William James Mills
William James Mills
was the youngest son of four of Arthur and Louisa Mills (nee Anderton). He had four sisters and all four boys in the family served in the war. Two of them, John and Arthur, have their names inscribed on the Roll of Honour as having safely returned from the war; two - Henry and William James - are named on the church war memorial, having lost their lives.
William was very much younger than his three elder brothers who were born in 1882, 1884, and 1886. When he was born and baptised in Ashow in 1898, the family had lived for some time at Thickthorn Lodge, as father Arthur Mills was Lord Leigh's head gamekeeper; by 1901 they had moved to The Kennels. Another of William's brothers, Arthur, had been an estate carpenter, and when William enlisted in Leamington in May 1916 he was, at eighteen years old, a carpenter's apprentice.
At the outset of his service in the Royal Engineers, Sapper William Mills number 203970 was paid 1/- a day, which was paid directly to his mother. By February 12th the following year it had risen to 1/4d as he was now considered a "skilled" carpenter. He joined the British Expeditionary Force in April 1917 in a reserve battalion and eventually found himself in the 154th Field Company, part of the 37th Division. It is likely that William saw action in the Arras Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917; by mid-1918 when the Allies' strategy had become more coherent, momentum began to alter in the Allies' favour. The Battle of Amiens and the "Hundred Days" which followed caused some 80,000 men to be lost by the British, whilst a million men had been lost by the enemy in the offensives of Spring and Summer 1918. In October William James Mills was part of an operation to push the enemy back towards the Sambre-Oise Canal - this became known as the Battle of the Selle and lasted from October 20th-25th. It was a highly significant and successful operation, but resulted in William's death on October 22nd. He was 20 years old, and became the last of the Stoneleigh soldiers to die on the battlefield in the Great War, just 20 days before the Armistice was signed. He is buried at St Aubert British Cemetery, grave reference V.E. 11.