Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Mills, Charles (1877–1963)

by Peter Chapman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Charles Mills (1877-1963), soldier, businessman and pastoralist, was born on 3 December 1877 at Charters Towers, Queensland, second son of Thomas Mills, English-born pioneer of the Charters Towers and Gympie goldfields, and his Scottish wife Elizabeth, née Buchanan. After education in England at Alleyn's College of God's Gift (Dulwich College) and Hollesly Bay Agricultural College, Mills worked as a jackeroo at Michael Studholme's property Waimate, near Canterbury, New Zealand, and for Robert Gray at Hughenden, North Queensland. In 1907 he married Maud Elsie Jane, daughter of Albert Duckett White of Bluff Downs, and later that year moved to Panshanger, the historic Tasmanian property near Longford built by Joseph Archer, acquired for him by his father.

On the outbreak of World War I, already a lieutenant in the 26th Light Horse, Mills enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted second-in-command of C Squadron, 3rd Light Horse. He was promoted major in February 1916 and served through the Sinai and Palestine campaigns, acquitting himself with distinction in reconnaissance and supply operations as well as in combat. Wounded in the battle of Romani in August and mentioned in dispatches in December, he was again wounded on 9 January 1917 in the battle of Rafa when he led his squadron in a hazardous advance against a high-positioned, well-entrenched enemy; cover could only be contrived by digging the hard ground with bayonets. He was also later stricken with malaria. After his return home in November 1918 and his discharge from the A.I.F. next January, Mills remained in the Citizen Forces, retiring in 1937 as honorary colonel.

Mills became less engaged in the family pastoral business, which increasingly was managed by his sons Maurice and Ernest, and turned to industrial management. In 1923 he helped to form the Tasmanian Cement Co. whose works were constructed, under the supervision of E. G. Stone, on the shale deposit near Railton. After Dorman, Long & Co., the firm building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, took over the company's general management and a substantial shareholding, Mills became a founding director of the resulting Goliath Portland Cement Co. (incorporated in July 1928) with Harold Brock, (Sir) John Ramsay, (Sir) Thomas Nettlefold and L. Ennis. Like his Tasmanian co-directors Mills was commended for private investment in the new company 'not entirely for personal gain, but rather in pursuit of a great ideal of Tasmanian development'.

Goliath Portland Cement expanded rapidly. From marketing 17,416 tons in 1927 it raised its production capacity to 65,000 tons in 1930 and 100,000 tons in 1939, an important boost to the Depression economy. Mills was chairman of directors in 1944-54 and remained an influential, 'keen and active' director until he retired in 1961.

There was an active innovatory turn of character which placed a stamp on Mills's life whether as a serving officer, an industrial businessman or, notably as an observer of change: he encouraged his son Ernest to obtain the world's first autogiro licence in England in 1934. Mills was a member of the Launceston Club and an active golfer. He died on 26 March 1963 at Launceston, survived by his daughter and two sons, and was cremated. His estate was valued for probate at £109,846. His sons continued to manage the extensive and expanding family pastoral interests; Maurice also became a director of the Goliath Portland Cement Co.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Broinowski (ed), Tasmania's War Record 1914-1918 (Hob, 1921)
  • H. S. Gullett, The A.I.F. in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1923)
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • Goliath Portland Cement Co. Ltd, Fiftieth Anniversary, 1923-1973 (Railton, Tas, 1973)
  • Tasmanian Year Book, 5, 1971
  • Mercury (Hobart), 6, 12, 27 July, 1-4 Aug 1928, 28 Mar 1963
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 17 Aug 1933
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Chapman, 'Mills, Charles (1877–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mills-charles-7592/text13259, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 March 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019