MILLION J.

JOSEPH MILLION 1890-1917

 36621 Private Joseph Million, 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry died of pneumonia 17 March 1917 and is buried in Varennes Military Cemetery, France.[1]   He was 27 years old and is commemorated on Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.

 Family Details

 Joseph was born 1890 [2] in Evenwood to Richard and Mary Million.  There were 8 children:

  • Sarah bc. 1876 at Evenwood
  • Dinah bc. 1880 at Evenwood
  • Margaret A. bc.1882 at Evenwood
  • John bc.1885 at Evenwood
  • Mary J. bc.1888 at Evenwood
  • Joseph bc.1891 at Evenwood
  • William Hamilton bc.1892 at West Auckland
  • Thomas bc.1898 at Evenwood

In 1901 the Million families was resident of Evenwood and 51 year old Richard worked as a coal miner (hewer) and 16 year old John was a coal miner (driver).  In 1901 neighbours’ of the Million family were Simpson and Alice Maugham whose second son was 12 year old John[3] who was 26952 Private J. W. Maugham 12/DLI who died of pneumonia 27 January 1919 and is buried in Evenwood cemetery.[4]

By 1911 the Million families lived at Chapel Street and 61 year old Richard worked as a coal miner (shifter), 26 year old John was a hewed, 20 year old Joseph was a colliery labourer; 19 year old William was a shifter.[5]  By 1917 the Million families lived at 4 South View, Evenwood.  In 1917, Joseph married Ellen Mary Smurthwaite (27 January 1917) Ellen and their son Harold (Smurthwaite) born 14 December 1916 lived at the “Wheatsheaf Inn, Staindrop. [6]

Military Details

 John Million attested at Bishop Auckland 22 February 1916 when 25 years and 5 months joining the Durham Light Infantry and being given the regimental number 36621.  He was probably placed to the Army Reserve. [7]   Private J. Million embarked for France 20 February 1917 being posted to 11/DLI 20 February 1917 then reposted to 18/DLI 11 March 1917.[8]

The 18th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was formed in Durham in September 1914 and came under the orders of 93rd Brigade, 31st Division and arrived in France in March 1916.[9]  The 93rd Brigade comprised the following units:[10]

  • 15th Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Leeds Pals)
  • 16th Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford Pals)
  • 18th Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradford Pals)
  • 18th Bn., the Durham Light Infantry (Durham Pals)
  • 93rd Machine Gun Company joined May 1916
  • 93rd Trench Mortar Battery joined February 1916

Private Joseph Million would have been a draft required to reinforce the battalion due to losses during the Somme offensive.  He was not involved in the campaign.

Trench Warfare [11]

 The Battle of the Somme may have been abandoned but trench warfare continued unabated.

26 February: 18/DLI ordered to take German first and second line trenches near Nameless Farm.

27 February: further ground gained, entered Gommercourt and established posts.

1 March:  attacked up Ron Graben trench – water-logged, little progress.  Stokes guns clogged up with mud.

3 March: attack on First Garde Stellung successful – casualties 15 killed, 28 wounded and 8 missing.  Several officers and men decorated later for this action.

18 March: at night, relieved and withdrew to Rossignol Farm.  After a rest, they worked on the broad gauge railway from Colincamps to Serre then moved onto Bethune.

Private J. Million landed in France 20 February 1917 and 11 March joined the 18/DLI.  Within 25 days of landing in France, he had died from “Lobar Pneumonia” 17 March 1917 in XI Casualty Clearing Station.[12]

Reports from October 1916 to March 1917 clearly indicate the miserable conditions the troops had to endure.  Illness in the trenches was rife and flu laid low many soldiers:

“The misery of the men was compounded by the inevitable outbreaks of flu, respiratory infections, gas gangrene – caused by bacteria from the faecal matter in the soil – dysentery and trench foot, though some welcomed even that horrific condition, often accompanied by the loss of several toes, as a way out of the nightmare of mud and earth.” [13]

The Medical Case Sheet provides a report.[14]  Private Joseph Million was admitted with breathlessness and right sided chest pain.  He was also found to have bronchial breathing. These are classical signs of a lung infection.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of antibiotics he succumbed to the infection.  It appears from the report that shortly after admission he became cyanosed (turned blue due to lack of oxygen from lung failure) and died shortly after.  Clearly the infection must have been quite severe and advanced for this to have happened.  A poor immune system due to malnourishment would have contributed to this sad demise.  The report gives a time of death as 10.30am but it is not clear how long he had been in hospital.  It also states that the infection is as a result of exposure.  However, the last words of the report cannot be deciphered.

Private J. Million had served a total of 1 year and 24 days, 30 in France:[15]

 

  • Home: 22/02/1916 to 15/02/1917 (359 days)
  • France: 16/02/1917 to 17/03/1917 (30 days)

Private J. Million was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[16]

Report of his Death

The Evenwood Parish Magazine reported as follows: [17]

“Lastly, I have to record the death on active service of 2 more of our local young men viz. Pte. J. Walling whose people live at Oaks House and Pte. J. Million of South View.  The former died of wounds and the latter from pneumonia contracted in the trenches.  It is hard and well nigh impossible for one to express one’s feelings in words on the subject of these sacrifices.”   

 

In July 1917, the personal effects of Private Joseph Million were forwarded to his wife Ellen who was living at the “Wheatsheaf Inn” at Staindrop.  They consisted of:

“Correspondence, photos, religious cross and book, pair of gloves, bracelets, metal cigarette case, locket and chain, razor in case, gold ring, metal watch, 2 keys, belt, knife, 2 discs.” [18]

A pension was awarded to Ellen for herself and one child took effect from 15 October 1917.[19]  The commemorative plaque and scroll was forwarded to Mary Ellen some time later.  In late 1918, Ellen Mary Million married and was now called Mrs. Jepson [20] and lived at Mill Wynd, Staindrop.

 Burial

 Private J. Million is buried at grave reference I.J.39 Varennes Military Cemetery.  Varennes is a village located between Albert and Amiens, in the region of Somme, France.  The cemetery was laid out by the 39th Casualty Clearing Station in August 1916 following the Battle of the Somme. It was then used by the 4th, 11th and 47th Casualty Clearing Stations.  There are 1,219 burials.[21]

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.229 1890 Q4

[3] 1901 census

[4] CWGC

[5] 1911 Census

[6] Army Form B.2512:

[7] Army Form B.2512: Short Service

[8] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[9] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/31div.htm

[11] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914 – 1918: the Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry”  Captain W. Miles 1920 p.119-121

[12] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service & Army Form B.2090A Field Service

[13] Hanson p.229

[14] Army Form I.1237 Medical Case Sheet

[15] Military History Sheet

[16] Medal Roll

[17] Evenwood Church Magazine April 1917

[18] Army Form B.104-126

[19] Widows Form 3

[20] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.211 Teesdale 1918 Q4

[21] CWGC

Photographs

MILLION J.  Headstone

MILLION J.
Headstone