PRIVATE EBENEZER HORATION MILLER
4TH MARCH 1918 AGE 24
BURIED: AIX-NOULETTE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTNESION, FRANCE
Ebenezer Miller's inscription comes from Psalm 90, the beautiful psalm that begins:
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night.
And has the well known words:
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Then it asks the question:
Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
Which it answers:
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
So the message is, in effect, don't let's waste our all-too-short-days on this earth in the sort of activities that earn us God's wrath. Private Miller's mother, Mary Albertha, chose his inscription and I think we can read it as a reprimand.
Ebenezer Horatio Miller was born and brought up on Tobago. He enlisted on 22 November 1916 in Bellevue, Ontario and on 16 May 1917 was discharged as medically unfit. The reason? He was tall, 5'9", and very slim, with a 29 and a half inch chest, and a one and a half inch expansion. In the medical officer's opinion he was "not likely to stand the strain of military service". Why? Because he "seems a man would be subject to tuberculosis", even though he was in good health at the moment.
Miller's record notes that his conduct was good, his habits were good and his temperance was good. And under the section asking about distinguishing features the officer has written, "None, only colored". Ebenezer Miller was black.
The form also asks how long it is thought he will be medically unfit and the answer is - "permanent". So it's rather surprising to see that Miller enlisted the next day and appears to have been accepted. The verdict on his health was "Slight defects, not enough to cause rejection".
Miller joined the 21st Battalion Canadian Infantry in France on 21 December 1917 and was killed in action on 4 March 1918. The 21st had only just taken over a section of the front line at Lens, the relief being completed at 11.30 pm the previous day. At 5.45 am the next morning the Germans launched a large-scale raid on their section of the line but were driven back.
A few days later the Toronto Star published a heroic account of the raid, describing how three hundred specially picked enemy assault troops were driven off:
"Our chaps killed a great many Boches in the trenches, and during his retirement many Germans were lying dead in No Man's Land. Not a man of ours is missing, so he failed absolutely in his mission, which we learn from prisoners was himself to take prisoners and gain information."
'Not a man of ours is missing'; no but three officers were wounded, three other ranks killed and 38 wounded. Ebenezer Horatio Miller was one of those killed.
I had meant to finish here but the name Horatio fascinated me. There were nine West Indian sailors listed as being on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Perhaps one of them was Ebenezer Miller's ancestor and the name was a legacy.