This site commemorates the men and women of Collingham, Linton and Micklethwaite who served during World War 1. Today we especially commemorate Gunner 781815 Edward Ralph Smith of the C Battery, 246 Brigade Royal Field Artillery who was born on this day in 1895.Today we especially commemorate Corporal 37470 John Stanley Wilson of the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment who was born on this day in 1897.
Milner, George
(1897-?)

Rank and Unit at End of World War One

Rank Lieutenant

Service Army

Battalion 4th Battalion

Regiment York & Lancaster Regiment

Other service during World War One
Information from Medal Index Cards (WO372), Medal Rolls (WO329), Service Records (WO363) and/or Pension Records (WO364) held by The National Archives.
Rank Number Unit
Private 15/1165 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment
Lance Corporal 1165 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment
Lieutenant Royal Air Force
Pre-war Occupation*/marital status**

Trade or Occupation pre-war: Clerk
Marital status: Single


* Taken from attestation papers or 1911 census
** Marital status on enlistment or at start of war
Connection with Collingham, Linton or Micklethwaite and reason for inclusion on this web site

  • Lived in Collingham, Linton or Micklethwaite immediately prewar or during the war
  • Named as an Absent Voter due to Naval or Military Service on the 1918 or 1919 Absent Voter list for Collingham, Linton or Micklethwaite

Biography

Family background

George Milner was born in Leeds on the 17th August 1897, the son of George Jervis Milner, a secretary at a fancy leather manufacturer, and his wife Emma.

George (Jnr) was educated at Tadcaster Grammar School and by the date of the census in 1911, the family was living at Wharfe View, Linton. George is also found on the Linton electoral roll in 1915. George (Jnr) enlisted for service on the 18th January 1915 (see below) but George Jervis Milner, George's father died on the 29th October 1915, while George (Jnr) was still in the UK.

The circumstances of the death of George Jervis Milner were reported in the Wetherby News:

SUDDEN DEATH IN THE TRAIN
LINTON GENTLEMAN'S FATAL HURRY.
The death took place under sad and sudden circumstances on Friday morning last of Mr. George Jervis Milner, of Wharf View, Linton. Deceased, who was 56 years of age, was secretary to the firm of Messrs. Horsfield Sons and Mackrell Bros., tanners, of Leeds, with whom he had been for 41 years, and left home with the intention of travelling by the 7-3 am. train from Collingham to Leeds. He was pushed for time, and hurried to catch the train - so much so that on getting into one of the compartments he was short of breath and could scarcely speak. Before reaching Bardsey he opened the carriage window, and almost immediately collapsed. A couple of gentlemen in the compartment with him rendered what assistance they could, but before the train reached Thorner he expired. The body was removed into one of the waiting rooms to await an inquest.
Deceased leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters. One of the sons is a soldier in training at Salisbury, and the daughters are married to Mr B Ryder and Mr E Crampton. Mr Milner, though not long resident at Linton, took an active interest in the affairs of the village, and a fortnight before his death presided at a meeting of parishioners at which a presentation was made to Mr S. Barker.
The internment took place at Burmantofts Cemetery, Leeds, on Tuesday afternoon.
At the Reading Room, Thorner, on Monday morning, Mr P.P. Maitland, the West Riding Coroner, and a jury, held and inquiry into the circumstances. Evidence given by Mt Lionel Myers Beaumont, Collingham, was to the effect that he Mr Milner, and others travelled by the 7-4 am train from Collingham to Leeds and were in the same compartment. When Mr Milner got into the train he was rather out of breath, but said he was “In the pink, thank you: I never felt better in my life.” He further said he had been hurrying.
When the train was between Collingham and Bardsey he got up to put the window down, but before he could do so he collapsed. He was placed on a seat, but expired before the train reached Thorner.
Dr. Tempest, of Thorner, said that, in his opinion, the cause of death was acute dilation of the heart while suffering from aortic disease, the dilation being caused by hurrying to catch the train.
A verdict in accordance with the medical testimony was returned.

In 1918, George (Jnr) was still on the Linton electoral roll, but is listed as absent due to Naval or Military Service.

Service record

Initial training

George Milner enlisted on the 18th January 1915 at Closterdale into the 'Leeds Pals' - the 15th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, with a regimental service number of 15/1165. The 15th (Service) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, otherwise known as the 1st Leeds or the Leeds Pals, was formed in September 1914 at Leeds by the Lord Mayor and the City and then moved to Colsterdale. George underwent his training and initial service there in the UK. George's early service career was marked by a number of disciplinary actions against him. In April 1915, while at training camp at Closterdale, he was "absent while on active service from a tattoo from the 1st April to 8.30pm on the 6th April". He was punished by being confined to barracks for 8 days. This punishment was clearly not enough to overcome George's desire to miss tatoos. He was absent again from tattoos at Closterdale from 8th May 1915 to 9pm on the 10th May and again from the 22nd May 1915 to 8.15pm on the 26th May. For these George was awarded 5 days confined to barracks and the loss of 5 days pay, respectively. In June 1915 the Battalion moved to Ripon, but George's tangles with military regulations continued as, while on active service in Ripon on the 11th September 1915, George "proceeded to Leeds without a pass" - he was confined to barracks for a further 5 days as punishment.

First service abroad

George continued his service in the UK, moving with the Battalion and the 93rd Brigade of 31st Division to Fovan on Salisbury Plain on the 10th August 1915, and it was while stationed on Salisbury Plain that his father died in the circumstances described above. On the 6th December 1915 he embarked and sailed to Egypt where he disembarked on the 22nd December 1915. His Battalion took over a section of the Suez Canal defences. His stay in Egypt was relatively brief and he embarked with the 31st Division at Port Said bound for Marseilles on the 1st March 1916, disembarking on the 8th March in France. They travelled by train to Port Remy, a few miles south east of Abbeville and marched to Bertrancourt, arriving on the 29th March 1916.

The Battle of the Somme

The Battalion's first taste of action came a few months later at Serre on the Somme where they suffered very heavy casualties on the 1st July, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Somme Battlefield overview

Map 1: The British Order of Battle for the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916). British Divisions are shown numbered in shaded boxes. British Corps are shown in open boxes labelled in Roman numerals. (click for full size) (Figure courtesy of Wikipedia).

The 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment was part of 93rd Brigade within 31st Division, part of VIII Corps in the British Fourth Army. Their role on the 1st July was to attack and take the village of Serre. They were ordered to assault the first three lines of the German trenches and having captuted this objective were to establish four strong points. Then the 16th West Yorkshires were to pass through the 15th Battalion and take the second and third objectives. The assaulting troops moved up from Bus en Artois to assembly positions on the night of the 30th June/1st July, but the Battalion suffered an unlucky start to the assault when a bomb fell on D company killing one and wounding fourteen men. Under some artillery bombardment, the Battalion formed up. Following an intense artillery bombardment, the Battalion went over the parapet at 7.20am to form up in No Man's Land prior to the attack. At once the enemy manned its trenches and opened very heavy rifle and machine gun fire on the troops as they advanced. The 15th Battalion was decimated, even before an attack was made. It is reported that 11 officers were killed at once, with another 11 wounded and there were very severe losses of men, such that, at zero hour of 7.30am, only a remant of the Battalion remained. The first wave of the attack was swept away and very few of the second wave made it to the forming-up tape. Of the men who formed up none returned who had advanced more than 100 yards beyond the British wire. The front line trenches were soon full of survivors, while dead and wounded men lay everywhere. The volumes of 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' (published after the war) records 14 officers and 208 other ranks of the Battalion were killed in action on that day. Many others died of their wounds in the next few days and weeks and many others were wounded. One report states that only 47 soldiers were uninjured. A very brief note in George's service record noted that he did not escape being wounded on that day but it gives no further information on how serious a wound it was.

The War Diary records:

The 4th Division attacked on our right. Fighting was hard and shelling heavy. Machine gun fire was intense. Our casualties were 24 officers and 504 other ranks. The killed officers were Capt and Adjt S.T.A. Neil, Capt G.C. Whitaker, Lt. J.G. Vause, Lt. E.H. Lintott, 2nd Lts T.A.R.R.E. Willey, J.P. Everitt, M.W. Booth, V. O'land, C. Saunders and T. Humphries & Lt S.M. Bickersteth. The wounded officers were Major R.B. Naill in command, 2nd Lts P.H.P. Somnani, D.S. Wells, J.S. Jones, A.N. Hutton, R.H. Tolson, J. Gibson, Leek, Briley, A. Liversidge, L. Foster & James. 2nd Lt Stanley sprained his ankle & was admitted to hospital.
By the end of the day we were holding our own front line. The attack succeeded in the south at THIEPVAL where there was continuous hard fighting for several days.
40 reinforcements of the Battalion were brought up.
Dead and wounded were being brought in from No Man's Land for several days.
 
Notes: In addition to Lt Bickersteth (aged 25), 2/Lt Booth (29), 2/Lt Everitt (19), 2/Lt Humphries (20), Lt Lintott (33), Capt Neil (27), 2/Lt O'land, 2/Lt Saunders, 2/Lt Willey (19), Capt Whitaker (28), and Lt Vause (23); 2/Lts James (26) and Tolson (31) (named as wounded) also died on the 1st July. Soldiers Died in the Great War also names 2/Lt R.H. Blatherwick (22) as being killed in action on the 1st July. Furthermore, 2/Lt Liversidge (23) died of his wounds on the 2nd July and 2/Lt Foster died of his wounds on the 13th August 1916. Capt Whitaker is buried in Sailly-au-Bois Military Cemetery, 2/Lt Booth in Serre Road Cemetery No. 1, Lt Bickersteth in Queens Cemetery, Puisieux, 2/Lt Tolson in Serre Road Cemetery No. 1, 2/Lt Blatherwick in Fricourt New Military Cemetery and 2/Lt Liversidge in Doullends Communal Cemetery extension No. 1. The bodies of the rest were not found and they are all commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

 

The losses were so serious, only 47 men of the Battalion answered roll call. No further attacks were made on the 2nd in this area and the Battalion spent the day collecting the wounded, burying the dead and re-organising. It was then brought back into reserve and was re-formed with new drafts of officers and men. In a fortnight the Battalion had been brought back to a strength of around 500, and it was sent back into the line in the Festubert section, and assumed responsibility for this section of the line until the end of 1916.

Home injured

During this time, George was admitted to No 95 Field Ambulance on the 23rd October 1916 suffering from boils. He was passed through 13 Casualty Receiving Station and then later, on the 27th October he was admitted to No 3 Casualty Clearing Station at Puchevillers with an illness described as "ICT Legs" - inflammed connective tissue of the legs. This was a common injury due to the conditions and long marches and periods standing. However the medical history of the great war also explains that I.C.T. was a general term for suppurating skin diseases (Pyodermia), caused mainly due to parasitic disease, but not including scabies. This was extremely common among soldiers in the Great War due to the dirty conditions they had to live in. George's condition was serious enough for him to be passed on and admitted to 23 General Hospital at Etaples and on the 1st November 1916 he was taken back to the UK on the Hospital Ship Cambria. Between the 2nd November 1916 and the 25th December 1916, George was under treatment at Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, suffering from impetigo.

A return to the front

George's stay in the UK lasted until the 15th May 1917, but there was still time within this period for George to fall foul again to military regulations, being admonished and fined 5 days pay for overstaying his sick leave from noon on the 19th April to 9pm on the 23rd April in Whitley Bay.

On the 16th May 1917 George embarked again for France, disembarking the next day. He was initially posted to the 17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, but returned to his old unit, the 15th Battalion on the 2nd June joining them on the 5th. Just before George re-joined the Battalion it had suffered heavy losses during the struggles at Vimy Ridge, and after that, at around the time George re-joined, it enjoyed a prolonged period of relative quiet in the Gavrelle sector, holding the trenches for some months until it moved to Neuville St. Vaast. On the 6th June, while near Gavrelle, George was promoted to be Lance Corporal. George continued his service near Gavrelle until the 31st July 1917 when he returned to England as a candidate for a temporary commission. His record at this time showed George had a special qualification in sniping, and his reference for Officer training remarks, rather ironically: "A good worker but rather lacks initiative. He should make a good young officer."

Officer training and back to France - 4th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment

George remained in an Officer Training unit until the 26th February 1918 when he became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Yorks and Lancaster Regiment and returned to France. He joined his Battalion, according to the War Diary, on the 27th April 1918 and served with them until the 29th July 1918.

Daily casualty figures for the 4th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment April to July 1918

Figure 1: Graph showing the daily casualties in the 4th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment during the period George Milner was an officer with them in France. Deaths (blue) calculated from those Killed in Action and Died of Wounds from Soldiers Died in the Great War. Wounded (orange) taken from the returns in the Battalion War Diary.

 

During the time George served with the Battalion in France, it went through the normal cycle of periods in the front line and time spent in reserve, and this pattern is reflected in the daily casualty rates shown above. The battalion was part of 148th Brigade in 49th Division, and during this period in 1918 were stationed on the south side of the Ypres salient. In April 1918, the Germans had made an attempt to break through in this area and the front line now ran along a line roughly from Zillebeke to Vormezeele, Vierstraat to Locre. On the 1st May, around the time George joined them, the 4th Battalion were in camp south east of Poperhinge towards Dickebusch, but on the 2nd May they moved to the front line close to Vierstraat to relieve the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. The War Diary reports:

Before the relief was actually completed a party of about six of the enemy approached our line. Largely owing to the gallantry of No 203320 Pte HOPKINSON E (A Coy) the party was dispersed, two of the party were killed and another captured. Two bags of mail and some rations were also taken. Casualties - Officers Lt C.L. PLATT (attd from Lancashire Fusiliers) and 2/Lt F.H. Oldfield wounded. Other ranks - killed 2, wounded 3.
 

Examination of the prisoner and others taken at other times suggested that a further German attack would fall in this area so the men were on the alert for a few days, however no major attack took place, and on the 5th the Battalion were moved back from the front line. The Battalion spent the rest of the month training in the rear before returning to the front on the 2nd June and stayed there until relieved on the night of the 11th/12th June. They then spent further time in training and in forming working parties until their next spell at the front from the 20th June to the north of Ypres. On the night of the 28th/29th June the Battalion took part in a minor operation:

The object was to obtain prisoners, kill the enemy and lower his moral. The right party thoroughly searched HILL 40 and crossed the ZILLEBECK ROAD but could find no enemy, nor posts which appeared to have been occupied. The party which moved out along PIONEER TRACK proceeded to about map reference 17.a.2.3 without finding any of the enemy. They saw a couple of the enemy on their way back but the fog was so thick and they slipped away. The two platoons on the left penetrated right up to the 3rd barrage line at 17.a.4.4, but found no enemy. On the right our barrage came down short and was not very accurate. On the left it was very steady and accurate.
The night was absolutely still and there was a heavy mist. The smoke cloud hung about for several hours and was so thick that it was impossible to see more than about 20 yards. The result of the fog was that any enemy who were seen managed to escape and it is possible that other posts of the enemy were passed over and never found.
The enemy in reply to our barrage shelled the RAILWAY CUTTING fairly heavily and scattered a few shells elsewhere. The total casualties were 2 ORs wounded during the raid and 6 OR wounded in our own trenches.
 
Raids of the 28th-30th June 1918

Map: The locations and raids of the 4th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment on the nights of the 28th/29th and 29th/30th June 1918.

 

The following night, 29th/30th June another raid was carried out.

Operation carried out by 3 Platoons with the object of securing prisoners and obtaining identification. It was thought probable that the enemy would be holding a post in the immediate vicinity of the CROSS ROADS in 16.d and the scheme was for one Platoon to attack along WARRINGTON ROAD, another to move southwards down the ZILLEBEKE ROAD and cut off the enemy.
Just before zero hour the left Platoon was seen by the enemy who were in considerable strength at about 16d.35.45. Bombs were thrown by the enemy a a machine gun started firing. Lieut Greenwood i/c of this Platoon was slightly wounded by a bomb. The Reserve Platoon, which had become much scattered in the advance was fired on by machine gun from about 16d.55.75.
The officer i/c of the left Platoon did not consider himself to be strong enough to attack and the officer i/c of the Reserve Platoon who could only collect about 10 men, was unable to get round to his assistance. Meanwhile the Right Platoon reached the cross roads which were its objective and found none of the enemy and returned to our lines. Casualties 1 OR killed and 7 OR wounded.

 

After this excitement, the Battalion was relieved by the 1/5th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment on the 30th June. The next two weeks were spent working on our defenses and everything was relatively quiet on the front, and even the end of July was fairly quiet.

Towards the end of the month, on the 29th July 1918, an entry in the War Diary shows that 2nd Lieutenant G Milner transferred to the RAF.

Joining the RAF

There is no mention of such a transfer in George's service record, however a RAF Officer's record for George Milner exists in the National Archive. This shows that George was accepted as an observer in the RAF on probation on the 8th August 1918, and entered the RAF on the 31st August.

To train for his new role as an air observer, George was first posted to No. 1 School of Aeronautics. This was based in Reading in buildings commandeered from the University of Reading. This school provided preliminary training for cadets and taught theoretical aspects of flight including map reading, gunnery and mechanics. Next, on the 12th October 1918, he moved to No. 1 School of Air Gunnery. Finally, on the 9th December 1918, George moved to No 1 School of Navigation and Bomb Dropping. This was based at Stonehenge Aerodrome. This aerodrome had two camps either side of a take-off and landing ground, the first located close to Fargo Plantation, and a subsequent and more substantial technical and domestic site situated either side of what is now the A303, a few hundred yards west of Stonehenge. The main role of No. 1 School at Stonehenge was to provide a final stage of training for pilots and observers before they were sent to the Western Front. Courses lasted about a month and the aim was to train up to 60 day bombing and 60 night bombing pilots a month, and the same number of observers. The comprehensive syllabus included navigation, formation flying, cloud flying and bomb-dropping. Perhaps the strangest test was one designed to test a pilot's ability to fly in a straight line. It was called "Head in Bag", because the observer had to cover the pilot's head.

By this time the war had ended and George ceased flying on the 3rd March 1919 and his connection with the RAF ended as he was posted back to his original regiment at the Depot of the 3rd Battalion York & Lancs Regiment. George was demobilised on the 8th April 1919. He then gave his address as Wharfe View, Linton and his unit as the 4th Battalion York and Lancs Regiment.

After the war

After the war George returned to live in Linton. We do not know when or where George died.


Sources

1911 Census. The National Archives. Class RG14 Piece 25947
First World War Medal Index Cards. The National Archives (WO372).
First World War Medal Index Rolls. The National Archives (WO329).
First World War Officer's Service Records WO374/47994 & AIR76/350/56 The National Archives.
War Diary of 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (WO95/2361) The National Archives.
War Diary of 4th Battalion York & Lancs Regiment (WO95/2805) The National Archives.

If you have any photographs or further details about this person we would be pleased to hear from you. Please contact us via: alan.berry@collinghamanddistrictwararchive.info