William Grant Milne was born
in Skerray on the 28 November 1888 one of twin sons born to the Skerray schoolmaster Mr John Milne and
his wife Rose( maiden name Lister)John and Rose married in 1884 in Carlisle. William and his brother Robert both emigrated to Canada; they
both enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1916 to return and fight in France.
William joined the 43
Battalion (Queens Own Highlanders) Canadian Infantry (See also Donald Rankine
and Angus Gunn, from Melness), Williams brother Robert joined the 49
Battalion, Canadian Infantry.
In March 1918, the German High Command
decided to launch two huge offensives and attempt to end the stalemate of
trench warfare on the Western Front. The Germans knew that they had to end the
war quickly before the American Army was fully established in France, once the
full might of the American war machine swung into action the Germans knew the
war would soon be over.
Now that Russia had succumbed to the
Bolshevik Revolution and the new Communist Government had sued for peace, there
was no need for a German Army on the Eastern Front. All German Divisions were
speedily transferred from the trenches in the East to the frontline in France,
by the start of March 1918 there was 192
German Divisions facing the 156 British and French Divisions.
The German Generals planed to launch two
attacks, the first one called “Operation Michael” to be launched south of Arras
over the old Somme battlefield. The second attack was code named “George” and
would attack the Flanders sector near Armentieries, its objective to break
through the British line forcing a general Allied retreat towards the French
coast. The enemy hoped that this would lead to the end of the war and victory
for the Kaisers Army.
At the beginning of March 1918, the Germans
began to shell the British lines all along the front in preparation for the
“Michael” attacks. Newly formed German ‘Stormtroop’ Battalions practised their
new tactics for the coming attacks by launching trench raids and dummy attacks
on the Allied front.
Canadian Division was in the trenches near Loos in early March 1918 on routine
trench holding duties, when the enemy launched a surprise attack. The 43
Battalion (Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada) were subjected to a heavy
artillery bombardment on the 6 of March, followed by a gas attack.
The artillery fire killed many men from the battalion; other men died when they
did not get their gas masks and protective clothing on before the choking fumes
entered the trenches.
Private William Grant Milne was one of those
killed by the shellfire on the 6 of March; he was 29 years of age. His twin brother Robert survived the war and came home to his
parents in Skerray a well decorated man having won the Military Medal for
bravery on two occasions.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL
Milne William Grant, 736840.
Private. Killed in Action 06-03-18. Canadian Forces.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES
Milne Private William
Grant.736840. 43 Battalion Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment).
6-3-18. Age 29. Son of John
and Rose Milne of the Schoolhouse, Skerray, Sutherland, Scotland.
Plot II. Row E. Grave 15.
Private William Grant Milne
736840, 43 Battalion (Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada)
Canadian Infantry is buried in a war grave at BARLIN CEMETERY EXTENSION, PAS DE
Further information on William Milne can be found here