Brierley Hill, Staffordshire born wing half Joseph “Jack” Windmill began his football career with Saltley College in 1901 and played for Halesowen in 1902 before joining First Division Aston Villa, for whom he made his Football League debut against Newcastle United in November 1903.
Despite having to wait almost a year for his next opportunity in October 1904, Windmill became a first team regular in 1904-05 and was part of the side that beat Newcastle United 2-0 in the 1905 FA Cup Final at The Crystal Palace, making 30 appearances during the campaign of which 5 were in Cup ties. He also scored his only career goal in a 3-0 win in the derby match at Small Heath in February 1905. However in 1905-06 he played only 16 times for the first team between September and February, thereafter appearing once a season in the first team for each of the next three seasons.
Windmill played his final first-team game for Aston Villa in a 2-0 home win over Sunderland on 19th September 1908. He then retired from the game two years later after the local education committee complained that his football career interfered with his teaching duties. In total, Windmill made 50 senior appearances for Aston Villa and scored one goal.
Windmill saw active service in the First World War in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Although not involved in the opening phase of the Somme offensive in 1916, Windmill’s battalion saw action during subsidiary battles at High Wood, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Le Transloy. They then took part in the Battle of Arras in April and May 1917 during which Windmill, who by that stage had risen through the ranks to company sergeant major (CSM), was Mentioned In Dispatches.
He rose to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major and saw further action during the Third Battle of Ypres, before being sent to the Italian front with 5th Division in January 1918. They were then recalled to France after the German Spring Offensive and were soon in action during the Battles of the Lys. It was during this period, on 17th April 1918, that Windmill would earn the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His citation was published in The London Gazette on 17th April 1918 and read: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He invariably displayed great courage and ability in operations when conditions were exceptionally bad, and set a splendid example of courage and determination.”
The 16th Warwicks were subsequently involved in almost continuous action during the remainder of 1918 and took part in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy. At the time of the Armistice they were in the area of Le Quesnoy, France. On 1st January 1919, The London Gazette announced that Windmill had been awarded the Military Cross as part of the King’s Birthday Honours.