Telegraph Article: Link
Pilot who was awarded the DFC for his part in leading attacks on enemy shipping in the Adriatic
AIR COMMODORE JOHN “DUSTY” MILLER, who has died aged 97, led attacks against enemy shipping in the Adriatic in the Second World War, for which he was awarded the DFC.
In autumn 1944 he joined 255 Squadron at Foggia in Italy. He flew the Beaufighter on air defence and escort sorties but became frustrated at the lack of action as the Luftwaffe virtually disappeared from Italian skies. He transferred to 272 Squadron to fly anti-shipping strikes.
As the German forces retreated north, elements of his squadron deployed to Falconera, just south of the front line known as the Gothic Line. Air strikes had decimated enemy shipping in the Northern Adriatic and the enemy had resorted to using schooners, barges and small coasters to carry reinforcements and supplies.
During the advance up the east coast of Italy by the 1st Canadian Corps, Miller attacked barges carrying supplies along the Candiano Canal, which connected the German forces at Ravenna with the Adriatic.
He led attacks in the Adriatic using rockets and cannon to sink a great number of small ships. During November the squadron destroyed 14 barges, three schooners, one 1,400-ton ship and a large merchant ship. The pace was maintained into the New Year and, as the enemy tried to make greater use of darkness, Miller and his fellow pilots attacked them at night. Port installations around the Gulf of Trieste and on the Istrian Peninsula were also attacked.
Miller flew 43 operations, many in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire. He was awarded the DFC, the citation concluding that he had “displayed excellent leadership, a fine fighting spirit and great devotion to duty”.
John Miller was born in Doncaster on December 3 1921 and educated at Wath Grammar School. He interrupted his studies to be a chartered accountant to join the RAF in July 1941.
He trained as a pilot in the US. Assessed as above average, he was one of a small number to be selected to remain in the US as a flying instructor. Eventually appointed to an operational squadron, he converted to the Beaufighter and left for Italy.
He was released from the RAF in June 1946 to resume his studies, and seven months later obtained his articles as a chartered accountant. He then rejoined the RAF on a permanent commission.
He flew fighters and in 1951 was given command of 41 Squadron, flying Meteor jets from Biggin Hill. On April 17 1952 his aircraft caught fire over Essex and he became one of the first men to bale out using an ejector seat. He specialised in fighter operations for the next 10 years, having been awarded the AFC in 1953.
By 1960 officers identified with the potential to reach higher rank were posted away from their specialisation in order to gain wider experience. Miller left for the V-Force and was given command of a Valiant nuclear bomber squadron. He was promoted to be the station commander of RAF Finningley near Doncaster, which was the home of a Valiant squadron and the Vulcan operational conversion unit.
He spent three years in the plans division at HQ Bomber Command, where he had responsibility for the Blue Steel air-launched, rocket-propelled nuclear armed stand-off missile entering service with the RAF’s V-Force. He was appointed CBE.
Miller left the RAF in 1969. He became managing director of Mercian Builders in Cheltenham. The company was taken over by UBM (United Builders Merchants); he joined the main board and became the managing director of the lead division. He retired in 1981 but maintained some business interests through a number of non-executive appointments.
A strong leader with catholic tastes and a wide circle of friends, he involved himself in local community affairs in south Gloucestershire, played golf and, according to his wife, played bridge like poker, a game at which he was particularly good.
John Miller married Joan Ablitt in 1947; she died in an accident in 1986. He later married Philippa Tailyour, who survives him with a son and two daughters from his first marriage.
John Miller, born December 3 1921, died January 4 2019
Updates and news direct from the Committee