The name of George W Miller is inscribed on the High Lane and Marple War Memorials and has previously been researched for the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff. The authors concluded that an error had been made on both memorials and that the man's real name was James Walter Miller. Further research for this project lends support to those original conclusions.
The country's Debt of Honour Register maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the above details of James Walter Miller, noting his father as Walter Miller of 1 Threaphurst Lane, High Lane. The first name of James is confirmed by the soldier's medal entitlement records held at the National Archives. It has not been possible to find any soldier with a High Lane or Marple connection who was called George W Miller.
An examination of the 1901 Census records a family of five called Miller living at 17 Bruton Street, Moss Side, Manchester. The parents are 29 year old Walter and 28 year old Harriett and they have three children including a 5 year James W Miller. Assuming that this is the same family who later moved to High Lane, then it would be consistent with the family history website, Cheshire BMD, which records that the deaths of a Walter and Harriett were registered in 1920 and 1946 respectively. The deaths were registered in Hazel Grove as would be the case for High Lane residents. They were of the same age that the Moss Side residents would have been.
Although it is accepted that this information is circumstantial, it is considerable, bearing in mind that there is no trace of a George Miller.
In early September 1914, with the War only a month old, James Miller enlisted into the army at Manchester. He originally joined the 19th Battalion - the fourth of the "Pals Battalions" being formed by the Manchester Regiment and was assigned to No. 9 Platoon, "C" Company. Some details of the recruitment and training of the Pals can be found here. At some point, perhaps after being wounded, James was transferred to the 18th Battalion.
The Battalion had been in action at the beginning of April 1917 during the opening attacks of the Battle of Arras. They were now ordered into another attack and arrived at the assembly trenches near the French village of Heninel at 3am on the 23rd. They would act as the support Battalion for 90th Brigade. The 16th Battalion attacked at 4.45am and, at about 9.30, called for assistance. "C" Company was sent forward followed, at 11am, by "A" and "D". They stayed forward until mid-afternoon, when it became clear that that the attack had failed and an order was issued to withdraw back to the British front line.
About 90 minutes later, fresh orders came, that the 18th and 19th Battalions were to try again. At 6pm, they advanced with "D" Company leading the way on the right, with "A" behind it and "C" leading on the left supported by "B". The artillery threw down a barrage which crept across No Man's Land and the men kept as close as possible behind it's protection as it kept down the heads of many of the Germans. The Battalion History takes up the story "The leading wave kept fairly close to the barrage as they advanced and had hardly left the line when the enemy machine guns opened from the front and both flanks. Despite casualties, the advance continued unchecked up to a particular point. But here the whole line was temporarily held up, not only on account of the heavy machine gun fire, but also because there had been a number of officer casualties and some little re-organisation was necessary."
In fact, only two officers remained and they were both wounded as the Battalion reached its objective at about 8pm. NCOs - sergeants and corporals - now took command of the remaining men - now numbered at only about 100. "The trench itself was not yet clear of the enemy and sharp hand-to-hand fights took place, a number of Germans being killed. Finally, for about twenty minutes the Manchesters were left in undisturbed occupation, but the enemy then launched a counter-attack, first opening fire from the front and right flank with rifle grenades. Under such a barrage bombing parties advanced towards the trench and though the Manchesters put up a gallant fight, using all their Mills bombs and rifle grenades with good effect, they were subsequently overwhelmed by weight of numbers and forced to withdraw."
Only 53 men made it back to the British trenches before midnight on the 23rd, although more did crawl back in later. Three hundred and sixty men had become casualties - dead, wounded or missing. James and Ralph Williams were amongst the 100 who had been killed. Neither has a known grave.