Second Lieutenant Milton Kershaw (Part 1)



Second Lieutenant Milton Kershaw (Part 1)


Milton Kershaw


Letter to be read in the event of his death, medals.


Milton was the third of five children. He was a sportsman, a scientist and a teacher. His parents, George Kershaw and Annie née Preston, both came from Cleckheaton. George, the son of a market gardener, became a teacher and then headmaster of the National School at Scholes. He married Annie, the daughter of a blanket manufacturer in 1879. Their two elder children, Marion and Blanche, would later assist their father in his school.

Milton was born on 2nd January 1886, and was followed by two younger brothers, George Fitzer (known as Fitzer) and Louis. Milton became a pupil at the Bradford Grammar School in 1898. He was a clever boy who topped Fourth and Fifth V Modern in Maths, French, Geography, Science, Latin and English. He was a talented cricketer—he took 45 wickets for the First XI at an average of 4.91 runs in his final year—and scrum leader and a fine player in the First XV.

In 1905 Milton went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences. The Bradfordian reported in December 1907 that ‘Kershaw has become quite a power in Peterhouse, and we would not dare to sum up his athletic achievements’. He was also in the University O.T.C.. In 1908 he obtained his B.A. and was awarded the University Diploma in Agriculture. The following January he was appointed to the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, as First Assistant to the Professor of Chemistry and lecturer in Physics and Meteorology. In 1911 his paper on the Ethiopian drought of that year was published in the College Journal. Kershaw maintained his sporting prowess. At cricket he was noted as a ‘capital fast bowler … a very good field, and a very useful bat’, while he was ‘the mainstay of the three-quarter line’ for the Rugby XV until he injured his knee. Furthermore, by 1914 he was in command of the College O.T.C., and he was one of only a few hundred cadets who fulfilled their obligation by joining the Special Reserve of Officers, holding a commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment. Shortly before war broke out he was engaged to marry Eileen Hughes, a governess of Welsh parentage, who lived nearby.

On 5th August 1914, Kershaw joined the 1st Gloucesters which landed in France (3rd Brigade, 1st Division) a week later. He saw action in the long retreat from Mons, and in the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne. In a brief diary he recorded his experiences until early October, especially his outrage at German actions. When the B.E.F. was sent north to block the German thrust to seize Calais, the Gloucesters were hotly engaged for three weeks. By early November the battalion was reduced to a quarter of its fighting strength. On the morning of 7th November, in dense fog, they were commanded to take enemy trenches near Zwarteleen. The men were exhausted and the advance hastily prepared. Kershaw advanced closer to the enemy than he had intended and ran into intense fire and barbed wire. His company was almost cut off and lay in the open until dusk. Kershaw was wounded in the leg and then the head. Despite a search he could not be found when his company withdrew in the dark. A fellow officer wrote there was a ‘faint hope that his wound in the head may not have been fatal’, but ‘it was very slight’. His family hoped he had been taken prisoner until in July the German Red Cross confirmed his death. His body was never identified and his name is one of the missing British soldiers on the Menin Gate at Ypres. In a letter he wrote, in the event of his death, before he went to France Milton thanked his parents for all they had done for his education at BGS and Peterhouse and the example they had set him. He wrote, ’I know my duty to my country & King & I also know that you would wish me to do my duty as an Englishman, & this thought makes me quite happy.’






Sally Dyer (Milton's niece)

Collection Day

City Hall, Bradford (2/2/2019)

This item was submitted on March 2, 2019