I’m reading Edward Paice’s World War I: The African Front. This aspect of the conflict is so different from what comes to mind when thinking of that conflict. Things were much more losey-gosey there with commanders able to exercise their own judgement to a much greater extent than on the Western Front. Of course, they had a tiny fraction of the troops at their disposal and huge amounts of territory to cover as well.
So, things weren’t always ‘by the book’.
Case in point were the ‘Legion of Frontiersmen’ otherwise known as the 25th Battalion of Royal Fusieliers. You just don’t get units like this anymore in modern armies:
Youngsters who in peacetime were Post Office clerks in Bolton and book-keepers from Sheffield joined the music hall comedians, border gunman, university professors, Moroccan bandits, ex-MPs, cowboys, prize fighters, and acrobats…”
How is there not a TV series about these guys?
Impressed by modern military recruiting campaigns? ‘Army strong’, ‘Aim high!’, ‘The few, the proud’. Yeah, that stuff is amateur hour. The 25th called for:
‘…any young and fit men who would like to participate in what undoubtedly will be a great trip, chock full of glorious incident and adventure…
One wonders what sort of crew such an appeal would attract today.
In any case, the hype surrounding this crew was so great that no one thought that actual military training was necessary before sending these guys off to war. As a result ‘almost half its number had never fired a rifle’.
It was a rough, rowdy crew that picked up a reputation for looting and acquired the nickname that is the title of this post.