JONAS MILLION (1896-1918)

24544 Private Jonas Million, 15th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 1 May 1918 and is buried at Grootobeek British Cemetery, Belgium.[1]  He was 21 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, West Auckland.

Family Details

Jonas Million was born 31 December 1896 [2] at West Auckland.  In 1901, Jonas Million lived with Jonas and Margaret Parkin and their family at Bildershaw, West Auckland. [3]  In 1911, he was recorded as the adopted son of 55 year old Jonas Parkin and lived at Low End, West Auckland.  Other family members were his son 34 year old Thomas, his daughter 33 year old Mary Ann and her 39 year old husband George Rewcastle and 11 year old grand-daughter Celina Ann.  All 3 men worked as coal miners (hewers) and 15 year old Jonas was employed as a coal miner (pony driver).[4]

Service Details

The service record of Private Jonas Million has not been researched.  He enlisted at Barnard Castle and joined the 15th Battalion the Durham Light Infantry being given the regimental number 24544.  The 15th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of the 21st Division, 64th Brigade. [5]  The following units comprised the 64th Brigade:

  • 9th (Service) Battalion, the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)
  • 10th (Service) Battalion, the KOYLI disbanded February 1918
  • 14th (Service) Durham Light Infantry (DLI) left November 1915
  • 15th (Service) Bn., DLI
  • 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment joined November 1915
  • 64th Brigade Machine Gun Corps joined March 1916 to move into 121st MG Bn. February 1918
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery joined June 1916
  • 2nd Bn., the South Lancashire Regiment joined 21 June 1918, left 30 June 1918

The Division crossed into France 13 September 1915 and their first action was at The Battle of Loos in September 1915.  Private J. Million entered France 9 October 1915 presumably as a draft to replace those lost at the Battle of Loos.  The 21st Division then saw action throughout 1916 on the Somme and during 1917 at Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai.  Then in 1918, the Division encountered the full might of the German Spring Offensive.

The German Offensive, spring 1918 – an overview

3 March 1918: Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies in a separate treaty, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  This meant that Germany could now transfer divisions from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jagers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West so that the Germans held superiority in numbers.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions.[6]  A single division numbered about 19,000 men[7] so the German Chief of High Command General Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.

It was essential that final victory was gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America had entered the war 6 April 1917 and the first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.  In July 1917, Pershing General of the Armies of the United States asked for 3 million men.[8]  The build-up of troops took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States.[9]

The French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of effective inactivity.  However, the British were worn down by continuous fighting following the major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendale and Cambrai during the summer of 1917.[10]

The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918.[11]

The German Spring Offensive was launched 21 March 1918 and took 5 phases:

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, the Battle of Picardy, otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918 against the British
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, the Battle of Lys against the British sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, the Third Battle of Aisne against the French sector along Chemin des Dames
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, the Battle of the Matz against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.[12]

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive which led the Kaiser to declare a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren, 23 March 1918.  The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21  March and 10 April the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 1/5th of their original strength – 303,450 men
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was estimated to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000.[13]

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but even by drawing the next annual class of 18-year olds, only 300,000 recruits stood available.  Also 70,000 convalescents from hospitals were available each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required.[14]

In June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world. [15]

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realization that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralized German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff, 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918. [16]

The German Offensive in Picardy 1918

Together with other engagements, the Battle of St. Quentin is otherwise known as one of the First Battles of the Somme, 1918, part of the German offensive in Picardy.  The engagements are classified as follows:

  • 21 – 23 March: Battle of St. Quentin
  • 24 – 25 March: Actions of the Somme crossings
  • 24 – 25 March: First Battle of Bapaume
  • 26 – 27 March: Battle of Rosieres
  • 28 March: First Battle of Arras
  • 4 April: Battle of Avre
  • 5 April: Battle of the Ancre
  • 24 – 25 April: Action of Villers Bretonneux
  • 4 July: Capture of Hammel

The Germans enjoyed overwhelming superiority of forces – 58 Division against 16.[17]  The 21st Division served in the VII Corps as part of the Fifth Army and saw action at St. Quentin and Bapaume.[18]   The Division moved north to engage the enemy again:

  • 10 – 11 April: The Battle of Messines
  • 25 – 26 April: The Second Battle of Kemmel

15/DLI in action [19]

9 April: the German forces overwhelmed the Portuguese at Bois Grenier.

10 April:  the 64th Brigade was near Polderhoek and 15/DLI moved up to Glencorse Wood.  The enemy launched an attack on the Messines Ridge.

11 April:  15/DLI brought back to Lankhof Camp, 1½ south of Ypres.

13 April; 15/DLI back into the line

16 April:  5am a furious bombardment preceded a fierce attack and the village of Wytschaete was lost.

17 April: intense shelling and another attack. 15/DLI held North House, north of Wytschaete

18 April: 5.30am, 15/DLI attacked Somer Farm and won a trench in front of it.

19 April: no further action but persistent shellfire was endured

20 – 24 April: 15/DLI in trenches and under steady bombardment until relieved by 5/West Yorkshire Regiment.  Enemy drenched the back areas with gas shells and the 15/DLI sent to hold trenches north of Kemmel village to hold a gap in the front as the Germans thrust forward on the 25th.  9/KOYLI supported by 15/DLI counter attacked and reached the Kemmel-Vierstraat road.

26 April: at midnight all that was left of the 2 battalions was about 160 men each.

27 April: 15/DLI and 4/York & Lancasters marched back to Busseboom near Ouderdom for a day of rest

29 April: the Germans attacked again, 15/DLI reached Steenvoorde the same night.

“Casualties in the ranks during these operations amounted to 290 with 9 officers killed or wounded.  The other battalions suffered more but the Fifteenth had been the weakest in numbers at the beginning of the battle.” [20]

Later research records that between 16 and 1 May 15/DLI lost 1 Officer and 68 Other Ranks including Private J. Million who died of wounds 1 May 1918.[21]

Private J. Million was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War and Victory medals.[22]  The effects of Private J. Million were forwarded to Jonas Parkin who was recorded as his uncle.[23]


Private Jonas Million is buried at grave reference E.2 Grootobeek British Cemetery, Belgium.  There are 109 Commonwealth burials here.  George and Hannah Million, his parents, provided the following epitaph: [24]

In memory of Jonas Beloved son of George and Hannah Million of Chilton


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission Note: CWGC record his age as 22 but IWGC reports his date of birth as 31 December 1896 therefore he was 21 years old

[2] CWGC & England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.224 Auckland 1896 Q1

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census Note: CWGC record George & Hannah Million, from Chilton as Jonas’ parents.  I can find no trace of this family on 1901 & 1911 census


[6] “The Somme” 2005 P. Hart p.421


[8] http://www.firstworlwar/timeline

[9] Hart p.437


[11] Hart p.437

[12] Hart p.426 & timeline

[13] Hart p.435

[14] Hart p.439

[15] Hart p.438

[16] timeline



[19] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-1918: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry”  Capt. W. Miles p.285-288

[20] Miles p.288

[21] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[22] Medal Roll card index

[23] Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929

[24] CWGC


MILLION J. Headstone