What Were The Bantam Battalions? World War 1

What Were The Bantam Battalions? World War 1

The Bantam battalions of the British (& Canadian) army during the First World War were made up from men below the normal height requirement of 5’3.
Over 30,000 pint-sized warriors volunteered, including a corporal who was just 4’9 and I will share his story later in this episode. I will also tell you about a bantam war poet, and another bantam who would make a huge impact on Britain after the war.

They made up in courage and aggression what they lacked in height. Each one, described in a poem as : “A pocket Hercules”
these bantams were up for the fight.

Indeed, so renowned were the little men from the 18th battalion, the Highland Light Infantry, for taking on all-comers in pub brawls in Glasgow, they were nicknamed the “Devil Dwarves.”

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William Coltman VC – 5’4 VC Recipient

It all started just 2 months into the war, when a miner who failed to reach the standard height requirement offered to take on all-comers to prove he could fight and it took 6 larger soldiers to remove him from the recruiting office.

His plucky, aggressive behaviour encouraged a Member of Parliament, Alfred Bigland, to form his own battalion of men between 4’10 and 5’3.
Within 2 weeks, Bigland had received 3,000 applications, enough to form not one, but two battalions, the 1st & 2nd Birkenhead battalions of Cheshire Regiment.

The Birkenhead News gave them enamel lapel badges emblazoned BBB (Bigland’s Birkenhead Bantams)

Overall 29 battalions of UK & Canadian bantams were recruited during World War 1

Bantam Battalions included:
15th (service) battalion, The Cheshire Regiment
16th (service) battalion, The Cheshire Regiment
17th (reserve) battalion, Cheshire Regiment
23rd (service) battalion, the Manchester Regiment
19th & 23rd battalions, Durham Light Infantry
17th battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
11th (service) battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment
17th, 18th & 20th battalions, Lancashire Fusiliers
15th battalion, Sherwood Foresters
17th (service) battalion, Welsh Regiment
18th (service) battalion, Welsh Regiment
12th battalion, South Wales Borderers
19th battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
17th (Rosebery) battalion, Royal Scots
18th battalion, Highland Light Infantry (the “Devil Dwarves”)
12th battalion, Suffolk Regiment
20th battalion, the Middlesex Regiment
21st (Islington) battalion, Middlesex Regiment

The bantam battalions formed the whole of the 35th division and half of the 40th division on the Western Front and fought with distinction at the battle of the Somme (1916) and the battle of Cambrai (1917).

Ultimately, the inability to replace bantam size men (due to losses) led to the dilution and disbandment of the bantam battalions.

0:00 Intro
0:47 Summary
2:15 Highland Titles
4:08 Height Restrictions
5:23 Bigland’s Bantams – Cheshire Regiment
7:49 What were Bantams
9:06 23rd battalion Manchester’s
11:20 Bantam Battalions
13:27 “Devil Dwarves”
14:27 Canadian Bantams
15:00 35th Division
17:04 Famous Bantams
18:19 40th Division
19:57 Bantams in Action
22:06 Bantam Losses
24:02 Dilute & Disband
26:41 Little Men, Big Hearts

Credit to : The History Chap

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