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The Bantams Paperback – August 27, 2004
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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At the outset of the war, when men were enlisting in droves, many diminutive males, though patriotic and fit, were being turned away again and again because they did not meet the traditional height requirements of the battlefield.
As time passed, a few far-sighted men prevailed and a unit of men ranging in height between five feet and five-feet-three-inches was formed. After rigorous training (at first with weapons that were difficult for them to manoeuver due to their small stature) they were despatched across the channel to fight as bravely and effectively, and to suffer as much, as any company. Although the book starts off a little slowly, it soon swings vigorously into fascinating details of the forming of the company that came to be known as the Bantams, highlighted amidst the larger aspects of the war: well-known tales of the ineffective leaders who relinquished legions of soldiers in a never-ending war of attrition; colossal sacrifices for a hill or several yards of land that would be abandoned again in a day or two. Then there are less familiar but equally compelling accounts about the feckless narcissism of senior officers or bewildered troops reviewed by an inebriated monarch. Through it all, the Bantams retained their courage and, miraculously, their sense of humour.
The author has made it his task to tell their story. And like the bantam soldier it depicts, this book is a small gem.