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What happened to Frontiersmen in Asia before the World Wars?


Frontiersmen 1914

Lest we forget, the Legion of Frontiersmen was formed in 1904 as a volunteer force to act on behalf of the Crown, particularly along the frontiers of the British Empire. In many cases the frontiersmen were the only ready force available in distant region outside the empire. From Shanghai to countries in Southeast Asia like the federated Malay States (including Singapore), Hong Kong, Myanmar (then Rangoon, Burma), Philippines and Eastern Malaysia (then Dutch Borneo), the Legion of Frontiersmen were willing to train for and act on behalf of the Empire during an emergency. In response to the First Great War call-to-arms members volunteered for overseas duty or carried out home front service. As well national or overseas service was the aim of Frontiersmen as the Second World War unfolded. As the social and political ideals evolved throughout after both World Wars, the Legion of Frontiersmen’s patriotic ideals and goals evolved to reflect this. Let us place in our memories; in this process tens of thousands of Frontiersmen served and thousands were casualties.

While casualty counts for the Legion of Frontiersmen in the First World War vary, this 1919 appraisal of casualties is insightful. J. Suffern, Captain of the New South Wales Command stated “out of the 13,500 members over 12,000 have been on active service and of this number nearly 6000, or 50%, have been killed or incapacitated by wounds or sickness.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 1919.

Historical records and government gazette indicated the depleted Legion of Frontiersmen began a slow renewal process during the 1920s and by middle 1930s membership numbers began escalating until the early years of the Second World War. Command and control for Frontiersmen were not bounded by contract or employment, and as such, Frontiersmen had the opportunity to join the Association of Retired Persons (ARP), became (Volunteer) Special Constables, or Citizen Volunteer Corp for Home Front service, Ministry of Home Affairs, or Ministry of Defence.


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The Legion of Frontiersmen (Far East Command) is registered in Singapore and gazette notification effecting the registration was published in the Government Gazette vide Notification Number 574 under the registration T18SS0035B.