When he became king in 1713, Frederick William I of Prussia (father of Frederick the Great) recruited a regiment of very tall men that became known as the ‘Potsdam Giants’. One of the tallest members was Irishman James Kirkland who was around 7 feet tall. Frederick William himself was only 5 ft 5.
Frederick William paid fathers for their tall sons, and landowners for their tallest farm hands. Foreign rulers would send him their tallest soldiers to encourage friendly relations. If men were not interested in joining, the king simply had them kidnapped. He once tried to abduct an unusually tall Austrian diplomat. He even forced tall women to marry tall soldiers so they would produce tall sons.
If the king was sad, he would get two or three hundred of his giants, ‘preceded by tall, turbaned Moors with cymbals and trumpets and the grenadiers' mascot, an enormous bear’ to march for him to cheer him up. If he was sick, they marched through his bedroom. He also painted their portraits from memory. The regiment was disbanded in 1806.
I have examined myself pretty thoroughly and discovered that I was unfit for military service.
Emperor Christophe of Haiti used to march his crack troops over a cliff for his amusement.
Hannibal's army was made up of so many nationalities, he took more than 12 interpreters with him everywhere.
During WW1, Billy Butlin was a soldier in one of the ‘Bantam Battalions’ aka the ‘Devil Dwarfs’, regiments of men under 5’3” and therefore too short for regular service.
Lord Derby suggested the idea of recruiting them in battalions and the War Office was swamped with volunteers. Within hours of a recruiting drive being launched in Glasgow more than 1,200 men had signed up. Across the UK and Canada more than 50,000 bantam soldiers entered service.
Even before the men had reached France they were christened ‘The Devil Dwarfs’, having earned a reputation for brawling and mischief.
Apart from Billy Butlin – who founded his first holiday camp in 1936 - the most famous of the Devil Dwarfs was 4ft 9in Henry Thridgould, believed to be the shortest corporal ever to serve in the British Army.
One of the most feared armies of all time, the Immortals, were the 10 000-strong fighting force of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. They were first described in the Greek historian, Herodotus’s account of the Battle of Thermopylae, as “the best…and most magnificently equipped” soldiers.
The unit always had the same number of troops. If even a single Immortal was injured, fell sick or died in battle, he was immediately replaced.
While the Persian army was a multinational force, only those with Persian or Medic ancestry were allowed to serve in the Immortals, and they were adorned with gold jewelry to signify their high status.
They were valued so highly that they were permitted to travel with their own exclusive retinue of cooks and concubines.
In 2007, 170 Swiss troops accidentally invaded Liechtenstein after getting lost during a training exercise.
The man who inspired Dad's Army was arrested for inciting British soldiers to mutiny.
King Niels of Denmark (1104-34) had an army consisting of seven men.
Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
The Belgian army had their bicycles fitted with armrests so that their military bands could play whilst on the move.