1914-15 Star Trio, 8520 Lance Corporal Richard Thomas Mills, 2nd Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.
Richard Thomas Mills, a young Irishman from Curragh, County Kildare, was born during 1890 to William Thomas and Sarah Ellen Mills, who lived at Hambleton Terrace in Haxby Bay, York during WW1.
He was killed in action on the 8th May 1915, the First Day of the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, during the 2nd Battle of Ypres.
This day was one of the worst days for recorded for the regiments present. The 2nd Battalion King’s Own Regiment, had been about 1,100 strong going into 8th May, by the end of the day, they would muster only 67 men still standing
The report for the regiment reads:
I have the honour to submit the following report on the attack on the FREZENBERG line of trenches held by the 2nd Battalion The Kings Own Regiment on Saturday 8th May 1915.
Two Companies D and A under Lieut Jebb and Captain Grover held those trenches north of the YPRES-ZONNEBEKE road and one platoon of C Company under Lieut Home held a section of trench on the south of the road, The 3rd Monmouth Regiment continued to line south. B Company and 3 platoons of C Company were in support occupying dugouts.
The enemy began to bombard the Fire Trenches between 7am and 8am and continued until about 10am destroying the parapets and rendering the trenches untenable. I am unable to definitely account for any NCOs and men from the Fire Trenches.
On the cessation of the bombardment the enemy seized the trenches and advanced to attack the support dugouts. At this juncture the O. C. 3rd Monmouths called for one Company to support his line and accordingly B Company under Captain Forwood at once moved forward and occupied some old earthworks on the east side of a burial ground in rear of the Monmouth trenches being unable to advance further.
About 10am the attack on the Battalion support trenches began, the enemy having advanced to within about 200 yards of them, where they were held in check. In the meantime considerable numbers of the enemy could be seen moving in a westerly direction on both flanks of the position.
Colonel Martin was killed very soon after the attack on the dugouts began and Captain & Adjutant Weatherhead was severely wounded in the head. Lieut Muchall was killed at an early stage of the attack. I assumed command of the Battalion. At this juncture the situation in front was favourable, the enemy making no attempt to advance. However on both flanks heavy rifle and machine gun fire was opened against my position. I however had comparatively few casualties.
At 11.35am I received the following message.
“O. C. Kings Own. Brigade Order just arrived in the form of a message from O.C. East Yorks to Adjutant who is now with us. Retire on POTIJZE and hold on at all costs. Signed W Ramsden, Captain & Adjutant 3rd Mons.”
I accordingly sent a message to the officer commanding B Company ordering him to retire and directing him to make the best of his way back to the POTIJZE line avoiding the main road. I then made arrangements to withdraw the 3 platoons I had directly under my orders. This was a most difficult operation and as I expected resulted in heavy casualties – only 40 NCOs and men succeeding in reaching the POTIJZE line with me.
Immediately I began to withdraw, the enemy rushed the position I had held, and opened a heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the position and on both my flanks their guns also opened fire with shrapnel and high explosive shells. Captain Weatherhead was killed by shrapnel when within a few yards of the POTIJZE line of trenches.
As far as can be ascertained the casualties amongst NCOs and men amounted to 922”
According to the war diary entry dated 9th May 1915, the total casualties taken by the Battalion from 4th-9th May was:
2 Wounded and prisoners
32 Wounded and missing
Total of 914 casualties.
Due to the poor conditions during the battle and mass casualties most of the battalion including L Cpl Mills were initially listed as missing.
Naturally as Mills body could not be found after the battle a request was put in to the French Red Cross dated 25th August 1915, by Miss Florence Le Gros of Jersey, in an attempt to inquire to the German’s whether he still lived and was a prisoner.
His body was never found, so he is now commemorated on Panel 12 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium.