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Private Robert Henry (Harry) Millichope
Died: 15 May 1918 aged 29

Robert Henry Millichope was born 22nd March 1889 in Burford.  His parents were William and Mary who lived at Ledwyche Cottage in Burford at the time of the 1891 census.  William was a shepherd.  By 1901 the family were living on Burway Road and William is listed as a navvy.  Robert Henry was a scholar and so would be attending the school in Church Road.  We can speculate that they all came to Church Stretton because Mary was born in Leebotwood and their eldest child was born locally.  Robert was the sixth of their 8 children and was known as Harry.

In the 1911 census, Harry is living at 2 The Square in Church Stretton.  It was the home and business of George Marsh Jnr. who ran a bakers and confectioners.  Harry (or Henry as he is listed) is aged 22 and along with a John Roberts is described as a baker’s assistant working under another baker.


Harry enlisted at Shrewsbury in November 1915.  He arrived in France sometime early in 1916 with the 1st KSLI.  He was wounded twice while fighting in the Somme.  The first time was during a mission at Quadrilateral near Ginchy.  He was one of 160 KSLI soldiers wounded during 6 days of fighting. The second time was in the Battle of Morval.  The battle at Quadrilateral was a preliminary mission to even the front line ahead of the main battle.  Harry could not have been severely wounded as he was still able to play a part in the main battle leading him to be wounded again.  The next we know is that he was wounded again sometime between the 17 – 20th April 1917 near Loos.

Millichope Somme.png
Millichope Reserve Trenches.jpg

Above: British Troops in Reserve Trenches 


In March 1918 Harry was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war.  He was one of 388 captured in two days of fighting between 21-22 March near Vaulx-Vraucourt in France.  The 1st KSLI were part of the 6th Division and were trying to hold Vaulx which had been gained from the Germans earlier in the year.  However, the Germans launched a large attack along the Western Front and Vaulx was re-occupied by them.  In the process, many casualties were sustained although numbers are a little confused.  One report suggests that only 77 men of the battalion were left at the end of the fighting.

His great-nephew writes “On the night of March 20/21 1918 the company was posted in forward trench positions near the village of Noreuil. On the morning of 21 March the Germans began an intense ‘hurricane bombardment’ of the British positions as part of the first phase of their Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht). Harry Millichope would have been caught in this.  Front positions were rapidly overrun and Harry Millichope would probably have been captured at this point. His Red Cross card says he was ‘taken 21/3/18 unwounded. Arrived from W Front at Parchim"

As a prisoner of war, there were expectations that you would be held with some human rights, however stories later emerged that this wasn’t always the case.  The 1907 Hague Convention stated that prisoners of war should be housed, clothed and fed in a way comparable to the people of the captor’s nation.  The International Red Cross had examiners who checked PoW camps and wrote reports on the conditions.  Their reports though differ widely from the first hand reports of the captives particularly when it comes to their diet.  Red Cross reports give examples of the amount of food that prisoners could expect so, one report on French prisoners at Parchim PoW camp in 1916 stated that prisoners would receive 8g coffee, 12g sugar, 700g bread, 250g meat, 225g potatoes, 95g pasta or 110g lentils daily.  However, many first hand reports indicate food shortages and one Australian PoW who was in a hospital in 1918 described receiving only “…a soup, of which the principal ingredients were water, smashed swedes or mangolds, grass, and mushrooms. We got a small slice of war bread per day, and drank coffee substitute” []. 

He goes on to say that he only avoided starvation because of the emergency food parcels he received from the British Relief Committee and some white bread and biscuits that came via the Red Cross.

Prisoners of war were used as forced labour and were often put to work on farms or within camps as orderlies.  Because of this many prisoners of war were hidden from the Red Cross in small camps away from the main camps.  It is now widely recognised that prisoners of war were being used as forced labour both in the hinterland and, against the Hague convention, at the front line.  At first they were used in agriculture but over time were put into mines and other heavy industries.  Increasingly, towards the end of the war they were used to run supplies to the front line which was against all treaties on the treatment of prisoners, however, they were an important source of labour for both the German and the Allied armies.

Papers from the International Red Cross appear to indicate that Pte. Millichope was at Parchim camp which was in northern Germany.  This was known by PoW’s as “the death camp” because of the high mortality rate although by the end of the war, some reports suggest that a man in any internment camp had a higher risk of death than a fighter on the frontline.  However, we also know that Pte. Millichope died in hospital on 15th May 1918 near Sauchy and was initially buried in the cemetery at Sauchy Lestree which is less than 20km from where he was captured.  It seems unlikely that he was taken to Parchim camp in north Germany and then transferred back to a hospital in Sauchy Lestree.  Parchim was known as a registration camp and it seems likely that PoW’s were registered at camps like Parchim but actually held somewhere else – possibly beyond the reach of the Red Cross.  It seems possible that this was the case for Pte. Millichope and that he was being held at an unregistered camp near the front line.  His death certificate states that he died from concussion following a brain injury and we can only speculate how he received that especially as he is reported as unwounded when he was first taken captive.

Private Robert Henry Millichope is buried with 23 other British prisoners of war at Ontario Cemetery, Sains-Les-Marquion.



Sources: Census records

International Red Cross

Particular thanks to David Millichope.

Little Stretton, Church Stretton, All Stretton

Stretton WW1 Soldiers on War Memorials

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