What is a Bantam?

 

The bantam is a fighting cockerel, small but hardy and aggressive.

 

In 1914, the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, Alfred Bigland, pressed the War Office for permission to form a battalion of men who were under regulation size but otherwise fit for service. A few days later, some 3,000 men had volunteered, many of who had previously been rejected as being under height. The original men were formed into the 1st and 2nd Birkenhead Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment (later redesignated the 15th and 16th Battalions). Other regiments began to recruit similarly: the Lancashire Fusiliers, West Yorkshires, Royal Scots, and Highland Light Infantry most notably. Many of the recruits were miners. Eventually these units were formed into the 35th Division. Another, the 40th, had a mixture of bantam and regulation units, although it is generally recognised as a bantam Division. The bantams were very popular at home, and were often featured in the press. However, by the end of 1916, it was found that the general fitness and condition of men volunteering as bantams was no longer up to the standard required. Brigades were informed that no more undersized men would be accepted, and the Divisions lost their bantam status as replacements diluted the number of small men in the mix. (5ft 3in + being the regulation height).

 

More reading

The Bantams. Author: Allinson. Published Price 16.00. 1985, 287pp

An intriguing and incredible story of the little men who were called upon to fight in WW1.

They were virtually wiped out at Bourlon Wood and Bourlon Village November 1917.