Image from Parramatta and District soldiers who fought in the great war, 1914-1919. (1920). Parramatta, N.S.W. : The Cumberland Argus Ltd.

Cyril had been apprenticed at Clyde Engineering Cyril and was living in Marsden Street, Parramatta when he enlisted in November 1915. In 1917 he was in and out of hospital with a variety of illness , including a bout of Trench Foot. After returning to duty in January 1918 he was reported missing 5 April 1918. In fact he had been taken prisoner and as the allies advanced he was force-marched all the way to Germany before being repatriated in December 1918. In January 1919 he published a letter describing his ordeal in the Cumberland Argus:

France, 30th Nov., 1918. The following letter reached ‘The Argus’ on Thursday: — ‘Dear Sir, — I am sending you a few lines, and would like you to publish them in the old paper. I left Parramatta three years ago, with the Cooees, and I am sorry to say there are only two or three of us left to tell the tale. I was taken prisoner in that big stunt last March and April. One of my mates that I enlisted with was killed alongside me, just before we started to advance towards the Germans. His name is Webber. Most of the boys will know him. For the first five days I was captured I had nothing to eat. All they would give us was a drop of water to drink. We were taken further back behind the lines, and there we were counted out into working parties, about 300 in a party, then again sent up behind the German lines, on munition dumps, and different kinds of work. There we stayed until our people started to make the big advance, and we were gradually moved back to Germany. But never the whole journey did we have a lift in a train or motor lorry. We had to foot it the whole way, right across Belgium, 20 and 30 miles a day, and hardly anything to eat. In passing through the Belgium towns the Belgians would do their best to help us. They would give us bread and comforts, but the Germans would take all that off us and knock us down with their rifles. But we were never downhearted — we would scramble to our foot again and still have another go at it. It was either that or starvation. We were mostly living on potato peelings, turnip peeling’s, and cabbage leaves, and it was An Awful Sight to see us having our dinner. The poor lads were dying every day, and yet they would not give us any care. When we wanted a smoke we had to pick up the ends of cigarettes and cigars which the Germans had dropped, and not every one of us could get that much. You can’t imagine how happy we e to-day, now that we are released. We were released about two weeks ago. They just cast us adrift and told us to find our way back. They never gave us any bread to start with, not even a bite. Only for the Belgians we should have had hundreds of deaths along the road. But the Belgians cared for us in every manner possible. My mate and I were taken in by a Belgian lady, and there we stayed for five days, living on the best. When we were leaving they packed our bags with sandwiches and cakes, also plenty of cigarettes and money. We crossed the British lines on the 17th Nov – and we were heartily greeted by our own lads. Several of us had to go to hospital through sickness. I am in hospital at present, but will be across to England for Christnias, and have to be home in Parramatta shortly afterwards. Think I will close for the present, as it is getting beyond my time for sitting up. — I remain, your soldier friend, , No. 4861, Pte C. R. McMillan ’45th Batt.’ [Private McMillan is a son of Sergt. McMillan, till recently stationed at Parramatta police station.

 

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2018

References

The biographical information has been researched and compiled from the following resources: