Mills, John Henry
18th Imperial Yeomanry
John Henry Mills was born in Marylebone in 1880. This date was taken from Poor Law records but only the year of birth was given. He was the son of Charles Mills a stableman, later cab driver, and Agnes nee Haines. John had one older sister.
In 1881 John was living at 3, Flora Cottages, Boston Road, Croydon with his mother and sister. The head of the household was John’s paternal grandmother Mary Ann Mills a widow who was employed as a laundress.
John’s father isn’t listed on this census return.
Poor Law records show that John was admitted to the branch school in Hammersmith on the 15th of October 1890 and transferred to Beechholme on the 14th of August 1891. His mother was listed as Agnes .There is no mention of his father. On the 1891 census Agnes describes herself as a widow.
The next entry in the Poor Law records is John’s “Sending Out” on the 11th of November 1895 to Messr R.H. & J. Pearson ironmongers. He was to live with his mother at 1, Dartmoor Street, Notting Hill.
The dates from these records correspond to the dates given in “ Beechholme, A Children’s Village” for J.H. Mills of “A” Cottage.
John was “ bound” for five years to serve his apprenticeship at the firm of ironmongers. Subsequent follow up visits as recorded in the Poor Law records show that on the 1st of February 1897 he was satisfactory, but a later visit on the 27th of January 1899 showed that his conduct had been unruly and that he had since run away and enlisted.
It would appear from army service records that John enlisted first with the 5th Rifle Brigade, army number 4737, in London on the 20th of December 1898.
He gave an address of 2a, The Mall, Palace Gardens Terrace and stated that he was working as a labourer at the Duke of Sussex in Notting Hill. It also states that he was born in Marylebone and his age was 18 years and 11 months. No next of kin was listed but the age and place of birth fit. He was described as being 5 feet 3 inches in height and weighing 113 pounds. He had a fair complexion with brown eyes and hair. He had distinctive moles on his right cheek and chest and also on his right shoulder.
John was discharged on the conviction of a felony on the 21st of March 1899.
The word “felony”as used at this time, particularly by the British army, could have been almost any crime ranging from theft to murder. Newspaper archives, trials and criminal records from this time show nothing of note, suggesting the crime to be a minor one.
According to the Beechholme Boer War panel John served in the 2nd Boer War with the Imperial Yeomanry.
Unfortunately there are no surviving service records for John with this regiment, however, one record held by Ancestry under the collection “ South Africa, Second Boer War, British Service Register” lists J Mills of the 18th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry holding the rank of trooper. This matches the John Mills 30389 listed as being awarded the Queens South Africa medal with Cape Colony, Orange Free State and 1901 clasps. There is however no report of John being injured as stated on the Boer War panel.
This 18th battalion were part of the 71st company and were sharpshooters. Many Imperial Yeomanry volunteers had previous service with other units like the 3rd London Rifles.
The Imperial Yeomanry were raised in December 1899 and embarked at Southampton on the 6th of April 1900 landing at Beira, in Portuguese East Africa the same month where they joined the Rhodesian Field Force. The first contingent returned to Britain in June 1901 and were replaced by a second draft.
After the 2nd Boer War the Imperial Yeomanry did not participate in any further conflicts and the individual companies returned to their British based Yeomanry regiments.
The 1903 report of His Majesty’s Commission on the war comments "On the whole the Imperial Yeomanry seem to have done very good service in the war, but to have suffered from the mistake which was made in not organising a system of drafts to maintain the strength of the force, a mistake due, in no doubt, like others, to the under-rating of the resisting power of the Boers and the belief in the speedy termination of the war. If this system had been organised upon a county basis a steady flow of selected men trained to ride and shoot at home could have been maintained, and the necessity avoided in sending out later 17,000 untrained and unorganised men to receive their education in the face of the enemy".
John cannot be traced on the 1911 census.
It is likely that this John Henry Mills is the same man listed on the school’s WW1 panel as extensive searches of Poor Law records fail to show another J. H. Mills. Again sadly there are no surviving service records but there is a medal index card in the name of John H. Mills Rifle Brigade, army number 707, supplementary regiment South Wales Borderers number 82540. This matches the regiment listed on the World War One panel.
The Rifle Brigade number of 707 indicates an enlistment between 1904 and 1905 so he may have been a reservist. He was awarded the Victory and British medals and as no date of entry was stated on the card it is likely he entered the theatre of war at the beginning of 1916. The medal rolls held by Ancestry reveal the regiment to be the 22nd (Wessex and Welsh) Rifle Brigade. The battalion was made up of supernumerary territorial field companies formed from national reservists who were used for guarding vulnerable points in Great Britain.
The 22nd regiment left England on the 3rd of January 1916 on the Olympic landing at Mudros, a British base on the island of Lemnos, Greece and then sailed to Alexandria and were used for garrison duty of vulnerable points in Egypt.
The regiment of South Wales Borderers to which John was sent is unknown but the 4th battalion had been evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt due to severe losses from combat, disease and harsh weather. In Egypt they were used to defend sections of the Suez Canal moving to Mesopotamia and arriving in Basra in March 1916.
We do not know when John’s war service was complete but in the absence of a silver war badge must assume he served throughout the war.
He married Edith Annie Wilks on the 21st of September 1918 at St Sepulchre, Walworth, perhaps while home on leave. His occupation is given as soldier. His father’s name is listed as Charles Mills cab owner. Both bride and groom were aged thirty-eight.
There were no children from this marriage.
The Beechholme book states that John had died by 1920 but no death in this country or with the army overseas could be found that tallied with his date of birth.
On the 1939 register he and his wife were living at 146 John Ruskin Street, Southwark, where his occupation was given as housekeeper.
John Henry Mills died on the 25th of May 1942 in Lambeth hospital. He was aged 62. His occupation was listed as an offices housekeeper of the above address.
He died of a cerebral haemorrhage.