In memoriam

Private Robert Mills

 

 

Robert Mills was born on 21 March 1896 at Tullyquin, Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, the fourth or fifth of six children of farm labourer William Mills and his wife Maggie (nee Kane). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Tullyquin with his parents and younger sister and working as a farm servant.

Mills enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron on 6 November 1914 (No. UD/155). On 6 October 1915 he embarked for France with his squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron came together with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and most of the men were transferred to the infantry. Like the majority, on 20 September Mills joined the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. He was issued regimental number 41087 and posted to A Company.

It is likely that Mills saw action in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917, and during the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918, during the German spring offensive. On April 1918 the 9th Battalion saw severe fighting around Kemmel during the German offensive in the Ypres sector. Mills was one of a number captured on 11 April.

He remained a prisoner until the end of the war. By October 1918 he was being held at Friedrichsfeld, and soon after, at Merseberg. He was released at the end of December and returned home. Unfortunately Mills had contracted tuberculosis in his right lung, together with other injuries (see below). On 14 May 1919 he was discharged, being no longer physically fit for war service (paragraph 392 xvi, King's Regulations). He was granted a pension, the degree of his disablement being assessed at 100 per cent.

Mills died at the County Hospital in Omagh on 26 October 1919, the cause of death given as cerebro spinal meningitis. He was buried in the Fivemiletown Church of Ireland Churchyard, in the south-east section.

The Tyrone Courier and Dungannon News reported that:

The funeral of Private Robert Mills late 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, took place on Tuesday from his father's residence Aughintane to Fivemiletown Churchyard with military honours and was very largely attended by all classes and creeds. Deceased joined up in November 1914 and went out to France in 1915 being transferred to the Ulster Division. He was taken prisoner of war on 2nd April 1918 [sic], at the battle of Kemmel Hill and was released after the Armistice. During the time he was prisoner in Germany he got hurt working at bar iron and septic poisoning set in and he was sent to hospital in France after the Armistice. From there he was brought home to England and sent to the U.V.F. Hospital in Belfast where he was discharged last June. Three weeks ago he was admitted to Omagh Infirmary suffering from his formal injury and meningitis set in and he passed away on Monday morning last. A detachment of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry stationed at Enniskillen were present and marched in front of the hearse. Immediately after the hearse the Fivemiletown branch of the Comrades of the Great War numbering over 40 marched the procession carrying the coffin in charge of Lieutenant Armstrong and Captain Robert Bloomfield. The Rev. John McDowell held a service at the house prior to the funeral and also officiated at the graveside after which the usual volleys were fired and the last post sounded.

Deceased was only 23 years of age and was most popular with everybody and great sympathy is felt for his parents and family in their sad bereavement.

(Tyrone Courier and Dungannon News, 6 November 1919, sourced from http://www.dungannonwardead.com.)

Mills's gravestone inscription reads:

41087 PRIVATE
R. MILLS
ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS
26TH OCTOBER 1919

 

 

Image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org.