gain British Government approval to recruit British men. The Belgian Royal archivist has recently advised that they have no record of King Albert visiting England that summer and he considered such a visit very improbable. . With regard to Earls Court, appearing there were flamenco dancers recreating “Sunny Spain” – not Frontiersmen riders. In the light of Rennie’s other inaccuracies his story has to be treated with extreme caution.

To go on to the man always taken as the leader of the Manchester Frontiersmen from the start, Captain Nowell; writing in the October 1929 issue of a Frontiersman magazine, one of his troopers said: “A number of the South East Lancs Squadron, commanded by Capt. Nowell, went to London to be inspected, along with the rest of the Legion in Vincent Square by General Bethune, the one-handed warrior, for his report to Lord Kitchener. The then present Lord Mayor of Manchester, Sir Donald McCabe, D.L., accompanied the party. Whilst waiting for Lord Kitchener’s report, some of them got impatient. [Dick] Reading and a Dr McDougall went off on their own to France, and then finally got to Brussels and joined the Corps de Mitrailleuses. The rest of us who could get away, numbering 22, paid our passages to Ostend, and joined the 3rd Belgian Lancers, but kept our identity, calling ourselves the British Colonial Horse.” No explanation as to why they called themselves the British Colonial Horse and wore BCH on their shoulders has been seen. Judging by letters in Frontiersmen magazines, a likely explanation is that they were concerned about the Foreign Enlistment Act. In previous years, British Frontiersmen who had considered going to far away countries in search of adventure in any revolution had been regularly warned of this.

The Times confirms that the date of this inspection was Sunday September 6th, a month into the War. The Legion has photos in the official archives of that inspection. The paper also confirms that the Mayor of Manchester was present.

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