of the late John Holmes Miller and Louisa Miller, of 285, Thompson Street, Weston, Winnipeg, Canada.
George Edward Miller was born at Wetherby in 1888 to parents John, a farmer of Deighton Road, Wetherby, and
Louisa Miller (nee Bailey), a native of Bramham. On the death of his father in 1890, George and the Miller family took up
residence with his mother's father, George Bailey, a Plumber, at 7, Church Street, Wetherby. Louisa was employed by her
father as a Housekeeper and after his death in 1893, she ran a successful business as a Registry Office for Servants from
the same address.
Growing up in Wetherby, George acquired a trade as Joiner although
it is unclear as to who he found employment with. Leisure hours were spent indulging in his love of a sporting life, and possessing
a certain prowess in physical development, weekends were spent playing football for Wetherby Corinthians.
At some stage of his life, George moved to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, lodging at 22, Dickenson Terrace.
Finding employment with Marshall's Engineering as a Joiner, George still continued to be active in sporting circles where
he was involved in local gymnasia and playing football for the Trinity Institute Football Club. Marshall's actively encouraged
membership of the Territorial Force, George enlisting into the 1/5th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment in early September,
Formation of the Battalion
The 1/5th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment formed part of the 138th Brigade of the North Midland
Division under the command of Major-General the Honourable Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley. The division came into existence
as a result of the 'Haldane Reforms' of the former militia and volunteer units in 1908. The 138th Brigade comprised
of the following battalions:-
1/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.
1/4th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment.
The 1/5th Lincolns were mobilised for War Service at
Grimsby on the 5th August 1914. Initially, the battalion was required to perform coastal defence duties which included guarding
the harbour and accompanying instillations. On the 11th August, the battalion entrained at Grimsby, destination, Derby. The
battalion then marched to Belper, the concentration area of the Brigade and here it remained for less than a week until orders
were received on the 15th for a move to Luton.
The battalion, in Division, remained at Luton for the next three months. Training consisted of musketry
practice, Divisional route marches etc., In mid November, the battalion moved to Stansted, Essex, and despite of various orders
received to 'move' that were countermanded almost immediately, here they remained under going a continuous training
On the 19th February, 1915, the Division was inspected by H.M. The
King and on the 26th, the 1/5th Lincolns entrained at Bishop's Stortford, destination, Southampton. Arriving at the latter
place at 7 a.m. on the morning of the 27th, the battalion, minus Transport Details embarked on the S.S. Empress Queen at 3
p.m., and finally setting sail for Le Havre at 10 p.m. France was reached at 4 a.m. on the morning of the 28th, and disembarkation
began at 8 a.m.
Early Operations On The Western Front
Writing home from France, the following letter from George appeared in the press in April, 1915.
Fred Tomlinson, who is mentioned in the letter, was also a resident of Wetherby, at Micklethwaite. The letter was written
whilst the battalion were under going a period of trench 'familiarisation' in the Ploegsteert Wood area, Belgium,
in late March:-
"Fred Tomlinson and myself joined the 5th Lincolns last
September, and after six months training at Luton and Stansted, we were drafted out here, being the first Territorials to
come out as a Division. We were shipped across on February 28th, and after a few days in camp at Havre we were moved on a
journey which occupied 22 hours by train. We travelled first class, of course - in cattle trucks. We have been moved about
from place to place, and last Wednesday, much to our pleasure, we were ordered to the trenches. We were only in 24 hours for
instruction, but it was quite an experience, I can tell you. The bullets went flying in all directions. During the night we
had to do two hours on sentry, and during the spare time had to fill sand bags to build up the traverses and repair the trenches
all around. We had also to assist in building dug-outs and altogether had a good time. We were quite safe so long as we kept
our heads down. One corporal got rather daring and paid the penalty. That was the only casualty. We had no shell fire to contend
with, as our trench was too close to that of the Germans for them to shell it. We could hear them singing and talking during
the night, and also at work. We were only 90 yards from them, and we had a listening patrol half-way across. We have nothing
to grumble about here, as regards food. We get plenty, but, of course, it is always the same, and we relish a bit of good
English when it arrives; which, thanks to those at home, it often does".
note:- The first casualty sustained by the battalion in active operations and mentioned in George's letter, Corporal Harry
Procter Clarke, 1281, a native of Bourne, Lincolnshire, killed in action on the 29th of March 1915. A pre-war Territorial,
Harry had originally enlisted in 1911 at Louth and subsequently attended Annual Camps at Aberystwyth in August 1912 and at
Stoke Rochford in 1913 respectively. Buried in Lancashire Cottage Cemetery, Harry is also commemorated on the War Memorial
at Bourne and on the Roll of Honour located in the Abbey Church).
In April, the
battalion were holding positions facing the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, with the enemy occupying this high ground. It was whilst
the battalion was holding this sector, that on May 20th at 3 p.m., the enemy detonated a mine under Trench E 1 Left
burying and killing many men. Fred Tomlinson, 2646, was in this location when the mine was detonated. Although seriously
injured, Fred survived the blast.
A newspaper article in June,1915 reports:-
'Pte. F. Tomlinson, of the 2nd Battalion, (typo error), Lincolnshire
Regiment, youngest son of Mr. John Tomlinson, Micklethwaite, Wetherby, has been seriously injured in the firing line. A letter
received from the Field Chaplain states that Tomlinson was rather seriously crushed. He was in a trench which was mined, and
the sandbags fell on him and others, bruising and crushing them.'
note: Fred returned to the battalion, renumbered in 1917 as 240581, and was demobilised in 1918.
In late June, the battalion moved to the Ypres Salient and here it remained until early October, when the
Division prepared to move south to take part in the offensive that had been launched at Loos on September 20th.
On the 3rd October, the
battalion entrained at Abeele Station, destination, Fouqueroil near Bethune. On arrival, the battalion proceeded by march
to billets located at Gonnehem. The time spent here was short as on the 6th October, the battalion proceeded to billets located
at Hesdigneul and Gosnay and whilst at these locations, they rehearsed the tactics to be employed in attacking the enemy located
in the heavily fortified position known as the Hohenzollern Redoubt. To assist in the attack, a model of the position was
created at Divisional Headquarters where it was studied at every available opportunity by men and officers alike.
The objectives of the 138th Brigade in the attack were to advance across the West Face of the Redoubt
with the 1/5th Lincolns on the left flank, and the 1/4th Leicester’s on the right. Once the Redoubt had been taken,
parties of troops using bombs, would bomb their way down 'Little Willie' and 'Big Willie' Trenches whilst
assault troops also using bombs would follow on in support clearing the North Face and South Face of the position. The attack
would then continue over 'Fosse Trench' and after advancing through the 'Corons', (a series of miner's
cottages) troops would seize the series of pithead buildings known as 'Fosse 8'. Simultaneously, the 137th Brigade
on the right flank, with two companies of the 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment advancing from a previously captured portion
of 'Big Willie' Trench, would then move forward over 'Dump Trench,' and seize the enemy position known as
'The Dump' (a large slagheap fortified by the Germans). The 1/5th North Staffordshire Regiment and the remaining two
companies of the 1/5th South Stafford’s, would have to advance from the original British front line some distance to
the rear. It was then anticipated that both Brigades would link up on the eastern side of this position. The attack was to
be proceeded by an artillery barrage and the first use by the British of gas (chlorine) in the Great War. The discharge of
the latter was detailed to last for one hour before zero.
On October 12th at 4.30
p.m., the battalion left their billets and proceeded by march to Vermelles. By 2.00 a.m. on the morning of the 13th, the battalion
had relieved the Irish Guards in the British Front line in preparation for the forth coming attack.
The attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt, Wednesday October 13th, 1915: The death of Lance-Corporal George Miller
12 noon the preliminary British artillery bombardment of enemy positions began and at 1.00 p.m. the gas programme was initiated.
Consequently enemy artillery opened fire but was deemed to be weak, however, not without incident. On the 138th Brigade's
front, gas cylinders that were located in the front line position were damaged by the explosion of an enemy shell and the
threat of the attacking troops being asphyxiated by their own gas became a frightening possibility. Corporal James Dawson,
serving with the 187th Company, Royal Engineers (Special Company) reacted almost immediately, and with complete disregard
to his own safety. Ushering away troops in the vicinity, he then proceeded to haul the damaged cylinders out of the trench
rolling them away to a safe distance, then, he emptied his pistol into them to expedite the release of the gas allowing the
attacking troops to reoccupy the area in time for the advance. For this brave act, Dawson was awarded the Victoria Cross.
With the attack imminent at 2.00 p.m, the discharge of gas ceased as per the programme. Due to the
insufficient quantities of gas discharged, the effects on the enemy were minimal, however, it was predicted by Haig's
First Army that the presence of gas would have had a psychological affect on the defenders. To accentuate the cloud formed
by the release of the gas, smoke candles, grenades and mortars were also employed to obscure the attacking forces.
At zero hour, the leading wave of the 138th Brigade,
the 1/5th Lincolns and the 1/4th Leicester’s exited the front line trench. Both battalions were ordered to advance in
four waves with each Company assaulting in lines of platoons, the two leading platoons of each Company starting from the British
front line and the two rear platoons attacking from the support line. The West Face trench of the Redoubt was crossed with
little or no opposition, the barbed wire defences having been sufficiently cut by the artillery barrage. The advance continued
towards the first objective, 'Fosse Trench' with the second wave consisting of the 1/4th Lincolns following
on close behind with the objective of consolidating the Redoubt.
The third wave
of the attack consisting of the 1st/1st Monmouth’s (Divisional Pioneers) followed carrying supplies of bombs and various
equipment that the assault and the consolidation force required. Moving forward from trenches in the rear, an inevitable delay
occurred and by this time the smoke screen that shielded the attack from view had begun to clear.
As the attack moved forward towards 'Fosse Trench,' the
assault waves of the 1/5th Lincs. and the 1/4th Leicester’s were subjected to a deadly fire consisting of rifle and
machine-gun bullet. From the front, heavy fire from the direction of 'South Face Trench' combined with a cross-fire
from 'Mad Point, a large enemy strongpoint, began to decimate the ranks as they crossed the open ground. As regards the
fate of the men detailed to bomb their way along 'Little Willie' and 'Big Willie Trenches,' of the latter,
the trench had been 'blocked' by the enemy. On trying to overcome this obstacle the men detailed for this task were
either killed or wounded. Of those men instructed to attack 'Little Willie,' they had been caught in the cross-fire
directed from 'Mad Point' and met a similar fate.
On the right flank, the attack of the 137th Brigade also met a similar fate. Uncut wire and the failure
to nullify, by the artillery, enemy machine-gun positions located in 'The Dump,' resulted in men of the leading wave
being killed almost immediately as they left their positions.