DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL, V.R. ‘C: SGT. W. MILTON. K: O: S: B’DRS’; EGYPT AND SUDAN 1882-89, DATED REVERSE, CLASP, GEMAIZAH 1888 ‘2261. L/CORPL. W. MILTON. 2/K.O..BORDS.’; INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1895-1902, 3 CLASPS, RELIEF OF CHITRAL 1895, PUNJAB FRONTIER 1897-98, TIRAH 1897-98 ‘2261 SERGT. W. MILTON 2ND BN. K.O. SCO: BORD:’, with contemporary clasp carriage links between 1st and 2nd clasps; Khedive’s Star, undated, unnamed as issued.
D.C.M. submitted to the Queen 9 July 1898 (Army Order 135 of 1898).
William Milton was born in Aberdeen in 1866, and was a watchmaker by trade. He attested for the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in March 1887. Milton served with the 2nd Battalion at both Gemaizah and on the North West Frontier of India, where the Regiment, as part of the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Tirah Expeditionary Force was in action no fewer than 23 times, including the capture of the Dargai Heights, in the Sampazh and Arhanza Passes, the Tirah and Bara Valleys, and at Bagh and the Shinkanar Pass, and also in many rearguard engagements. 7 men of the regiment were killed during the operations, and 3 Officers and 36 men were wounded.
WThis campaign was only the second occasion in the Regiment’s history when the Distinguished Conduct Medal was granted, the first having been the Second Afghan War seventeen years earlier. Six D.C.M.s were awarded to the Regiment for the Tirah Campaign, including that to Milton.
Colour Sergeant Milton married Nurse Margret Dishart of Children’s hospital Aberdeen at Kirrimuir in August 1899 and it seems she accompanied him to India for his next tour. However while in India tragedy stuck when Margret and his two young Children died (believed to have been Typhoid). Apparently a broken man, shortly after in February 1903, Colour Sergeant Milton was posted home to the King’s Own Scottish Borderer’s Depot, Berwick barracks. Although carrying out his duty well enough, he was observed to have been very depressed and his Commanding Officer gave him a couple of days leave. On 8th August 1903 and after leaving a note for various debts to be paid off etc, Colour Sergeant Milton committed suicide in his barrack room by shooting himself in the head. A week later his was given a full military funeral through the streets of Berwick. He was aged 37. A large article from the ‘Berwickshire News and General Advertiser’, which gives details of his death, inquest and funeral, is included with the lot (on CD).
At this time no specific citation has been found for his DCM, however as mentioned above, the regiment saw a good deal of action during the Tirah Campaign and in particular at the capture of the Dargai Heights. At this battle, the King’s Own Scottish Borderer’s, along with the 1/3rd Gurkha’s spearheaded the attack on the Dargai Heights on 18th October 1897. Under heavy fire, advancing over open rocky ground, the two regiments scaled the heights and took the enemy positions with kukri and bayonet. However the positions gained were not consolidated and a withdrawl was ordered, leaving several companies of the Borderers acting as a rearguard. At this point, Afridi reinforcements rallied the retreating Orakzais, who in turn headed back to retake the Heights and the two sides came into contact again. The Borderers conducted a fighting withdraw, suffering more casualties than they had on taking the Heights!
Two days later, it was resolved to take the heights back and for this assault, the Gordon Highlanders received all the plaudits for Dargai. Although their gallantry cannot be disputed, they were not the only regiment to have performed so well. Indeed there was a fair amount of resentment from the other regiments who felt that the dress of kilted Highlanders, which lent itself so well to engravings and paintings of the day, made it look like no other regiment played their part. The Dorset’s were particularly aggrieved since they suffered the more casualties and also won two VC’s!
Condition NVF/VF, contact marks. Ex Buckland Dix & Wood, May 1993. A Scarce DCM, one of just 32 for the Tirah campaign and one with a very sad story attached.