|Date of Birth||July 9, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Newcastle, Natal|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Maria Mills, mother, 7th Avenue South, Kenora|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||May 20, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||20|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Decorations and Medals||Military Medal|
|Date of Death||August 28, 1918|
|Age at Death||24|
|Buried At||Vis-En-Artois British Cemetery, Haucourt, Pas de Calais, France|
|Plot||VII. F. 2.|
According to his attestation papers, Godfrey Mills was born on 9 July 1894 in Newcastle, Natal, South Africa. His father Walter John Mills, born in Meopham/Ridley, Kent, England, had enlisted with the 60th Kings Royal Rifles and served as Private during the Zulu War in South Africa 1877-79. Upon discharge he stayed in Durban and on 12 September 1881, in St Paul’s Church in Durban, he married Maria Sugitt (other spellings of the surname include Suggitt, Suggit, Sugitt), his occupation listed as constable. Born Maria Suggitt Dalby during the first quarter of 1853 in Beverley, Yorkshire, her mother Jane Dalby later married Tindall Suggitt, a lodger that had been living with the family. Before arriving in Durban on 25 February 1878 aboard the Roman, Maria had been working as a servant. It appears that she had travelled alone. Children born to the couple while they were in the Durban-Newcastle area of South Africa were Blanche, William Walter, Daisy Pearl, and Godfrey. There may have been other children as well.
By the 1901 England census the family was back in England, residing at Portswood, South Stoneham, Hampshire. Household members included Walter, age 42 who was working as a butcher’s assistant, Maria, age 42, Daisy, age 8, Godfrey, age 6, and Blanche, age 20. Blanche was listed as married, surname of Wilson, and with her was her one year old daughter Edith.
Godfrey’s father Walter was next found on a passenger list of the Lake Ontario that arrived in Canada on the last day of July of 1902. His destination was given as Winnipeg, occupation as butcher. On 16 December 1905, the names Nelly (probably Maria), Daisy, and Godfrey Mills were found on the passenger list of the Corinthian, their destination being Winnipeg, ‘Nelly’ to join her husband who was working as a butcher.
The 1906 Manitoba census found the family of Walter, Maria, Daisy and Godfrey living in Winnipeg. At some point after the census the family moved to Kenora, Ontario. During the second quarter of 1907, Godfrey’s brother William married Edith Ethel Evans in Plymouth, Devon. In late September of 1912 the couple arrived in Montreal aboard the Sicilian, destination Kenora. William’s occupation was listed as Physical Training Instructor with the Royal Navy. Once in Kenora he operated a restaurant on Main Street. In May of 1913, Godfrey’s sister Daisy married Edwin Campbell in Kenora.
Godfrey enlisted in Kenora on 20 May 1915. With gray eyes and brown hair, his occupation was given as clerk. With the 52nd Battalion he left for training camp in Port Arthur the next month. Recruiting for the 52nd Battalion continued throughout the spring and summer of 1915 across northwestern Ontario, with recruits being billeted privately in Port Arthur and Fort William until moved to Gresley Park in Port Arthur to undergo basic training on 7 June. On 4 November 1915 the Battalion entrained to St John, New Brunswick, arriving 8 November. Aboard the California the 52nd Battalion sailed for Plymouth, England on 23 November. Arriving 3 December, the Battalion moved to Witley Camp for 6 weeks of training under British instructors. In the new year, the Battalion moved to Bramshott for 2 more weeks of training and on 20 February 1916, sailed for France.
By May of 1916 Godfrey had been promoted to Corporal and then to the rank of Sergeant in July. Away for Christmas, he had been granted a ten day leave of absence. On 27 December 1916 Sergeant Godfrey Mills was awarded the Military Medal. An attached page is from the War Diary of the 52nd Battalion, December 1916, appendix 3, page 15. The raid took place in the early morning on 6 December 1916 and the 52nd was in the trenches at Thelus at the time (by Vimy).
From the War Diary of the 52nd Battalion, 27 December 1916: Following N.C.O.’s awarded the Military Medal,- 439213, Sgt. G. Mills. His Honours and Awards Citation card explains his actions that earned him the medal. According to a Miner and News paper article of 31 January 1917 Godfrey had been on leave to visit his mother who was in England and upon returning to the Battalion was presented with the medal.
On 2 June 1917 Godfrey was again promoted, this time to the rank of Company Quarter Master Sergeant. In August he was granted a ten day leave to Paris, followed by a fourteen day leave in late January of 1918. In June he was further promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major.
On 28 August 1918, Company Sergeant Major Godfrey Mills was reported as killed in action. From the CEF burial register for Godfrey: ‘KILLED IN ACTION.’ Whilst taking part in the attack West of Monchy-lePreux, he was killed by an enemy machine gun bullet. Although not his original resting place, he was reburied in the Vis-en Artois British Cemetery located 8 miles south east of Arras, France after the war.
Godfrey’s brother William enlisted in Kenora on 4 April 1915. He also was with the 52nd Battalion and together the two brothers had headed overseas. Company Sergeant Major William Mills was reported as killed in action on 6 October 1916 in the trenches northwest of Courcelette. His name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial.
Godfrey’s father Walter Mills enlisted in Kenora on 16 November 1915 and went overseas with the 94th Battalion, giving his age as 44 although he was probably at least 55. With the battalion he left Halifax aboard the Olympic on 28 Jun 1916, and once overseas was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion. On 14 August 1916, he was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre.
After the war Godfrey’s parents Walter and Maria journeyed to England for a prolonged stay, hoping to improve Maria’s health. On board the Marburn, they arrived in Southampton on 18 September 1924, destination given as Seaview, Bursledon, Southampton. They later returned to Canada the following May aboard the Minnedosa, heading back to their home in Kenora. However, shortly after they had returned, Maria died. She is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. Walter returned to England in late December 1926 aboard the Minnedosa, destination Bursledon, Southampton. It is likely that he stayed as Godfrey’s burial registration information was sent 29 January 1930 to him at the home of William Mattison in Bursledon, Hampshire. Godfrey’s sister Daisy’s husband Edwin Campbell also served during the war. He survived but the couple did not remain in Kenora.
Company Sergeant Major Godfrey Mills in commemorated on page 471 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, and on a WW1 Memorial plaque in St Albans Pro Cathedral in Kenora.
by Judy Stockham
photograph of Godfrey as a clerk at Neal and Heath store from the Lake of the Museum Archives
photograph of Godfrey’s grave marker from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans Affairs photo collection