b. 09/07/1896 Clearwell, Gloucestershire. d. 08/11/1961 Clearwell, Gloucestershire.
Francis George Miles (1896-1961) was born a true ‘Forester’ in the village of Clearwell, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire on the 9th July 1896. He attended the village school leaving at 13 years of age to work in the mines of the Princess Royal Coal Company. At the age of 18 he enlisted with his stepfather, Frederick Clack, on the 28th December 1914 into the 9th. Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. After training he was sent straight to France where he received his first baptism of fire. He went on to see service in Salonika, the Somme, Albert, Ypres, Peronne and Italy.
In July of 1917 he was buried alive by an exploding shell and was the sole survivor out of 50 men. He came back to the U.K. and was sent to a Hospital in Halifax, Yorkshire, to recover and re-cooperate. He recovered and was sent back to France, this time to the 5th. Battalion with whom he was to serve with such distinction. In September 1918, the regiment was recalled to France for the final weeks of the War. It was during the Battle of the Selle, to the east of Le Cateau, in October 1918, that the Gloucesters were given the task of clearing part of the Bois l’Eveque close to a mill. They met with stubborn resistance from several machine gun posts, which stalled the advance. It was here that Private Francis Miles performed his act of outstanding heroism.
On 23rd October 1918 at Bois-l’Évêque, Landrecies, France, when his company was held up by a line of enemy machine-guns in a sunken road, Private Miles, alone and on his own initiative went forward under exceptionally heavy fire, located a machine-gun, shot the gunner and put the gun out of action. Then seeing another gun nearby, he again went forward alone, shot the gunner and captured the team of eight. Finally, he stood up and beckoned to his company who, acting on his signals, were able to capture 16 machine-guns, one officer and 50 other ranks.
He was gazetted for the VC on 3rd January 1919, and was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 30th May 1919. With the war behind him Private Miles returned to his home village of Clearwell to a Hero’s Welcome. The villagers presented him with a Gold Watch. He returned to working in the mines, but suffered from ill health for the rest of his life.
With the outbreak of WW2, Francis Miles was back in uniform and served with the Pioneer Corps. In 1956 he was presented to the Queen at a special Victoria Cross Centenary Celebration (1856-1956) in Hyde Park, London.
Francis George Miles V.C. died in his home village of Clearwell on 8th November 1961 aged 65. He was buried in St Peter’s Churchyard, Clearwell. In 2003 members of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regimental Association gathered to pay tribute to Private Francis Miles VC, buried in his home village of Clearwell, Gloucestershire. The Association was disturbed to discover the deteriorating condition of his grave and headstone, so decided, with the family’s permission, to commission a new stone. On the 23rd May 2004, a new headstone was dedicated to Francis Miles VC in St Peter’s Churchyard.
Francis Miles’ medals were held privately until in 2005 they were purchased at auction by Michael Ashcroft at a sale at Morton & Eden. They are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ST PETER’S CHURCHYARD, CLEARWELL, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.