Oldham Council set to remember war hero 100 years on

OLDHAM Council is set to remember the third recipient from the borough to be awarded the Victoria Cross – exactly 100 years since his exceptional act of bravery. 

On Monday 11 December, 11am, a Service of Dedication and an unveiling of a commemorative stone will take place at Oldham Parish Church to honour Private Walter Mills VC.

This is part of a national campaign to lay lasting reminders in the birth place of Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War.

As part of the commemoration, Oldham Council is appealing for family members of Private Walter Mills to come forward to attend the service and pay their respects.

Family members who come forward will join dignitaries and representatives of local community groups and schools to unveil a commemorative paving stone in honour of the Private in the church grounds.

Councillor Cath Ball, Deputy Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Co-operatives, with a special responsibility for Oldham Remembers said: “A man with such passion and fearlessness is someone we must never forget in Oldham.

“Private Mills was born and bred here and it’s only right that a story of such self-sacrifice and bravery is remembered for years to come.

“This service will give residents the chance to pay their respects to the war hero and find out more information about him.”

If you are a relative of Private Walter Mills or just want to pay your respects, please contact the Oldham Remembers team on 0161 770 4621.

Private Walter Mills was in the 1st/10th Battalion (Oldham) of the Manchester Territorials and in his time he toured Egypt, Gallipoli and France.

Private Mills was born at 13 Bond Street, Oldham, July 21, 1894. He married Ellen Britt in 1913 and had a daughter, also named Ellen, on 13 July 1914.

On 6 September 1914, he enlisted at Rifle Street Drill Hall. He was posted to Egypt mid-April 1915, but their battalion didn’t see action until May 1915 at the Gallipoli landings.

Following the Gallipoli campaign Private Mills was shipped back to Egypt where they spent their time re-training and re-equipping ready for the journey to France.

In December 1917, at Red Dragon Crater, near Givenchy, France, Private Mills, aged just 23, earned his Victoria Cross.

After a strong gas attack the trenches were under pressure and overwhelmed. But he remained at his post and met the attackers single-handedly, throwing grenades at the enemy until reinforcements arrived.

Whilst being carried away from the conflict Private Mills sadly died from gas poisoning on 11 December 1917.

The Oldham solider is buried in Plot V.C.2 in the Gorre British and Indian cemetery in France. His Victoria Cross Medal was buried with his Daughter Ellen, who died in the 1920s.

The Service of Dedication will take place at 11am followed by refreshments in the Egyptian Room at the Old Town Hall, Parliament Square. 

If you wish to be involved in Oldham’s commemorations – Oldham Remembers – to mark 100 years since the start of World War One, read stories about local people and their experience in the war, research stories or to upload your own visit www.oldhamremembers.org.uk

For more information email oldhamremembers@oldham.gov.uk or call 0161 770 3297.

 

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