PRIVATE KENNETH MILNE-MILLS
1ST JULY 1916 AGE 26
BURIED: HAWTHORN RIDGE CEMETERY NO. 1 AUCHONVILLERS, SOMME, FRANCE
This single word probably draws a blank for many a twenty-first century reader yet it is doubly appropriate, perhaps even triply appropriate as an inscription.
Firstly the word bivouac means temporary living quarters that have been specially built for soldiers, sometimes a temporary camp without either tents or cover. Soldiers bivouac, mountaineers too, and the dead bivouac in these cemeteries, 'camps' that have been specially built for them. There is perhaps too a sub-text in that it is only temporary accommodation because the dead shall rise up to everlasting life.
But another reason for the choice of this word as an inscription is the poem by the American poet Theodore O'Hara (1820-1867), 'The Bivouac of the Dead' of which this is the first verse:
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.
Kenneth Milne-Mills, although I don't know where the Milne comes from because the family don't use it in either the 1891 or the 1911 census, served with the 16th Battalion Middlesex Regiment. On 1 July 1916 the battalion was in the supporting wave of the 29th Division's attack on Hawthorn Ridge, Beaumont-Hamel, which followed the blowing of the huge mine there. The battalion advanced into 'withering German machine gun fire' with the inevitable huge casualties.
Private Mills' father, a librarian at Guy's Hospital, was dead by 1911. A Mr M.B. Milne-Mills chose Kenneth's inscription, perhaps a misprint for N? His brother was called Norman.