LEGION OF FRONTIERSMEN
Held at Eltham 1 July 1940
Reunion and smoke social. Fraternal gathering.
To mark the close of a successful conference, delegates to the annual gathering of the Legion of Frontiersmen, a number of ex servicemen, and other guests, attended a reunion and smoke social tendered by ‘M’ Squadron in the Eltham Troop’s rooms on Saturday evening. Well over 100 were in attendance, and the gathering which was presided over by Commandant J.C FINDLATER was voted one of the brightest and best held in Eltham for many years, hearty congratulations being bestowed on those responsible for the very complete arrangements which had been made.
Distinguished guests who were given a place of honour at the Commandant’s table were Mr G.A WILKINSON, MP for Egmont, Lieutenant R. SMART Officer Commanding, The Queen Alexandra Mounted Rifles and Colonel GIBB an ex Officer of the same unit, and Squadron Leaders of the various squadrons represented at the conference. The evening was devoted to toasts interspersed with musical and elocutionary items and other forms of entertainment, a special feature being numbers by the Diggers Orchestra under the baton of Mr H.J ANDREWS whose excellent playing of popular wartime airs and chorus’s were very warmly commended by all present The supper arrangements under the able direction of ex Squadron Leader J.T SCOTT were also very favourably commented on and added greatly to the pleasure and success of the evening. General regret was expressed that 2nd Lieutenant R.B FOORD, Squadron Adjutant, who had been mainly responsible for the arrangements for the conference and social reunion, was unable, due to indisposition, to attend the latter function. Regret was also expressed at the unavoidable absence of Major W. RICKETTS, DCM, of headquarters staff, who was called away at the close of the conference. Contributors to the programme were messrs C.J ROBERTS (songs and short stories), R. VENNER (songs), G. LITTLEJOHN (recitations), and E.K CAMERON, whose sleight of hand tricks and conjuring turn was a feature of the entertainment provided. After the loyal toast had been duly honoured, Commandant FINDLATER proposed the toast of “The 9000” and explained that the toast was in memory of the Legion of Frontiersmen who had laid down their lives for King and Country during the Great War 1914-18. The Commandant went on to say that 600 Canadian Frontiersmen also came over to the battle front with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, of whom only twenty survived. All in all 1500 Frontiersmen fell while serving with the ANZAC’s on Gallipoli. Some thousands also served with the 25th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers under Colonel DRISCOLL in East Africa until almost decimated by casualties. The Manchester Squadron, which was composed largely of Frontiersmen was the first British Squadron in action, having served with the 3rd Belgian Lancers early in the 1914-18 conflict The toast was drunk with the lights out to the accompaniment trumpet calls by Lieutenant COCKSEDGE and the singing of the requiem by Mr C.J ROBERTS , and the following verse by the company:-
“Splendid you passed, the great surrender made
Into the light that never more shall fade
Tranquill you lie, your knightly virtue proved
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved”
The “Toast of the British Empire” was proposed by Mr C.A WILKINSON, MP, who in the course of a splendid address said “I am honoured by being asked to propose the important toast of ‘The British Empire’. While pleased with this responsibility I must confess that any words of mine will be inadequate in dealing with such vast a subject. Firstly I may say I prefer the title ‘British Empire’ to the term ‘British Commonwealth of Nations’. It is true that by the Statute of Westminster the Dominions became autonomous countries, that is, completely self governing, and equal in status with one another, even with the mother country itself. But while we are completely free, as far as self government is concerned, we are full partners of Britain in world responsibilities, and no declarations of neutrality or non-responsibility would be recognised for a moment by any nation that conquered Britain. We in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Africa do not want to shirk responsibility. We are proud to associate ourselves with the motherland in the great struggle now raging, and to live and die under the common flag of all our countries- the good old Union Jack. Today is a testing time – the Empire is challenged by a ruthless and powerful foe, but the metal of our people will ring true. All the resources of our Empire are offered in the common cause. Firstly our gallant men who will fight in the air, on the seas, and on the land, and at the back of them all the material wealth of the greatest empire in the history of the world. The British Empire stands a beacon light for the world in upholding liberty, freedom of speech, a democratic system of government and all the rights of a free people. These great principles handed down to us by our forbears are at stake and rest on the issue of the gigantic struggle now going on. Today our Empire faces its greatest trial – the armed might of a relentless enemy that is out to dominate the universe. This evil power has already overrun and completely subjugated nine nations that a year or so ago were living at peace with their neighbours and with the world. These nations are: Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and lastly France. The abject condition of the peoples of these countries are too terrible for words, but I venture to say that in the short period there has been more brutality, more misery and suffering, than has happened at any other similar period in the history of the world. Such humiliation of peoples was absolutely unthinkable only a few short months ago. Our ancestors withstood similar dangers, but they did not flinch from the so-called invincible armada. Queen Elizabeth – that old Tudor lioness – who defied the might of Spain, said when she defied Phillip, “I am only a woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King”. In effect, in modern terms, her answer to Spain was: ‘Come and do your damnedest’. A glorious and ever memorable victory was achieved. Spain was decisively beaten, and never recovered from that great defeat. Later, only 130 years ago, Britain faced the mighty Napoleon – the conquerer of Europe, the master of the world, except of one tight little island. Then came Trafalgar, which made England mistress of the seas and ten years later Waterloo and St Helena for napoleon. Twenty five years ago came the Great War, and many of those present fought in this world shaking war. In March 1918 everything looked black, but before the end of the year victory was ours.
Let us therefore take heart, be of stout courage and worthy descendants of the men and women so ably established our position through the centuries. We have a mighty fleet, our gallant sailormen and our airmen are superb, our soldiers unbeatable, our resources are magnificent, and we shall triumph”. Mr WILKINSON her made reference to the battle of the River Plate, and the deeds of the men of the Archilles, Ajax and Exeter against the German battleship Graf Spee. “Now just a few words about our Empire,” he continued. “Our flag flies over about a quarter of the Earths surface; it flies on every sea. Of the motherland, a gem set in a silver sea, a well known American writer Mr Oswald Garrison VILLARD wrote as follows on his return from Germany to England: ‘To come back to the fresh, clean air of England, after breathing the foul atmosphere of Germany, so poisoned by the murderous Government’s malignity, hate and vituperation - not only against England and every nation that blocks its way, but also against so many of its own citizens – is to enter a new, a wholesome, a free world; is to experience an exaltation of the spirit. Here men can smile even under the strain of a terrible war. Here they look you straight in the eyes with nothing to conceal or apologise for. Here they talk to you about their hopes, their fears, their aspirations, their desires, without looking behind them to see if they are being overheard. Here the criticise their government, if they so wish, and close no doors for fear of the Gestapo. Here they have still a free, if not unfettered Press, and here they tell you that, much as they hate war and all that pertains to it, this is a job to be done as best it may. No can’t, no self laudation, no self pity, no whining. Just a manly, straightforward, clear eyed facing the future with the same magnificent, cool courage, the same astounding determination that amazed me at the outbreak of the struggle.’ Mr WILKINSON concluded by referring to the wonderful self governing Dominions and the Colonial Empire as some of some fifty different territories, distributed over the earth, inhabited by sixty millions of different races and civilisations; then India with its teeming millions. The speaker concluded with the exhortation, “Never surrender, fight on forever, forever and ever”. The toast was drunk amid scenes of great enthusiasm and the hearty singing of “Rule Britannia” In proposing the toast of ‘The Army, Navy and Air Force’ Commandant FINDLATER said the Britain had now organised for defence and her traditional last line was the Navy, still glorious and intact Her Army had lost none of the spirit which had made it famous in 1914-18. The phrase “The Navy is here,” used in the famous Altmark incident at Narvik would go down in history as a classic. The British Merchant fleet was still sailing the oceans of the world and the “Red Duster” of the Mercantile Marine would keep on flying on the seven seas of the world. The Air Force had also come through the present conflict with an amazing record of achievement so far and while the Germans might have a preponderance in numbers, the lads of the Royal Air Force had individually proved to be the masters in the use of fighters against bombers. The reply was entrusted to Lieutenant WALLACE (Navy), Colonel GIBBS (Army), and Lieutenant TENNANT (Air Force). During his reply, Lieutenant WALLACE, who took part in that great epic in naval history, the attack on Zeebrugge mole during the Great War, gave a very interesting account of the exploit. Colonel GIBB, who is a Great War veteran, spoke interestingly of that great event and the part which the present day generation were playing in the present war. Lieutenant TENNANT, also a veteran airman of 1914-18, gave an interesting resume of the part which the comparatively small force of those days played, and spoke with pride of the deeds of the Royal Air Force in the present war and the fine type of young New Zealander who was doing a noble part today. The toast of the ‘New Zealand Command’ was entrusted to Captain L. HICKFORD, who paid a tribute to the work done by Commandant FINDLATER and his staff. Lieutenant CLARK replied in appropriate terms. In proposing the toast of ‘The New Zealand Returned Soldiers Association’, Lieutenant WINTER paid a tribute to the good feeling which existed between the Legion and the RSA and said it was surprising the number who belonged to both bodies Lieutenant Colonel SMART, in the course of an interesting reply, congratulated the Legion on its fine record of service and the help it had at all times given to the Territorial movement in New Zealand. In referring to the comradeship evident, Lieutenant Colonel SMART said that nowhere could it be found stronger than in the Army and he paid a great tribute to the loyalty of the men to their officers. The toast of ‘The Visitors,’ was proposed by Captain Fred BUSH and responded to by Squadron Leader D. HONORE (‘N’ Squadron, Palmerston North) who congratulated ‘M’ Squadron on the splendid entertainment which had been provided and the excellence of arrangements which had been made for the comfort and enjoyment of the visitors.
At this stage of the proceedings the presentation of a Pioneer Axe, the highest honour that can be bestowed on a Frontiersman, was made to Staff Captain WARREN. In pinning the coveted honour on Staff Captain WARREN’s breast, the Commandant spoke of the wonderful service which the recipient had given to the Legion over a very long period of years, and said he knew of no-one in the organisation who was more worthy to receive it. On rising to thank the Legion for the honour which had been conferred on him, Staff Captain WARREN received a great ovation and many congratulations.
Shooting trophies were presented as follows :-
'A' Squadron (Auckland)
'N' Squadron (Palmerston North)
'M' Squadron (Eltham)
'H' Squadron (Hawkes Bay)
'M' Squadron (Eltham) – 92.63
'N' Squadron (Palmerston North) – 75.47
'O' Squadron (Te Kuiti) – 62.125
'M' Squadron (Eltham) – 564
'O' Squadron (Te Kuiti) – 471
Allen Bridge Shield
'O' Squadron (Te Kuiti) – 684
'M' Squadron (Eltham) – 676
'N' Squadron (Palmerston North) – 647
This fine shield, which was held by ‘M’ Squadron last year, was given to encourage long-range rifle shooting and its history was explained by Frontiersman BRIDGE, one of the joint donors.
Other toast honoured were ’Absent Comrades’ (Captain THOMPSON), ‘The Entertainers’ (Lieutenant COCKSEDGE, reply Mr E.K CAMERON), ‘The Press’ (Lieutenant R. McGARRIGLE, reply Frontiersman Chas S. RUSH), ‘Mess Orderlies’ (Captain F. BUSH, reply ex Squadron Leader J.T SCOTT) The gathering concluded with the enthusiastic singing of the National nthem and “Auld Lang Syne”
[(c) The Eltham Argus 1 July 1940]