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‘Most conspicuous bravery’ earned VC
WE’VE heard this week about a courageous First World War soldier from Hoghton who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
He was Private James Miller, who showed ‘most conspicuous bravery’ on the Somme.
James was born in 1890 at Taylor’s Farm, Hoghton, the son of George and Mary Miller, but the family later moved to Ollerton Terrace, Withnell.
James worked in the local paper mill at Withnell Fold and, on the outbreak of war, enlisted in one of Kitchener’s New Army Units, the 7th Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, which was raised at Bowerham Barracks in September 1914.
He went overseas in 1915, and saw action at Lens and Loos in the autumn, before moving to the Somme in April 1916.
The Battalion was in action at La Boiselle between July 3 and 7, and spent the end of the month consolidating a position near Mametz Wood and Bazentin-le-Petit. Following the capture of enemy positions, Private Miller was ordered to take a message during a break in communications.
The ‘London Gazette’ recorded the subsequent act of gallantry, for which Private Miller received his VC: “For most conspicuous bravery.
His battalion was consolidating a position after its capture by assault.
Private Miller was ordered to take an important message under heavy shell and rifle fire, and to bring back a reply at all costs.
He was compelled to cross the open and, on leaving the trench, was shot almost immediately in the back, the bullet coming through his abdomen.
In spite of this, with heroic courage and self-sacrifice, he compressed the gaping wound in his abdomen, delivered his message, staggered back with his answer, and fell dead at the feet of the officer to whom he delivered it.
He gave his life with a supreme devotion to duty.”
Private Miller is buried in Dartmoor Cemetery, near Becordel, on the Somme.
In Withnell, a memorial, a Celtic Cross, was erected by public subscription on the edge of the village churchyard. The Victoria Cross was presented to Private Miller’s father by King George V, at Buckingham Palace.
Ellis Williams, a former Colour Sergeant in the King’s Own and the then Secretary of the Old Comrades’ Association, recorded Miller’s gallantry in a contemporary poem entitled “The Message”.
His Victoria Cross was donated to the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum by his family in 1989.
n Photographs courtesy of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum, Lancaster.
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