The Millen family appear to have lived in the Bethersden area of Kent for several generations. Sydney’s parents are both from farming backgrounds and working within the “Garden of England”.
On 5th November 1884 Sydney Millen was born in Bethersden. His parents Thomas and Elizabeth were married in 1872 in Kent. Sydney was born into a large family already having five elder Siblings.
The 1901 Census of England and Wales finds the family living at Star Farm in Bethersden, Kent. Sydney has three elder brothers, Harold 18, Herbert 16 and Percival 14, two elder sisters, Alice 11 and Bessie 9. He also now has a younger brother Ashley aged 2.
The 1901 Census finds Sydney as a 16 year old servant. He is working on Buxford Farm, Great Chart, as a Milkman. Great Chart is just one hours walk away from his parents’ house.
The rest of his family has moved to Bean Place, Bethersden. Sydney’s father Thomas is now a farmer with his own farm. The family has a new son Spencer who was born in 1891. Harold is married with children. He is still living in Bethersden. Bessie is a Servant working in Tunbridge Wells.
On 2nd April 1908 Sidney became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force. It is not known where he was living.
The 1911 Census for England and Wales finds Sydney as a boarder at 21 Quebec Street, Brighton. Sydney is shown as a Police Constable with Brighton Borough Police.
The head of the house at 21 Quebec Street is Benjamin Welch also a Police Constable with Brighton Borough Police. There is also another boarder living at the house, Alfred Birkin, who is also a Police Constable with Brighton Borough Police. No enquiries have been made with regards to Welch and Birkin as they fall outside of the terms of reference as neither appears on the Brighton Borough Police WW1 Plaques.
Sydney Millen appears on both WW1 Plaques within The Old Police Museum Cells at Brighton Town Hall. He is shown to be with The Royal Sussex Regiment.
Sydney Millen received permission to join the Army from the then Chief Constable Mr William Gentle on 11th May 1915. He left the Police on the same day and attested to join the Army. He stated his age was 30yrs and 6 months, a Police Constable living at 36 Grove Street, Brighton.
Sydney Millen has a service number of GS/6818 which is consistent with joining The Royal Sussex Regiment between 2nd May 1915 and 1st June 1915. The “GS” signifies those that joined up for General Service but was not always prefixed on their records.
He showed his next of kin as his father Thomas giving the address as Bean Place, Bethersden, Kent.
Sydney was initially sent for training with the 10th Battalion on 21st May 1915 at Colchester. On 8th September Sydney passed a course of instruction in stretcher bearing and first aid.
On 29th October 1915 Sydney was posted to Weymouth 8th Battalion Depot for Pioneer training. The 8th Battalion was formed as a new army unit under the recruitment drive launched soon after the outbreak of the war by the Secretary of State Lord Kitchener and although initially formed as an Infantry unit it was converted to a Pioneer Battalion. The 8th played a less active fighting part in the war; its main role was to be one of support, involving hard physical work. That said the 8th Battalion were still fully trained soldiers and they were required to carry all the same equipment as a normal soldier and be prepared to fight.
The war diary of the 8th Battalion contains a mass of detail concerning map references, geographical positions and an amazing amount of technical information on all aspects of the pioneering work carried out, but sadly contains very little information of the non-pioneering activities of the Battalion.
It is known that Sydney would have caught up with his Battalion in or around Albert, just North of the River Somme. The Battalion was committed to general work on defences, which included trenches, dugouts, shelters and billets and remained in the area for December and into 1916 enduring heavy snow at the end of February.
March 1916 saw the beginning of the preparation for the “Big Push” planned for the 1st July 1916. The 18th had started to dig “Russian Saps” from the divisional front line, beneath “No Man’s Land” The Russian Saps were shallow underground tunnels through which men could pass to the attack unseen by the enemy.
By the time the Battle of the Somme started on 1st July 1916 the Battalion had completed eight “Russian Saps” to within 20yds of the German front line.
On 25th June, with day and night bombardment of the German positions continuing the 8th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment came under orders to be prepared to forsake pioneering duties and to fight as infantrymen.
On the fateful day of 1st July 1916 the 8th Battalion, despite heavy losses, achieved all of its targets.
The first of July has been described as the worst day in the History of the British Army who sustained 57,000 casualties 19,200 of them fatal and approximately 40% of them in the first hour.
There were several incidents that the 8th Battalion were involved in up until 21st July 1916 when they marched on and off for two weeks until arriving at Erquinghem-Sur-Lys where they spent nearly 3 weeks training and constructing gun pits with the Engineers.
On 25the August the Battalion returned to the Somme battlefields. On 14th September 1916 Sydney was promoted to Lance Corporal and on 22nd the Battalion moved to assist in the attack of the German stronghold Thiepval. The 18th Division including the 8th Battalion successfully captured Thiepval that had held out against all other allied attacks since 1st July.
The War Record does not show any Leave dates for Sydney but, on 27th December 1916 he has returned to England. He married Lucy Mary Stewart at St Nicholas Church, Sturry, Kent.
Early 1917 saw the 8th Battalion conducting pioneering work where they were ballasting a communications tram line from Ovillers. Pioneering work continued from January through to April.
In 1916 Army Council instruction No. 1733 was issued with regards to The Military Police. The instruction is long and tedious but in short explains that the system of Policing such large numbers of Soldiers at home and abroad required trained Police Officers. As a result it would appear that soldiers who were Police Officers prior to the war were being transferred to either the MMP (Mounted Military Police) or MFP (Military Foot Police).
The General Duties of a Military Police Officer include:
(1) The detection of crime, and the arrest of offenders.
(2) The maintenance of order under all circumstances.
(3) The surveillance and control of all civilians and followers within the area occupied by their formations.
(4) Assisting in maintaining march discipline of troops and transport and in regulating traffic.
(5) The collection of stragglers.
(6) The custody of prisoners of war until their transfer to railhead or to a P.O.W. working company.
(7) The protection of the local inhabitants against acts of violence on the part of soldiers or followers.
In addition there were numerous special duties they were expected to see to, amongst which were :—
Taking measures to prevent troops getting into contact with undesirable characters—prostitutes, enemy agents, provocateurs, etc.
Ill-treatment of animals.
Civilians found within the lines without passes or identity cards.
Plundering, marauding and looting.
Ill-treatment of inhabitants.
Soldiers and civilians trafficking in rations or Government property.
Unauthorized cameras and photography.
Collecting and returning of horses.
Careless talk and the apprehension of anyone giving military information.
Arrest of suspicious individuals.
The shooting of dogs found unattended near the forward lines, and search of the bodies for messages, etc.
Seizure of carrier pigeons.
Surveillance for means of communication with the enemy.
On 23rd April 1917 Sydney was temporarily transferred to the Military Foot Police for the duration of the war. He remains a Lance Corporal and his new service number is P10414.
Sydney’s mother Lucy died in the first quarter of 1917. His father Thomas died on Christmas day 1917.
On 9th May 1917 he joined up with the 1st Army at Pernes in France. He was still serving with the 1st 25th August 1918. On 28th April Sydney was sent to England on leave returning on 10th May. On 15th June 1919 Sydney was again home in England on leave, rejoining the 1st Army on 28th June 1919.On 11th August 1919 Sydney is transferred to Class Z army reserve. His address is Howe Farm Cottage, Sturry, Canterbury, Kent.
Sydney was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal although at the time there was confusion over the spelling of his name. Medals were initially issued to MILLER and not MILLEN. The medals had to be returned and re-issued.
Sydney rejoins Brighton Police on 14th August 1919 along with other returning Police Officers. In 1919 Sydney and his wife Lucy have their first baby, a daughter Mary E Millen is born. In 1922 a son Sydney W Millen is born. On 4th September 1950 Harold, Sydney’s eldest brother died. Sydney survived his wife by only two years, he died in 1973. His death is registered in Thanet.