The Legion of Frontiersboy Scouts 1907 - 1912
By J.C. Henley
(Courtesy Australian Division)
HOW THE BOY SCOUT MOVEMENT IS LINKED TO THE LEGION
The story of the Boy Scouts, their history and their founder Lt. General Sir Robert Baden-Powell is well known to most people.
However the role of the Legion of Frontiersmen and the part their founder Captain Roger Pocock played in the early history of the Scout movement goes almost unrecorded.
The Legion of Frontiersmen were established by a Captain Roger Pocock who was born in England but went to Canada and served with the North West (later Royal Canadian) Mounted Police in the 1880's. He was later to go to the United State where he became a Boundary Rider, Trapper, Explorer and Seaman. When he learnt of the outbreak of the Boer War (1899 - 1901) he returned to England and enlisted for service in a Mounted Unit. After the war he returned to civilian life as a novelist and newspaper reporter.
The South African War had caught Britain and the Commonwealth unprepared yet Pocock knew of many others like himself, who were Adventurers, Trappers, Hunters, Explorers, Bushmen, Writers, Frontier Police and Seamen who had heard or noted signs of these 'troubles' before any Government agents knew of such.
He thought that if there were scattered throughout the world a number of men of this type, organised to observe and report such information or even assist the Government at short notice it would be of great benefit to Britain and the Commonwealth.
Thus in 1904 the Legion of Frontiersmen were established, and from this beginning many famous people have since joined and served in its ranks. These included members of the nobility, the military, Authors, Newspaper reporters and Adventurers. Among them were: the Earl of Lonsdale, the Earl of Meath, the Earl of Onslow, Viscount Esher, Viscount Helmsley, Viscount Muskerry, Lord Loch, Lord Lugard, the Marquees de Bucy, Sir Francis Vane and Sir Henry Seaton Kerr. From the military came Admiral HSH Prince Louis of Battenburg, General Lord Seymor, Lt. General Sir John French, General Lord Roberts, Field Marshall Lord Birdwood, Colonel Sam Steele and Lt. Colonel Paddy Driscoll. Authors who joined included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, Erskin Childers, William Le Queux, Cutcliffe Hyne and Edgar Wallace. Adventurers like Major Forbes, Evelyn French, Hugh Pollard, Cherry Keaton and F. Courtney Selous also joined this list.
You will see that amongst the Legion members is the Earl of Lonsdale and it was through him that Lord Baden-Powell was to first learn of this "Legion" and meet its founder Roger Pocock. In 1904 Baden-Powell was a guest of Lord Lonsdale at Louther Castle, there also at the time was Roger Pocock.
The Frontiersmen were organised as a uniformed body along military lines. Their uniform being a Slouch or Boss of the Plains (Mounties) type hat, loose navy or khaki shirt, neckerchief, khaki breeches, boots with leggings, along with leather bandoleer and revolver.
Baden Powell and Pocock discussed the Scout idea in 1904/5 and when the Scouts were established in 1907 their uniform was to become like the Frontiersmen a Boss of the Plains (Mounties) type hat, khaki shirt, knekerchief, khaki shorts, boots with leggings and leather belt. In fact uniforms for both organizations were stocked and purchased through A.W.Gamage of Holborn, London.
Another Legion member with whom BP was to meet was the Hon. R.B. Haldane, Secretary of War. On the 1st of May 1906 they were to dine together and strike a friendship, despite their different views on Defense. Haldane having just announced the creation of his part time "Territorial Army" in an effort to reduce Government expenditure. Five days after their meeting, prompted perhaps by Haldanes encouragement BP sent out seven copies of a paper he had written called "Scouting for Boys". Two of these copies were sent to Legion members, General Roberts, VC and H A Gwyne of the Evening Standard.
On the 16th of May BP submitted a report on the "Boy Scouts" to the Army. This would have been for Haldane whom was interested in the idea of a patriotic spirit being imbrued into British youth so they might later enlist in the Territorial Army. Four days later on the 20th of May BP and Haldane were to meet again, no doubt to discuss the Scout program as a form of preparatory training for military service, just as he would have seen the Legion as an Auxiliary to the Army.
In July 1906 BP was the guest of another Legion member Arthur Pearson owner of the "Daily Express" and "Evening Standard". It would seem coincidental that only two months before in May that one of his "Scouting for Boys" reports had been sent to H.A.Gwyne, Editor of Pearsons "Evening Standard". Pearson would in this way have been aware of B.P's current ideas about his Boy Scouts through Gwyne. It is believed however that BP and Pearson had discussed this concept in July 1905 and two weeks after that meeting BP had began to plan his handbook for the training of "Boys" as "Scouts", no doubt sure that it would be published by Pearson which it was when the the first edition of "Scouting for Boys" was printed in 1908.
The BP - Pearson connection continued during 1907 when Pearson advised BP that "I do not think you will improve upon "Boy Scouts" as a name for the organisation. In August 1907 Pearson sent his Senior Literary Editor (Percy Everett)to report on the birth of the Scout Movement at the 1st Brownsea Island Scout camp.
When the Scouts were founded the Legion of Frontiersmen had already spent three years establishing members throughout the world, and this was to be of benefit to Baden Powell and his movement.
When Baden-Powell released his famous "Scouting for Boys" Part I in 1908 he wrote in it: "Besides war scouts there are also scouts for peace, these are the Frontiersmen .... the trappers of North America, hunters of Central Africa .... the bushmen and drovers of Australia, the constabulary of North West Canada and South Africa.
Baden-Powell also wrote in "Scouting for Boys" that he recommended they read "The Frontiersmen Pocket Book" which had been compiled by Pocock two years earlier in 1906 and to which Baden-Powell is said to have contributed.
The "Frontiersmen Pocket Book" covered such subjects as navigation, finding food and water, fire lighting and bush cooking, camping equipment, canoes and rafts plus much more. All of these subjects are now considered as standard in the Scout training curriculum.
Roger Pocock would also be a contributor to the first edition of "The Scout" the official journal of the Boy Scouts in which Baden-Powell's boys were called "The Legion of Boy Scouts'.
When the Scout movement was launched many Frontiersmen were to become Scout Masters and named their troops 'Legion of Frontiersboy Scouts'. The assistance that all Frontiersmen were to provide to the Scouts is quite clearly laid out in Legion Regulations of December 1909 where it states under Regulation 77: "All members of the Legion are directed as far as lies in their power to assist the Boy Scouts" and ; "Lt. General Sir Robert Baden-Powell KCB KCVO, the 'Chief Scout' desires in connection with this regulation to state that as members of the Legion of Frontiersmen are greatly respected by all Boy Scouts the Legion is capable of exercising an immense influence for good in this direction".
At the Crystal Palace Rally of 1909 members of the Legion of Frontiersmen were noticeable present in Legion Uniforms complete with their issue revolvers! Two well known Scoutmasters/Frontiersmen seen in the official Crystal Palace photograph released by the Scout Association were Hugh Pollard and Sir Francis Vane.
Pollard would seem to epitomize the typical Frontiersman of that time, having been a prospector and soldier of fortune in Morocco during 1908. In 1912 he was involved in another revolution in Mexico. During 1914 he served on the Legion 'Intelligence' Staff and as a result of a story devised by him the first German spy in England during World War 1 was captured and convicted. Between the wars he was involved in a plot to drain off funds from the Sinn Fein war chest, then just prior to World War II he participated in the operation to return General Franco to Spain. After 1939 he was again involved in intelligence work for the British Government.
Captain Sir Francis Vane had established the first working class Cadet Corps at Toynbee Hall during the 1880's. Like Baden-Powell and Pocock he was to serve in the Boer War but he criticized the treatment of Boer civilians by British Forces. Baden-Powell appointed him Commissioner for all London Scouts in 1909. In 1910 Vane was to become head of the British Boy Scouts Association who numbered some 50,000. There was also a close connection between the Legion and the Scouts as in September 1912 Legion Officers attended the presentation ceremony of new 'Colours' to No. 2 Ipswich Company of the Imperial Scout Corps or 'Vanes Own' as it was known.
The Earl of Meath was another Legion member on the Scout "Executive Committee" whom continued as an active member up to 1922 when he was 81 years old.In "Scouting for Boys" Part VI of 1908 BP featured "The great South African Hunter and Scout F.C.Selous" as a "good example". Selous was to become one of the more well known members of the Legion serving in the 25th "Frontiersmen" Battalion during World War 1.
Even as far afield from England as China one could find signs of the link between these two groups, as when a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen was married in 1912 the aisles were lined by boys of the Shanghai Boy Scouts.
Three years after the "Boy Scouts" had been established BP again approached the Army with regards the value of his organisation. In August 1909 a "Voluntary Aid Organisation" was established by the War Office to assist the Territorial Army. This was to comprise of detachments (called VAD's) made up of semi trained "nurses" whom would care for the wounded in the event of an invasion of England. BP was at the same time advocating a "Girl Guide" concept and suggested they might be a Cadet Branch of the VAD. Again no doubt this would have fitted in nicely with idea of a part time Army supported by patriotic (albeit unpaid) volunteers such as the Frontiersmen,VAD and Scouts.
With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 the Scouts like the Frontiersmen were given a role to play by British Intelligence however this information was only made public in November 1997 as such it is still being reviewed by historians. It is now known however that they were used by "H" Branch of the Secret Service between October 1914 and September 1915 to carry secret papers. When the Admiralty began to need Coastwatchers the Scouts were transferred to Naval Intelligence as "Outdoor work being much more fitted to their energy". However Girl Guides continued to be used to carry papers and 34 Guides were employed in this role until August 1916.
After Baden Powell had retired from the Scout Movement in 1938 and was living in Kenya he continued to maintain a link to the Legion through Major John Boyes whom was the Commandant of the Kenya Command.This is confirmed in a letter sent by Boyes to the UK in August 1940,sadly in January 1941 Baden Powell passed away.
The most visible sign of the early connection between the Legion and the Scouts is the Stenson hat which is proudly worn by the Frontiersmen to signify their link to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. So the next time you hear somebody say " Are you with the Boy Scouts?" you can tell them about the history of the "Frontiersboy Scouts".