The Little Fellow

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Burton
216th (Toronto Bantams) BattalionBurton

The Bantam Battalion is no mere novelty, but will prove to be a real fighting unit, and the bantam’s motto might well be, Multum in Parvo [Much in Little], for they are every inch soldiers in breadth as well as height, and Gulliver would find them very tough Lilliputians to handle.

(Toronto Globe, 25 Feb 1916, 6)

Frank Lindsay Burton was born on 12 February 1876 in in Barrie, Ontario. After graduating from Upper Canada College he joined the 35th Simcoe Foresters. When he moved to Toronto, he served as a militia officer with the 9th Mississauga Horse. In 1915, he enlisted as a senior major with Lieutenant Colonel Sam Beckett’s 75th Battalion.

216thIn February 1916, Burton was selected to raise the 216th Battalion from Toronto and southern Ontario. Inspired by the 35th Bantam Division in the British Army, the 216th accepted volunteers below the minimum height requirement; between five-foot and five-foot-six. As the Globe noted, “The minimum age is 22 years– this latter regulation is to insure that he has stopped growing and will not overtop his Commander, Lieut.-Col. Frank Burton, who, like ‘Bobs,’ [General Frederick Roberts] is little, but wise, and a terror for his size.”

After disembarking in England in April 1917, the 216th was broken up and Burton returned to Toronto. In an interview with the Star, the former Bantam commander explained, “Of course colonels are not allowed to revert,” which led to large number of surplus senior officers in England looking for employment.

Burton died on 7 January 1953.

Digitized Service File (LAC):

2 thoughts on “The Little Fellow

  1. Very confusing about Burton…He did not go overseas with the 75th. He was promoted temporary LCol in Feb 1916, raised the 216th and arrived in England with them in April 1917. The 75th did not arrive overseas until April 1916, so I am not sure where he was wounded and with what battalion overseas. It was not the 75th, It is very unclear here.

    • Thanks for the catch, Tim.

      I suppose, contemporary newspaper coverage had wanted to punch-up the creation of the Bantams and add some heroism to the story. Burton first joined the 58th in June 1915 before becoming second-in-command of the 75th in August. The only injury he seemed to have suffered was a riding accident while on parade in Canada. Not surprising the Toronto press tweaked some of the details; papers also implied Burton, like most of his men, was very short- he was actually 5’9.

      In any case, the post has been updated.

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