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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Little Fighters!, 6 Oct 2006
Thank you Pen and Sword for yet another excellent publication, that is sure to be of great benefit to family and local history researchers and military historians with an interest in the Cheshire Regiments and Pals Battalions of the Great War.

This splendid volume - the result of years of painstaking research by the author, covers the history of the 15th, 16th and 17th Battalions of The Cheshire Regiment - units better known or more affectionately referred to as the "Bantams". When war broke out the standard height for enlistment at the time was at least 5ft 3in tall, however after Birkenhead applied for permission to recruit shorter men, so many men from mining and industrial areas across Britain volunteered, that it was decided to form the 35th (Bantam) Division.

The author tells the story of this brave "little" army in excellent and highly readable detail. He covers the raising of the units and their training at home prior to their embarkation for France in January 1916 and then goes on to recall their actions and individual acts of bravery as they fought and were almost decimated at Bazentin Ridge and the Somme. These battles sadly led to the tough and sturdy men of the "Bantams " being replaced by physically inferior troops and once conscription was brought into being, the division soon lost its "Bantam" status.

In the traditional Pen and Sword style, the excellent text is complemented with many superb and fascinating photographs of these gallant, short but well developed men and as well as including images of recruiting posters, it also features a full Roll of Honour and comprehensive list of citations for awards of gallantry.

This volume is invaluable and in my opinion is worthy of space in any library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent battalion-level history, 14 Sep 2007
By 
Chris Baker "The Long, Long Trail man" (Leamington Spa, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
There have been some absolutely cracking regimental and unit histories published recently, many covering parts of the army that have not to date enjoyed the best of coverage. Jill Knights "Civil Service Rifles", Bernard Lewis'; "Swansea Pals" and Kevin Shackleton's "Second to none" are all examples. They are the result of painstaking work over a number of years, carried out by enthusiasts who can write with objectivity and feeling. Stephen McGreal's "Cheshire Bantams" is another splendid piece of work and well worthy of a place of your bookshelf.

Unusually, Stephen has chosen to record the history of three battalions, of which one, the 17th, was a home-based reserve to the other two. The link between them is not only that they officially became units of the Cheshire Regiment, but that they were the first of the so called "Bantams": units filled with men who were below the standard regulation height for enlistment. Originally the 1st and 2nd Birkenhead, the two active service units became the 15th and 16th (Service) Battalions; they were half of the 105th Infantry Brigade of 35th Division.

The book covers in great but highly readable detail the raising of such units, inspired by Birkenhead MP, Alfred Bigland, and their training and development at home before they went to France in January 1916. There are many photos and images of recruitment posters and the like. Some of the pictures of the men are really fascinating: men who were obviously low in height but well developed and strong. After all, many of the bantams came from the mining and heavy industrial communities.

Stephen explains well how the battalions (and indeed the entire 35th Division) 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.

As with all Pen & Sword books, this is beautifully produced and well worth the cover price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well researched book., 7 Oct 2009
By 
A. Stimpson "Alison" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cheshire Bantams: 15th, 16th and 17th Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment (Paperback)
If you have any past family connections with the Cheshire Bantams, the book is a great read and a fascinating insight into how the Bantam regiments came about. The author has done well to make this an easy and interesting read if you have no idea about the way of army life.
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