On This Day

William Johnstone Milne V.C.

William Johnstone Milne, V.C.
16th Canadian Infantry Battalion

W.J. Milne of Cambusnethan, Scotland (located south-east of Glasgow) came to Canada in 1910 and lived on the Canadian prairies near to the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where he found work on a farm. With the outbreak of  the Great War he joined the 46th Battalion C.E.F. in September 1915 but subsequently became a member of the 16th. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions south-west of Thelus during the Battle for Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917.He was 24 years of age.

16th War Diary for Vimy. Click to read!

Citation for the award of the Victoria Cross to William Johnstone Milne

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack. On approaching the first objective, Pte. Milne observed an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeded in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs, and capturing the gun. On the line re-forming, he again located a machine gun in the support line, and stalking this second gun as he had done the first, he succeeded in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. Pte. Milne was killed shortly after capturing the second gun.”

Vimy Memorial, France.

Private Milne was buried 1/2 mile south-east of Neuville St. Vaast – 3 3/4 miles north of Arras. However with the progression of the war the grave was lost and so having no known burial Private Milne is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, France. Private Milne’s medals and decorations, which were given to his mother Mrs. Agnes Milne, were held privately for several years but are now permanently housed in the collection of the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.

Did you know?

Captain Victor Gordon Tupper M.C. who commanded “C” Company of the 16th Battalion C.E.F. at Vimy Ridge was also killed during the attack on April 9, 1917. Tupper was the son of the Honorable Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper K.C.M.G. (Knight Commander Order of St. Michael and St. George) and Lady Tupper of Vancouver, B.C. Captain Tupper is buried at Ecoivres Military Cemtery, Mont-St. Eloi, France.

Captain Tupper’s  father, Charles Hibbert Tupper, a distinguished Canadian politician himself, was the son of Sir Charles Tupper who was a former premier of Nova Scotia, and was one of Canada’s 36 Fathers of Confederation, Captain Tupper’s grandfather also served briefly as Canadian Prime Minister in 1896.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


2 Responses to “On This Day”

  1. Joey says:

    A word about the war even after service in the home army during the Second War. He started to talk once I came around after joining Army Cadets (he died just before I joined the reserve army) but never about the first war, just the second. Years ago I became interested in military history and found a link to my present Regiment and the Battalion he was in in the 1914-1919. Both of our Regiments were part of the same Brigade/Division as my Regiment’s predecessors were the 31st Infantry Battalion CEF.

    During the battle of Vimy my regiment crossed no mans land to their first objective and once there dug in while the 27th Battalion passes by and took the lead to their objective to our front. While visiting Vimy I was able to locate where our two battalions (as part of 2nd Div) were positioned and walked the ground my Grandfather fought to his objective (the town of Thelus) The distance was about a mile but in 1917 it took four days and hundreds of lives.

    There is a small cemetery, small by WWI standards, that is one of the least visited, because it is off the beaten path {at Google Earth 50 (degrees) 21’ 4.42” N, and 24 (degrees) 47’ 17.28” E} that contains the remains of 31st and 27th Battalion soldiers, named and unknown, that is in eye view of Thelus. The monument is at 50(Deg)22’ 46.95”N and 2(Deg)46’ 23.17” If any get there look it up. The monument was in very rough shape and many of the names (of those with no known grave) engraved had been weathered off. The restoration was greatly needed for sure. Glad they did.

    Promptly at 5:30 a.m. on a wet Easter Monday 90 years ago, 27,000 Canadian soldiers in four divisions climbed out of their trenches on a low but long ridge that would become synonymous with Canadian history and military pride. Vimy Ridge would become the first significant military reversal of the war and the beginning of the end for the German forces in France. At 9:10 a.m. as part of the 6th Brigade (the Iron Sixth), Canadian Second Division, more than 1,000 soldiers from the 31st Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, (predecessors to the South Alberta Light Horse) crossed no man’s land into a hail of German bullets. Often leaning forward, as if walking against a fierce blowing snow storm, (many waiting for that bullet with their name on it), these brave men took the ridge that French and British troops had failed to take earlier in the war at a cost of more than 100,000 French lives. Some 3,598 Canadians over the next four days (April 9 to 12) would never see home again, and another 7,104 would be wounded including a large number of 31st Battalion soldiers, some from Medicine Hat.

    By the war’s end in 1918, two Teel boys from Medicine Hat, both of whom served with the 31st Battalion, would have their names engraved on the Riverside Veterans Memorial Park monument along with several others from that war. King Edward VIII unveiled the magnificent Vimy monument erected on the highest feature of the ridge on land granted to Canada on July 26, 1936. Engraved on the monument are the names of 16,000 Canadians killed in the First World War that have no known graves. Amongst them is the name of the Unknown Soldier now resting in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa. After 70 years of neglect and degradation by the elements of time and weather, the Canadian government undertook a restoration program ending with the rededication of this huge memorial Monday to mark the 90th year of the battle. In attendance on Monday were members of the South Alberta Light Horse, a regiment that proudly bears the Battle Honour “Vimy, 1917” along with 22 other first war battle honours from its total historic register of 39.

    The regiment, having served this country and city as “Citizen Soldiers” from 1885, First World War, Second World War, and Afghanistan in 2006 is proud to be part of this 90th anniversary that established Canada as a country on the world stage. The sacrifice they made in that battle, made us what we are today. Jim Ogston, Master Warrant Officer, South Alberta Light Horse, Museum curator, Medicine Hat.

  2. pferguson pferguson says:

    I have just re-read the above comment and would add that this writer’s family served in two Alberta Battalions during the Great War – the 31st Battalion CEF and the 50th Battalion CEF. Neither my Great Grandfather or his brother-in-law returned from service. Private Ole Berget is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial and on the Medicine Hat War Memorial. Private Bernard Kyllo is buried at Villers Station Cemetery.

    During the Second World War two sons of Ole served with the Edmonton Regiment and the South Alberta Regiment. Another relative, originally with the Calgary Highlanders, lost his life in Belgium serving with the 82nd Airborne (USA).

    Thanks for writing in Jim!

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