Sydney Sylvanus Mills (1889-1918)

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Sydney Sylvanus Mills
Sex: Male
Birth: 19/8/1889 Carrieton, South Australia
Death: 20/9/1917 Polygon Wood, Belgium
Father: Howard Mills
Mother: Susan Margaret Jordan
Spouse/Partner: Phoebe Harriet Taylor
Marriage: 9/10/1914 Quorn, South Australia

Sydney Mills was born in Carrieton, South Australia in 1889. His father Howard Mills was a railway employee who moved to various locations around South Australia due to the nature of his work. Sydney was the eldest of 6 children.

Sydney attended the Peterborough Public School (knowns as Petersburg at the time) and the University of South Australia, where he trained as a teacher. He married Phoebe Taylor in Quorn in 1914 and the couple settled in the area.

World War IEdit

Sydney was listed as a Lieutenant on the unattached list of his attestation papers on enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on September 13, 1915. He obtained this rank having served as a cadet for 2 years from 1906 – 1907 & 3 years in Commission in the cadets from 1908-1911. He enlisted at Port Augusta West in South Australia and was initally given the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. His vital statistics at the time were 5 feet 6 inches in height, weight 142 pounds and chest measurement 33 and a half inches.

Sydney was allocated to the 10th Battalion AIF, 15th Reinforcement, officer number 2196. The unit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia on board the RMS 'Mongolia' on 9th March 1916. He embarked overseas abound the HT 'Ivernia' arriving in Alexandria on 20/5/1916 and then Marseilles on May 26, 1916.

Military CrossEdit

Sydney spent a month and a half at base camp at Etaples before marching out to join the 1st Anzac Entrenching Battalion. He was only with the battalion for about 2 weeks before marching out to join his unit. On the 2/12/1916, he was given the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1917, Sydney was pivotal in keeping a trench out of the hands of the German army at Bullecourt. Under heavy bombardment by the enemy he carried out the work of consolidation. His section of the trench was repeatedly blown in, but with great tenacity and courage he hung on and prevented the enemy from regaining his position.

For his efforts in this particular trench, Sydney was awarded the Military Cross on July 2, 1917 for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”. His award was listed in the London Gazette on 14/8/1917, the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 20/12/1917, and his wife informed by letter from the Base Records Office on 15/1/1918. A link to the London Gazette entry is provided below:-

Gazette Navigator

Missing in ActionEdit

For a brief time after this, Sydney was sent to Intelligence and Scouting School, rejoining his unit on August 25, 1917. He was reported missing in action in Belgium, September 20, 1917. The most reliable report concerning his disappearance came from a Seargent J.B. Beckier of the 10th Battalion at the No. 7 Station Hospital in Boulogne, when he stated, "About daybreak on the morning of Sept. 20th, 1917, as we were getting ready for an attack on Polygon Wood, an enemy barrage was put on us and delayed our hop over. Lt. Mills was in the rear getting the stragglers together. I spoke to him at the time and then we got through the barrage and took up the position assigned to us. After that we lost sight of Mr Mills. We were not near enough to the enemy for him to have been taken prisoner and it was generally beleived that he was knocked out."

Killed in ActionEdit

Further reports were gathered from other men regarding the incident to confirm if Sydney had been killed in action. Statements from Privates C.M. Cormack and F. Straney indicated that a shell had exploded literally on top of the group, and once the smoke cleared it was impossible to identify Sydney from the remains. Information from a Private Ridley (6014, B Company) indicated that the 9th Battalion had found his body and buried it, location unknown. Sydney Mills was officailly listed as killed in action on 16/5/1918.

Since his body could not be located, Sydney is commemorated at the Ypres (Menin gate) Memorial, Ieper, West – Vlaarideren, Belgium. Other medals he was awarded posthumously include the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. A link to the Advertiser newspaper article, speaking of his death, is attached below:-

The Roll of Honour

2008 0918Jun080098

Memorial at Quorn which lists SS Mills


  • Service Record of Sydney Sylvanus Mills, officer number 2196
  • The AIF Project
  • Silent Voices by Robert Kearney, 2005
  • Red Cross records

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