MILLER, Pte. Joseph – POW – 6297 – 16th Battalion
The German Death Certificate for Pte. Joseph MILLER shows cause of Death on 7 July, 1917, as ” shot while attempting to escape “, however there are a number of eye-witness Australian Prisoner of War Soldiers who have provided statements to clearly define that MILLER was murdered by a German sentry. As could be forecast, the German enquiry into the death, found in favour of the sentry. MILLER’s death was effectively a war crime, for which the sentry was never punished .
Joseph MILLER was born in County Wexford, Ireland , in 1884 . He was working as a Farm Hand in Collie, WA , when he completed a Medical Examination at Blackboy Hill Camp, WA on 23 March, 1915. His occupation was regarded as being exempt from War Service, which possibly explains the delay of twelve months before MILLER was posted to No. 58 Depot at Blackboy Hill, WA on 10 April, 1916. He left wife, Lurline and two young children behind when he nobly set off to fight for King and Country.
Pte. MILLER was included in the 20th Reinforcements of the 16th Battalion and undertook basic training at Blackboy Hill Camp , until he embarked from Fremantle, on 10 October, 1916, WA, aboard the troop ship ” Suffolk “, bound for Plymouth, England. He disembarked in England on 2 December, 1916, then posted to the 4th Training Battalion at Codford. On 16 January, 1917, he embarked from Folkestone , bound for the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Etaples, France. Within two days of arrival in France, Pte. MILLER suffered an attack of Mumps, causing hospitalization at the 18th General Hospital at Camiers. He rejoined the 16th Battalion in the field in France on 17 February, 1917.
On 11 April, 1917, Pte. MILLER was reported as Missing in Action. Confirmation was then received that MILLER was wounded in Action at Reincourt, France and taken as a Prisoner of War for internment at Limburg Camp, Valenciennes, France, on the same date. Tragically, Pte. Joseph MILLER was killed at the POW Camp on 7 July, 1917. Summaries from documents on the Soldier’s Service File are included below. It appears clear that MILLER was murdered by a German sentry, with the truth being covered up at the subsequent German Court of Enquiry.
SERVICE MEDALS AWARDED
British War Medal – No. 50337
Victory Medal – No. 49697
Memorial Plaque /Scroll & Kings Message – No. 329356
Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT – Panel No. 80
Collie War Memorial, WA
A Commandants Communication from The German Field Post No. 45 stated :-
” English POW Joseph MILLER, 6297 escaped in the night of 6/7/1917 from St. Saulve Prison Camp and was shot in flight by the sentry because he did not obey the order to halt. Death occurred consequent of the shot wound between 12.15 and 12.30 a.m. on 7/7/1917. ( Certified by judicial inquest ) “.
Postcard From Prisoner of War
On 11 May 1917, Pte. Joseph MILLER sent a Censored Postcard to his Mother, addressed to Mrs. MILLER, Annagh, Inch, County Wexford, Ireland, completed as follows :-
Camp – Limburg
Remarks – Prisoner, send me some parcels through Red Cross – food, tobacco, soap
STATEMENTS FROM AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS WHO WITNESSED THE KILLING OF PTE. JOSEPH MILLER – 6297 – 16th Battalion – A.I. F.
( 1 ) – GIESE, Pte. 3786 – 13th Battalion – ” While working behind the lines in France I saw Pte. MILLER, P, 16th Battalion shot dead by a German sentry when he was trying to get food “.
( 2 ) – KYLE, Pte. H. B. -2012 – 16th Battalion – ” At Valenciennes, Pte. MILLER 16th Battalion who was in a starving condition, attempted to take some potatoes growing in a field close by and was shot dead by one of the sentries “.
( 3 ) – MEASURES, Pte. J – 16th Battalion, FORD, Pte. Frank – 16th Battalion 20th Reinforcements – ” Saw him killed by a rifle shot from a German sentry. He had climbed over the wall of the camp where he was working behind the lines to gather a few potatoes and was shot while bringing them back. MILLER’s number was 6297, his name Joseph and he came with the 20th Reinforcements “.
( 4 ) – RILAT, Cpl. L – 1231 – 15th Battalion – ” 6297 Pte. MILLER, J 16th Battalion jumped over a low wall to collect some potatoes nearby. He was starving. On entering the Lager again he was shot by a sentry. I saw his dead body being removed by the French next morning, 7/07/1917 “.
( 5 ) – LEIPER, Pte. T – 1514 – C Company & BYRON, Pte. N. P. – 1198 – 13th Battalion B Company – ” He got out of camp to dig up some potatoes or anything he could get to eat. He was on his way back, when shot by sentry at wall of camp. Hit in Heart. They took four of our men out of camp to carry his body in. He was taken then to Hospital for burial. Our interpreter went down next day, when Authorities held some sort of Enquiry, when they brought it in that he had been trying to escape. His body was taken down to Valenciennes for burial. Our interpreter of 13th Battalion told us this “.
( 6 ) – JURY, Pte. J. H. – 2937 – 50th Battalion – ” At St. Saulve Pte. Paddy MULLINS of 16th Battalion was shot dead by a German sentry. He was climbing wall after having been out of the compound to get food from the French “.
Pte. MILLER, being Irish, was commonly called Paddy by his Aussie mates, however, it appears that Pte. JURY ( Statement No. 6 ) had mistaken his surname as MULLINS instead of MILLER.
( 7 ) – TOMLEY, L/Cpl. E. W. – 2370 – 16th Battalion – ” While at St. Saulve Pte. Paddy MILLER of 16th Battalion was shot by the Germans; he was in a starved condition and broke out of camp to get potatoes from a neighbouring garden. It was on his return to camp that he was shot through the heart by a sentry from a distance of a few yards at 11.00 p. m. “
MILLER‘S death was a tragedy. He was clearly suffering terribly from starvation and sought to acquire some potatoes from the neighbouring farm to stave off death. It appears apparent that MILLER was returning to the POW compound, and not trying to escape, when he was shot. His death would have been very difficult for his wife and 2 young children to cope with, and we trust they were able to lead long, healthy and happy lives, albeit without Joseph to support them. (The writer also trusts that the guilty German sentry met his demise prior to the end of the War ).