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Remembered Today:

Shortest British soldier?


Mark Hone
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On my flight back from Toronto last week I ended up chatting to the passenger next to me. It turned out that his father had been a 'Bantam' of 20th Lancashire Fusiliers. The chap told me that his father had been very short indeed, below 5 feet tall, probably 4'11". I said that in the back of my mind I seemed to recall reading that the shortest British soldier of World War One had clocked in at 4' 10". Can anyone confirm or deny this? I'm sure that this has been discussed before but couldn't find a likely thread via the search facility.

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Hi Mark

Mabe you read it in Sidney Allinson's "The Batams" . From p45 in my copy:

"I was exactly four foot ten inches when they accepted me", recalls Cycril Wright, a shipyard workder from Wirall, Cheshire. "I turned up at the Town Hall office with very little hope of getting in, but as I was a strong, healthy lad otherwise, they just said my heart was big enough to make up for height, and a solider I became."

Other surviving Batams proudly tell of being below five feet high - Jeff Pritchard, a miner, 4ft 11ins, Graham Carr, a clerk, 4ft 10ins, Nobby Streeter, a foundryman, 4ft 9.5ins

Regards

Pen

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I am sorry to say your 'Bantam' was a Goliath to Sgt Frank Wittman of the RAMC. He was only 3ft 8 inches !!!!!!!

Wittman was an Australian pharmacist who volunteered at the start of WW1 and ended up working in a convalescent hospital at Geelong. He wanted to serve overseas but was not allowed. He discharged himself and paid his own passge to the UK and joined the RAMC and was posted to India before going to Mespotamia. After the war he returned to Australia.

Terry

post-66-1250342626.jpg

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Blimey, Terry, he must be the winner in terms of British Empire soldiers (and probably all combatants). Not an actual fighting soldier, though. Did he see service in the front line with the RAMC?

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I seemed to recall reading that the shortest British soldier of World War One had clocked in at 4' 10". Can anyone confirm or deny this? I'm sure that this has been discussed before but couldn't find a likely thread via the search facility.

Previous thread on the tallest soldiers, but Sergeant Wittman does get a mention:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...=69924&st=0

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  • 4 years later...
Guest Ivor Hughes

The recruitment papers of Pte Benjamin William Thomas Pulham, 14 Bn Gloucestershire Regiment, show his adult height as 4' 8½". He was awarded BWM and AVM so must have been on active service.

The service papers show him as having been medically discharged and pensioned in 1916 and dying in October 1918.

For some inexplicable reason CWGC records show him as having died while serving in AVC at an AVC hospital in Winchester on the same date, But there are no service records or MIC for that ID. Very curious - I've alerted CWGC.

In any event, he was 4' 8½" on recruitment and discharge. I have the death plaque - reason for research.

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I wonder if he was an ex stable boy (would be jockey) specially enlisted to look after the officers' horses. It would explain the height (or rather it's lack) and possibly why there might be an AVC connection somewhere. If he was discharged in 1916 why would his death in 1918 be on his service papers? He should have been entitled to a SWB on that basis - is this on his MIC?

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If he was discharged in 1916 why would his death in 1918 be on his service papers? He should have been entitled to a SWB on that basis - is this on his MIC?

SWB shows discharged from the Gloucesters on 30 Aug 1916 due to sickness. Enlisted 22 Oct 1915 . Badge 332874

If he later recovered then he would be eligible for conscription so perhaps he was later re-enlisted for home service.

Craig

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SWB shows discharged from the Gloucesters on 30 Aug 1916 due to sickness. Enlisted 22 Oct 1915 . Badge 332874

If he later recovered then he would be eligible for conscription so perhaps he was later re-enlisted for home service.

Craig

Would he have been liable for conscription though? He'd have failed the medical on height alone. Would he not have had to be voluntarily re enlisted as a special enlistment again? Which could well explain the AVC connection.

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Would he have been liable for conscription though? He'd have failed the medical on height alone.

He'd certainly have been liable for conscription as they'd removed the exemptions for a man who had previously been discharged but whether or not a re-enlistment would be through conscription or voluntary enlistment I don't know.

Craig

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He'd certainly have been liable for conscription as they'd removed the exemptions for a man who had previously been discharged but whether or not a re-enlistment would be through conscription or voluntary enlistment I don't know.

Craig

Exemptions yes but failure to meet the medical requirements is nothing to do with exemptions so I don't think he was liable to conscription

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Exemptions yes but failure to meet the medical requirements is nothing to do with exemptions so I don't think he was liable to conscription

Being liable for conscription is different to actually being conscripted - as far as I'm aware there was nothing in the MSA to render him not liable for conscription although a medical may have rejected him for service.

Craig

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For some inexplicable reason CWGC records show him as having died while serving in AVC at an AVC hospital in Winchester on the same date, But there are no service records or MIC for that ID. Very curious - I've alerted CWGC.

The explicable reason is that this is what the army told the IWGC. There may have been a clerical error somewhere along the line but if there is no documentary evidence to contradict the contemporary record, then CWGC is not going to overide the record. There may be suitable documentary evidence in his death certificate.

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SDGW shows

Name: Benjamin William Thomas Pulham
Death Date: 28 Oct 1918
Death Location: Home
Enlistment Location: Glos. Barracks
Rank: Private
Regiment: Royal Army Veterinary Corps
Number: SE/34649
Type of Casualty: Died
Theatre of War: Home

It odd though as he seems to have died as a pensioner of the Gloucesters according to his records:

post-51028-0-79510400-1393108948_thumb.p

Craig

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For some inexplicable reason CWGC records show him as having died while serving in AVC at an AVC hospital in Winchester on the same date, But there are no service records or MIC for that ID. Very curious - I've alerted CWGC.

He certainly died in the Winchester district:

Pulham Benjamin W T 25 Winchester 2c 341

Craig

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On opposite scale found a service record saying the man was 7'11 on sign up !. Obviously an error was 2 feet shorter later on lol. A lot of errors, but does not mean above wasnt

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On opposite scale found a service record saying the man was 7'11 on sign up !. Obviously an error was 2 feet shorter later on lol.

Maybe being in the trench long enough encouraged the height loss.

Craig

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