PRIVATE WILLIAM FOSTER MILNER
ROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS
7TH NOVEMBER 1917 AGE 24
BURIED: GAZA WAR CEMETERY, ISRAEL
What a strange inscription. I wonder what Private Milner's wife had in mind when she chose it. I can only imagine that it was her reaction to a photograph of her husband's grave, probably still with its original wooden grave marker since by the time the permanent headstones were erected she would have chosen her inscription. Gaza was far away and received very few visitors, even the St Barnabas Society didn't organise battlefield pilgrimages there, apparently there was no demand. However, the Graves Registration Unit and the War Graves Commission tried to send a photograph of a grave to the next of kin if they requested it, and since the Commission's aim was to make their cemeteries look peaceful, well-cared for places, unlike the surrounding battlefields, Mrs Milner's comment would not be surprising.
Before the war William Foster Milner had been a civil servant working in the Inland Revenue. His medal card shows that he was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star so he was not a volunteer, or not one who entered a theatre of war before 1916. But the records do show that he had served with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps before being transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Milner was killed on 7 November 1917 the day the ruined and deserted city of Gaza eventually fell to the Allies at their third attempt.
I can't tell how long William and Alice (Olga) Milner had been married but, as his wife, Alice was entitled to choose her husband's inscription. I wonder what his parents might have wanted to say - William was their only child.