Sergeant Joseph Booth MILLWARD


Regiment/Service:
Royal Fusiliers
Unit:
11th Battalion ('C' Company)
Service Number:
PS/2980
Date of Death:
17 February 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
25
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
VI. D. 12.


Personal History:

Joseph was born at 20 Spring Gardens, Buxton on 1st April 1891, (Census RG 12/2778) the son of Joseph Booth (Butcher) and Elizabeth (Betsy) (née Harrison) Millward (married December quarter 1889). In 1901 (Census RG 13/3270) his widowed mother was still running the Butcher's shop at 20 Spring Gardens, Buxton, after Joseph Snr. died in the September quarter 1900, aged 27. It seems to have been a thriving business as they were employing two domestic staff and four 'Assistant Butchers'.
The 1911 Census (RG 14/21240) shows Joseph still living with his mother at 30 Darwin Avenue, along with his younger brother, Arthur Howard [see Footnote below], and working as a 'Bank Clerk'

Military History:
Joseph's Service Papers have been lost (no doubt destroyed by enemy bombing in World War 2), but his Medal Index Card confirms that he entered France on 14th November 1915, having enlisted at Derby, probably at Normanton Barracks.

'The Buxton Advertiser', 10th March 1917, in reporting his death, quoted at length a letter to his mother from Captain N. B. Mitchell, written on 22nd February, who wrote, in part: " ... We shall miss him dearly out here, he was a brave fellow who always could be trusted to do his duty fearlessly and well. I relied on him implicitly in a tight corner and indeed at all times.

I hope you will feel it a source of pride and consolation in your bereavement to know that he did lose his life to no purpose, but at the furthest point forward of a successful assault - an assault which has had far reaching effects in making the enemy retreat. In this attack every Officer in the Company became a casualty and it was very largely due to the leadership displayed by your son that the thrust was able to be thrust home into the hostile trenches.

He had been doing his work so well that I had promised to recommend him for leave, and, had the military situation permitted, he would have had the opportunity of getting home. It is very sad that this cannot now happen, but at any rate his days recently were brightened by the hope of getting home and by knowing that his Officer thought very highly indeed of him.

We shall miss him terribly in the Company and on behalf of his friends and the men under my command, with whom he served, and by whom he was deservedly beloved, I send you my deepest sympathy."

The Battalion War Diary for the middle of February gives the preparation and aftermath of the battle on the 17th.  One the 15th the Battalion proceeded into the line: 'A' Company (the left assaulting company) to the "Wellington Huts"; 'B' Company to "Battle Front Line"' Joseph's 'C' Company (the right assaulting company) to "Mouquet Farm" and 'D' Company to "Fabeck and Hessian Trenches".

The Battalion took up their positions later the previous evening, but the Germans obviously saw the preparations and at 4.30 a.m. on the 17th began an artillery barrage. At zero hour (5.45 a.m.) the British barrage began and the men moved forward. German sniping and machine gun was such that not one of the Officers reached the first objective - Grandcourt trench - and a supplementary report to the Diary states: ".. it was remarkable the large number of men who were hit through the head showing beyond a doubt that these Germans .. were no mean marksmen."

From then on all four Companies were led by Sergeants, but came up again an old problem, the 'creeping barrage' had failed to cut the wire, so were forced to withdraw, being relieved late in the day by 12th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.  In total, according to the War Diary, the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, lost 2 Officers killed; 1 died of wounds, 11 wounded, 1 Officer shell-shock; 36 other ranks (including Joseph) killed in action, 6 died of wounds, 162 wounded and 69 missing. However, CWGC Records show 97 Officers and Men of the 11th Battalion killed in action on the 17th. Joseph is one of 44 who now rest in Regina Trench Cemetery.


                                   

Footnote:
· Joseph's younger brother may also have served in the Royal Fusiliers as: Cpl. 1345 (240819) Arthur H. MILLWARD, entering France on
  the 17 November 1915. He was discharged on 19 February 1919.
Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser, 10 March 1917
· I am grateful to Steve Eeles for the copies of the Royal Fusiliers'
  War Diary

Link to CWGC Record
Joseph Millward's grave
Sgt. Joseph Millward
11th Battalion War Diary for 17 February 1917
poppy
The Supplementary Report of the Battle