A Royal Navy officer who commanded a destroyer in ‘the worst journey in the world’ has been honoured – 70 years after his missions in World War Two.
Lieutenant Commander Alan Miller, who died aged 93 in 2008, was involved in some of the most perilous sea passages of the conflict – the Arctic Convoys.
His sons, Michael and Alan ‘AK’ Miller, accepted the Arctic Star from the Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland, Captain Chris Smith, in Rosyth on their father’s behalf.
The first Arctic Star medal was awarded last year after a 16-year campaign by veterans and their representatives.
The notoriously dangerous voyages were famously described by Sir Winston Churchill as ‘the worst journey in the world’.
‘AK’ is chief executive of Highland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association and followed in his father’s footsteps with a military career in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, while brother Michael is a marine artist based on the Isle of Wight.
Receiving the award on his father’s behalf, AK said: “”It was an enormous pleasure and privilege to be presented with my father’s Arctic Star.
“As a keen campaigner for recognition of the many sailors who fought and perished in the Arctic, he would be delighted to know that the Arctic Star will now sit amongst his other campaign medals.
“He would be particularly delighted to know the presentation was made at a Royal Navy ceremony and, on his behalf, we sincerely thank the Royal Navy staff involved for making it such a memorable occasion.”
Lt Cdr Alan Miller was born in Pollokshields in Glasgow in 1914, attended Kelvinside Academy and later lived in the West End, before moving to Hillcrest in Helensburgh towards the end of the war. He later relocated to England for work before retiring to Perthshire.
He trained as a marine engineer and worked in the family engineering business before joining the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1938.
He was mobilised in May 1939, little knowing that he would then spend six years at sea. He wrote an account of his wartime experiences – ‘Over The Horizon’ – which was published privately in 1999, raising money for Erskine Hospital.
Alan’s early war was spent on HMS Dorsetshire in the Far East, South Atlantic and off the African Coast chasing German raiders and actions against the Vichy French in Dakar.
He then moved to destroyers and, as 1st Lieutenant on HMS Brocklesby, he was awarded the DSC for “controlling the fire of the anti-aircraft armament with coolness and ability” following the withdrawal from the St Nazaire Raid in March 1942.
By August Brocklesby was closely engaged in the action of the Dieppe Raid, running aground within 400 yards of the beach while giving direct support to the Canadian troops ashore and being peppered by fire from German 88mm guns.
Much of the remainder of the war was spent running out of Scapa Flow on convoy escort duties against the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic and the Arctic – notably to Murmansk, witnessing the sinking of the German Pocket Battleship Scharnhorst.
His final act was to return home to the Forth escorting Hitler’s yacht Grille as a prize.
Captain Smith said: “It was an honour and a pleasure to meet Alan’s family.
“The journeys undertaken by the men and their ships as part of the Arctic Convoys was fraught with danger.
“As well as an ever present threat of enemy fire from both surface ships, aircraft and U-Boats, the weather was a formidable adversary, casting up freezing conditions and mountainous seas. Many, many ships and aircraft were lost and thousands of sailors perished.
“It was war at its harshest and Alan and his fellow sailors deserve the respect and admiration of us all for this most dangerous of missions which played a key role in the ultimate defence of our nation; we owe them all a great debt of thanks.”