Serjeant S/1869 George Mills, DCM

Mills George 96 429x600Mills George 96 336x500
Photograph of George courtesy of his niece, Irene James. Further photograph at bottom of this page.

Died of Wounds on Tuesday, 2nd April 1918, age 23.
Buried in Grave IV. C. 5. at Roye New British Cemetery, Somme, France.

12th Bn., Rifle Brigade. 60th Brigade of 20th Division.

Husband of Mrs May Mills, of 7 Iron Gate Yard, New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Hill Top, Enlisted: West Bromwich, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 21st July 1915.
Medal entitlement: Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Paul's, Golds Hill memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/580756/

Genealogical Data

Birth of George Mills registered September quarter 1894 in West Bromwich.

1901 Census
25 Barrack Street, West Bromwich, Staffs.
John Mills (29, Bar Weigher in Iron Works, born West Bromwich), his wife Elizabeth A. (31, born Tipton), and their 3 children: George (6, born West Bromwich), Joseph (3, born West Bromwich), and Elizabeth (7 months, born West Bromwich).

1911 Census
2 Eagle Lane, Tipton, Staffs.
John Mills (38, Cutter Down & Bar Weigher in Iron Works, born West Bromwich), his wife Elizabeth A. (42, born Tipton), and their 5 surviving children of 9: George (16, Grocer's Errand Boy, born Tipton), Joseph (13, School, born Tipton), Elizabeth (10, born Tipton), Mary Ann (8, born Tipton), and Sylvia (10 months, born Tipton).

Marriage of George Mills and May Phillips at St Martin's Church, Tipton, September quarter 1915 - witness S. Riley, also to be killed.

Personal Data

George enlisted at West Bromwich Town Hall on 4th September 1914. He was 19 years and 350 days old, 5 feet 2½ inches tall with a 34-inch chest, and weighed 120 pounds. He had a sallow complexion, brown eyes and dark hair, and was employed as a labourer.

George had a number of hospital stays. In May 1916 he was in hospital for 6 days with Myalgia (muscle pain); on 31st August 1916 with contusions from a shell, then moved to Casualty Clearing Station No. 21 at Corbie suffering from shell shock, this was relatively minor as he was there only 3 days. On 10th October 1916, to General Hospital 9 at Rouen with dysentery, it was 6 weeks before he was to leave hospital. On 6th June 1917, he was admitted to Casualty Clearing Station No. 3 at Aveluy with a Gun Shot Wound, relatively minor as he was to return to his unit after only 4 days. Family legend has it that this wound was relatively minor because George's pocket bible slowed the progress of the bullet. This bible is still in the possesion of the family and indeed has a stain inside the cover, but no sign of bullet damage.

On 7th October 1916, just a few days before he was hospitalised with dysentery, he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) on the Somme. His DCM Citation in the London Gazette 25th November 1916 records:
S.1869 Pte. G. Mills Rif. Brig.
"For conspicuous gallantry in action. He crossed 400 yards of open ground under intense fire to ascertain the disposition of the Brigade. Later, he carried a message through a heavy enemy barrage."

On 22nd January 1917 he was promoted to paid Lance Corporal; then on 22nd August 1917 to Corporal; and then on 17th October 1917 to Sergeant. During a period of leave from 23rd September to 4th October 1917, he was presented with DCM in the Tipton Council Chamber.

After George's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £11/19/8d (11 pounds, 19 shillings and 8 pence), this was paid to his widow, May, in September 1919. His War Gratuity was £23/10/0d (23 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to his widow in September 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that George had enlisted in approximately September 1914. Finally, a D.C.M. Grant of £20/0/0d was also paid to his widow, in lieu of an annual payment.

Action resulting in his death

The German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael) commenced on 21st March 1918, with the aim of a general break-through before the American troops brought their numbers to bear. The 20th Division had been in the area of St. Quentin and were forced back, like the entirety of Gough's 5th Army in this sector, towards Ham and the River Somme. On 23rd March, the citadel of Ham was taken by German troops, and what became known as 'the Action of the Somme Crossing' began on 24th March when the River Somme was crossed by the Germans.

George's papers show him as 'Missing' on 24th March, and then on 2nd April 1918 "Died of Wounds - shattering of leg below the knee", and "in reserve Field Ambulance at Ham". It is almost certain that this was a German hospital, and that George had been wounded and necessarily left on the battlefield as his comrades were forced to continue their retreat. Ham was 15 miles inside German control by the beginning of April 1918. 79 Other Ranks from the 12th Rifle Brigade were killed between 21st and 31st March 1918.

George is buried Roye New British Cemetery, but this would have been a post-war re-burial as this cemetery was only constructed after the Armistice.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald September 8th 1917
Private (Acting Corporal) G. Mills, of the 12th Rifle Brigade was a year ago awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry in the field. He is shortly returning from France to Tipton on a short leave of absence, when the medal will be presented to him.

Tipton Herald September 29th 1917
Acting Corporal George Mills of Tipton has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal which will be presented to the gallant Corporal on Tuesday evening next at 6 o'clock at the Council House.

Tipton Herald October 6th 1917
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was presented to Corporal George Mills, of Tipton, in the Council Chamber on Tuesday evening

Tipton Herald October 13th 1917
Presentation of the D.C.M. to Corporal Geo. Mills.
At Tipton Council Chamber, at a full gathering of members of the District Council and Education Committee, the Chairman of the Council (Mr. W. W. Doughty, J.P., C.C.) presented the Distinguished Conduct Medal, awarded to Corporal Geo. Mills, of the 12th Rifle Brigade, whose home is at Iron Gate Yard, New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton. He was a member of the Tipton Parish Church Early Morning Adult School.

The Chairman said he could not be called upon to perform a more pleasing duty. In the vast army in the field there were many natives of Tipton. The authorities requested that the presentation should be made in as public a manner as possible, but as Corporal Mills was returning back from his furlough on Wednesday evening, they had to take that as the best opportunity to make the presentation. Corporal Mills was working at Messrs. Braithwaite and Kirk's up to the outbreak of war, and he enlisted on September 5th, 1914, in the Rifle Brigade, and he accompanied his battalion out to France on July 21st, 1915, and had been out there ever since. The plucky soldier had taken part in several battles. He won the medal on October 7th, 1916, on the Somme. After his battalion had reached their objective and the artillery were dropping shells short, and when telephone communication had been broken, he volunteered to take a message to headquarters. He succeeded, and later repeated the feat when the enemy was preparing a counter-attack.

Councillor Doughty, after adding the words of commendation for the gallant soldier's bravery, pinned the medal on his breast, amidst applause.

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George's wife May. Photograph courtesy of George's niece, Irene James.