L/Cpl
Alexander Watts McMillan

Information about birth

Year of birth:
1893
Place of birth:
Saltwater Creek, Canterbury, New Zealand

General information

Profession:
Labourer

Army information

Country:
New Zealand
Force:
New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Rank:
Lance Corporal
Service number:
24/2541
Enlistment date:
18/11/1915
Enlistment place:
Trentham, Wellington, New Zealand
Units:
 —  New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
12/10/1917
Place of death:
Valley of the Ravebeek - Wolf Farm, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)
Age:
24

Cemetery

Passchendaele New British Cemetery
Plot: VII
Row: B
Grave: 1

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 2

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place

My story

Lance Corporal Alexander Watts McMillan served in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade 3rd Battalion, part of the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade, of the New Zealand Division. The Division participated in the First Battle of Passchendaele, part of the final stages of the Third Battle of Ypres, on the 12th of October 1917.
The New Zealand Division’s attack was carried by the 2nd New Zealand Brigade on the right of the Divisional front and the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade on the left. The attacking Battalions of the latter were the 2nd, 3rd and 1st New Zealand Rifle Battalions, the 4th Battalion was to be in reserve. The 2nd Battalion had to capture the first objective, called the Red Line. After they had secured this line, the 3rd Battalion was to move through the 2nd Battalion and was to consolidate the 2nd objective, namely the Blue Line. Lastly, the final push was allotted to the 1st Battalion, which had to capture the 3rd objective, the Green Line. The 4th Battalion, in reserve, was to follow in the rear of each Battalion and had to assist where necessary, forming defensive flanks wherever these were required.
At zero hour 5.25 a.m. the opening barrage commenced and the 2nd Battalion moved forward behind it, followed by the 4th Battalion. However the artillery barrage was sparse and proved to be too weak. As a result the artillery didn’t succeeded in silencing the German machine-guns operating in the concrete pill-boxes. These pill-boxes immediately opened fire, causing severe casualties. On top of the unforgiving machine-gun fire the German artillery put down an artillery barrage of their own, inflicting casualties on the attacking troops and the troops coming forward from the rear. Notwithstanding the relentless machine-gun fire the 2nd Battalion pushed on. They were forced to advance to the left, as the right proved to be an nearly impassable morass.
Here the Ravebeek stream had inundated the stream’s valley. The banks of the Ravebeek had been shot apart by the constant shelling and the rainwater could not be irrigated from the lowlands. This forced the attacking troops to push left, round Wolf Farm in the hope to gain the high grounds at the head of the valley, creating a gap between the two Brigades of the New Zealand Division. The remnants of the 2nd Battalion were soon held up near Wolf Farm, a German strongpoint, by a string of heavily fortified pill-boxes. Any further progress was impossible, as the men were enfiladed by the pill-boxes and another strongpoint at Bellevue. They were forced to dig in.
By this time the 3rd Battalion came up in aid of the 2nd , although they did not succeed in capturing the Red Line. The 3rd Battalion moved through the 4th Battalion at 6.30 a.m. When they reached the line of the 2nd Battalion, the attack was renewed. However even the reinforcements couldn’t prevail against the deadly hail of bullets. Though some ground was gained on the far left near the Cemetery. Meanwhile the men of three Battalions had become intermingled. All ranks were soaking wet. Men and guns alike were caked with mud, further impeding the attack. Notwithstanding the relentless German machine-gun fire and the difficult conditions, the advancing parties captured the Cemetery clearing a German strongpoint. In the centre parties pushed on to the edge of Wolf Copse capturing the strongpoint at Wolf Farm on the way. By 8 a.m. the attack came to a standstill. Every further progress had become impossible and the Battalions were forced to dig in on a line running from the Cemetery to a point slightly beyond Wolf Farm.
Lance Corporal Alexander Watts McMillan was killed during the First Battle of Passchendaele on the 12th of October 1917 behind Wolf Farm, close to the final consolidation line. His remains were found just East of Wolf Farm. He was reburied later on at Passchendaele New British Cemetery.

Files 1

Sources 6

"The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (The Earl of Liverpool's Own)", Austin w.S., Wellington, Watkins, 1924, pg. 208-211.
Sources used
"The Third Ypres Passchendaele. The Day-by-Day Account", McCarthy C., London, Arms & Armour Press, 1995, pg. 114-116.
Sources used
Auckland Cenotaph
http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C10020?n=24%2F2541&ordinal=0&from=%2Fwar-memorial%2Fonline-cenotaph%2Fsearch%2F
Sources used
CWGC
http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/461391/McMILLAN,%20ALEXANDER%20WATTS
Sources used
NZEF-project
http://nzef.adfa.edu.au/search
Sources used
The Long, Long Trail
http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/
Sources used