Miller J

Lance Corporal 25831 John Miller, 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment


Killed in action 8th September, 1916

John Miller was born in Stokesley in 1876. His parents were John Miller, a gardener, born at Ashill, Norfolk, and Mary Rispin who was born in Stockton on the Forest, York. The couple married in Great Ouseburn in 1868.

John senior had been married previously and had two sons to his first wife: James Frederick (born 1859) and Walter (1861) , both in Norfolk. James died at the age of 25, and Walter moved to Wingate in Durham where he married and had 3 daughters.

John and Mary Miller had 5 children: Albert their eldest was born in Acomb, but the others (Joseph, Harriet, John and Emily) were all born in Stokesley.

In the 1881 census, the parents and the four older children were living in West End, but ten years later we find them at the other end of town, not far from the Rectory, and John at 14 years of age was a painter by trade. John was still living on South Side as a house painter with his parents in 1901, but by then his brother and sisters had all left home.

John Miller was married in 1909 in Stokesley to Annie Richmond. Annie’s father was John Richmond, a tinsmith born at Thirsk, and her mother was Elizabeth, born Hutton Rudby. One of Annie’s brothers was Allan Richmond (born in 1887 in Stokesley) who also died in the Great War. (See Richmond A.)

John and Annie Miller had 5 children: Cora in 1910, Joseph Rispin (1911), Mary (1912), Emily (1913) and John (1915). By 1911, the Miller family had moved to 61 Union Street, Middlesbrough where no doubt there would have been more work available for a house painter.

John Miller must have been a quite short in stature, because when he enlisted (in Middlesbrough) he went into the 13th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, which was formed at Richmond in July, 1915. This was one of the newly established “Bantam” Regiments. Bantam regiments were introduced in 1915 to allow men to join the army who had previously been barred from enlisting because they were below the required height of 5’4”. At more than 38 years of age, Private Miller must have been one of the oldest volunteers in the regiment, which may have played some part in his promotion to Lance Corporal.

Later, the 13th Battalion was moved to Aldershot where it came under the orders of the 121st Brigade, 40th Division which was despatched to France and landed at Le Havre on 6th June 1916.1 This deployment was part of the preparation for the Somme Offensive, which began on 1st July - a day on which casualty figures amongst British forces were truly catastrophic. According to the Book of Remembrance John Miller went abroad in August 1916, so if this information is accurate, it seems he was fortunate enough to be in England on the fateful 1st July.

Perhaps therefore different units of the 40th Division were not all moved at the same time. Le Havre was an important assembly point, but units landing there would have to be mobilised to where they were to be in action. This sometimes took weeks, but with heavy casualties in the front lines in the early days and weeks of the campaign, thousands of new men were needed to press home the attack. So it was that after he did arrive in France Private Miller had time to send just one post card home. He fell on 8th September, 1916, a little more than one week after landing. The Book of Remembrance records that

‘All around him perished; there were no survivors to tell anything…’

Lance Corporal Miller was 38 years old when he fell, and he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He has no known grave but is commemorated on Bay 5 of the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais.

He is also commemorated on the war memorial in Smith Dock Park, Normanby. The plaque on the memorial states that it was erected “In memory of their employees from all departments who gave their lives in the Great War”. It seems that John had taken up new employment after moving to Middlesbrough…

The tragic story of John Miller and his family was not however concluded by his death. There was no photograph of him available when the Book of Remembrance was compiled in 1926, only one of a tombstone. Two of John Miller's children died in infancy. The surviving three were orphaned when their mother died in 1921.

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