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Too Tall to Enlist?


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#1 Martin G

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:02 PM

I thought this was unusual - This from the Derby Telegraph 5th Nov 1915

"RED TAPEISM AND RECRUITING" (To the Editor of the Derby Daily Telegraph) "Sir - Hearing the great outcry for recruits I offered my services to my old Regiment the Derbyshire Yeomanry. After paying my own expenses down to Derby I was told that no-one over 5' 6 inches was accepted, my height being 5' 9 1/2 inches. Why all this humbug at a crisis like this? I might say that I am 40 years of age and fit and well, have also served through the South African War with 8th Imperial Yeomanry, also with Colonel Younghusband's Horse and discharged with character "very good". I hold the King's and Queen's medals (five bars). If good enough for the South Aftrican War, why all this nonsense about 3 inches? To use Mr Asquith's words all fit men are wanted and married men should not be forced to join until the single men have enlisted. Yet I, a married man with three children offer my services and get refused. Trusting you will give this publicity, allow me to remian, yours truly " A Simms 12 Melville Place, Woodhouse, Leeds. 3/11/15.



#2 truthergw

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:48 PM

I thought this was unusual - This from the Derby Telegraph 5th Nov 1915

"RED TAPEISM AND RECRUITING" (To the Editor of the Derby Daily Telegraph) "Sir - Hearing the great outcry for recruits I offered my services to my old Regiment the Derbyshire Yeomanry. After paying my own expenses down to Derby I was told that no-one over 5' 6 inches was accepted, my height being 5' 9 1/2 inches. Why all this humbug at a crisis like this? I might say that I am 40 years of age and fit and well, have also served through the South African War with 8th Imperial Yeomanry, also with Colonel Younghusband's Horse and discharged with character "very good". I hold the King's and Queen's medals (five bars). If good enough for the South Aftrican War, why all this nonsense about 3 inches? To use Mr Asquith's words all fit men are wanted and married men should not be forced to join until the single men have enlisted. Yet I, a married man with three children offer my services and get refused. Trusting you will give this publicity, allow me to remian, yours truly " A Simms 12 Melville Place, Woodhouse, Leeds. 3/11/15.

Very strange. We know that many men over 5'6" enlisted. Without more information, I doubt if we will ever have the answer. We could of course, speculate endlessly.

#3 Martin G

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:08 PM

Very strange. We know that many men over 5'6" enlisted. Without more information, I doubt if we will ever have the answer. We could of course, speculate endlessly.


Yes, I agree. I have never seen any other reference to being too tall. .... picked it up trawling the Derby Telegraph articles on Derbyshire Yeomanry men (the Derby Telegraph is thankfully digitised and available online). It is interesting to read first hand how the early days of the War was reported.

#4 IPT

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:49 PM

I've found pension papers for 282016 Pte Arthur Simms, 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment.

He's from Leeds, height 5ft 9 1/2 and aged 42 years and 8 months at time of discharge in August 1918.

He'd joined 3 days after the above article and had been employed in the cookhouse, and hadn't gone abroad. Military character: Indifferent. His pension record says that his rheumatism was started in the South African service and originated in Derby. He had deserted in 1917 and been apprehended by the civil police.

I suspect that the recruitment officer just had to think of any excuse. Either that, or Arthur just made it up.

#5 Martin G

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 10:04 PM

I've found pension papers for 282016 Pte Arthur Simms, 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment.

He's from Leeds, height 5ft 9 1/2 and aged 42 years and 8 months at time of discharge in August 1918.

He'd joined 3 days after the above article and had been employed in the cookhouse, and hadn't gone abroad. Military character: Indifferent. His pension record says that his rheumatism was started in the South African service and originated in Derby. He had deserted in 1917 and been apprehended by the civil police.

I suspect that the recruitment officer just had to think of any excuse. Either that, or Arthur just made it up.


Interesting... and lucky that his pension papers survived... all the details seem to fit perfectly. Thank you for posting.

#6 Ron Clifton

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:22 AM

Hello all

There was certainly a maximum height restriction for horse-transport drivers in the ASC, who had to be 5' 5" or less. This makes some sense, as the driver of a wagon is part of the load and, as with jockeys and coxes of rowing eights, smaller men are preferred as long as they can meet the physical requirements of the job.

As yeomanry horses were generally fairly small, it is possible that shorter recruits were preferred because they were generally lighter, rather than specifically on height grounds. We know from various sources that the Army was reluctant to turn away willing volunteers, but on the other hand a change in the height limit (more usually at the lower end) was occasionally introduced purely to slow down recruitment and avoid the depots being swamped. Those changes were usually reversed later, when matters had calmed down a bit.

Many TF units still "did their own thing" to a great extent as regards recruiting, so it might well have been a convenient excuse for rejecting a man who was considered unsuitable for other reasons.

Ron

#7 truthergw

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 12:42 PM

Hello all

There was certainly a maximum height restriction for horse-transport drivers in the ASC, who had to be 5' 5" or less. This makes some sense, as the driver of a wagon is part of the load and, as with jockeys and coxes of rowing eights, smaller men are preferred as long as they can meet the physical requirements of the job.

As yeomanry horses were generally fairly small, it is possible that shorter recruits were preferred because they were generally lighter, rather than specifically on height grounds. We know from various sources that the Army was reluctant to turn away willing volunteers, but on the other hand a change in the height limit (more usually at the lower end) was occasionally introduced purely to slow down recruitment and avoid the depots being swamped. Those changes were usually reversed later, when matters had calmed down a bit.

Many TF units still "did their own thing" to a great extent as regards recruiting, so it might well have been a convenient excuse for rejecting a man who was considered unsuitable for other reasons.

Ron

Would that not leave the door open to very short fat men? 5'4" and 14 stone? Why not a weight restriction?

#8 Will I Davies

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 12:54 PM

Would that not leave the door open to very short fat men? 5'4" and 14 stone? Why not a weight restriction?



This was probably because in 1914 there were very few overweight people from the lower classes around within the serving age range.

Will

#9 Scritch

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 01:25 PM

Hi Martin,

At the risk of going slightly off topic, what is the website for the Derby Telegraph archive please? Wouldn't mind having a peruse of that myself.

Cheers
Richard

#10 truthergw

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 01:56 PM

This was probably because in 1914 there were very few overweight people from the lower classes around within the serving age range.

Will

Men serving in Yeomanry would not be exclusively of ' lower classes'. The fact remains that a height restriction did not address the proposed problem. A weight restriction would.

#11 Martin G

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 05:14 PM

At the risk of going slightly off topic, what is the website for the Derby Telegraph archive please? Wouldn't mind having a peruse of that myself.


Hi - it is the website of a joint venture between the British Library and brightsolid http://www.britishne...erarchive.co.uk. It has a database of newspapers that have been scanned (I think over 50 titles and growing) with dates ranging from 1700 to 1945. It uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to scan the papers, so it is possible to search for a person or regiment or an event. It isn't perfect (lots of typos) but it is a huge step forward, especially for those who can't get to the British Library collections. It allows one to set data parameters and choose a specific newspaper or region and search a number of parameters. Free to register but then you have to pay, but I think the packages and options seem to be fairly priced. It is very easy to use and a joy to be able to read a 1915 newspaper as if I had it in my hands.

I found it to be extremely useful. I was searching for Derbyshire Yeomanry and using those two words and a date limit of Aug 1914-Dec 1915 it produced a few hundred references just on one newspaper title. It shed light on many of the men who were killed or wounded and there were a number of articles based on men's letters home. Some of the articles/letters really do bring to life the characters of the men. I was surprised how articulate their letters were, which supports Truthergw's view that these Yeomen were not all uneducated farm labourers. In fact the DY seemed to have a disproportionate number of men who were clerks on the Midland Railways, perhaps suggesting a degree of education and literacy that some people might not necessarily assume for recruits. Some nice snippets on who they were related to ( a famous county cricketer in one case) etc. For me it helps make their stories more human and not just a list of faceless names. I even found a picture of the Sergeants of the regiment assembled in Egypt just before Gallipoli (i think it includes my grandfather - a bit too grainy to tell) which I had never seen before. If one is patient, it is possible to find lots of gritty info. I even managed to establish strong supporting evidence to a theory I had that DY men were recruited and given numbers in sequences that corresponded to where they were recruited - all based on snippets on dead and wounded men where the listings gave home towns and villages - eight men in number sequence all from the same small village recruited in 1910.

One other aspect - it clearly showed how fast (or slow) information moved. Typically events at Gallipoli mentioning Derbyshire men were being reported in the Derbyshire press about 4 weeks after the event. What is particularly useful is that if, say, your interest was in the Norfolk Regiments, it allows you to search just the Norfolk newspapers. A great resource for the family military history researcher.

Regards MG

#12 Martin G

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 05:27 PM

Men serving in Yeomanry would not be exclusively of ' lower classes'. The fact remains that a height restriction did not address the proposed problem. A weight restriction would.


I have done a fair amount of research into the Yeomanry and I was constantly struck from the evidence in the remaining Service Papers by how slight these men were compared to modern man. Chest measurements below 40" and weights that seem very low by modern standards. I had not realised quite how much how our nation had 'supersized in the last 100 years. Doubtless there is lots of pulished research on this.

On the issue of Yeomanry needing (small?) lightweight men, I have never seen any evidence of this, however it would make sense as the British Army in particular prided itself on the care of its horses, having set schedules for riding v walking v walking dismounted to spare the horses from the rigours of hard campaigning. I have seen a few accounts of how the Yeomen in Macedonia (hard rocky mountainous country) were appalled by how the French/German/Bulgars treated their mounts, so it would make sense. Having said that I have also seen accounts of the Yeomen being described as having fine physiques compared to other troops, so this might be completely wrong. It would be interesting to find out if the slightness (to my eyes) merely reflected the smaller builds of the average man in 1914-15 or whether there was a deliberate policy of recruiting lighter men. I think I am right in saying the British Army abandoned the differentiated light cavalry v heavy cavalry some years before. I am sure someone will come galloping out of the woods to put me right very soon. MG.

#13 IPT

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:53 AM

I absolutely swear by the above newspaper archive.

And if you're clever, you can coax the article out....

#14 Ron Clifton

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:32 PM

Would that not leave the door open to very short fat men? 5'4" and 14 stone? Why not a weight restriction?

Tom

I suspect that in 1914-18 there would have been very few men of that height (or less) who weighed as much as 14 stone! It is not just a class matter - health and nutrition standards in those days were such that men (and women) were noticeably smaller than they are today - as anyone who has met veterans, or re-enactors who wear authentic uniforms, will know.

As I understand it, a significant proportion of total body weight is attributable to the skeleton, and the weight of that will be roughly proportional to the cube of the person's height. This in itself would mean that there is very little scope for short heavy individuals based on how fat they were. Any that were enlisted would probably either have been rejected as unfit, or would have lost a good deal of fat through supervised physical exercise as part of basic training. The military diet would also have reduced the opportunity to eat fatty foods, and beer consumption (often adduced as a reason for stoutness) would haveb been fairly closely monitored, for reasons of efficiency.

IIRC there were, in fact, no branches of service for which weight restrictions were applied, although for younger recruits there were guidelines showing the point at which under-nourishment, and hence future efficiency, might be implied.

Ron

#15 IPT

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 01:23 PM

Just to add that Arthur Simms was No 5119 Derbyshire Yeomanry when he served in South Africa.

#16 Scritch

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 07:08 PM

it is the website of a joint venture between the British Library and brightsolid http://www.britishne...erarchive.co.uk. It has a database of newspapers that have been scanned (I think over 50 titles and growing) with dates ranging from 1700 to 1945.


Thanks for the information MG, will check the site out :)
Kind regards
Richard