Born in Cheadle 27th March 1891 Edward Melland Schill was the eldest son born to Charles and Millicent Schill. His grandparents Hermann and Johanna Schill originated from Wurttemberg, now a part of Germany.
Wurttemberg did not become part of the German empire until 1871, the area was hotly disputed in the first half of the nineteenth century by both Austria and Prussia. Wurttemberg was also affected by internal strife because of the dictatorial style of King William 1st. This unrest and the pressures from both Prussia and Austria may have been the reasons for Hermann and Johanna Schill to leave their native country and to eventually settle in Manchester, with their children Paul and Charles, and their sisters. It was in Manchester that Paul and Charles developed the firm of ‘Schill Brothers’ as a very successful international trading business. The wives of Paul and Charles were sisters with the family name Melland. The two halves of the Schill family originally settled close to the city centre but gradually moved out, initially to Didsbury, as their wealth increased. Paul then moved to Withington Hall, where the site was later developed to become the famous Christie cancer hospital.
Edward Melland with his sister Olive Bertha.
Charles Schill with his wife Millicent and their remaining children Edward Melland and Olive Bertha eventually moved to Croston Towers, off Macclesfield Road, in Alderley Edge in about 1910. Two children Henry and Charles had both died in infancy. Melland (his first name Edward having been dropped) was educated at Charterhouse School in Godalming, and then went up to Oxford to read history. After leaving Oxford with a first in history, Melland worked for the family business, Schill Brothers in Valparaiso, Chile. When the Great War broke out in 1914, he promptly travelled home via Buenos Aires, Argentina arriving in Liverpool 10th October 1914, and enlisted in the Seventeenth Lancashire Fusiliers. He was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant on 14 December 1914. He was promoted to Lieutenant in April 1916 and went to France and Flanders in June with the British Fourth Army. He was wounded in action on 24 August 1916. The war diary for the day states:
Trenches August 24th. During the early hours of the morning the battalion was concentrated for the attack in shell holes E. of ANGLE WOOD. The battalion was detailed to push forward the British right in conjunction with the forward movement of the French on our immediate right. The role of the battalion was thus to cover the French left flank in their attack. At 5:45pm the attack was launched the battalion was disposed with three companies in the front line with one in reserve. The right company moved forward a distance of a little over 300 yards and established immediate touch with the French left. The other two companies established and maintained with British troops on our left. On this new alignment the battalion dug in and a trench was established after a few hours of steady work carried out under heavy hostile artillery fire. Approximate casualties 2 officers wounded Lieut E.M Schill. 2nd Lt J Flower O.R Killed 4, 16 Wounded.
Melland died of his wounds later that day at No. 5 Casualty Clearing Station at Corbie.
Melland’s commanding officer wrote to the Schill family, “I heard this morning that Melland has died of wounds received whilst leading his men forward in a very gallant advance. It may, perhaps, help just a little to know that the advance in which he played such worthy a part was completely successful. We – myself as his commanding officer, his fellow officers and his men – can only express to you our deepest sympathy. During the time your son has been with us, he had made himself a favourite with all ranks with his charming disposition and his soldierly qualities. I saw him as he was being carried out, he was splendidly brave and smiled at me and apologised for being hit. That is the sort of man he was.”
The inscription on Melland’s headstone reads ‘Freely to freedom we gave pledges, till life should be spent’ and is taken from the poem ‘A Watch In The Night’ by Algernon Charles Swinburne, written in about 1868.
In 1929 Melland’s mother, Millicent, died aged 63, never having recovered from the death of her only surviving son. Charles Schill retired and moved to Roundhill, close to Grasmere in Cumbria. Charles spent his remaining years building a rock garden at Roundhill which was surprisingly similar to the gardens at Croston Towers, with all their rhododendrons, and hidden nooks and crannies. He died in 1935, aged 72.
Melland’s sister, Olive, a Cambridge graduate in history, demonstrated a lifelong interest in social causes from the 1920s onwards and sat on a diverse range of committees. These extended from what might be reasonably expected for the standards of the day: The National Council of Women and the Gentlewomen’s Employment Society (another beneficiary and for whom she worked for 34 years), to the more surprising – the Miners’ Welfare Grants Committee and a price-control committee investigating cases of black-marketing. Olive was also honorary secretary to the Friends of the Whitworth Art Gallery from 1952 until her death in 1958, when the gallery was taken over by the University of Manchester.
Olive never married and moved to Yew Tree House, Butley Town, near Prestbury. She died at Firwood while being nursed by Dorothy Pilkington, her close friend for many years. She left in her will a £10,000 endowment in Melland’s name to the University of Manchester to fund lectures and publications in international law.
Olive hoped that international law could help to resolve conflicts before those conflicts developed into wars. There are now volumes of studies and lectures in international law sponsored by the Melland Schill Fund. These address major legal issues, such as human rights, the law of the sea, the contemporary law of armed conflict, and analyse current developments in those areas. The books are accessible and interdisciplinary, being of use to students, scholars and practitioners of international law, international relations, politics, economics and development studies. They have now been digitised to provide global access.
Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank Graham Dilliway for the pictures and supporting information on Melland.