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  • Writer's pictureSarah von Allmen

Remembrance 2020 (1)

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

A short series of blogs about men from Stockport.

1. The McMillan brothers

John McMillan was born in Salford in 1855 to a Scottish father and an English mother and spent most of his early life in Chorlton on Medlock, where he married Mary Ellen Hughes, a local girl, in 1881. He worked as a commercial clerk from his early teens and later rose to a managerial post with a cotton machinery exporter.

John and Mary spent the first few years of their marriage in Chorlton, before moving to Heaton Moor in about 1890. John was now earning enough to employ a live-in servant, and the family enjoyed a pleasant upper middle-class lifestyle, first in Gladstone Grove and later in Kings Drive.

The couple had six children: Mary (1882; died in infancy), Amy Ellen (1884), George (1886), John Alfred (1889), Sidney (1892) and Herbert (1894). The family worshipped at Heaton Mersey Congregational Church, where John was Superintendent of the Sunday School for some time, and the boys were educated at Manchester Grammar School. By 1911 the four sons all held clerical positions similar to their father and were probably starting to look forward to comfortable careers of their own.

Sidney was a lance-corporal in the 1/6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, so when war broke out he was mobilised immediately. His battalion arrived in Alexandria on 24 September 1914 before landing on Gallipoli on 6 May 1915. He was killed in action just a month later on 5 June 1915, having last been seen bandaging a wounded comrade before the section was enveloped in shell fire.

His brothers all enlisted very early in the war: Herbert joined the Royal Fusiliers on 8 September 1914 and George on 24 September 1914, while John joined the Manchester Regiment at about the same time, but transferred to the Royal Fusiliers before going overseas. Although they were in different battalions, all three were drafted to France within a few days of each other in November 1915. John was killed in action on the Somme on 20 July 1916, and Herbert was wounded in the hip and elbow by a sniper on the same day. He was initially hospitalised in France for eight weeks before being invalided to England for further treatment and convalescence, and was discharged from the army as no longer physically fit on 13 June 1917.

George went to France with the Royal Fusiliers at the same time as his brothers, but later returned to England to train for a commission, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Lancashire Regiment on 25 April 1917. The high casualty rate among junior officers during the First World War is well documented, and George proved no exception to the rule, falling in action on 31 July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

None of the brothers has a known grave: Sidney is remembered on the Helles Memorial, John on the Thiepval Memorial and George on the Menin Gate. All three are also recorded on the Stockport, Heaton Moor and Heaton Mersey war memorials as well as the Heaton Mersey Congregational Church memorial.

My WWI website is dedicated to all First World War servicemen from the Heatons and Reddish: the survivors as well as the casualties.

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