Flight Sergeant Victor Howard Miller
Victor Howard Miller was born on 5th February, 1920, in Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A. His Father, Howard Miller, was a mechanic from Richmond, Indiana, and his Mother, Margery (nee. Ashton) was born in Middletown, Ohio. The couple had five sons and five daughters.
Victor graduated from Richmond High School, Indiana, in 1938. He built radios in his spare time and enjoyed football, baseball and swimming. In June 1939, he started working at Wayne Bus Body Co. in Richmond as a draftsman / welder, but was laid off in September. This was followed by six months work at Crosley Corporation and a spell working at the U.S. Army Base at Brooklyn, New York from April – July 1940.
On 19th December, 1940, Victor enlisted in the RCAF at Windsor, Ontario. Although he took a trade test to become an Airframe Mechanic, his interviewing officer commented that he was a, “Good type U.S. lad. Keen, alert and should be very suitable pilot material.” However, it wasn’t long before Miller got himself into trouble. While stationed at Trenton, Ontario, he was confined to barracks for seven days and fined $10 for, “willfully damaging public property,” on 30th March, 1941.
On 10th April, 1941, Miller commenced his Initial Training at No.1 ITS, Toronto, Course 23, where he was a, “Self confident and cheerful trainee.” Course 28 at No.9 Elementary Flying Training School followed from 16th May and Victor proved to be, “smooth on the controls,” as a pilot and not easily flustered. He also worked hard at his ground school subjects and was assessed as, “slightly above average.”
On 3rd July, Miller began Course 32 at No.1 Service Flying Training School, Camp Borden. Now flying the more powerful Yale and Harvard aircraft, he made slow progress at first. Although his discipline was good and conduct exemplary, he was found to be, “slightly erratic.” Miller was awarded his Pilot’s Flying Badge and promoted to Flight Sergeant on 13th September, 1941.
Only three days later, Miller began his two weeks embarkation leave, and was on his way to England on 28th September.
After the usual spell at No.3 Personnel Reception Unit, Bournemouth, Miller was posted to No.9 Service Flying Training School, Hullalvington, on 3rd November, where he was fined £3 for:
(1) creating a disturbance by fighting in the Little George House, Chippenham, at about 23.30 hours on 22.11.41
(2) causing the loss of a pair of spectacles valued at £3, the property of 1001399, Sgt. Howarth W. A.
More trouble followed when Miller went absent without leave for “1 day, 9 hours and 6 minutes” on 20th December.
Ten days later he was posted to No.52 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.) at Aston Down. On 1st February, Miller overshot the runway at Staverton, and his Spitfire Mk.I (AR239) ran into a bank on the boundary of the airfield. Luckily, he escaped uninjured. A month later, he was severely reprimanded for being drunk in the Sergeants’ mess when he was Duty pilot.
Course No.36, at No.57 O.T.U. Howarden (from 19/5/1942-21/7/1942) was Miller’s final preparation before joining an operational fighter squadron and he was graded as above average in most areas. However, his instructor’s final report sounds a note of caution:
A very keen N.C.O. who enjoys his flying and is above average as a pilot.He controls his aircraft well and it is anticipated that he will make a successful operational pilot. He is, however, inclined to alcoholism and under its influence becomes truculent, and must be watched to this effect.
Miller joined his first operational squadron, No.402, RCAF, on 21st July, 1942, at RAF Redhill, and didn’t have to wait long before taking to the air for ‘circuits and bumps’ in Spitfire Vb AR401, the following day. Local familiarisation flights, formation practice, one night flight and an air-to-ground firing exercise were packed into the following week before his first busy day of operational sorties on the 30th.
At 5.25am, Miller was scrambled for a convoy patrol with F/Lt. D. G. “Bud” Malloy and landed at Friston. By 11.45am they had re-joined the squadron for ‘Circus’ 200, escorting 6 Boston bombers to Abbeville, but no enemy aircraft or flak was encountered. The day ended with a cover ‘Ramrod’ (escort for a short-range bomber attack) from St. Omer. Throughout the day, Miller flew Spitfire Vb BM297.
On the evening of the following day, Miller took part in another ‘Ramrod.’ As they returned across the Channel, 15 enemy aircraft were reported behind them, so the Kenley Wing turned back, but there was no engagement as the opposition had turned south.
The usual routine was interrupted on 28th July when a captured Junkers Ju88 and Messerschmitt Me109 were brought to Redhill, creating, “quite an interest for all members of the squadron.”
August began with another uneventful ‘Ramrod’ and a few days of Air Firing practice at Martlesham Heath. However, Miller took part in three operational sorties on 19th August, as part of Operation Jubilee (the Dieppe Raid). 402 Squadron, led by ‘Norm’ Bretz had a bird’s eye view of the fires raging in the area as they flew high cover for a patrol of Dieppe at 5.20am, but didn’t encounter anything more than ‘light inaccurate flak.’
At 8.25am, Miller took off to patrol the Le Treport area with Sgt. McGraw, climbing to 26,000ft, and orbiting the area several times before heading home on instructions from the controller. Again they noted the large fires at Dieppe and a large number of “water craft.”
At 12.25pm, Bretz led his squadron once more to patrol the area, climbing to 15,000ft en route and arriving over Dieppe at 1.00pm. Through the hazy air, enemy aircraft were spotted 5000ft below and Bretz led the squadron down to attack. Five FW190’s were claimed as damaged and and five other pilots of 402 Squadron had combat but made no claims. Sadly, the Operations Book doesn’t record the names of these pilots, so we don’t know if Miller fired his guns on this sortie, his first encounter with the enemy.
The next couple of days passed with routine patrols until Miller’s final flight on 24th August, when S/Ldr. Watkins led 402 and 611 squadrons for Composite ‘Circus’ 208, escorting B-17 Flying Fortresses targeting the Ateliers et Chantiers Maritime de la Seine shipyards at Le Trait. Three of 611 Squadron’s aircraft couldn’t release their drop tanks and only made it ten miles into France. They orbited the area and waited for the ‘beehive’ to return. The bombers reached their target but most of their bombs were seen to fall into the river. 611 Squadron were flying at 28,000ft with 402 above them at 30,000ft when 12 FW190’s were spotted coming up from the west in pairs and threes 2000 ft below 402.
611 Squadron continued to cover the bombers as S/Ldr. Bretz dived to attack followed by his squadron. During the engagement over the Yvetot area, 402 lost height and were at 22,000ft when a further 40 FW190’s joined the melee. As the bombers and their escort were already well out to sea, 402 sought to return to England as best they could, but lost two pilots – Pilot Officer Gerald Peabody MacKay, last seen diving into the first attack, and Flight Sergeant Victor Howard Miller, last seen spinning down at 24,000ft over Bolbec. The rest of 402 made it back to England, one aircraft landed at West Malling, and two crash-landed, one at Ripe (pilot uninjured, possibly P/O Magee in Spitfire IX BS123) the other back at Kenley, (F/Lt. Bland wounded in Spitfire IX, BS198). F/Lt. Keltie was also wounded. However, Bretz and Bland both claimed an FW190 destroyed, P/O Keene and F/Lt. Compton claimed ‘probables’ – four other pilots claimed to have each damaged a FW190.
F/Sgt. Miller was laid to rest in St. Valery-En-Caux Franco-British Cemetery. Fears about his conduct appear to have been unfounded as there are no further entries on his conduct sheet during his time at 402 Squadron, or indeed No.57 O.T.U. He was 22 years old when he was killed in action, having flown 12 operational sorties in the five short weeks since he had joined his first and only operational Squadron.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.