They marched to the beat of a different drummer.
At its height, around the time of World War I, the Legion of Frontiersmen (LF) boasted approximately 13,000 members throughout the British Commonwealth.
Originally a paramilitary organization, the LF served as an auxiliary force to the British Army providing mounted rifles, military scouts, local guides, military labour and intelligence gathering.
In Canada during the first War, LF members served alongside and within Canadian regiments and participated in home front war efforts.
During the interwar period the ranks declined significantly, but rebounded during World War II. After the war, membership steadily dwindled and the focus shifted to auxiliary municipal policing, civil defence training, community service, ceremonial activities and social opportunities for veterans.
By the 1990s the corps had all but faded away except in a few small pockets including Moose Jaw, but by 2008 that unit too was history.
By most accounts LF members were adventurous individualists—perhaps even eccentric—who were fiercely patriotic to the British Empire.
“I have some knowledge of the Legion of Frontiersmen in this country,” wrote Col. H.R. Pownall, a British military officer stationed in Hong Kong in 1930. “They are mostly, but not entirely, men of middle age, or older, who have “knocked about” a good deal and like the glamour of a Stetson hat, boots and breeches, and a revolver holster, who, to their great credit, wish to have a useful function in emergency but are of too independent a spirit to stomach the bonds of army discipline in peace.”
This is an apt description of Melville’s Merv Wog.
Wog has “knocked around” a bit, from films to security to writing books. He even fancies himself a “ghost detective,” offering a service of confirming or debunking ghost sightings in the area.
Wog grew up in Moose Jaw in the 1960s, the subject of a trilogy of books he has recently written. In the early 1970s he started a film company in Yorkton, but “that didn’t go anywhere,” he said, so in 1976 he got into the security business until in the mid-1980s when he was back making films, this time in Moose Jaw.
That is when he first came in contact with the Frontiersmen spending about a year-and-half with the organization.
After returning to the Yorkton area, however, he lost track of the LF and following the second stint in the movie business got back into security, eventually opening his own firm.
After shutting down the company and retiring, he found he was bored.
“I guess retirement, looking at four walls kind of got to me,” he said. “I wanted to go back into security.”
He started to look for the Frontiersmen again, but found they were no longer operating in the province. He tracked down the former commander of the Moose Jaw unit and bought the uniforms from him.
Now, Wog wants to get the organization going again and is looking for recruits.
He envisions the new unit providing auxiliary support to the RCMP, although municipal detachment commander Sgt. Rob Laurent said he cannot imagine the provincial brass going for it.
Nevertheless, Wog still sees a role for the organization providing assistance to the community, security for special events and private security along the lines of what the Commissionaires do.
Despite his enthusiasm and an offer of free security guard training for recruits, Wog hasn’t had much luck finding candidates.
“It is a big challenge because no one has ever heard of the Frontiersmen,” he explained. “They don’t know what the Frontiersmen represent or how they got started.”
Anyone who does want to know more can contact Wog at 306.730.0106.