CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Sidney Allinson

Oakville (ON), Mosaic Press, c1982.
287pp, paper, $19.95 (cloth), $12.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88962-191-8 (cloth), 0-88962-190-X (paper).

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by Neil Payne.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

         The idea for this book began with a single yellowed
         newspaper in 1916. It showed a strapping Guardsman in
         shirtsleeves towering over a boyish soldier over half
         his size. Each was in shirtsleeves, suspenders dangling,
         thrusting bayonetted rifles at each other with looks of
         mutual exasperation. The caption read, 'Burly Guardsman
         trains one of Bantams how to skewer Hun!'

         Bantams? Though a lifelong student of military history,
         I had never heard of such troops. Who were they? Were they
         ever used in combat?. . .What I learned was that here was
         a neglected story which involved over 50,000 British and
         Canadian soldiers who never quite made it into the war books.
         They had volunteered to serve when they could have stayed at
         home. . . . Their reward was now virtually total obscurity.

This book describes clearly the mood in both Canada and Britain at the outbreak of war as men rushed to volunteer to fight for their country. It also gives one of the best accounts this reviewer has encountered of the rigours of trench warfare. Throughout, the story is told with heavy reliance on personal accounts of the Bantams themselves and those who fought beside them. The result is a very human account of the horrors, the accomplishments, and the personal relationships of the time that the reader may readily identify with.

This book tells the incredible story of how over fifty thousand men, who did not meet the army's 5' 3" minimum height standards, volunteered for special Bantam battalions of many famous regiments in Britain and Canada. Thousands of them fought and died on the Western Front, yet information about them was extremely difficult to find and even the regimental museums of the regiments that had Bantam battalions, had little or no record that these battalions even existed.

The author, intrigued by the idea of the Bantams and the apparent lack of a record of their accomplishments, started digging. He found numerous newspaper articles and over three hundred veterans. The result is a fascinating book that gives us a valuable social history, not just of the Bantams, but of a time that was so vital in shaping the world and Canada's place in it.

The Bantams is well written, fast moving, and easily read. Physically, the book is well organized and has a good index and interesting illustrations. The one drawback is that the illustrations are packed together, rather than accompanying related text, and there are few references to the pictures in the text.

This book is a must for all collections of World War I history and Canada's part in it. It will be read with interest by a wide range of readers not just the war buffs. Highly recommended for high school, college, university, and public libraries.

Neil Payne, Kingston C. V. I., Kingston, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works