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Private Henry Miller

Course 69 at Ramat David

Private Henry Miller

 

Unit : 11th Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 5350332

 

Henry Miller was born on 6 October 1922 in Portsmouth. After leaving school he worked as a shipwright apprentice at Vospers shipbuilders in Portsmouth.

 

As he worked in a shipyard that built Motor Torpedo Boats initially Miller was in a reserved occupation, and served 6 months with the 17th Hants Home Guard Battalion. As the country's manpower dwindled eventually he was called up for war service.

 

On 15 January 1942, at the Age of 19, he joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and was posted to the 10th Battalion in training at Long Melford in Suffolk. On 19 March 1942 he was admitted to the West Suffolk Hospital with a dislocation and fracture of the left wrist, and was discharged on 30 May 1942.

 

On 28 August 1942, the 10th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment embarked for service overseas, disembarking at Basra in Iraq on 5 November, and moved up to Kirkuk, north of Baghdad. The Battalion served as part of the Persia and Iraq Force, or PAIFORCE, guarding against a German invasion of the Middle East through the Caucasus. After this threat receded the Battalion was transferred to Egypt, in readiness for the invasion of Sicily.

 

Miller did not go to Sicily however. On 26 July he was admitted to Hospital suffering from Malaria, and was only discharged on 19 August, after his Battalion had already left for Sicily.

 

He joined the Parachute Regiment in Palestine in 1943, completing his Parachute training at Ramat David in September 1943. It appears that he may have joined the Parachute Regiment on a compulsory basis, as his army service record reads 'compulsory transfer to Army Air Corps'. As his Battalion had left for Sicily and he remained in hospital, it is possible that he was transferred to the Parachute Regiment as they were short of volunteers. Relatives recall him saying that the extra parachutists pay was also a motivation for joining.

 

A photograph of his 'stick' during Parachute training in September 1943 shows Miller and his comrades lined up in front of a Lockheed Hudson prior to emplaning for a jump. From left to right: W Drewitt, unknown, H Miller, unknown, 'Titch' Freeman, Rosser, unknown, Short or Searles.

 

He obviously suffered a recurrence of Malaria, as he was admitted to Hospital suffering from Malaria on 6 October 1943, and then discharged to a convalescence depot on 12 October.

 

The 11th Battalion embarked for Britain on 14 December 1943, and arrived at Liverpool on 6 January 1944. Sometime between their return to England and leaving for Arnhem Miller met his future wife Joan Allen, a native of Leicester, near where the Battalion was based at Melton Mowbray. With the 11th Battalion he served as a Bren Gunner.

 

Miller jumped onto Ginkel Heath on 18 September 1944. He was wounded on the 19 September at Arnhem, believed to be in the streets to the west of St. Elizabeth Hospital when the 11th Battalion were forming up to attack the high ground to the north of the railway line on the outskirts of the town. He was wounded in the leg by shrapnel. Captured by the Germans, he was taken to Stalag XIB in Fallingbostel, where in November 1944 he wrote to his future wife:

 

"Dear Joan, have you had any news of Perry yet, if you do get news tell him that I am alright and that my wounds have completely healed now. Well darling remember me to Sylvia and lots of love to you from John."

 

Sylvia was a friend of my grandmother, and Perry was obviously a comrade. Henry Miller was often called John.

 

At some point he was transferred to Stalag IIIA at Luckenwalde, south of Berlin. He recalled being marched on foot across Germany in the middle of the German winter, and unsurprisingly he had problems with his feet for the rest of his life. While a prisoner he was also put to work in a Sugar Beet factory. Stalag IIIA was liberated by the Russians in May 1945, and Miller returned home to England on 26 May 1945.

 

As the 11th Battalion had been disbanded after Arnhem he was transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as a Motor Storesman at the RAOC depot in Chilwell. As he had been called up relatively late he was not demobilized until 1947.

 

Like most men from the 11th Battalion he rarely talked about his experiences. This may be because they were a relatively young Battalion who only saw one action, had had disciplinary problems and had fared badly at Arnhem. He suffered from bouts of Malaria for many years afterwards, and had trouble with his feet and his war wounds. I think his war service may have been typical of many men. He was called up to do an unpleasant but necessary job, did it and then returned to his previous life.

 

After working as a steel erector, a lorry driver for the Royal Dockyard in Portsmouth and a night watchman Henry Miller died in July 1995.

 

Compiled by James Daly (Henry Miller's Grandson) from his Army service record, family recollections, and research at the Airborne Forces Museum and the National Archives.

 

If anyone has any more information about my Grandfather or the 11th Battalion I would be more than happy to hear from them. Jpdchamps03@yahoo.com

 

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