Miller DFC, William Watson (No. 151387)

Miller, William Watson (Billy)

Distinguished Flying Cross

Flying Officer (Navigator)

No. 151387, 248 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in an aircraft accident on Saturday 24 February 1945 (aged 21)

Buried:

Bangor Cemetery, Co. Down (Section 4.U Grave 113)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Bangor and District War Memorial

Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s)

Bangor Grammar School

BIOGRAPHY

William Watson (Billy) Miller was born on 8 November 1923 and he was baptised in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s) on 16 December 1923.  He was the only son of Robert Conroy Higginson (Bob) Miller and Margaret (Maggie) Miller (nee Watson) who lived at 3 Castle Street, Bangor.  Bob Miller worked as a plumber and gas fitter (he had worked on the RMS Titanic) and he was a Bell Ringer in Bangor Parish Church.  Bob won numerous individual bowls titles and represented Ireland at bowls for over thirty years.  He had the nickname Golden Miller.  Bob Miller’s parents Samuel and Fanny Miller (nee Robinson) owned a painting and decorating shop on Main Street in Bangor.

Bob Miller and Margaret Watson were married on 28 March 1910 in Bangor Abbey Church of Ireland Church and they had at least six children:

Ada Peacocke (born 12 March 1912 at 3 Castle Street, Bangor)

Ethel (born 6 April 1915 at 3 Castle Street, Bangor)

Catherine Fanny (born 19 February 1917 at 3 Castle Street, Bangor)

Ellen (Ella born 19 August 1919 at 3 Castle Street, Bangor)

May

William Watson (Billy, born 8 November 1923)

Billy Miller was educated at Bangor Central Public Elementary School and at Bangor Grammar School from the autumn of 1936 until the summer of 1941.  In 1941 he won Lord Bangor’s prize as the school’s best all round boy in character, studies, and games.  At school he excelled in English and History and gained honours in the Royal Drawing Society’s examinations.  The Headmaster described him as being ‘dark eyed and sturdily built; there was no nonsense about him, and he stood no nonsense from others.’  He also excelled on the cricket and rugby fields.  At cricket he captained the 1st XI, and he was selected to play for the Ulster Schools in an inter-provincial match against Leinster.

Billy Miller was a graduate of Bangor Flight Air Training Corps (ATC) which he joined in March 1941.  A year later, in March 1942, he was called up for service.  Billy Miller undertook his navigational training in Canada, and he was awarded a commission in 1943.  It was reported that he was the first ex-ATC Cadet in Northern Ireland to be decorated; he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 3 October 1944 and the citation read:

‘This officer has participated in a large number of varied sorties.  He is a navigator of great ability and his fine work has contributed materially to the success of the operations in which he has taken part.  In August 1944, during a reconnaissance of the Gironde area, his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire.  The petrol tanks were pierced, and a quantity of the contents was lost.  A course was set for home, but the petrol became exhausted and the aircraft came down on to the sea.  Flying Officer Miller, who had temporarily lost consciousness, recovered to find himself submerged in the cockpit.  He released his harness and managed to climb clear.  His pilot was apparently still trapped.  Although Flying Officer Miller had both his ankles fractured and was in great distress, he re-entered the cockpit in a vain attempt to find his comrade.  He displayed great courage, fortitude and resolution in highly trying circumstances.’

Billy Miller’s mother Margaret and his sister Mrs Ella Robertson went to Buckingham Palace on 29 October 1946 to receive Billy’s DFC.

Flying Officer Billy Miller (No. 151387) served with 248 Squadron in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and he died as the result of a flying accident on 24 February 1945.  At the time, 248 Squadron was based at RAF Banff in Scotland and operated as part of the Banff Strike Wing, flying anti-submarine missions off the coast of Norway.  He was 21 when he was killed and his funeral from the family home in Bangor was to Bangor Cemetery.  The services at the house and at the graveside were conducted by the Rev. Canon Walter Horatio Good MA, Rector of Bangor Parish.

Amongst the mourners were Billy’s brothers-in-law Thomas Beattie (Fanny’s husband) and Warren Rainey (May’s husband).

His sister Ethel’s husband, Warrant Officer Gordon Ernest Poulson (No. 3443273), who served with the 2/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers died on active service on 3 August 1944 and was buried in Fontenay-le-Pesnel War Cemetery, Tessel, Calvados, France (Grave IV. B. 9).

His sister Ada’s husband, Rifleman William Fox (No. 7015254), who served with the Royal Ulster Rifles died on 31 December 1939 following a hospital operation.  Ada Fox died on 15 February 1940 after a short illness and their two children, Margaret Irene Fox and William Fox were brought up by their maternal grandparents Bob and Margaret Miller at 3 Castle Street, Bangor.

Flying Officer William Watson Miller DFC is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s) and in Bangor Grammar School.

There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone in Bangor Cemetery:

WE THANK OUR GOD

FOR EVERY REMEMBRANCE OF YOU

Billy Miller’s father Bob died on 30 March 1965 and his mother Margaret died on 27 December 1965.  His sister Ethel died on 6 January 1966.