Service Number: 3276
Enlisted: 10 August 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 52nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Strathalbyn, South Australia, 25 July 1894
Home Town: Strathalbyn, Alexandrina, South Australia
Schooling: Strathalbyn, South Australia
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Killed in Action , France, 3 September 1916, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Courcelette British Cemetery
Courcelette British Cemetery, Picardie, France
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Strathalbyn District Roll of Honor WW1, Strathalbyn RSL Hall Honour Board, Strathalbyn War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

10 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3276, 12th Infantry Battalion
27 Oct 1915: Involvement Private, SN 3276, 12th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
27 Oct 1915: Embarked Private, SN 3276, 12th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Benalla, Adelaide
3 Sep 1916: Involvement Private, SN 3276, 52nd Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

Summary Private John Milnes

Private John Milnes was born Stathalbyn, South Australia. A clerk prior to enlisting in August 1915. He embarked from Adelaide with the 12th Battalion on board HMAT Benalla in October 1915, arriving Egypt in March 1916.

Milnes was transferred to the 52nd Battalion in March 1916 at Tel El Kebir. By June 1916 the battalion had arrived in France for the Western Front, soon to be thrusted into action against the Germans at Pozieres.

In August 1916 the battalion arrived in Albert, moving forward near the frontline to Chalk Pit near Pozieres on fatigue duties. Movement in this area was hazardous due to the constant bombardment, accurate sniper fire and the German machine gunners. Australian dead litter the area.

The battalion continued to carry out training, awaiting orders to move into the front line. Milnes who was in A Company, moved towards the front line on communication trench digging duties. By the end of August, the Battalion had moved again, now positioning itself at La Boisselle.

On the 1st September 1916 officers from the battalion moved forward to carry out reconnaissance, inspecting supply dumps, dugouts and SAP trenches in preparation for moving forward into the line for another assault on Mouquet Farm.

At 10.30am on 2nd September, orders came through for an attack on Mouquet Farm. 52nd Battalion Headquarters moved to a position near Kay Dump, with Milnes company moving forward to the jumping off line to be in position by 3.50am on the morning of 3rd September.

By 5.10am the British launched an assault on Thiepval north of Mouquet Farm, with 52nd men over the top with fixed bayonets heading towards their objective, a left section of the German trench named Fabeck Graben as well as a flank attack on Mouquet Farm in support of the 51st Battalion assault.

The barrage lifted, with the battalion charging the enemy trench, a German machine gunner situated behind the barbwire opened fired on the advance with devastating results. Milnes, A Company with D Company where in the lead, stumbling forward towards the Germans trench. Casualties where sustained immediately when the German machine gunner opened fired, but somehow the advance continued.

Milnes Company Commander, Captain McNamara was shot by a burst of machine gun fire falling immediately. Despite the right flank attack faltering due to the casualties of A and D Company, the attacked continued to press forward with the support from a Lewis machine gun by Sergeant Black. A party from A Company managed to take the trench with a bayonet charge. A Company, had secured the centre of the objective, but not for long as they were soon annihilated from the bombardment and the failing to meet up with support companies on their left and right flank.

The attack continued with reports of platoons in Mouquet Farm taking prisoners. The reality of it all was that the Australians from 52 and 51st Battalions had been annihilated, with casualties heading back across no-mans land.

It was in this assault on Mouquet Farm that Private John Milnes was killed in action on the 3rd September 1916. Milnes body was exhumed in March 1919 where he is now buried in Courcelette British Cemetery.

Records show that Milnes body was located not far from the German trench of Fabeck Graben, which would indicate that Milne was killed in the initial assault by the 52nd Battalion. Private John Milnes was 22 years of age.

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