Private Henry William Miles MM

Rank or Title

Date of Birth


Date of Death

30 Aug 1940

War time / or Pre War occupation

Cinema operator


Gordon Street Electric Pavilion

Service Number


Place of Birth

Mile End
United Kingdom

World War I Address

7 Gloucester Road
United Kingdom

Place of Death

United Kingdom

Grave Location

Luton Church Cemetery
United Kingdom

Soldier or Civilian

  • Soldier
Pte Henry William Miles

Harry Miles was a brave soldier who won the Military Medal but on his return he became involved in the Luton Peace Riots of July 1919 and was convicted of rioting. He died in an air-raid on Luton in August 1940.

Henry (Harry) Miles was born in 1881 at Mile End. He was married in 1900 and had seven children, with an eighth born after the war. At the outbreak of the First World War he was living at 7 Gloucester Road, Luton and working as a cinema operator at the Gordon Street Electric Pavilion. He joined the Herts Regiment. At the Battle of St Julien he volunteered to go through heavy shell fire to successfully obtain aid. He was wounded and in November 1917 was awarded the Military Medal, which was presented to him by the Mayor of Luton, Henry Impey, on January 31st, 1919, in front of a cinema audience.

In making the presentation, the Mayor stated that in the battle of St Julien on July 31st, 1917, the No 1 Company of the 1st Herts took all their objectives, but suffered such heavy casualties that when the Germans immediately launched a fierce counter-attack they were compelled to retire a little. All the officers were killed or wounded, and only a handful of men were left, under a sergeant.

Pte Miles volunteered to fetch reinforcements. After going 200 yards he found a major of an Irish battalion, who gave him two Lewis guns and their teams to strengthen the position. He then went to battalion headquarters to find that the Colonel and Adjutant had both been killed. Pte Miles, however, managed to collect some men, and took them back to his sergeant.

On the way he was wounded, but he managed to keep going until he had handed men and guns over to his sergeant. His action enabled the regiment to hold the enemy at bay and to keep the position intact until they were relieved.

Ironically, following this meeting with the Mayor, Harry took part in the infamous Luton Peace Riots in July 1919 and was convicted of rioting and was bound over. He was alleged to have made a speech in front of the Town Hall inciting the crowd, referring to himself as a revolutionary and a Bolshevist and offering to lead them to the Mayor's House. In his defence, Miles denied using the word Bolshevist and his actions were described as excitable and typical of someone suffering from shell shock.

After WWI, Harry continued to live in Luton working as a cinema operator and professional boxer before working for the Luton Corporation. At the beginning of WWII he joined the Home Guard and was killed in the biggest air-raid on Luton, in August 1940, when a 1000k bomb hit the Corporation Bus Department in Park Street.

[See also: Twists of fate in the life of Henry Miles.]

Individual Location

Pte Henry William Miles

Author: HillC

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments