Charles Mills was born in Heyside,Royton in 1896. His parents were James & Eliza Ann who both worked in the cotton industry. Charles was the fourth of five children. His siblings were Emily, Alice, Violet & James. In 1901 the family were at 76 Turf Lane and in 1911 were at number 43 on the same road. By the latter date Charles was working as a piecer in one of the local cotton mills.
Charles enlisted early in the war, in Oldham, along with his friend Walter Thomas who also lived on Turf Lane and was given an adjacent service number. The two men became members of the 10th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers.This unit had been formed in Bury in September 1914. Charles was with them when they landed at Boulogne on July 15th 1915. They went almost at once into the front line at Vierstraat, 3 miles from Ypres.The battalion suffered large casualties from a single shell on September 5th of that year. A group of men from another regiment marching along the skyline drew fire from a German artillery gun. A shell hit a barn where two platoons of the company were quartered. 14 men were killed outright, 6 mortally wounded with a further 27 wounded.
In February 1916, the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers found themselves manning positions near by 'The Bluff', near Ypres. This was a prominence about 30 feet above the surrounding ground which had been created from the spoil when a nearby canal had been cut. The position gave whoever controlled it an excellent observation post of the enemy positions. Most of the battalion were south of the canal with a platoon of C Company on the other side on the edge of The Bluff itself, cut off from the remainder of the battalion except for a plank footbridge across the waterway some way back from the front line.
At 15:30 on February 14th, a heavy German artillery bombardment began on the positions around the canal. There were false reports that half of A Company had been wiped out but reinforcements from C Company found this report to be erroneous. Between 17:30 & 18:00 the Germans blew several mines, one of which was under The Bluff. This buried most of the platoon from C Company present there and the Germans were able to walk into their position taking most of the men prisoners. It slowly became apparent to the British that the whole of the Bluff was now in German hands.
At 04:15 the following morning a counter attack was launched by the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers along with bombers from the 6th Dorsetshire Regiment and a company of men from the York & Lancasters.The three groups of British soldiers reached the top of The Bluff and engaged the Germans there with grenades. Some men succeeded in getting into the German trench and hand to hand fighting ensued for nearly 45 minutes. The numbers of Germans were too great however and the attackers had to fall back - under attack from grenades and machine gun fire. It was apparent that the defenders were too well dug in for the size of the British force and also the attackers were hampered by a heavy snow fall that had begun. It was decided that any further counter attacks would be futile and the men withdrew.In the fighting that morning a fellow Royton man George Smith was killed along with 15 others from the battalion. A little over two weeks later the British retook the positions lost, a further 3 Royton men were amongst those killed.
After the action at The Bluff the battalion was in the Armentieres sector until May. It then went to the back areas for rest and training until the middle of June when it moved down to the Somme sector in advance of the great offensive there of July 1st. The 10th Lancashire Fusiliers were not involved in that ghastly first day, in which 13 Royton men were killed, but two days later they moved up to take over the former German trenches north of Fricourt. At 00:15 on July 5th the British artillery opened a bombardment on the German position known as Quadrangle Trench. Under cover of this bombardment the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers and 9th Northumberland Fusiliers crept to within a hundred yards of the German line. At 00:45 the men charged forward. C & D Company of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers captured Quadrangle Trench and another position known as Shelter Alley without too much fighting - apart from on the left where they came under some rifle and machine gun fire. By 02:00 the fighting was over but even though the casualties were comparatively light compared to the slaughter at the Somme that month there were 16 men killed. One of them was Charles Mills. Two days later the man he enlisted with, Walter Thomas, was also killed.
The only mention in the Oldham Chronicle after his death was a short report on July 22nd stating that it had been unofficially reported that he had been seriously wounded.
Charles' mother and father died in 1919 and 1927 respectively and are buried together at Royton Cemetery.
The other men who were killed that night with Charles were:
ADCOCK HAROLD 25 Captain from London
BANKS HAROLD 20 Private 5557 born Blackrod,enlisted Horwich
BENNETT JOHN Lance Corporal 4053 from Ashton-under-Lyne
CARTWRIGHT SAMUEL Private 3557 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
CATLOW ARTHUR Private 9570 born Manchester,enlisted Stockport
CHARNLAY ROBERT Private 13473 born Stainforth,Yorks.Enlisted Nelson
DEVEREUX FRED Private 5604 from Long Eaton
HORROCKS THOMAS 39 Private 12258 from Heywood
LINDOW GEORGE 21 Private 4859 from Bolton
MELLEDEW GEORGE 19 Private 28111 from Rochdale
MELLOR FRED Private 9733 from Oldham
MILLS FREDERICK Private 14053 from Salford
WHITFIELD JOSEPH 29 Private 13433 from St.Helens
WHITNEY ERNEST Private 28136 from Rochdale
WILSON CHARLES Private 5607 from Colne
Date of Death:05/07/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 3C or 3D