Died: Not known
Service number: Not known
Regiment/Service: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry then Royal Engineers
Family information: Son of Alfred and Alice Millett, husband of Mary Ann Butler(?),
living in Pease's Yard, Old Church, Pontefract
My Grandfather, Alfred Millett at age 29 enlisted early in the war
on 3 November 1914 as shown by his medal card. First of all, he was in the
King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) and then transferred to the Royal
Engineers to become a sapper in 256 Tunnelling Company, as ex-miners were the
obvious choice for tunnelling companies. The 256 was the last tunnelling company
to be formed in July 1916. It served first at the Vimy front and then moved to
Nieupor in June 1917 to construct shelters and wells. It became involved in
enemy attacks in July 1917. Alfred went to the front 18 February 1915 (medal
card) and we know from a newspaper article that he was wounded in June 1915 and
gassed in November 1916.
All was not doom and gloom, however, the Pontefract Advertiser 25
November 1916 reports that Alfred had received high commendation for gallantry
at the front. Apparently on the 22 October, Sergeant Hardy and three men were
about to enter their dug out when a shell struck the spot and buried them. When
the men had been recovered, it was found that the fumes from the explosive had
overcome Sergeant Hardy, but men from 256 Company had administered oxygen and
brought him round.
The medical officer certified that without this prompt action he
would not have survived. Brigadier-General E W Baird wrote to the man’s
commanding officer- “Will you please convey to 82985 Sapper A Millett my
appreciation of his conduct?” …. ”he deserves a mention on his sheet” and Major
W T Wilson endorsed this recommendation with the additional tribute that
“Sapper Millett has already distinguished himself under very trying conditions
in the front line trenches.”
Alfred was a past pupil of the Army Mine Rescue school and
possesses a certificate showing that he had passed as "very good” in the use of
the proto and salvus breathing apparatus, in his knowledge of oxygen reviving
and of practical work in the galleries. The paper adds that “it must have been
very gratifying to him to have been thus able to put his knowledge to use and to
his friends to find his skill and gallantry officially recognised.”
Another report in the Pontefract Advertiser on 21 July 1917
relates, that as well as the honourable mention for his rescue work he has also
received the French Medaille Militaire. It is not yet known why he was awarded
this medal. Alfred was wounded again around 16 April 1918 and was sent to
Woodside hospital, Glasgow. Despite all his sufferings over the years in the
trenches, he recovered.
Alfred was born in 1885, the eldest son of Alfred (a coal hewer in
the 1901 census) and Alice Millett (nee Clegg) of Newgate, Tanshelf. Pontefract.
According to the 1901 census, Alfred and Alice Millett had three sons (who were
all at the front) and one daughter Ada aged 13 in 1901. It must have been a very
stressful time for the family back home waiting for news of the boys.
Their worst fears must have been realised when news came that his
youngest brother, private Arthur Millet, aged 18 of the 3/5 KOYLI, was killed in
action June 1915 and that Alfred was wounded. His other brother, William, aged
23 who had been a miner at Ackton Hall colliery and enlisted August 1914 to the
KOYLI 1/5 battalion and went to the front just after the death of Arthur in
July 1915. According to a newspaper article he was at the front continually
until June 1918 except for two leaves, one at Christmas 1916 and New Year 1917.
The news came in April 1918, that since the 4th of that month he was missing.
Was he dead or captured? Then eventually in June 1918 his wife, who resided in 5
Richmond Terrace, Northgate, Pontefract, received a postcard informing her that
he was a prisoner of war at Limburg in Germany.
Before the war, Alfred also worked at Ackton Hall colliery .He was
married and his wife lived at Pease’s Yard, Old Church, Pontefract. However,
little is known about his wife, the family did not talk about her. Evidence from
the index to births marriages and deaths implies that she was Mary Ann Butler
and that they married late 1905.
She must have been busy on the home front looking after the
children. Alfred, my father was born in 1910 and he had a younger brother,
Robert probably born in 1912 and an older sister, Hilda, probably born in 1906.
She married Ernest Booth who was the landlord of the Junction Hotel, Castleford
They had one son, Geoffrey. My father Alfred married Emily Anne Baxter in 1933.
They had four children - Kenneth (now deceased) me (Barry), Sandra and Mary.
Alfred returned form the war, blind in one eye, possibly due to
the gas attack on the Western front. He became involved with St Dunstan’s, a
charity for blind ex-servicemen and women.
Every miner who went to war and worked for Lord Masham, the
proprietor of Ackton Hall Colliery, received a gold watch, which remains in the
I remember that my grandfather played the violin and had a good
sense of humour. During the Second World War, he used to bake Cantatalin Tarts
for the children. They were probably his own recipe based on the ingredients he
could obtain on rationing. We soon ate them up - to us war-starved children they