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Edward Hillison who Enlisted with the Bantams

Edward was rejected due to his height but he later enlisted with 15th Cheshire’s. He also served with other Regiments before joining the newly established Royal Air Force.
An interview with Edward Hillison is available on the Imperial War Museum website http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections-research

When war broke out the Naval Architect who employed Edward joined the Royal Naval Division and went to the Middle East. Edward tried to join the Army as he wanted to serve his country, but he was not allowed to join as the Recruiting Officer told him he was too short.  He joined the Local Defence Volunteers which held drills in Sefton Park. Edward had kept in touch with the recruiting office and the following year, 1915, one particular Recruiting Officer told him about the Cheshire Regiment. Following Alfred Bigland’s campaign, a Bantam Battalion was raised in Cheshire. On 13th August 1915 Edward enlisted with the 15th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment at Bebington. In his medical examination his height was recorded as 4ft 11 ¾ inches. At this time Edward was 19 years old. Edward was soon transferred to the 17th Battalion of the Regiment. He noticed that a lot of Bantam Battalions were forming in Lancashire and Wales, formed from men who worked in mills and mines.

Edward was sent to Prees Heath, Shropshire for training, where he was spotted by a Major who took him out of the ranks and put Edward on his staff. He was quickly promoted to Corporal and Sergeant and served at Company Headquarters. Edward worked in an orderly room with the records of soldiers. While at Prees Heath Edward met his future wife at local church events, they would marry in 1918.

On 15th September 1917 following a telegram with new orders, Edward went to Etaples, France with the 7th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, this was not a bantam battalion. Edward was at the camp at Etaples when the riots and mutiny were taking place. Here he was billeted in a tent with five others for a few days, yet as a Staff Sergeant he did not take part in any drills but did witness men verbally abusing soldiers who were drilling. He had seen similar in England and just thought they were under instructions to toughen up the recruits before they went down the line. He didn’t realise it was a mutiny until afterwards, he heard about things being thrown about and he was asked to take a detachment of men to a bridge, where he was sworn at, but he did not feel he was going to get hurt. He recalls it was over fairly quickly and he moved on to the Ypres area before it was all over.

One of his duties as Staff Sergeant was to carry records relating to the men in the trenches with him. Edward recalls his height did make a difference as he was well under the top of the trenches, which were often muddy and water logged. Edward was here during the winter.

Edward experienced a Chlorine gas attack; he heard the gas warning as gas was blown off to the trench he was in and he quickly put his mask on. Edward didn’t require any medical treatment, but he did see others being stretchered away. Edward was then sent to the Somme sector for a period of time.

On 18th November 1917 Edward was transferred to the Welsh Regiment under Army Orders and posted to 9th Battalion with effect from 28th November. The reason for his transfer was recorded on his record as: Benefit of Service. Edward was also issued with a new Service Number 57379. His father Harry was next of kin, living at 33 Wynstay Street, Princes Park, Liverpool.

At some point during 1918 Edward was ordered to report to the Deputy Adjutant General’s Office as a Staff NCO in Rouen, again to work with soldier’s records. When he had previously been with the 9th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment he was responsible for keeping records there. Whilst stationed here Edward heard about the formation of the new Royal Air Force. Men were invited to join this new service. Edward applied in June 1918, he had to pass a series of tests before he was accepted. His height did not make any difference in these tests. Edward was identified as a candidate for command and returned to England on 14th July 1918. Edward was then posted to the No 7 Observer School in Bath, training as an Observer Officer, with duties in aerial reconnaissance and photography as well as the Regimental duties of being an RAF Officer. He was stationed here until the Armistice, when he was then ordered to go to the Records Office in York.

Edward asked to be transferred to Shrewsbury Record Office. Once there he started looking for a job for after his demobilisation which wasn’t until 8th November 1919. At this time Edward was living at 11 Besford Avenue, Belle Vue, Shrewsbury. He was employed by Sentinel Wagon Works who made steam wagons. He did try to return to the Naval Architects Office he worked at before the war, but that was not possible. Edward later worked with Ricket and Coleman until he retired.

Edward applied for a military pension, his Service Record notes he claimed to be suffering from pains in legs and flatness of feet which started about Feb 1916 and was caused through marching; also Weakness & debility of eyes caused through Army ?? which commenced about Jan 1919 at Record Offices York. Medical examination found he had double flat foot which had been neglected and his eyes could be corrected with glasses. Edward was found to be 20% disabled. Edward was 27 at this time

When the Second World War broke out Edward was living in Cosham, Hampshire, and he was called for interview with the RAF as he was on an Officers Emergency Reserve list. Edward was not called up, but he did join the Hampshire Home Guard and the Local Defence Volunteers in Cosham, eventually becoming Company Commander. Edward survived his home being bombed in 1944.

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