b. 13/03/1890 Houghton, Lancashire. d. 31/07/1916 Bazentin-le-Petit, France.
James Miller (1890-1916) was born at Taylor’s Farm, Hoghton, near Preston, Lancashire on 13th March 1890. He was baptised on 4th May and this is sometimes erroneously stated as his date of birth. His father, George was a mason’s labourer. George married Mary Gardner in Chorley in 1878. They had a very large family, with James one of fifteen children, though tragically five did not survive infancy. The Great War had a huge impact on the Miller family, with four of the brothers all killed in action, including James himself.
James was educated at Abbey Village Primary School, Chorley, and was a popular local footballer. He was employed at Wiggins Teape paper mill at Withnell Fold, near Blackburn. In September 1914, James enlisted at Bowerham Barracks, Blackburn. He went to France with his Battalion on 17th July 1915 and saw action at Lens and Loos in the autumn. The Battalion moved to the Somme in April 1916 and was in action at La Boisselle from 3rd-7th July 1916. During his last leave he told his sister that he didn’t think he would survive the war and hoped he would die a hero. Sadly, he would be proved correct on both counts.
On the night of 30th-31st July 1916 at Bazentin-le-Petit, The Somme, his battalion was consolidating a position after its capture by assault. Private Miller was ordered to take an important message under heavy shell and rifle fire and to bring back a reply at all costs. He was compelled to cross the open, and on leaving the trench was shot almost immediately in the back, the bullet coming out through his abdomen. In spite of this, with heroic courage and self-sacrifice, he compressed with his hand the gaping wound in his abdomen, delivered his message, staggered back with the answer, and fell at the feet of the officer to whom he delivered it.
Miller was buried in Dartmoor Cemetery near Becordel. He had never married and his VC was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC was presented by the family to the King’s Own Royal Regiment in September 1989 and it is held by the King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) Museum, Lancaster.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LANCASTER REGIMENT MUSEUM, LANCASTER.
BURIAL PLACE: DARTMOOR CEMETERY, BECORDEL-BECOURT, FRANCE.
PLOT I, ROW C GRAVE 64.
King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum, Lancaster – Images of the Miller VC Medal.