An appeal has been launched to repair the grave of the captain who raised one of Lancashire’s most famous battalions at the outbreak of the First World War.
Colonel James Clymo Milton, who was a captain at the time, was responsible for raising the Chorley Pals Company, when war broke out in 1914.
But his gravestone, a Celtic cross, in the churchyard of St Augustine’s in Worcestershire is now tilting and is in danger of falling over.
Now the family which owns the grave next to it is appealing for Col Milton’s descendants to undertake repair work on the stone to stop it from falling.
Christopher Belk, whose family grave the cross could tip onto, said: “I just wonder if there are any Milton descendants or relatives who would be able to take-up the cause of underpinning the Milton stone, so that it doesn’t tumble?
“The grave onto which the Milton stone cross could tumble is the grave of my grandfather, Frank Holtham Gwilliam, who was also soldier in the First World War. He was a Royal Marine.
“Before the war, he was a broad saltmaker - Droitwich Spa is famous since Roman times for its salt. Salt-making was a reserved occupation in the First World War, so he declared his hobby, hay trussing, as his job in order to be able to enlist - such was the spirit that motivated men of Chorley and of Droitwich to join-up, in the First World War.
“The grave is also that of my grandmother and of my parents and uncle. My father was also a soldier in the Second World War and my uncle was rejected on medical grounds, so joined the Home Guard.
“I wouldn’t say that the task is urgent, but it could become so, and remedial work soon might be money well spent.”
The plea comes as the Lancashire Post is planning a series of features over the coming months to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of hostilities in November.
When war broke out in early August 1914 Captain Milton took steps to form a Pals battalion in Chorley. According to the Chorley Pals Memorial charity by September 3, thirty men had signed up and they were eventually formed into a company to join a newly raised battalion at Accrington. By the end of September the Chorley Pals Company as they became known was up to full strength, with some 212 men and three officers.
Now Mr Belk is appealing for Col Milton’s family to look into the possibility of propping up his grave. The maintenance and restoration of a grave in a churchyard is the responsibility of the family.
Steve Williams, co-founder of the Chorley Pals Memorial charity, said: “James Milton played a major part in the Chorley Pals formation and development during the early part of the First World War – without him the Pals would not have been formed.
“Whilst the Chorley Pals Memorial Trust would like to see his grave maintained and possibly restored, it really is the family’s responsibility. Should the family not come forward, then we would look to get involved.”
Chorley’s MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “I hope that the Post’s campaign to find any descendants of Colonel Milton is successful – aside from the formal ceremony of Remembrance Sunday it really is important for us to show our respect to the fallen in the simplest of ways.
“As we mark the end of the centenary period I think we should look at other ways in which we can help.”
November 11, 2018 is the centenary of the end of the First World War.
The Chorley Pals
History pays tribute to the famous Accrington Pals, but a quarter of the doomed battalion were actually from Chorley.
In 1914 four companies of men were raised - in Accrington, Chorley, Blackburn and Burnley - to form the 7th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment.
After training the men sailed to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal, but within two months they were then ordered to France for the Big Push which began with the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.
Of around 700 men who went over the top that day, 235 were killed and 350 were wounded, all in less than an hour.
While many only remember it as the awful sacrifice made by the Accrington Pals, the lads from Chorley also suffered heavy losses, with 31 killed and 59 wounded - a total of 93 casualties from around 175 who took part in the attack.
Three died of their wounds in the following days and 21 of the dead have no known grave.
A monument to the Chorley Pals’ bravery stands in woodland in France near to the spot where they went over the top.
Remembering the fallen
he Great War took a terrible toll on the young men of Lancashire, with thousands volunteering to do their duty and many paying the ultimate price.
Over the next few months, as the 100th anniversary of the ending of hostilities draws nearer, the Lancashire Post has big plans to mark the sacrifice that so many made.
We will be running a series of features looking back at the four-year conflict and the awful toll it took on a whole generation.
Do you have a story about a family member who took part in the First World War - a tale you feel deserves to be retold a century on?
Will your family be holding a special celebration to honour a grandfather or great-grandfather who bravely and selflessly went off to war and witnessed the carnage at first hand?
Let us know what the 1914-18 conflict still means to your family and why we should never forget.
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History of James Milton
James Clymo Milton OBE, MBE was responsible for raising the Chorley Pals Company at the outbreak of the war, being appointed captain on September 11, 1914 and major on January 15, 1915.
Originally an officer in the local militia in his native Cornwall, he was involved in the Territorial Force in Chorley based out of the Drill Hall on Devonshire Road from around 1899.
Major Milton went overseas with the Pals in 1916, serving in Egypt and then on the Somme.
He was not given the opportunity of leading the Chorley men over the top on the Somme on July 1, 1916, having been transferred on medical grounds to the War Office a month earlier, although some accounts say he was transferred to Brigade HQ behind the lines on the Somme.
Local newspapers reported on August 12, 1916 that major Milton had been promoted to staff duty in Bristol.
He later served as Provost Marshall in Ireland, being awarded the MBE in the King’s Birthday’s Honours List on June 3, 1919 and the OBE on January 1 1923; he was given the rank of Lt. Colonel.
James Milton was born in Madron near Penzance, Cornwall in 1869. A solicitor, like his father, he was married to Lillian and had two daughters; they lived at Russell Square in Chorley, attending St. Peter’s Church.
James also served as a councillor on Chorley Council and was a Freemason, being a member of the Hesketh Lodge at Croston.
After the war and army service, James Milton returned to Chorley in 1921 and resumed his solicitor’s practice, then moved to Droitwich in Worcestershire.
James died in a Nursing Home in Penzance in April 1931.