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James Miller (1879-1915)

Pelton Fell man served with Northumberland Fusiliers killed at Bellewaarde

James Miller was born in Pelton Fell in 1879. He married Margaret Jane Forster, also born in Pelton Fell, in April 1907.

James at 20 years old sought adventure from the coal mines of the North East and joined the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers to fight in both Boer Wars. He served in England until 9 November 1900 and then in Australia until 22 April 1901 and England again until 6 November 1901. He then served in South Africa during the Boer War until 6 April 1903, Mauritius until 8 February 1906 and finally India until 6 February 1907. He was discharged on 9 February 1907. During these periods he did spend several days in jail for being drunk and disorderly, swearing and using abusive language, however, he also reached the rank of lance-corporal (from 9 June 1902 to 29 Novemeber 1902). On the outbreak of war he re-enlisted in 1914 at Chester-le-Street and was given a new regimental number: 9266.

James enlisted with the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, ‘Z’ Company, Newcastle. His medal card notes that he first set foot in France on 3 May 1915. Just over a month later he was killed in action (presumed dead) on 16th June 1915 at Bellewaarde, Ypres. James has no known grave, his name can be seen on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.

James left a wife, Margaret Jane, four children, James, Elizabeth Mary, Jane Peel and Margaret Jane, born 27 July 1915, about five and a half weeks after James’ death.

The photograph that accompanies this page was taken round about November 1914, just prior to embarkation to France. James is posing with his wife, Margaret Jane and their eldest son James, who is about 6½ years of age and dressed in an army uniform.

His widow was notified that he was missing but he was not declared dead until one year later, she placed this poem in the local newspaper, the Chester-le-Street Chronicle, dated 16 June 1916:

“In loving memory of my dear husband James Miller,
reported missing on 16 June 1915, now reported killed.

In the bloom of life death claimed him,
In the pride of his manhood days;
None knew him but to love him,
None mentioned his name but with praise;
His smiling face I shall never forget,
Though years may pass away.

As I gaze on your picture that hangs on the wall,
Your smile and your welcome I often recall;
I miss you and mourn you in sorrow unseen,
And dwell on the memories of days that have been.

Oh, how my heart does ache,
When I think of how you died;
To think you could not speak to me,
Before you closed your eyes.

Ever remembered by his loving wife and four children, father and mother-in-law.”

Website dedicated to those who fought at the Battle of Bellewaarde:

Civil Parish: Chester le Street

Birth date: 1879

Death date: 16-Jun-1915

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 19 Grange Terrace, Pelton Fell (1891 census)
28 Hopgarth, Chester-le-Street (1911 census)

Employment: Coal miner (1891 census)
Soldier (1900-1907)
Coal miner, hewer (1911 census)

Family: Parents: William Miller, Mahala Miller
Brothers: Robert Miller, William Miller, Isaac Miller
Aunt: Mary Miller (1891 census)
Wife: Margaret Jane Miller
Children: James Miller, Elizabeth May Miller, Jane Peel Miller (1911 census) Margaret Jane Miller (family information)

Military service:

1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, 1900-1907
including service during Boer War
Private 9266
Northumberland Fusiliers

Medal(s): Queens South Africa Medal with clasp and the Cape Colony Transvaal medal 1901, 1902 (prewar)
British War Medal
Victory Medal
1915 Star

Memorial(s): Holy Trinity Church, Church Road, Pelton, plaque
Pelton Fell War Memorial Park, Battle Green, cenotaph
Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jefferson, Preston, Lancs

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