Reginald Mills


The Mills family had been living in Hoxne for three generations prior to Reginald's birth. Whilst his father, Edward, is recorded as an agricultural labourer both his grandfather and great grandfather were gardeners, quite possibly employed by the Kerrison family in their walled garden on the Eye Road.

In 1901 George and Laura Mills were living in a cottage in Low Street, Hoxne with their large family, Reginald at the age of 13 was the eldest, then Archibald (11), Edward (9), Frederick (5), Henry (2) and Arthur (1). By the time of the 1911 census Reginald was employed as Farm horseman and living with his wife, Harriet Agnes (nee Waller) and their daughter, Dorothy at 51 Low Street, Hoxne. George and Laura had moved, together with Reginald's younger siblings to 40 Goldbrook Cottages, Hoxne.

Born in 1887, Reginald was 27 when the Great War broke out. On the 27th September Reginald had travelled to Ipswich where he attested, agreeing to "allot 1/3 of my pay to my wife". A description of Reginald on enlistment recorded that he was 5 feet 6¾ inches high, his chest when fully expanded measured 37 inches and had a range of expansion of 2 inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes were blue and his hair light brown. His only distinctive marks were moles on his back. Reginald was transferred to the 9th Battalion Suffolk Regiment on enlistment and given the service number 15145 but clearly there was something was not quite right.

On the 19th October Reginald underwent another medical and in addition to the information already held Army Form B.178 recorded under (b) slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection a comment that appears to state "teeth pound". Although the form states that the slight defect was not enough to warrant rejection it clearly was as he is discharged under para 392 (3) (2) (c) Kings Regulation, the form was signed off by the Commanding Officer of the Battalion.

Clearly not vey happy about his discharge Reginald then travelled to Norwich where he enlisted in the Queens (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and was posted to the 1st Battalion. As no records have survived for this part of Reginald's Army Service the only reference that exists is the action that occurred during which he was killed.

The Queens had its depot in Guildford and, certainly in the years leading to 1914, drew its recruits from greater Surrey and the London Boroughs of Bermondsey and Kennington. The 1st Battalion had a hard time, landing in France shortly after the outbreak of War it fought at Mons, the Marne, the Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres. In 1915 they were involved in the Battles of Aubers, Festubert and Loos and in 1916 the Somme Battles. In 1917 it was involved in Allied attempts to break the Hindenberg Line and it was during this attack that Reginald lost his life.

On the 22 April the Queens, forming part of the 100th Brigade 33rd Division received orders to attack the Hindenberg Line. The post attack analysis "Report on Operations-23rd April 1917" leaves a detailed account of what unfolded. With their objective the first two lines of the Hindenberg Line south of the River Sensee, the Queens were supported, to the North, by an attack by the 98th Brigade. In addition to this, the Queens received reinforcements in the shape of two companies from the 16th Battalion Kings Royal Rifles (K.R.R.) and No 222 Field Company, Royal Engineers. The attacking force moved through the village of Hamelincourt where they collected additional ammunition and bombs (grenades) and then onto their attack positions astride the Croiselles-Fontaine Road. The first wave consisted of "A" and "D" Companies, "B" and "C" provided the 3rd wave, euphemistically called the "mopping" up Troops and the fourth wave. The two companies from the K.R.R. provided the fifth and six waves and the Engineers support troops to repair, consolidate or create defences, once the objective has been seized.

The countryside over which the Queens would attack was open and they had to cover about 1,000 yards, the River Sensee was little more that a trickle of water and the flat land leading to it was overlooked by higher ground held by the Germans. The first line, at this point, consisted of shallow trenches that were covered by two line of barbed wire. A creeping barrage commenced shortly before zero hour (4.45 am) and concentrated on the German first line for 8 minutes, then moved to the 2nd for 10 minutes before moving on to the rear areas for 90 minutes. At zero hour the attack commenced the first line being taken with few casualties, in the event the trench "contained only a few Germans who were quickly disposed of". The second line proved more difficult, the wire despite the barrage was uncut and the trenches had not suffered greatly either as the parapet was quickly filled by German infantrymen. The attackers went to ground in the shell holes created by their own barrage.

Although the Germans counter attacked the Queens held the old German line and had prepared it for rearward defence. However cracks started to appear, the Tanks never arrived having broken down before the attack started. Telephone wires linking the assault troops to Battalion Head Quarters were continuously cut by artillery fire so runners had to be employed and, more worryingly, the Queens were running out of both ammunition and bombs. At 1.45 pm the Germans made a determined counter attack and this time the pressure was so great that the Queens were forced to withdraw, the Report recording that "many casualties occurred during this retirement. The men were rallied at Battalion Head Quarters. From 3 pm the Quarry and Valley were heavily shelled and many casualties caused".

The Battalion had been hit very hard, 3 Officers were killed, 2 wounded and 8 missing (although 3 later returned wounded). Other ranks suffered 21 Killed, 101 wounded and 308 missing. Frederick George Mills was one of the missing. He is commemorated at The Arras Memorial at Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery Arras and Hoxne Church.

The Army Register of Effects notes that he had £1.19s.4d and that his widow Harriet received an additional War Gratuity of £3.0s.0d.

It appears that another of the Hoxne fallen, Herbert Plys Tibbenham, was in one of the two K.R.R. Companies that supported the Queens and was also killed in this action.