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Remembered Today:

Bantam battalions


WilliamRev
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My maternal grandfather joined up late in 1916 in Huddersfield, hoping to join the West Yorkshire regiment. But the 19th Durham Light Infantry - a Bantam Battalion made up of ex-miners who were under 5' 3" but, I understand from my Grandad, physically strong and very tough soldiers - could no longer get sufficient small fit recruits.

So instead of the West Yorkshire Regiment, my grandfather, Pt. Leslie Kendall, was one of a number of taller men drafted into the 19th DLI, 35th Division in early 1917. He was skinny and 6' 1" which made him around a foot taller than most of his tiny-but-muscular comrades; he was a shy 19 year old middle-class grammer-school boy with a fondness for Dickens and Shakespeare, and his comrades were mostly rough Durham miners, and I think he was rather bullied at first.

Fortunately he was a remarkably good shot, and in no time had been chosen to work as a sniper, after which he said that he was looked-after and respected by the other members of the platoon, and he always said it probably saved his life because it excused him from trench-raids and other hazardous activities.

I have a little (unofficial, but rather nice solid silver) medal that he won which is the 35th Division prize for "Guard-Mounting" - he was particularly proud of it but strangely unspecific when I asked him in his old age (after he had given me the medal together with his War and Victory ones) exactly what he had done to win it, but I now wonder if it was in recognition of the number of the number of Germans he had sniped.

William Revels

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William

You are right in regards to the bantams. So many physically fit men, predominantly from the coal areas, were unable to join the service battalion in 1914, and as the call for men increased, the bantam volunteer battalions came into existence in 1915 and saw their first serious fighting in 1916. The Somme decimated their ranks and by 1917 were receiving 'normal' sized recruits due to the shortage of true bantams. Your grandfather joining in 1917 follows this pattern.

Just a passing thought. The silver medal given for 'guard mounting' may be a guard mounting! The guards were the silver fob on a short length of chain which secured a pocket watch to a waistcoat. They were often given as awards - unofficial and official. Any chance of a photo?

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Just a passing thought. The silver medal given for 'guard mounting' may be a guard mounting! The guards were the silver fob on a short length of chain which secured a pocket watch to a waistcoat. They were often given as awards - unofficial and official. Any chance of a photo?

Well here are scans of each side of the medal: it is just a little smaller than the War Medal, but about the same thickness, and the silver hallmark translates as 1917 Birmingham. The obverse has a wreath which was part of the medal as struck, with my grandfather's initials L.R.K. engraved inside. The reverse is engraved: "35th DIV GUARD MOUNTING TEAM PTE. L. R. KENDALL 19th D.L.I."

I think it is a very standard silver medal that might have equally well been given for winning a sporting competition, but it clearly wasn't a cheap item.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, my grandfather seemed to me to be prouder of it than he was of his other medals, and it was when he gave it to me he proudly told me for the first time about his prowess as the battalion's best sniper (although he was usually a very self-effacing and gentle chap and not one to blow his own trumpet), which is what led me to believe that "Guard mounting" didn't just mean staying awake on guard through the night! Or perhaps there was a specific competition? If anyone knows any more I would be fascinated to know.

William Revels

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'Guard Mounting!'

Picture this.

RAF Uxbridge, RAF Regiment Depot at the time , home of band, and various spit and polish units c. 1958.

0757 hours.

Grumpy arrives on foot to go on duty as Met Assistant, very junior grade, at MMO Uxbridge.

One corporal and six airmen, white belts, sidearms, rifles, gleaming and glistening, CARRIED OUT by erks in overalls to a chalk line in front of Guard room, and reverently deposited.

0759..59.

Le Mans green open-top Bentley pulls up, Brass hat abord, black labrador in passenger seat.

Guard presents arms.

Brass hat dismounts, salutes, and, with dog, inspects guard. Finds a few specks, enough to pick the stick man, or whatever he was called.

Station commander orders corporal to dismiss guard.

Grumpy departs, wondering ..........

That's Guard Mounting. Time-honoured custom of the services.

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'Guard Mounting!'

Picture this.

RAF Uxbridge, RAF Regiment Depot at the time , home of band, and various spit and polish units c. 1958.

0757 hours.

Grumpy arrives on foot to go on duty as Met Assistant, very junior grade, at MMO Uxbridge.

One corporal and six airmen, white belts, sidearms, rifles, gleaming and glistening, CARRIED OUT by erks in overalls to a chalk line in front of Guard room, and reverently deposited.

0759..59.

Le Mans green open-top Bentley pulls up, Brass hat abord, black labrador in passenger seat.

Guard presents arms.

Brass hat dismounts, salutes, and, with dog, inspects guard. Finds a few specks, enough to pick the stick man, or whatever he was called.

Station commander orders corporal to dismiss guard.

Grumpy departs, wondering ..........

That's Guard Mounting. Time-honoured custom of the services.

As a boy soldier 1963-65, 4 Troopers paraded for guard duty every night and all day at weekends. One man was picked by the Orderly Officer as the Commanding Officers orderly, or as we knew it Stick man. The chosen one did not have to do the duty and was named on the next days orders. All sorts of stunts were pulled but often the best trick was to know your officer. Some, especially the Education Corps, picked the same number every time so alot of pushing and shoving sometimes went on. The keen officers actually inspected the guard which favoured those who looked the part in their 20,30 or even 40 year old uniform. Happy days.

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