On Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts have turned to the members of my family who fought for their country, never to return. I have already written about my grandfather’s cousin, Hubert Stanley Denson, who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme https://unearthingtheskeletons.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/battle-of-the-somme-a-tragic-tale/ and I would like to share another story of an ancestor who died in World War One.
John Stephen Mills, my great-grandmother’s brother, was born on 18th December 1890 and, due to his father being a manager of a public house, he spent the early part of his life moving from house to house, living in the Liverpool areas of Bootle, Everton and Kensington. By the age of 20, he was still living at the family home of 67 Kensington, working as a restaurant porter.
On the outbreak of World War One, John decided to join the armed forces and was attested at Seaforth on 9th September 1914, becoming a private in the 8th battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire regiment. After moving to Boscombe, Bournemouth, back to Boscombe and then finally to Romsey, on 22nd May 1915, he was promoted to Lance Corporal in an unpaid capacity and a month later, was in a paid position.
On 25th September 1915, just over a week after being posted abroad (to Boulogne), John did what other members of the armed forces did and wrote a will in the event of him not returning. These handwritten wills were kept in the pocket service books of the soldier and tucked into their uniforms. John’s read:
In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and affects to my mother and if my mother be deceased at the time of my death I bequeath the whole of my property and affects to my brother Edward and if he be deceased at the time of my death to my niece Margaret Mills. Signed the 25th day of Sept 1915, John Stephen Mills, L Corpl. No 15429 8th North Loyal North Lancs.
Sadly, the instructions in this will had to be carried out as John Stephen Mills was reported missing on 21st May 1916 and, later the same day, was declared killed in action. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial in Pas de Calais. His mother, Annie Florence Mills, later claimed his medals – the 1914-18 Star, Victory Medal and British War Medal.