Ashley Albert Milne, Rifleman 17/2247, A Coy 15th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles
Died of illness 19th July 1918 while a prisoner of war in Germany
Ashley Albert Milne was born at 2pm on 7 November 1898 at 21 Arundel St, Belfast, the son of Caroline (nee Dunn) and Thomas Milne, a linen lapper (a textile finisher, folding or doubling the cloth ready for packing). Ashley’s twin sister, Margaret Edith, was born an hour earlier.
In 1901 two-year-old Ashley was living at the same address with his parents and siblings James (19, an iron mechanic), Mary Jane (18, a stitching machinist), William Thomas (15, apprentice box maker), Caroline (14, linen ware room worker), David (12, message boy), Earnest (8, scholar), John Alexander (7, scholar) and Ashley’s twin sister Margaret Edith, aged 2. All could read and write except for the three youngest children, all were stated to be Presbyterians, and all the children had been born in Belfast.
By 1911 the family had moved to 107 Roden Street, Belfast and included two more children: Thomasena, aged 7, and Ivy Irene, 6.
Before enlistment, Ashley was employed as a spinner.
Ashley enlisted with the 15th battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles with service number 2247 and was drafted to the Western Front, where, among other actions, he fought in the Battle of St Quentin on 21 March 1918. The battalion war diary for the first 21 days of March 1918 is missing, and it is clear from the entry made on 22 March 1918 that the battle had been a disaster for the 15th Royal Irish Rifles:
AUBIGNY, 21/22 MARCH 1918: The diary now deals with the movements of the Battn. details which consisted of Transport personnel of Quartermasters’ Stores, personnel left out of action, other ranks [O.R.] arriving back from leave, and from hospital, together with a draft of some 100 O.R. which arrived today. The Battn. itself was gone – killed, wounded, and prisoners. Capt. P M Miller commanded the little party.
Rifleman Milne was not wounded in the battle but became a prisoner of war and was taken first to Langensalza camp and later to Zerbst, where he contracted influenza and subsequently died of a lung infection in hospital on 19 July 1918.
On 14 September 1918, the Larne Times reported that Rifleman Milne had died while a prisoner of war:
DIED IN GERMANY – Rifleman Ashley A. Milne, Royal Irish Rifles, youngest son of Mrs Milne, 107 Roden Street, Belfast, who was captured by the enemy on March 21, has since died in Germany. His brother, Gunner John Milne, is wounded and in hospital in Cheshire, while another brother, Sergeant Ernest Milne, M.M., is home on leave. Their father, Private Thomas Milne, is on active service with a Labour battalion.
JOHN ALEXANDER MILNE, BROTHER OF ASHLEY MILNE
Something brought Ashley Milne’s brother John Alexander Milne to Macclesfield some time before 1918, as he had married Elizabeth Hodkinson two years earlier at Christ Church, Macclesfield on 12 May 1916. The entry in the Christ Church parish register shows that John was employed as an asylum attendant, and both were living at Parkside Asylum, Macclesfield at the time of their marriage (presumably Elizabeth also worked at the asylum, but as usual at that time the woman’s employment was left blank).
The marriage was announced in the Macclesfield Times on 19 May 1916:
MILNE-HODKINSON – On May 12th, at Christ Church, Macclesfield, by the Rev C. Vere Barley, Vicar, John Milne, Belfast, Ireland, to Elizabeth Hodkinson, only daughter of Thomas Hodkinson, 18 Duke Street, Macclesfield.
John later served as a Gunner with the RGA but was wounded in the head and leg in March 1918, as reported by the Macclesfield Courier on 20 April 1918:
GUNNER J MILNE – Mrs Milne, 66 Black Lane, has received information that her husband, Gunner J Milne, RGA, was wounded in the head and leg on March 2nd, and is now in hospital at Sheffield. He is progressing favourably. Before joining up the gunner was an attendant at Parkside Asylum.
The couple remained in Macclesfield after the end of the war, opening an Irish linen shop in Roe Street. No doubt this is the reason that Rifleman Ashley Albert Milne’s name is on two of Macclesfield’s war memorials when he appears, at first sight, to have no connection with the town.
Rifleman Ashley Milne is buried at the Berlin South-Western Cemetery, Germany, in grave ref. IX. A. 6. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Rifleman Ashley Milne, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Brother of John Alexander Milne, who served as a Gunner and was wounded in March 1918, and Ernest Milne, who served as a Sergeant and won the Military Medal; and son of Thomas Milne, who served as a Private with a Labour battalion.
Irish Genealogy: Births, 1901 and 1911 census
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Marriages
Family History Society of Cheshire (FHSC): Macclesfield Christ Church CD – Marriage index
Christ Church Parish Register for 1916
British Phone Books, 1880-1984 (Ancestry) 1950s-60s
WWI War Diaries – Western Front (Ancestry)
WW1 International Red Cross Prisoner of War Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 19 May 1916
Macclesfield Courier: 20 April 1918
Larne Times (British Newspaper Archive): 14 September 1918