102256 Sapper John Thomas Milburn, 177th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, died 31 March 1916 and is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, France.  He was 44 years old and is commemorated on Shildon War Memorial.[1]

Family Details

 John Thomas was born c.1872 at Evenwood to William and Elizabeth Milburn.  There were at least 5 children, all born at Evenwood:[2]

  • John T. bc.1872
  • Jane bc.1874
  • Elizabeth A. bc.1878
  • Ellen M. bc. 1881
  • Annie bc. 1888

In 1881, the family lived at Swan Row, Evenwood.[3]  By 1891, 47 year-old William worked as a coal miner as did 19 year-old John Thomas and they lived near the Oaks, Evenwood[4] [possibly Stable Row].

31 December 1903: John Thomas Milburn married Lizzie McEwan Boyce at Glasgow. Their children were:

  • Elizabeth McFaydon born 15 October 1904 at Swindon
  • William born 16 June 1906 at Auckland
  • Jane Elizabeth born 25 September 1907 at Auckland
  • Sydney Barnes born 7 March 1911 at Auckland
  • Thomas born 20 August 1912 at South Church

By 1911, John Thomas Milburn worked as a miner and the family lived at Etherley Dene, Bishop Auckland.[5]  By the time he enlisted in 1915, the family lived at Hollands Hill, Shildon.[6]  John Thomas’ mother and sisters lived at Evenwood.[7]

 Military Details

Army Form B250? Short Service Attestation of John Thomas Milburn

  • Address: Hollands Hill, Shildon
  • Age: 42
  • Trade: Miner
  • Date of Attestation: 3 June 1915
  • Certificate of the Approving Officer: 3 June 1915
  • Height: 5’10½”
  • Weight: 167lbs. (11st.13lbs)

Statement of the Services

  • Joined at: London on 3/6/15 Royal Engineers Depot
  • Specially enlisted Tunneller’s Mate
  • “M” to expeditionary Force 7.6.15
  • To 177 No.4946 date 18/6/15
  • 177 Died at 4 G.H. Camiers, France 31.3.16

Service Table

  • Date of embarkation: 3.6.15 Date of disembarkation: 6.6.15
  • Exped. Force 7.6.15
  • Military History Sheet:
  • Home: 3.6.15 to 7.6.15…………………4 days
  • France: 7.6.15 to 31.3.16…………….299 days
  • Total………………………………………..….303 days

Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

  • 7/6/15 transferred from N.Co. to 177 Tunnelling Co. R.E.
  • 7/6/15 OC 177 Coy. Joined from England
  • 26.7.15 admitted to 44th F.A. (NYD)
  • 1.8.15 (?) Discharge from 42nd Field Ambulance
  • 10.3.16 Admitted to Hospital
  • 31.3.16 Died

Sapper J.T. Milburn was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[8]

The 177th Tunnelling Company was formed in June 1915 at Lestrem and moved to the Wytschaete area so it appears that Sapper John Thomas Milburn was one of the original recruits.  In November 1915, the company moved to Railway Wood where it remained for 2 years. The Company was engaged in works for the British Second Army as follows: [9]

  • 1915 – 19, 30 July & 9 August – Hooge
  • 1915 – November – Wytschaete
  • 1916 – 2 -3 June – Mount Sorrel

News of his Death

His death was reported in the Evenwood Parish Magazine:[10]

“Another name I should like to mention among those who have given their lives for England is that of John Thomas Milburn, of the Royal Engineers.  He wasn’t actually a parishioner as he lived at Shildon where he leaves a widow and 5 children I am told.  However he was brought up in Evenwood and his mother and sisters are well known and much respected members of our community.  Our sympathies are with them too for though it is a noble thing to die for ones country, yet the personal loss is very grievous and bitter to those who have loved them for so long.  John Thomas Milburn did not actually fall on the battlefield.  He died in hospital in France from ague contracted, I understand from the particular nature of his work on active service.”

 Burial [11]

 Etaples Military Cemetery:  Etaples is a town about 27km south of Boulogne, Pas de Calais, France.  During the First World War the area around Etaples was the scene of am immense concentration of Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals.  It was remote from attack other than aircraft and accessible by railway from the northern and southern battlefields.  In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes.  The hospitals could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick.  The cemetery contains 10,773 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. Sapper J.T. Milburn is buried at grave reference VI.E.6.

 Shildon War Memorial

 Sapper J.T. Milburn is commemorated on the Shildon War Memorial.  Major General F. A. Dudgeon C.B. G.C.C. 50th Northumbrian Division unveiled the Shildon War Memorial on the 13th October 1923.  The cost was £875 and the money was raised by public subscription.  There are 255 names commemorated from the Great War and 137 from the Second World War.

 157781 Sapper William Hull Bagley is another local man to be killed in action whilst serving with the 177th Tunnelling Coy, the Royal Engineers.  He died 4 July 1917 and is buried at grave reference XXVII.D.16, New Irish Cemetery near Ypres and is commemorated on the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages roll of honour and West Auckland War Memorial.[12]


[1] CWGC

[2] 1881 & 1891 census

[3] 1881 census

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] correspondence

[7] Evenwood Parish Magazine

[8] Medal Roll


[10] Evenwood Parish Magazine July 1916

[11] CWGC

[12] CWGC


MILBURN J.T. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

MILBURN J.T. Headstone Detail

Headstone Detail

RAILWAY WOOD Special Memorial to 177 Coy RE

Special Memorial to
177 Coy RE

Shildon War Memorial

Shildon War Memorial

Shildon War Memorial Detail

Shildon War Memorial Detail

Plugstreet  Tunnellers' Memorial

Tunnellers’ Memorial