Raised in Birkenhead in 1914 the Bantams were unique as the average height of the volunteers was a mere five foot! Previously denied the opportunity to serve, these men seized this chance to join up. As a result the battalions comprised working class men from all over Britain: Welsh miners, sturdy London dockers, Lancashire mill workers and Merseyside labourers. As part of 35th (Bantam) Division, the Bantams fought on the Somme. The Bantams’ casualties were so severe that by early 1917 the Division effectively ceased to exist. Thereafter reinforcements came from the General Pool. They suffered heavily again at Houlthust Forest. The 35th Division played a key part in stopping the German 1918 offensive. Some 900 members of these Battalions lost their lives in The Great War.
CHESHIRE BANTAMS 15th, 16th and 17th Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment
Concentrating on a little known, but unique Great War organisation, this is a major study of ‘The Bantams’. Raised in Birkenhead in 1914, the Bantams were unique as the average height of the volunteers was a mere five foot. Despite their lack of stature, they fought with honour on the Somme before being decimated. McGreal explains well how the battalions began to lose their bantam nature, as drafts were not of the same ilk as the original volunteers and once conscription came in, the official bantam status was dropped. It goes without saying that his coverage of movements and actions in France is exemplary. There are many stories of individuals and acts of gallantry, too, which is rounded off in a comprehensive listing of awards, which includes citations where they could be found. The book also includes a roll of honour.