Guest blogger Andrew Mills is a passionate family historian and Ancestry.co.uk member who discovered this great war story of bravery in his past.
My paternal grandfather’s elder brother Bertie Sidney Mills was born during the second quarter of 1874 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Although his father’s occupation was, according to census returns, a clerk of engineers, Sidney (as was known throughout his life) clearly developed an affinity to horses.
Certainly, by his early-mid 20s, in the closing years of the 19th century, Sidney was employed as a groom at the stables which served the Queens Hotel, situated on the Promenade in the Montpellier district of the town.
My great uncle appears to have formed a relationship with a young lady employed by the Queens Hotel, named Emily Louisa Mills (no relation!). The relationship, whilst not being formalised in marriage, certainly had continuity to it, as a son William Sidney Charles and a daughter Lugenia Annie Mary were born in 1898 and 1900, respectively. However, this continuity clearly had its limits as the couple had separated and Sidney had already married Annie Potts by the time Lugenia was born in November 1900.
Sidney and Annie were married in Aston, Birmingham and in the 1901 census, the couple were living in Little Brown Street, Aston. Sidney’s occupation is recorded as ‘foreman horse dealer/stableman’.
For reasons unknown, Sidney and Annie (still without children) relocated to Llandudno in North Wales around 1905. Information is scanty but it seems likely that Sidney found work with a local carriage business.
Sidney and Annie’s first child was a girl named Florence Ada, who was born in Llandudno in the 3rd quarter of 1914, just around the time of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany.
As yet, the available information about Sidney’s war career consists of two separate items. The first is that Sidney and his firstborn son William are reported through the family as having met up in France at some time following William’s arrival in the country in May 1916. At the time, William was serving as a private in 2/5th battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment and we assume that Sidney was already serving as a Sergeant in the 96th infantry brigade, 32nd Division of the Australian Corps where he is recorded in September 1918. Sadly, William was killed in late March 1918 in the Somme sector.
The second, and clearly recorded item of information, concerns Sidney’s citation for the award of the Military Medal on September 2nd, 1918. In the written account of Sidney’s brigade commander:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near MISERY on 30/8/18. When the Brigade came under very heavy shell fire, this N.C.O. very gallantly attended to the men and animals and supervised the removal of the whole Brigade Transport to a place of safety. His entire disregard of personal safety set a magnificent example and greatly inspired all ranks.”
Sidney was duly decorated with the medal after the war and one of the photographs of the event shows his obvious pride in receiving the medal from the Prince of Wales (who became King Edward VIII in 1936).
A message from Ancestry: Delve into the true stories in your family’s past and see which of your ancestors stepped up to reveal their bravery at www.ancestry.co.uk/WarHorse.