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 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 in the 1/5th Battalion,
Lincolnshire Regiment in early September, 1914.
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, and mentioned in George's letter, was Corporal Harry P. Clarke, 1281,
a native of Bourne, Lincolnshire, who was Killed In Action on the 29th March 1915.
April, the battalion were holding positions facing the Messines-Wychaete 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.'
Authors note: Fred returned to the battalion, renumbered in 1917 as 240581, and was demobilised
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.
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
At 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.
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.