William Grant Milne was born in Skerray on the 28 November 1888 one of twin sons born to the Skerray schoolmaster Mr John Milne and his wife Rose( maiden name Lister)John and Rose married in 1884 in Carlisle. William and his brother Robert both emigrated to Canada; they both enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1916 to return and fight in France.
William joined the 43 Battalion (Queens Own Highlanders) Canadian Infantry (See also Donald Rankine and Angus Gunn, from Melness), Williams brother Robert joined the 49 Battalion, Canadian Infantry.
In March 1918, the German High Command decided to launch two huge offensives and attempt to end the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front. The Germans knew that they had to end the war quickly before the American Army was fully established in France, once the full might of the American war machine swung into action the Germans knew the war would soon be over.
Now that Russia had succumbed to the Bolshevik Revolution and the new Communist Government had sued for peace, there was no need for a German Army on the Eastern Front. All German Divisions were speedily transferred from the trenches in the East to the frontline in France, by the start of March 1918 there was 192 German Divisions facing the 156 British and French Divisions.
The German Generals planed to launch two attacks, the first one called “Operation Michael” to be launched south of Arras over the old Somme battlefield. The second attack was code named “George” and would attack the Flanders sector near Armentieries, its objective to break through the British line forcing a general Allied retreat towards the French coast. The enemy hoped that this would lead to the end of the war and victory for the Kaisers Army.
At the beginning of March 1918, the Germans began to shell the British lines all along the front in preparation for the “Michael” attacks. Newly formed German ‘Stormtroop’ Battalions practised their new tactics for the coming attacks by launching trench raids and dummy attacks on the Allied front.
The Canadian Division was in the trenches near Loos in early March 1918 on routine trench holding duties, when the enemy launched a surprise attack. The 43 Battalion (Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada) were subjected to a heavy artillery bombardment on the 6 of March, followed by a gas attack. The artillery fire killed many men from the battalion; other men died when they did not get their gas masks and protective clothing on before the choking fumes entered the trenches.
Private William Grant Milne was one of those killed by the shellfire on the 6 of March; he was 29 years of age. His twin brother Robert survived the war and came home to his parents in Skerray a well decorated man having won the Military Medal for bravery on two occasions.