MILES GILL

Private 202002, 1st/4th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)

Killed in Action 3rd September 1916 aged 29

Buried Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme, France

Husband of Maria Gill

Lived Leeds New Road, Heckmondwike


Miles was born in 1887.  In 1891 his parents John Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Gill lived in Chapel Lane Heckmondwike with daughters Florrie, aged 5; Lavinia, aged 1 and son Miles, aged 3.  John worked as a carpet yarn dyer.  By 1901 sons Charley, aged 9; John, aged 7 and daughter Elsie, aged 2 had been added to the family, now living in South Street Liversedge.

On 2 April 1908 Miles joined the Territorial 4th Battalion West Riding Regiment in Cleckheaton.  He gave his address as Ashton Clough, Liversedge and his employer was the Stanley Coal Company Liversedge.  He volunteered for one year’s service, but signed on for a further two years from 29 March 1909.  Annual camps were held in July and August each year and their locations included Marske and Peel in the Isle of Man.  His Territorial service ended in March 1911.  Just a few days later the Census shows him working as a coal hewer and living in James Street, Quarry Road, Westgate, Cleckheaton at the home of his uncle James Yates, his wife Ellen and their three children.  Also living at that address as a boarder was Maria Elizabeth Gibson, aged 20, and working as a worsted spinner.  Miles and Maria were married on 3 June 1911 in the Parish Church, both giving their address as George Street Cleckheaton. 

Miles re-joined the West Riding Regiment in September 1915 and was in France by January 1916, at which time the Battalion was ‘resting’ out of the line at Wormhoudt to the south east of Dunkirk.  On 1 September 1916 the Battalion was in camp to the north of Albert in the Somme area, and received orders to move in ‘fighting order’ towards the trenches near Thiepval.  The assault tactics of the first day of the Somme battle had by now been abandoned, and on 3 September 1916, supported by an intense bombardment, Companies of the Battalion left their trenches at 5:10am and laid on the ground forward of their line whilst the barrage on the German position continued.  The War Diary records that the Battalion achieved their objective of occupying parts of the German trench system.  But the soldiers found themselves cut off from any supplies of ammunition or contact with their own front lines.  Machine gun and rifle fire from the front and to their sides caused heavy casualties.  Over 300 of the Battalion were killed, wounded or missing within the first few hours of the attack.  Private Gill was one of those killed.  On 5 September 1916 the Battalion was taken out of the line.

Maria Gill did not receive confirmation of her husband’s death until August 1917 and his outstanding pay of £2 8s 3d was sent to her on 5 December 1917.  There were no children from the marriage.  Mrs Gill married George Wilby early in 1918, but sadly died in September that year.  The War Grant of £9 was not due for payment until 26 November 1920 and this was sent to Mr Wilby, though he had married again in 1919.  Miles Gill was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

He is buried in the Mill Road Cemetery near Thiepval, alongside many of his fellow Battalion soldiers killed that day.

Miles’ brother Charles served as Lance Corporal 6099 in the 12th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, but was killed on 4 October 1917.  Their step-brother Ernest Wolfenden served as Private 6125 in the same Battalion as Charles but was killed on 25 September 1915.  Both are commemorated on the Cleckheaton War Memorial.
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