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Bob's Durham Bantams

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1915 to 1918
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Durham WWI
This page has been accessed 197 times.

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On 13th January (1915) the War Office sanctioned the Durham Parliamentary Recruiting Committee to raise another Battallion for the County Regiment. The height and chest measurements for recruits into the army had been reduced to allow the formation of "Bantam" Battalions. In these units the minimum height being 5 feet and the maximum height being 5 feet three inches tall with a chest measurement of 34 inches. At a meeting of the DCRC a resolution was passed that the WO should be approached with a view to forming a Bantam Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. Generations of many Durham families had been employed underground in the collieries found throughout the county. This work led to whole families being small in height but muscular in the upper body and it cannot be denied that they like many others were keen to do their bit.

This page is dedicated to the men who served in this very special section of the Durham Light Infantry. Please add profiles as you identify them and search out or create profiles for those that don't yet have one.


Who was Bob?

The Battalion was known as Bob's Durham Bantams, but who was Bob? The most compelling answer is that they were named after Lord Roberts who was known as Bobs.

Lord Roberts of Kandahar
Wikipedia:Frederick_Roberts,_1st_Earl_Roberts Lord Roberts had died in November 1914 and from newspaper reports of the time it seems he was a popular and much respected man. He was Field Marshall Roberts with a long and illustrious military career. He was also short in stature and it seems that the Bantams were named for him for those reasons.

There were other Bantam Battalions in other counties.

The history of the battalion in World War I


13 January 1915 - Formed at Durham by the Durham Parliamentary Recruiting Committee as a bantam battalion. 3 March 1915 - The battalion was embodied at West Hartlepool as the 19th (Service) (2nd County) Battalion [1]. May 1915 - Moved to Cocken Hall and then Masham, Yorkshire to join the 106th Brigade of the 35th Division. July 1915 - Moved to Perham Down, Salisbury Plain. 15 August 1915 - Taken over by the War Office.


Feb 1916 - Mobilised for war and landed at Havre and engaged in various actions on the Western front including;

  • The Battle of Bazentin Ridge
  • The fighting for Arrow Head Copse and Maltz Horn Farm
  • The fighting for Falfemont Farm.


Jan 1917 - After medical examination ceased to be a bantam battalion, removing unfit men to the Labour Corps.

  • The pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
  • The fighting in Houthulst Forest
  • The Second Battle of Passchendaele


8 February 1918 - Transferred to the 104th Brigade of the same Division.

  • The First Battle of Bapaume
  • The Battle of Ypres
  • The Battle of Courtrai
  • The action of Tieghem

11 November 1918 - Ended the war at Everbecq west of Grammont.

The men who served

Work in progress. These men, and all the others I can find will be added to a spreadsheet with the link here, showing rank, service dates, military honours. This will give a starting point for anyone wishing to create profiles in honour of these men. Meanwhile, here are just a few of the names.

  • Major W Thomlinson of Seaton Carew was appointed commander of the battalion.
  • Alexander Alderson 19/1221
  • William Appleby 19/439
  • Lance Corporal John Armstrong enlisted in 1915 and was discharged as medically unfit in 1917.
  • Private Robert Armstrong
  • 2nd Lieutenant A S Carroll died from wounds
  • Dr G.A. Barss, Battalion Medical Officer
  • Lance Corporal Peter Coggins
  • Pte. Arthur Cook [2]
  • CSM Stephen Cunningham died from wounds
  • Lance Sergeant Joseph S Curtis
  • Private Richard Hawksley
  • John McDonald
  • Lieutenant James Mundy
  • Major E F Osler
  • Corporal William Pine
  • Sergeant William Powell [3]
  • Arthur Riddle
  • Sergeant John Ramsey Robertson [4]
  • Lance Corporal Scurr awarded DCM
  • Second Lieutenant Fred Smith
  • Joseph Stones
  • Lieutenant Colonel Stoney
  • Henry Munro 19/1186
  • Private Swinhoe
  • W/O I Regimental Sergeant Major H. Webb
  • Alfred Wenington
  • Sergeant Robert Yule 19/1005

And many, many more ... feel free to add them here.

Research Notes

War Diaries

The War diaries for the Battalion are available to download at the National Archives (Ref: WO95/ 2490/5) and to view and download on Ancestry. They cover the period 31 Jan 1916 (""Left Perham Down for Southampton") to Jan 1918.[5] They are hand written by the CO for an entry for each day and include details of troop movement, casualties (officers named but not usually other ranks) and details of engagement with the enemy among other details - they even tell you how often the soldiers got access to the baths! There is often other additional paperwork included giving information about how the regiment was being managed, or maps, and sometimes lists of new recruits of all ranks giving their Company assignment.

There is likely a second document from Feb 1918 to the end of the war covering their time with 104th Brigade.

Any transcription of these records can be added to the War Diaries Category. There is a top level war diary page for War Diary 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry which shows how this could be managed within WikiTree.


  1. Ward, S G P 1962 Faithful. The Story of the Durham Light Infantry Naval and Military Press ISBN 9781845741471, Ch 10
    Wikipedia (accessed 14 Aug 2023)
  2. https://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/12333/
  3. https://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/15049/
  4. https://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/13835/
  5. Military: "UK, World War I War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920"
    The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries; Class: WO 95; Piece: 2490; Item: 5
    Ancestry Sharing Link - Ancestry uk Record 60779 #727333 (accessed 14 August 2023)
    Regiment or Unit: Durham Light Infantry; Sub Unit: 19th Battalion; Division: 35th Division; Diary Entry Start Date: 31 Jan 1916; Diary Entry End Date: 31 Jan 1916; Diary Dates: 1916 Jan - 1918 Jan; Diary Entry Location: Perham Down.; Piece Description: Piece 2490/5: 19 Battalion Durham Light Infantry (1916 Jan - 1918 Jan); Piece Number: 2490.

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Comments: 2

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Added link to WikiTree profile for Geoffrey Alden Barss. He was my grandfather's first cousin, from Nova Scotia, Canada, and was attached to the Durham Light Infantry as their Medical Officer during the Great War.
posted by Andrew Payzant
edited by Andrew Payzant
I think the Commander is probably William Thomlinson VD DL JP (1854-1943), who I created as part of my OPS - but not 100% certain, so not linked in the body. If/when I find confirmation, I'll link above.
posted by Ruth Jowett