Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 1, 1880
Place of BirthUdimore, Rye, Sussex
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. H. Coppard (sister-in-law), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTeamster
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number198272
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentNovember 15, 1915
Age at Enlistment35
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 10, 1918
Age at Death37
Buried AtBouchoir New British Cemetery, Somme, France
PlotIV. E. 122.

Miller, Charles

The final period of the war, from 8 August to 11 November 1918, is known now as The Hundred Days Offensive. The Canadians had some of their greatest victories during that time but they also suffered heavy losses, with 20% of their total battle casualties occurring in the last three months of the war. One of the fallen was Lance Corporal Charles Miller from Kenora, Ontario.

Charles was born on 1 September 1880 in Rye, Sussex, England, the youngest child of Charles and Charlotte Miller. Charles Sr. worked as an agricultural labourer and he married Charlotte Coppard (née Foster) in November 1866. Charlotte was a widow and she already had five children: Jane, Eliza Fanny, John, Richard and Henry Coppard. With Charles she had four more sons: George, Ned (Edward), Jim (died at age 3) and Charles. Charles lost his father in 1893 when he was 13. At the time of the 1901 census, at age 20, he was working as a railway carter and living in Rye with his brother John Coppard and his widowed sister Eliza Griffin. Five years later he immigrated to Canada with his brother George Miller, arriving in Halifax on 11 February 1906 on the SS Pretorian, their occupation listed as mill hands and their destination Kenora, Ontario. Their brother Henry Coppard was already living in Kenora with his wife and children.

When the 1911 census was taken Charles was lodging on Sixth Avenue South, a few doors down from Henry, and he was employed as a delivery person. Four years later when he enlisted he was working as a driver for McKinnon and Ronan, a local grocery business. The war started in August 1914 and Charles signed up with the 94th Battalion on 15 November 1915 in Kenora. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. After training over the winter the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur on 25 May 1916 to join the rest of the battalion. A huge crowd gathered at the train station to see the men off as they left on the first leg of their journey overseas. Charles had been promoted to Lance Corporal in Kenora and in Port Arthur he was promoted to Corporal on 1 June. A week later the battalion left for Quebec. The men spent a short time at Valcartier, a large military camp northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.

Charles spent seven months training with the 17th and 30th Reserve Battalions and during that time he reverted to the rank of private by his own request. Early in January 1917 he was transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and sent to France. He joined his new unit in the field in early March. The 1st CMR had started the war as a mounted unit but they were converted to infantry in January 1916, one of four battalions in the 8th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division. Charles joined them in a draft of 40 reinforcements as they were training for the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917).

The 1st CMR took part on the first day of the operation, on 9 April, suffering about 260 casualties. Over the next few months they remained in the Vimy area and had regular rotations in the front trenches. They also trained, formed work parties, repaired trenches and dugouts and carried out patrols and raids. In October they were moved to the Ypres Salient in Belgium along with the rest of the Canadians Corps for the Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). Artillery shells and heavy rains had turned the battlefield into a wasteland of swamp, mud and water-filled shell holes. The 1st CMR took part in the push up the Bellevue Spur on 26 October, followed by several days spent in support and reserve positions. The Canadian Corps suffered 15,000 casualties at Passchendaele with over 3,000 men killed and 1,000 missing and presumed dead, many of them lost in the mud.

On 18 December Charles was given ten days leave in the UK and he rejoined his unit after the holiday season, on 3 January 1918. In May he was promoted to Lance Corporal again and by the summer of 1918 he’d been a front line soldier for a year and a half. The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918. The 1st CMR moved to the Amiens area early in August and they took up positions in the front line on 7 August. The next day they captured the village of Hangard, advancing in a heavy fog that helped to hide the troops and keep their casualties light. On 9 August further advances by the battalion brought them close to the villages of Folies and Bouchoir, where they spent the night in an old system of trenches. On 10 August their operations began at 7:45 am near Bouchoir and during the advance they faced heavy machine gun and artillery fire. Charles was killed in action that day, one of 135 casualties suffered by his unit.

From the War Diary for the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, 10 August 1918: ‘At 6:30 am Battn moved off and assembled in positions in front of BOUCHOIR. At 7:45 am the boys jumped off and attacked the enemy positions. Resistance in the way of machine gun fire and artillery fire was encountered but success was soon gained and the enemy pushed back between two and three kilometres. ‘During the early part of the afternoon the enemy shelled our positions heavily, inflicting some casualties. The casualties for the operation were 3 Officers wounded, 25 OR’s killed and 107 OR’s wounded.’

From the Circumstances of Casualty record for Charles: Whilst taking part in the attack North East of Bouchoir, he was hit in the head and instantly killed by an enemy rifle bullet.

After the war ended Charles’ body was exhumed from his original resting place and interred in Bouchoir New British Cemetery near Amiens in France. The cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries around the village of Bouchoir. Charles is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral War Memorial plaque.

Three of his nephews from Kenora also served in the First World War: George, William and Richard Coppard. William and George survived the war but Richard died of wounds on 7 May 1918 in England.

By Becky Johnson

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