Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 28, 1882
Place of BirthDurban, Natal
CountrySouth Africa
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinEdith Ethel Mills, wife, Main Street, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingSeaman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439116
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentApril 4, 1915
Age at Enlistment32
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 6, 1916
Age at Death33
Buried Atno known grave/Vimy Memorial

Mills, William Walter

According to his attestation papers, William Walter Mills was born on 28 November 1882 in Durban, 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 (found spellings of 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, without William,  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.

William’s father Walter was next found on a passenger list of the Lake Ontario that arrived in Canada on 31 July 1902. His destination was given as Winnipeg, occupation 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, 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.  In May 1913, William’s sister Daisy married Edwin Campbell.

On 4 April 1915 William Walter Mills enlisted in Kenora, occupation given as seaman.  He had previously served during the Boer War and had  15 years experience with the British Navy. He was immediately made Sergeant.  With the 52nd Battalion he left for training camp in Port Arthur in June. 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 1915. On 4 November 1915 the battalion entrained to St John, New Brunswick, arriving 8 November. Aboard the California, the 52nd Battalion embarked for Plymouth,  England on 23 November. Arriving 3 December 1915, 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, embarked for France. In July William was promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major.

Less than eight months later, Company Sergeant Major William Walter Mills was reported as killed in action in the trenches northwest of Courcelette on 6 October 1916. His burial was recorded as 100 yards in advance of the Kenora trench and 20 yards in rear of old German Artillery Dugout on West Miraumont Road. However, along with the names of 11 000 Canadian soldiers who were ‘missing, presumed dead’, William’s name is found on the  Vimy Memorial in Pas de Calais, France.

William’s wife Edith had returned to England during the war, living first at Cattledown in Plymouth, and then in Stonemouth, Plymouth  where William’s medals and decorations, plaque and scroll, and war gratuity were sent.

William’s brother Godfrey enlisted in Kenora on 10 May 1915. He also was with the 52nd Battalion and together the two brothers had headed overseas. Company Sergeant Major Godfrey Mills was reported as killed in action on 28 August 1918. On 27 December 1916 he  had been awarded the Military Medal for his actions in the field.

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 years old. With the battalion he left Halifax aboard the Olympic on 28 June 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 William’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 in September of 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. Walter later returned to England in late 1926 aboard the Minnedosa, destination Bursledon, Southampton.  It is likely that he stayed as William’s brother Godfrey’s burial registration information was sent 29 January 1930 to him at the home of William Mattison in Bursledon, Hampshire. William’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 William Walter John Mills is commemorated on page 136 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, and on WW1 Memorial plaque in St Albans Pro Cathedral  in Kenora.

by Judy Stockham

Mills-William-Walter-2 Mills-William-Walter-3 Mills-William-Walter-4 Mills-William-Walter-5 Mills-William-Walter-6 Mills-William-Walter-7 Mills-William-Walter-8
Vimy Memorial inscription photograph as found on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, posted by J Stephen

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