William Casper ( Fatty) MILLER

MILLER, William Casper

Service Number: 1776
Enlisted: 19 January 1916
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 1st Battalion Imperial Camel Corps
Born: Fassifern, Queensland, Australia, 1898
Home Town: Nana Glen, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales
Schooling: Templin Public School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in Action, Palestine, 10 April 1918
Cemetery: Jerusalem War Cemetery
H 98, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Boonah War Memorial, Ipswich Soldier's Memorial Hall Great War
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World War 1 Service

19 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1776, 11th Light Horse Regiment
4 May 1916: Involvement Private, 1776, 11th Light Horse Regiment
4 May 1916: Embarked Private, 1776, 11th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Seang Choon, Brisbane
10 Apr 1918: Involvement Lance Corporal, 1776, 1st Battalion Imperial Camel Corps

Narrative

William Casper Miller #1776 11th Light Horse / Imperial Camel Company

William Miller (shown incorrectly on the Boonah memorial with the surname MULLER), known as Bill, was born at Engelsburg (Kalbar) to parents John and Louisa Miller. Louise reported that her son attended Templin State School. Upon completion of his schooling, Bill was apprenticed to A.W.Miller of Nana Glen in Northern NSW as a blacksmith and farrier. It is probable that Mr Miller of Nana Glen was an uncle. Bill stated his apprenticeship lasted five years.

When Bill presented himself for enlistment at the recruiting depot at Lismore on 19th January 1916, he had just turned 18. His father was deceased and his mother had remarried with the surname of Chapman. Louisa was named as his next of kin with an address in Ipswich.

Recruits were usually assembled and trained in camps close to the capital city of the state in which they had enlisted. Nevertheless Bill went into camp at Enoggera and was eventually added to the roll of the 11th Light Horse Regiment, a Queensland unit. The embarkation roll for the 11th LHR shows William Miller, farmer of Ipswich.

The reinforcements arrived at Tel el Kabir on the Suez Canal on 15th June 1916 where they joined the lines of the 11th LHR. The light horse in Egypt in 1916 was primarily tasked with defending the Suez Canal against Turkish incursions. In the western parts of Egypt close to the Libyan border, Senussi tribesmen who were sympathetic to the Turks also posed a threat and the 11th Light Horse was posted to the port town of Sollum to prevent the situation getting out of hand. While stationed in the western desert, Bill contracted pneumonia and was transferred to Alexandria by hospital ship. He remained in hospital until February 1917.

Upon discharge from hospital, Bill was transferred to the #2 Company of the Imperial Camel Corps, which, in conjunction with the Light Horse and New Zealand Mounted Rifles comprised part of the desert Mounted Corps. The camel corps was most useful in the terrain of the Sinai Desert and Southern Palestine, operating as transport for water and provisions, sick and wounded as well as military ordnance. Sometime during his military service, Bill was given the nickname of “Fat” or “Fatty” and several comrades used this name when relating the circumstances of his death. The name was most likely due to his stout physique developed during his blacksmithing years. His enlistment papers report a chest measurement of almost 40 inches.

In May of 1917,Bill attended a school of instruction for the operation of the Hotchkiss Machine Gun. The standard machine gun in use throughout the British and dominion forces at that time was the Vickers, a water cooled weapon with many moving parts that was susceptible to jamming in dusty desert conditions. The Hotchkiss was gas powered, with few moving parts and no screws or bolts, and air cooled. The French manufactured gun was widely used by European and Asian armies of the time. The one drawback to the Hotchkiss was that is was designed for the use of 8mm ammunition, which was fed into the gun via a rigid strip. In the end, very few of the guns were distributed to the Desert Mounted forces. The Lewis light machine gun, which used the same calibre ammunition, .303in, as the Lee Enfield rifle and the Vickers gun was a better option, once sufficient numbers became available.

The desert forces under General Allenby were halted in their campaign in Palestine by strong Turkish defence on a line that stretched from Gaza to Beersheba. Three attempts to breech the line at Gaza were successfully repelled by the Turkish defenders. It was only after the successful attack on the end of the line at Beersheba by the 4th Light Horse on 31st October 1917 that the campaign could resume. Jerusalem was captured by Christmas and after a brief lull Allenby split his forces with the bulk of the army pursuing the Turks along the Mediterranean coast, while the Light Horse moved north along the Jordan Valley towards Damascus. The camel corps followed the Light Horse into the Jordan Valley in March 1918.

At Musallabeh near Jericho on the 10th April 1918, the men of the camel corps were holding a hill against a sustained Turkish counter attack. Bill Miller was the #1 gunner of Lewis Gun team holding a forward post when a Turkish shell landed on the post. The reports of eye witnesses to the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Service stated that “Fatty Miller” was killed outright. Even though the defenders on the hill ran out of grenades and began rolling boulders down on the attackers, the line held.

Bill was buried close to Musallabeh with two chaplains in attendance. At war’s end, isolated graves such as Bill’s were consolidated into larger Imperial Cemeteries. William “Bill” Miller is buried in the Jerusalem War cemetery.

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Son of John MILLER and Mrs L. CHAPMAN