23 May 2004

In 2003 members of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regimental Association gathered to pay tribute to Private Francis Miles VC, buried in his home village of Clearwell, Gloucestershire. The Association was disturbed to discover the deteriorating condition of his grave and headstone, so decided, with the family's permission, to commission a new stone. On the 23rd May 2004, a new headstone was dedicated to Francis Miles VC in St Peter's Churchyard.

Miles' grave:
before and after

After leaving school at his village of Clearwell, Francis Miles worked in the local colliery but enlisted, on the 28th December 1914, into the 9th Gloucesters. After training, the battalion was sent to France where Miles was wounded and hospitalized back to England. Meanwhile his battalion was sent to Salonika without him. Following his recovery, and because of his experience as a miner, he was attached to the Royal Engineers as a tunneller, but was again wounded being the only survivor of fifty men after an explosion in a mine.

On recovering from his injuries he returned to the Gloucesters and joined the 5th Battalion in time to be sent to the Italian Front. In September the regiment was recalled to France for the final weeks of the War. It was during the Battle of the Selle, to the east of Le Cateau, in October 1918, that the Gloucesters were given the task of clearing part of the Bois l'Eveque close to a mill. They met with stubborn resistance from several machine gun posts, which stalled the advance. It was here that Private Francis Miles performed his act of outstanding heroism.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 6 January 1919 ], Bois l'Eveque, France, 23 October 1918, Private Francis George Miles, 1st / 5th Bn, The Gloucestershire Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack on the 23rd October 1918, during the advance against the Bois l'Eveque, when his company was held up by a line of enemy machine guns in the sunken road near the Moulin J. Jaques.

Private Miles alone, and on his own initiative, went forward under exceptionally heavy fire, located a machine gun, shot the gunner, and put the gun out of action. Observing another gun nearby, he again advanced alone, shot the gunner, rushed the gun, and captured the team of eight. Finally he stood up and beckoned to his company, who, working on his signals, were enabled to work around the rear of the line and to capture sixteen machine guns, one officer, and fifty other ranks.

It was due to the courage, initiative, and entire disregard of personal safety shown by this very gallant soldier that the company was enabled to advance at a time when any delay would have jeopardised seriously the whole operation.

Francis Miles was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 30th May 1919.

After Francis Miles had been invested with his Victoria Cross he returned to his home village of Clearwell. He returned to work in the local colliery but suffered from poor health for the rest of his life. He died on the 8th November 1961 and is buried in St Peter's Churchyard.

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Private Francis Miles,
5th Bn, The Gloucestershire Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ) + MiD Oakleaf
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )


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Iain Stewart, 23 May 2004