Private James MILLWARD

Essex Regiment
(Formerly: North Staffs. Regiment)
11th Battalion
Service Number:
(Fmly: 9541, 1st Bn. North Staffs. Regt.)
Date of Death:
24 March 1917 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 85 - 87

Personal History:

James was born in the June quarter 1883, the son of Joseph Barnett Barnard (Wood worker) and Phoebe (née Williamson) Millward. He had seven older brothers and sisters, Mary Alice, Joseph, Sarah Anne, Phoebe Elizabeth, William and Charles Matthew, two younger brothers, Henry and Albert Edward, and one younger sister, Priscilla. The family were living at 122 Green Lane, Burbage, Buxton in 1901 (Census RG 13/3270). (In 1891 - Census RG 12/2779 - the family were at 'Washbrook', Burbage.)
By 1911 (Census RG 14/21236) James was living and working, as a "Page", at the Union Club, Buxton. (Along with Horace Heintz, killed in action two weeks after James - see Footnote below) His parents were at the same address with children, Phoebe, Henry, Priscilla, Percy and Mable.

James' father, Joseph, died in 1917. Three of James' brothers also served, one was killed, another reported missing - see Footnote below.

Military History:
According to the SDGW database James enlisted at Derby. Unfortunately, none of his Service Papers has survived, nor does his Medal Index Card appear to be listed at the National Archive.

'The Buxton Advertiser', 15th September 1917, reported that "strenuous efforts are being made to ascertain the fate of .." James who had been missing in action since the previous March. His mother has received a letter from "V.C. - For the Earl of Lucan", of 'The British Red Cross and Order of St John', stating that James had been missing since the 23rd March, and the only report was from his Officer, Lieut. J.H. Richardson.

Lieutenant Richardson wrote: "Millward was my runner in a Battalion raid from the 14th Bis Sector in the Loos Salient, made upon a front of 300 yards upon the Bosche trench opposite. I requested him to take a walking casualty to a dressing station in our own trench about 300 yards away. He had to cross No Man's Land, and that was the last I saw of him. He was, as far as I know, the only one unaccounted for in my company."

The Red Cross continued as assure Mrs Millward that they were continuing to look for James, and that "We are keeping the photograph you sent to us as it may help us in our enquiries. What a fine looking boy he is! No wonder you are so proud of him."

Sadly, four months later, 'The Buxton Advertiser', 5th January 1918, was to confirm James' death, presumed to be on the day he was last seen. The paper gave more information of his service, in that: "He was 18 years of age when joined the Army seven years ago, and prior to that was in the employ of the Union Club." (see above) "As one who passed through the Battle of Mons, and a highly respected young man, his death is much regretted by all who knew him."

So even without James' Service Papers this report in the press confirms that he would have enlisted in 1911, i.e. after the Census Returns, and from his Service Number, about July, so was a serving soldier at the outbreak of the War, and with the "Old Contemptibles". At the outbreak of War the 1st Battalion, North Staffs Regiment, was at Buttevant, part of the 17th Brigade in 6th Division. It moved to Cambridge and quickly on to Newmarket, and landed at St Nazaire on the 12th September 1914. On the 18th October 1915 the Battalion transferred to 72nd Brigade, in 24th Division.

Both with the North Staffs, and later the Essex, Regiments James would have spent virtually all of his time in France with the 6th Division as the 1/North Staffs were with that Division until the 18th October 1915 and the 11/Essex from 11th October 1915. In 1916, during The Battle of the Somme, the Division fought in The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15th - 22nd September, The Battle of Morval, (25th - 28th September) and The Battle of the Transloy Ridges (1st -18th October).

During the first of these engagements James was wounded. 'The Buxton Advertiser', 23rd September 1916, reported that: "News is to hand that Pte. James Millward of the North Stafford Regt. has been wounded in France and is now in a military hospital at Birmingham."

Obviously James recovered sufficiently to be posted back to France, although it seems that at this time he moved from the North Staffs to the 11th Battalion, Essex Regiment. The Battalion had initially landed at Boulogne on the 30th August 1915 and on the 11th October 1915 it transferred to the 6th Division. On the 27th October 1915 it transferred again to the 18th Brigade in same Division.

The Battalion War Diary shows that it moved into the trenches at Mazingarbe on the 4th March 1917, from Montmorencey Barracks, Bethune, and originally into the Brigade reserve trenches in the Village Line ('A', 'C' and 'D' Companies) and Gun Trench ('B' Company). On the 8th the 11th Essex relieved the 14th Durham Light Infantry in the front line trenches, and between then and the 18th the two Battalions swapped front line duty every four days or so. On the 19th, in the front line again, Battalion strength was 27 Officers and 700 other ranks.

At 7.00 p.m. on the day James died the Battalion carried out an attack on the German trenches with a view to capturing two enemy lines around Posen Crater. "Two waves of two Companies each were formed, the first wave assembled in our Front Line and the second wave in our Support Line. ..... Each wave advance in two lines. ..... 1st wave to take first German line, second wave to take second line, passing over first wave."

40 minutes before the attack began the Germans opened up an artillery bombardment on the Battalion's two front lines. The Diary records: "Both these trenches and POSEN ALLEY were blown in in several places, causing 35 to 40 casualties, including 10 killed (1 a Coy. Sergt. Major) and 1 Officer wounded." (The C.S.M. was 9453 C. E. Brown.) "The result was a certain amount of disorganisation. This was quickly tackled by the young Officers and N.C.O.s who throughout showed a magnificent spirit and this was reciprocated by the men."

The rest of the action was successfully completed within 15 minutes of zero hour, with little resistance, and some further causalities. A report from the C.O. attached to the War Diary, gives the number of casualties as "... four Officers wounded (one at duty) and 62 other ranks killed or wounded. More than half were received before leaving the Assembly Trenches." James was one of those killed in action, and clearly from his Officer's account described above and the fact that a search for him went on for several months, it is not surprising that James has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

10 other men of the 11th Battalion were killed in action on the 24 March 1917. James is the only one with no known grave; the others are buried in Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe. Presumably, these ten were those killed in the artillery attack on the trench, leaving James the only other lost in the attack on the German lines itself.

· Three of James' brothers were in action during the Great War: Leading Stoker Harry MILLWARD went missing from his ship on
  1st November 1916, when serving as a Stoker on HMS Carnarvon.

· Cpl. William MILLWARD served with the 101st Canadian Light Infantry (CEF) and was wounded in June 1916 and July 1917.
   He survived the War, however, and died in Buxton, aged 80, in 1969.

· A third brother AB Albert Edward MILLWARD served on HMS Collossus at The Battle of Jutland, under the command of Admiral Jellicoe.

· Private Horace HEINTZ worked with James at the Union Club and was killed in action two weeks after him, on 8 April 1917, serving with the
   Durham Light Infantry.

· The Buxton Advertiser, 22 July 1916; 23 September 1916; 15 September 1917 and 5 January 1918.
· I am grateful to Michelle Young for the photo from the Loos memorial.
· ...... and to Glyn Warwick for the copy of the Battalion War Diary

Link to CWGC Record
The Loos Memorial
Pt Millawrd's name on The Loos Memorial
Pt. James Millward