|Place of Birth||Meopham/Ridley, Kent|
|Next of Kin||Maria Mills, wife, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||butcher|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||November 16, 1915|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
From England to South Africa, back to England, then to Canada, and eventually back to England, such was the life of Walter John Mills.
Although his birth date was given as 13 January 1871 in Meopham, Kent, England on his Canadian attestation papers, Walter John Mills was born in nearby Ridley during the first quarter of 1859, birth registered in Dartford. His parents were William and Mary (née Nordish) Mills, William from Trottiscliffe and Mary from Ludsdowne. The couple had married on 9 June 1851 in Clapham, Lambeth, Surrey. For the 1861 England census the family was found living in Ridley where William was working as a butcher; household members were William and Mary, and children Celia, age 5, Frank, age 4, Walter, age 2, and newborn Alice. Their first born, Mary, was living with relatives. By the 1871 England census the family consisted of Mary and children Walter, age 12, Blanche, age 7, Amy, age 6, Phillip, age 3, and Ada, age 3 months. Father William, the butcher, was listed as absent from the house and later died during the 3rd quarter of the year. It is likely that the other children were living with relatives or were on their own. Mary married James Bennet in 1874 and by the 1881 England census had had two more children, Edith and Lily Bennet.
Walter Mills enlisted with the 60th Kings Royal Rifles and served as Private during the Zulu War in South Africa 1877-79. (UK, Military Campaign Medal and Awards Roll: Private W Mills, 3rd Battalion 60th Rifles, 1877-1879, South Africa)
Upon discharge Walter stayed in Durban and on 12 September 1881, in St Paul’s Church in Durban, he married Maria Sugitt (various spellings of surname found including Suggitt, Sugitt, Suggit), 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 who was working as a butcher’s assistant, Maria, 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.
Walter was next found on a passenger list of the Lake Ontario that arrived in Canada in late July of 1902. His destination was given as Winnipeg, occupation as butcher. In December of 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 son William married Edith Ethel Evans in Plymouth, Devon. In late September of 1912 the couple arrived in Montreal aboard the Sicilian, destination given as Kenora. William’s occupation was listed as Physical Training Instructor with the Royal Navy. Once in Kenora he operated a restaurant on Main Street. On 22 May 1913 daughter Daisy married Edwin Campbell in Kenora.
Falsifying his age to appear younger, Private Walter Mills enlisted in Kenora on 16 November 1915. Sons William and Godfrey had signed their attestation papers earlier that spring. With other local lads with the 94th Battalion, Walter left Kenora by train in May 1916, destination Port Arthur, Ontario.
‘On May 25, 1916, the men of ‘C’ an ‘D’ Companies from Kenora and Fort Frances were moved to the Lakehead and on June 9, 1916, the Battalion left for Valcartier, Quebec for ‘Summer Camp’ as it was called. The 94th trained at Valcartier for a period until June 13th and then they sailed from Halifax for England on the RMS Olympic on 28 June 1916. Although the 94th remained a battalion on paper until July 27th, 1918, with an office at East Sandling, it actually ceased to exist on July 13th, 1916 when it was broken up and the men were transferred to the 17th and 32nd Reserve Battalions to be used as replacements for casualties in front line units.’
Going overseas as a batman with the 94th, once in England Walter was first transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and then on to the 15th Reserve Battalion in January of 1917. From there he was transferred to the Saskatchewan Regimental Depot in May where he was employed as a butcher. He was promoted to Acting Sergeant with pay in August. In May of 1918 Walter was returned to the 15th Reserve Battalion only to be returned to the Saskatchewan Regimental Depot in June of 1919. In September of 1919 Walter was on his way back to Canada, embarking from Liverpool aboard the Melita on the 17th. His skills as a butcher had been utilized for 15 months of the war.
After the war Walter returned to Kenora. He and Maria journeyed to England for a prolonged stay, hoping to improve Maria’s health as she had been ill. On board the Marburn, they arrived in Southampton on 18 September 1924, destination given as Seaview, Bursledon, Southampton. The following May they returned to Canada 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 later returned to England aboard the Minnedosa, arriving in time for Christmas of 1926, destination given as 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.
Both sons William and Godfrey Mills died during the Great War, William reported as killed in action on 6 October 1916 and Godfrey on 28 August 1918. The brothers were with the 52nd Battalion. On 27 December 1916 Company Sergeant Major Godfrey Mills was awarded the Military Medal for his actions in the field. Daughter Daisy’s husband Edwin Campbell also served. He survived although the couple did not remain in Kenora.
Walter is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour in Kenora.
by Judy Stockham