Alfred Mills 

10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers
(City of London Regiment) the 'Stockbrokers'
 and The Royal Engineers

Great War Diary 1914-1918


 

Intro

This web site relates the daily experiences of Alfred Mills, a private soldier. A diary written at the time as the war unfolded.

Alfred Mills was one of Kitchener's 'One Hundred Thousand'. Joining one of the many new Battalions specifically formed to accommodate the volunteers who answered their country's call in August 1914.

Alfred was born on Wednesday 10th October 1894 in west London. His parents, father Alfred John Mills and mother, Mary Ann (nee Pooley) who were both born and bred in west London and his mother's family were well known brick makers in the Fulham area of west London. His father owned a tobacconist in Ealing Broadway, west London. Initially living in Shepherds Bush and later moving to Southall.

Alfred's parents altogether had four children, John born Wednesday 29th August 1890, William born Wednesday 16th December 1896, and, Amy Emily born Wednesday 16th December 1891. Interestingly all the children were born on a Wednesday and two shared the same birthday.

Whilst at school, Alfred met his intended, Winifred Lloyd, who was born on 2nd October, 1895, also a Wednesday.

After an uneventful schooling, Alfred realised his penchant for drawing by securing a job as a draughtsman with Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co. Ltd., 21 St Mary Axe, London EC, one of a growing number of oil exploration, extraction and shipping companies of the time, and part of the burgeoning Shell Group of companies.

Alfred's boss, director Mark Abrahams was decidedly unimpressed at Alfred's announcement to him on Friday 28th August, 1914 that he would leaving his employ as he had signed up for 'King and Country' on Monday 24th August, 1914 and had been passed 'Fit for Duty' by the Medical Officer in the afternoon of  Wednesday 26th August, 1914. Alfred had joined the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), better known as the 'Stockbrokers' due to its ranks being filled by workers from in and around the Stock Exchange in the City of London.  This was in answer to Lord Kitchener's call for 'one hundred thousand'.

 

On Saturday 29th August, 1914, Private Alfred Mills STK 759 of B Company, No. 5 Platoon, paraded at Temple Gardens, London WC and was inspected by Lord Roberts afterwards marching behind the Grenadier Guards Band to the Tower of London, where, in the Tower Ditch, was sworn in as a soldier by the Lord Mayor, Sir W. Vansittart Bowater and received the 'King's shilling'. Marching back through the City passing the Mansion House (to where the Lord Mayor had gone after the ceremony and waved to 'Kitchener's' volunteers from the balcony) to Trafalgar Square where they all dispersed and Alfred raced home to Southall and his anxious but proud parents.

Initial training and the acquisition of his nickname Nobby, started at Colchester in September .With no uniforms and no rifles available until mid-September, Alfred was put through gruelling training, which stood him in good stead later on when it came to enduring the hardships of the trenches. It was at Colchester that Alfred made instant friends with his fellow occupants of their Bell tent. Accommodating 8 to 9 people, conditions in the tent were basic and fairly cramped, but Alfred made the best of it. They also made a pact not to take promotion and to stick together.  The friends included, Noel Amsden, Jimmy Smythe, Andy Andersen, Gibbs, Skinny Evans (a corpulent Welshman and in charge of the tent), Standford, Couze, and Butler. The pact wasn't adhered to by all and some didn't survive the war. Alfred did stick to the pact and remained a common soldier throughout, which probably contributed to his survival.


The Battalion moved to Andover on Friday 26th February, 1915, to continue training and subsequently on Wednesday 7th April, 1915, to Ludgershall on the edge of Salisbury Plain. It was here that the General commanding the division, General Count Von Gleichen (cousin of King Edward VII and interestingly, also related to the German Royal Family) inspected the Battalion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Edward_Gleichen.


On Friday 30th July, 1915, after eleven months of route marches, parades, digging practice trenches and generally wondering if he would ever get to see any action, the Battalion embarked at Folkestone at 9.30pm on two troop transports escorted by six Torpedo Boat Destroyers for the Channel crossing, disembarking at Boulogne at 11.30pm, and marched to the camp at Pont de Briques a few miles south of Boulogne, arriving at 1.30am on Saturday 31st July, 1915. Alfred's platoon sergeant, Sgt Clapp, a Boer war veteran, told them that "if the war finishes tomorrow, you will still get your medal whatever happens".


Leaving the camp by train at 12:30pm on Saturday 31st July, 1915, they were transported to Watten, near St Omer, where they were billeted.

On Wednesday 4th August, 1915, they left Watten and marched to Bailleul (via Cassel and St Sylvestre) where they were inspected by General Plumer, commanding 2nd Army.


On Monday 9th August, 1915, they left Bailleul and marched to Armentiers and it is here that Alfred takes up his story....