Interview with Robert Miller


Interview with Robert Miller


Flying Officer Robert Miller was born in Australia and was training to be a chemist before he volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force. He flew 42 operations as a navigator with Bomber Command.




Temporal Coverage




01:08:58 audio recording


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EG: Ok, so that’s sort of put that down to record. Uhm, ok, so I guess we’ll start with what is your full name?
RBM: Robert Bruce Miller.
EG: Robert Bruce Miller. And you, what, uhm, Squadron, rank and crew position were you?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: Squadron, rank and crew position.
RBM: My final ranking was flying officer.
EG: Yup. And what, uhm, what does that mean for people that might not know?
RBM: That, well, it’s just a rank in the Air Force.
EG: Ok. And your crew position?
RBM: I was navigator.
EG: Navigator. And what does a navigator do in a?
RBM: He tells the pilot which way to go [laughs].
EG: Yeah. And what was the date you enlisted?
RBM: I enlisted, 20th of June 1942.
EG: 1942. And your, and where did you enlist?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: What was your hometown and where did you enlist?
RBM: North Strathfield.
EG: North Strathfield? That’s really close, uhm, where, I’m from Concord.
RBM: Oh, are you?
EG: Yeah!
RBM: Whereabouts?
EG: Uhm, Flavelle Street.
RBM: Alright.
EG: Yeah, mum and dad have lived in Flavelle Street for forty years.
RBM: Oh, my wife came from that area.
EG: Ah!
RBM: Area, Corby Avenue.
EG: Oh cool!
RBM: Which is off the extension of Burwood Road.
EG: Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah, I know. That’s cool. And then, uhm, and we’ve, I grew up there, I went to school at St Mary’s Concord, so just [unclear] in North Strathfield. Yeah, ah, cool! And what school did you go to?
RBM: Sydney Tech High.
EG: Sydney Tech High. And what, were you working before you enlisted or?
RBM: Yes [laughs] I was a trainee chemist.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: At Balm Paints. Which used to be at Cabaritta.
EG: How cool, how cool! And then, did you continue after as a chemist after the war or?
RBM: No. I started off at the university studying engineering.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: But decided to give that up in the second year. I couldn’t really settle down.
EG: And so what did you do after engineering?
RBM: Oh, I did all sorts of things, not odd jobs but my, made me earn a living varied and
EG: Yeah.
RBM: The, uhm, lass that I first took out when I was working at Balm Paints before I enlisted. We sort of became unofficially engaged before I went away and so we were married on Australia day 1946.
EG: Oh, wow! And, what was your wife’s name?
RBM: Pardon?
EG: What was your wife’s name?
RBM: Joyce.
EG: Joyce.
RBM: We seemed to get to know one another better through correspondence over three years than we did when we first started going out [laughs].
EG: Yeah. And how did you meet?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: And how did you meet Joyce?
RBM: I, she was the secretary to the chemist.
EG: Ah, ok.
RBM: At the laboratory and one of the fellows I worked with, I said, I need to find a girl to take to a dance. He said, next Saturday night, he said, I bet you two shillings you’re not game to ask Joyce. I said, what, I couldn’t afford to lose two shillings [laughs]
EG: Ah. [laughs]
RBM: That’s how it started.
EG: And how long were you married for?
RBM: Pardon?
EG: How long were you married?
RBM: Oh, until, Joyce, I can’t remember the date. [pauses] I’d have to look it up.
EG: Oh no, It’s ok, oh, that’s.
RBM: We moved, first moved here in 1999, on Armistice Day 1999.
EG: To, just here.
RBM: To Lutanda, we moved to a villa up there, and until Joyce had to go into a nursing home.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And then I moved in here.
EG: Ok. Uhm, yeah, I actually went to, ended up going to school, I know this area quite well because I went to Barker on my last year so I had quite a few friends that lived around here. Yeah, so that’s how I know this area. That’s, and so, did you write to each other often?
RBM: On a fairly regular base, we had the usual letter numbering system that, you know, so we knew if we missed the other or if we got more than one which one to read first.
EG: Oh really, I, yeah, I’ve never heard of that before. I try and write letters to my friends overseas but it’s, you know, with email now you can get a bit lazy kind of so we don’t really send as much as I used to. Uhm, but that’s, and did you keep all the letters?
RBM: No.
EG: No, you didn’t? Did Joyce keep hers?
RBM: No.
EG: Oh wow, that would have been.
RBM: You know, well, my son-in-law’s father was also in the Air Force and he, and the lady that became his wife, both kept the letters all the way through and they were using a diary that was written by their son-in-law.
EG: And did, oh, that’s, yeah, no, that would have been cool to have seen.
RBM: Can’t hear what you’re saying.
EG: That would have been cool to have seen.
RBM: Oh yeah, yeah.
EG: Yeah. Oh, so nice. And, did Joyce continue on as a secretary of, like, you know, is that what she kind of did as her career, you know?
RBM: Yes, she was a secretary yeah. [coughs] That was the days still following on from the Depression, so, she only went as far as intermediate in high school and took on secretarial work.
EG: Yeah, cool. And, so what made you choose to enlist and go to Bomber Command, what was?
RBM: Well, I didn’t have any choice where I went.
EG: Oh, really?
RBM: But I joined the air training corps and with that you, your parents agreed that you go into the Air Force as soon as you turned eighteen because if you wanted to go into aircrew normally you went on a waiting list and you waited a long time before you could get in and so I went into the Air Force on the 20th of June 1942 and I got back to Sydney exactly three years later.
EG: Oh my Gosh! And so were you eighteen?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: How old were you when you enlisted?
RBM: Eighteen.
EG: Eighteen, Oh my Gosh, so young! Wow, I just, blows me away, when you think, that’s so young.
RBM: Well, you know, I guess it was a different time to make decisions.
EG: Mh, and where did you train when you enlisted?
RBM: Ehm, well [clears throat] excuse me.
EG: That’s cool.
RBM: Well, as soon as you enlisted, you went in what was called an initial training school and they were in various places but there was one at Bradfield.
US: Morning boss. I’m sorry to interrupt.
RBM: Alright.
US: Can I just test your emergency alarms?
RBM: You can do what you like, so long as you don’t ruin it.
US: I won’t ruin it. Sorry.
EG: That’s ok. So, Bradfield was the training.
RBM: Bradfield, yes.
EG: Bradfield. Let’s wait until.
RBM: And they decided, as I already had training and testing there what they would recommend that you do next as far as you training is concerned,
EG: Yeah.
RBM: You could be a wireless operator or a gunner or what they used to call an observer in those days. Or a pilot and there was no such thing as a bomb aimer initially but and initially I was graded to become a pilot and one day the round us all up and said, well, there’s a group going to Canada to train as navigators and we’re short of some people to fill the gap, any, any of you possible pilots have agreed to become navigators, you’re guaranteed to be all to go to Canada to train [unclear] in Australia so me mate and I said let’s go to Canada [laughs]
EG: Wow!
RBM: Where I would be if I hadn’t done that I don’t know.
EG: And what training like in Canada?
US: Sorry, are you doing an interview?
EG: Yeah.
US: So sorry.
EG: That’s ok.
US: You know, I’m painting around your neck.
RBM: Yeah, [unclear]
US: Can you just press that for me. Sorry to interrupt.
EG: Oh, no, no, that’s fine.
RBM: [unclear]
US: You lots of people accidentally pressing up against something and they go off. We’re checking everyone’s in the whole village in their alarm system at the moment.
RBM: disappeared.
US: So sorry.
EG: No, no, that’s fine.
US: [unclear] sorry as long as it works. Ok, that’s fine. Continue and I’ll cancel this off
EG: [unclear]
RBM: That’s to make sure I’m not dead.
EG: [laughs] and yeah, no, what was Canada like?
RBM: Well, have you ever been down to the snow?
EG: I have not, no.
RBM: Well, if you get to Canada through a winter in Winnipeg,
EG: Yeah, oh Gosh!
RBM: Which is right in the middle of Canada, you’ll understand what snow is like. Because that’s what happened, we left here in, oh, we actually we went to Brisbane and then we left from Brisbane in October and sailed to San Francisco and then took the train up to Vancouver and then across,
EG: Wow!
RBM: To our first location in Canada and then from there moved us on to where we were gonna train. So, I was sent to the navigation school in Winnipeg and along with about half a dozen others. So, we spent a winter there [laughs].
EG: I would have been [unclear] Was that the first time you’d ever been overseas before?
RBM: Pardon?
EG: Was that the first time you’d been overseas before?
RBM: Oh yeah.
EG: Yeah. So would have been
RBM: Nobody travelled overseas in those days.
EG: No, so, yeah, it would’ve definitely been, the cold would have been very different. [laughs]
RBM: Well, you, you had to wear earmuffs,
EG: Yeah?
RBM: You had a cap, that actually folded down, yeah, it was folded down but that didn’t really protect your ears so you put earmuffs over them and they were good except when you walked into a shop which were always heated inside, all of a sudden your ears started to burn, you know.
EG: Uhm, and so, how long were you in Canada for training?
RBM: Until, oh, [pauses] I can’t remember the exact date.
EG: Oh, that’s ok, just, was it a few months or?
RBM: Oh yeah, we were there good six months.
EG: Six months?
RBM: Yeah, it was springtime when we left.
EG: And you mentioned your friend. What was your friend’s name, who went to training?
RBM: Dick Eastway.
EG: Dick Eastway.
RBM: But he actually became a bomb aimer.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: That was the time when they deported potential observers up into the two because the bomber areas were getting larger.
EG: And, I think it’s coming up like uhm, oh yeah, so, I find this fascinating like cause I’ve heard a few stories about how people crewed up and did you like, you know, how did you, once you had finished your training, where did you go and how did you find your crew?
RBM: Oh, that’s a long way ahead.
EG: Yeah?
RBM: Oh yeah, because after we trained in Canada,
EG: Yeah?
RBM: We sailed across to England,
EG: Yeah?
RBM: And we were lucky we got on the Queen Elisabeth to sail and the danger of getting caught by submarines was much less because I just opened the tabs and went straight out, you know? And zigzagged all the way across the Atlantic and we landed in Scotland and they took us down to Brighton, on the south coast of England, which was so the central depot that they collected them all together before we got posted to various other places. And while we were there, the place got very badly bombed by
EG: So this was when you were in Brighton?
RBM: Bombed by fighter bombers.
EG: In Brighton was bombed?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: It was this Brighton that was bombed?
RBM: In Brighton, yeah. And while we were there, they had us accommodated in usually old hotels or boarding houses or something like that. And some of them got hit, lot of people got killed and we were lucky, it was a Sunday and we decided, we’d go, catch a bus and go out of Bournemouth to a country pub, which we did and it wasn’t until we came back that we discovered that there had been an air raid.
EG: Ah, oh wow.
RBM: And [laughs] some of them, when the air raid sounded, they were in a pub so they went down into the cellar and didn’t get dug out for several days.
EG: Oh no.
RBM: They [unclear] a lot of beer [laughs].
EG: I was gonna say, [unclear] [laughs]. And so I guess, uhm, what was the kind of feeling of everyone if that’s, kind of, it was so intense, what was happening and?
RBM: Something that happened, you know. You didn’t worry about it.
EG: And,
RBM: And because of all the damage that happened there, they sent a group of us off to a small aerodrome that was what was known as an EFTS, Elementary Flying Training School for pilots and they sent a group of pilots and a group of navigators to this little aerodrome and lined us all up and they said, well, you can decide who you wanna fly with and you can take one of those Tiger Moths and you can cruise around and the pilot can practice flying and you can practice map-reading and finding out where you are and all the rest of it. Which was in beautiful early summer weather in England, was lovely and we were able to, we would fly over, you know, Wales and places like that, you know. And that’s the first time I came across that, eh, place in Wales that’s got the name about that long that nobody can pronounce.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And we saw the railway station when we were flying around.
EG: Wow! And, did you make, like, any good friends with any of the English and Canadian?
RBM: I never ever met them again. Actually it was interesting, ehm, the first pilot I flew with at that time, he continued and became pilot in Bomber Command and he finished up as the governor of New South Wales.
EG: Oh wow!
RBM: Yeah [laughs] anyway it’s a long story, but, and while we were there, they moved the location of where they were storing people from Bournemouth over to Brighton, which is sort of directly south of London.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And that was much better because it was more open and bigger seafront and all sorts of things. So, we were stuck there for quite a time.
EG: And it was by the place that ended up, that wasn’t the one that got bombed when you were out of the country pub?
RBM: That was, sorry?
EG: Where was the location, sorry, that got bombed when you were at the country pub?
RBM: That was Bournemouth.
EG: OH, ok, I got it down. And then you went, and [pauses], so, when you enlisted and kind of was going through all the training for Bomber Command, did you, were you aware of the high casualty rates, was that something that was?
RBM: Oh, the, yeah, you were aware that I can’t think what was published in the paper now, but, yeah, you know, you knew what happened there. But we had to go for further training after we were at Bournemouth and they sent us up to Scotland and. We did our training there and, I can’t figure the name of that place, it was near where Robbie Burns was born.
EG: Robbie Burns.
RBM: Anyway, and from there, they sent us down to, oh, names, names, names, [pauses]. My memory is not all that good.
EG: Is it?
RBM: West Freugh, a place in Scotland. I can’t [unclear] the name but there,
EG: Yeah.
RBM: It was number 10 Operational Training Unit.
EG: And, so,
RBM: And that was where you formed the crew you’re gonna fly with.
EG: Oh yeah.
RBM: They let that all the pilots and navigators and gunners and everybody else and so on congregated them and used, the pilot first of all go and round talking to people and he gradually formed the group and that became the group you flew with and the pilot I flew with I happened to meet our bomb aimer. One day walking around at the station and they approached me and I was, I’d liked to become the navigator and they seemed reasonable people so I said, yeah.
EG: And were English or Canadian?
RBM: The pilot was an Australian.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And the bomb aimer was a Rhodesian.
EG: Rhodesian.
RBM: But then the rest of the crew were all English.
EG: And, how did you, once you kind of had your crew together, what was your first operation?
RBM: Well, that was still part of the training, we were, it was called an Operational Training Unit and [shuffles through pages] while we were there, we were flying in an aircraft called a Whitley, which you might never have heard of.
EG: No. What, uhm, what is a Whitley?
RBM: A Whitley is a twin-engine plane that was very old and it used to fly almost with the nose down because of the shape of the thing and it, [pauses] it was rather a strange aircraft to fly, and actually you had to be extremely careful that you didn’t smoke on board the aircraft because, the pilot was there, and I sat behind him and just up there was a feeding system for petrol to the two engines so if you happened to light a cigarette
EG: Oh my god.
RBM: the plane was just as likely go up.
EG: Was that common that, did people smoke a lot in, when you are flying?
RBM: People di smoke sometimes, yeah.
EG: Oh my goodness! It’s hard to.
RBM: Not a good habit when you are in the air.
EG: No. [laughs] And, so,
RBM: And then, after we finished training there, we went to what was called a conversion unit which meant you converted onto the type of aircraft that you would fly from a Squadron.
EG: And, what, uhm, what type did you?
RBM: And that, that was a place West of York and we got onto a Halifax aircraft.
EG: Halifax.
RBM: That was called a conversion unit because you were converting to the type of the plane to the type which you would fly on operations. And they, they were usually aircraft that had already been on operations, were getting a bit old. You were lucky if you managed to keep the thing in the air until you finished your training.
EG: Oh Gosh!
RBM: And anyway there quite a number of accidents, planes that didn’t perform correctly.
EG: And did people get killed during training?
RBM: A lot of people were killed in training.
EG: Uhm, and so I guess, cause I can’t imagine how you would feel, but you know ahead of your first operation in, you know, with lots of people being killed in training and knowing that it had such a high casualty rate like, how did you feel? You just.
RBM: That’s something you accepted was gonna happen but we, we got moved, actually we were at that unit for quite a long time over Christmas because it was an extremely bad winter and they couldn’t do a lot of training and we didn’t get to the Squadron until April in the next year. And the Halifaxes we flew in that kind of training unit were, of old design and do you know the difference between the inline engine and a radial engine?
EG: No.
RBM: Well, you know, some aircraft engines have a thing right there in the front, round, that’s a radial engine.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And inline engines are sort of, the cylinders on the Spitfire or Lancaster.
EG: Ok.
RBM: Well assuming there is one behind the other, but they changed the design of the Halifax put the radial engines in and they also changed the design of the fin. I’ll show you. Come over here.
EG: Yeah. Oh wow!
RBM: I can’t move it, it’s stuck down.
EG: I know.
RBM: But that, that’s a radial engine.
EG: That’s so cool.
RBM: And that’s the fin which had rotors that moved around that but the difference between that and the other ones, the earlier ones was, they were sort of diamond shaped and if you got banked too steep, you lost the entire of the aircraft. So they, they were much, much better.
EG: Wow, that’s very cool.
RBM: And I’ve had that since 1946, or something.
EG: Wow!
RBM: That was made by, a wireless operator, gave it to me just before I left England.
EG: He made that?
RBM: Yeah.
EG: Wow! That’s so cool. And what was his name?
RBM: Harry Johnson.
EG: Harry Johnson.
RBM: Actually he did. He was a chap I got to know very well because all the other crew had family to go to all close friends and the pilot had an association with the lass he finally married over there.
EG: Yeah? [laughs]
RBM: And the, the wireless operator sort of took me under his wing and we used to go home to where he lived, in Stoke-on-Trent,
EG: Yeah?
RBM: And stayed with a relative of his wife’s, people who, it became a second home to me in England.
EG: Oh.
RBM: I can just turn up there any time. Quite interesting.
EG: These, that’s a lovely photo, these are great photos.
RBM: Oh, that was taken after they gave us this new medal.
EG: And whose wedding is this?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: Who’s this at the bride?
RBM: That’s my mother.
EG: She is very beautiful.
RBM: And that’s my wife’s mother and that’s her parents there. And those are our two children.
EG: Wow!
RBM: There’s another one of my mother. And that’s my grandmother and me.
EG: Oh wow!
RBM: When I was about three. [laughs]
EG: That’s, they are great photos. I love her wedding outfit, it’s so beautiful.
RBM: Oh good, I have a whole stack in there.
EG: I’ll have to take a few photos. I’ll definitely take a photo of all this stuff.
RBM: Pardon?
EG: Once I’ve finished recording I’ll take a photo on my phone of.
RBM: Ok.
EG: All this stuff, cause mum will love it. Make sure it’s still recording. Yeah, is still going, and so, next one is, were you ever a prisoner of war?
RBM: No.
EG: No? It’s good [laughs] I know. Uhm, and
RBM: We survived.
EG: I, yeah it’s, I can’t imagine. And are you able to describe, uhm, the WAAFs, the ground crew and other aircrew you encountered in the Bomber Command?
RBM: The ground crew were excellent.
EG: Yeah?
RBM: And you and a lot of the aircraft, actually when we first started, we’d get put on an aircraft in various locations because I guess they were getting used to us, to see how good we were and but eventually we were, allocated our own aircraft and the place where it was parked so we had ground crew that were there all the time were there and we got to know them very very well, they were sort of part of the family. You didn’t do anything to upset them and you didn’t do anything that they told you not to do. Just to make sure that everything was alright.
EG: And, how many people in a ground crew?
RBM: Oh Gosh, I’ll probably show you a photo.
EG: Yeah, I’m definitely keen to go through the photos.
RBM: No, not in that, no.
EG: And what were the WAAFs kind of, like what were their role, how did they kind of fit into everything?
RBM: they did
EG: The WAAFs, the women.
RBM: Oh! They did everything, you know, they worked on aircraft,
EG: Wow!
RBM: They drove trucks, they made parachutes, they served food in the mess, they organised transport systems. You know, name it and they did it, and oh, and they organised, they operating with the stations and control towers and aerodromes, were very handy people [laughs].
EG: And was it like did everyone, what was the kind of atmosphere like, did everyone get along or?
RBM: Oh, everybody pulled along together, yeah.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: You know, that was your home and that was the Squadron you belonged to and you wanted that Squadron to have a good name so people didn’t muck up, occasionally there were problems but nothing really.
EG: And, sorry I didn’t ask you this earlier, did you have any brothers or sisters or have any brothers or sisters?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: Do you have brothers or sisters?
RBM: Ehm?
EG: Brothers or sisters?
RBM: Not anymore.
EG: Not anymore?
RBM: I had two sisters and a brother.
EG: And did your brother enlist as well?
RBM: No, he was older than me and he was just finishing a university degree when I went into the Air Force and he actually graduated when I was in Canada. And he worked in civil aviation after he came out of the university and got involved in building the Mosquito aircraft.
EG: Wow!
RBM: He, they were balsa ones that were super things except one crashed in Sydney
EG: Oh!
RBM: crashed somewhere near Petersham.
EG: Oh, I’ve never heard of that! Sorry.
RBM: Not widely publicised.
EG: Oh wow! Uhm, and what were the living conditions like on the airfields and how was the?
RBM: Pardon?
EG: How were the living conditions and I guess we kind of touched on this before, but how was the kind of social, like, how did you get along socially and did you?
RBM: Hey were, yeah, we had a Sergeants Mess, and we could turn up there anytime we wanted to and you could, you’d buy a beer or coffee or all sorts of things you wanted there and that’s where the Mess where you ate your meals and the service were pretty good for that and
EG: Was that, this is in England?
RBM: Yeah.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And if you were going on an operation they served you a meal beforehand so you might have a meal in the middle of the night sometimes [laughs] and you’d go off on operation and then have another meal when you got back. And sometimes we’d be a daylight trip and sometimes it would be a night trip. Most of them were night trips for us.
EG: So how long would you be in the plane for, like an average in an operation?
RBM: Oh, four hours.
EG: Was it, it wasn’t very comfortable?
RBM: Oh well, there were no armchairs [laughs] but I, I’ll show you, the pilot was up there,
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And down below that, you see, there’s windows on the side.
EG: Oh yeah.
RBM: Well, the back ones were where the wireless operator was and the front ones where I was. And down here was where the bomb aimer was. And that’s where I sat and I had all my things and the screens that I looked at to navigate with there were. you know we went through a lot of training on navigation, of navigating by the stars and all sorts of things, which you couldn’t use in Bomber Command because you know you need to be able to fly straight and steady for quite a long time to do it properly and it took too long to work out all the things, you know so, if you can look underneath and see the things sticking out underneath.
EG: Yeah, yeah.
RBM: That’s a radar, electronic thing that scanned around and after that was developed they had maps that had the shapes of all the cities in Europe so you could read where you were in relation to that town.
EG: Wow!
RBM: And then you’d take another one relation, another town and where there’s a line across that’s where you were. There was a major change to navigation, made things a lot easier. But there was two, the ones at the, uhm, names. There was, they usually followed what they called the master bomber, when you got to the target, the master bomber would have arranged for what were called the Pathfinders to drop flares over the target and he would tell you to bomb that covered flare or that covered flare or whatever. And then you, when you flew over the aircraft, dropped your bombs, you had to leave the bomb doors open for a full minute so that the camera could take a picture of where your bombs dropped and then you closed that up and manoeuvred the aircraft to go straight and level which was a bit entertaining when they were throwing things up at you.
EG: Ok, and so we’ve already asked what type of aircraft, the Halifax, what was, uh, and you kind of touched on this I guess already but what was the best feature and the worst feature of the plane in your opinion?
RBM: Well, the best feature of the plane that was a more modern version of an earlier model and compared to the Lancaster it was a much more accessible plane inside. You could walk up and down the plane without any trouble at all. One of the problems with the Lancaster is that they had a beam across where the wings were and you had to climb over that, which was not all that easy.
EG: And, do you have any particular, on your operations, does any particular incident or like uhm, when something happened that sticks out in your mind?
RBM: [laughs] Well, a lot of things happened but we were going off one night and lined up and started roughly on the runway and just as we were about to get airborne the plane and went like that and we did the trip and came back again and the pilot called up the aerodrome and said he thinks something happened to the starboard wheel and they said, yeah, we have the tyre here, we actually blew a tyre just before we took off. Had it happened a minute earlier, something like that [whistles]
EG: Oh my god!
RBM: And we were taking off over the bomb dump at the aerodrome at that time it would have been a hell of a mess. So we had to go to one of these emergency dromes that they had. There were a number of emergency [unclear] that were set up so that almost any aircraft could land in various spots there and they sent us off to that and the pilot put it down, and he put it down on one wheel and then finally let the other down and there was no damage to the tyre.
EG: Oh my goodness!
RBM: Amazing!! Or damage to the wheel or something
EG: Should be in a movie or something.
RBM; But there were all sorts of things that happened there. Like when we were flying round in the Whitleys on training, they sent us off one night to do cross country and that meant flying up to Scotland and all the way around the place and when we got there it was nine tenth cloud, so you had no chance to take star photographs or get any idea of where you were and the one thing you could have, the aircraft had what was called a loop aerial and then the wireless operator could line that up with certain radio stations and you could get a position by lining those up and finally we got back to where I figured the aerodrome was and the pilot called them up and couldn’t get an answer. So we decided we’d try and get down a bit lower in case and hoped the cloud had disappeared somewhere and just and he sent the bomb aimer up into the nose of the aircraft and this aircraft had the front, you can imagine two windows, one like that and one like that and out of the, in front of the aircraft and as we were doing this, all of a sudden the wireless operator jelled at the pilot to go up and we hit the top of that tree, which was an old pine tree it turned out and as soon as that happened the pilot sent out what was known as a Mayday call and an SOS and finally an aerodrome answered us and we and they lit their runway up and we managed to land there. And so it happened that the pilot was so confused about what was happening. he landed downwind instead of upwind and so, we got out of it alright but the next morning we went out to look at the aircraft
EG: Oh no.
RBM: And those aircraft had an air intake just underneath the propeller and there were pieces of oak tree in there
EG: Oh no!
RBM: I still got a piece somewhere.
EG: Oh!
RBM: We, that was another lucky thing.
EG: Yeah, you were lucky!
RBM: But the bomb aimer got Plexiglas in his eyes and he had to go into hospital for a while but he didn’t get any permanent damage luckily.
EG: Oh wow! That’s and do you have any thoughts or views about the targets you flew to? So, did you find, did you think that any were too dangerous or, you know?
RBM: Oh, you knew what was dangerous because there’s an area called the Ruhr Valley and that’s where a lot major industry was in Germany, large armour steel plants and things like that, a whole lot of it. That was an extremely fortified area and you knew if you go in there, it was going to be a bit touchy you know.
EG: And did you have operations there?
RBM: Oh yeah, several times, yeah.
EG: How many operations did you do?
RBM: Forty two, forty three.
EG: Oh my goodness!
RBM: And the longest one we did was up to Wilhelmshaven, up in northern Germany. I can’t remember how long that was.
EG: And, so you, did you stay stationed in England the whole time or?
RBM: Yeah, yeah, we were there and after we finished our tour of operations they called it, which varied, it started off if you did thirty operations in Bomber Command you went on leave and then the targets got a bit shortened particularly after the invasion and so we had shorter trips but they extended the number so that’s why we went up to forty two or something like that.
EG: And did you know when your last mission, did you know it was your last operation?
RBM: Yeah, because of the number.
EG: Ah, and so, how was the feeling on the last operation?
RBM: I was happy to just put it down again [laughs]. But it was actually only a fairly short trip.
EG: And did you, uhm, as soon as you finished that did you go, head back to Australia?
RBM: Ehm well, we went on leave for a while and then we got posted to a training station and you became somebody that helped train the ones that were coming on, so I went down to one near Nottingham and stayed there for long.
EG: What was it like training people?
RBM: Oh, ok, it was entirely different training to what we did and they tended to have long lectures on things which was a bit boring but there were special gear to help people. You learned to use this H2S thing, so I spent most of the time training people on the use of that and you know, that, I didn’t do a great deal of flying there and then I got moved from there over to another smaller place that name which I can’t remember, but I presume the smallest county in England, and then I got sent back to Bournemouth and waited there till they sent me home. And actually we sailed out of Liverpool and they sent us up on a train at night but we got out and next morning we were in trucks going down to the wharf and all the people were out in the streets of Liverpool banging things and yelling out and making a cheerful noise. Peace had been declared.
EG: Oh wow!
RBM: So, really I sailed from Britain the day peace had been declared.
EG: That would been amazing.
RBM: Yeah. And you weren’t allowed to drink alcohol on the boats that carried the personnel but that morning they said you can have a small bottle of beer; it was very early in the morning and a friend and I were just enjoying standing at the railway. He was a very keen beer drinker and he was enjoying a morning beer and I took one sip and I said, no, I don’t like that, and I dropped that over the side and he never forgave me [laughs].
EG: [laughs] And, yeah, what was it, what was it like, when you arrived home, I guess? It was, how would you?
RBM: Oh, actually we, we sailed into Sydney harbour at night and in those days they had that boom across to stop anything unwelcome drifting up the harbour so we parked just inside the heads and got up next morning to a lovely sunny day and there was Sydney harbour.
EG: it’s the most beautiful place in the world.
RBM: And they, they parked us up at Circular Quay, put us on buses and took us back to Bradfield and they had advised the families that you were coming in. So, actually my father got that message after he got to work on whatever day it was and because we didn’t have a phone at home and so he rang my fiancée Joyce and she was in the AAMWS, Medical Women’s Army Service but she had been put on a few days off and living at home, so he managed to contact her there, so he and then pick her up and she came over to Bradfield as I was saying, so Mum and Dad and Joyce, all they did greet me when they lined us up.
EG: That was a pretty amazing moment.
RBM: Yes.
EG: Oh Wow! And I guess, this is kind of a tough question but what do you recall about, kind of the aircrew losses and what effects did those losses have on you and other people in the Squadron?
RBM: You, they didn’t publicise it on the Squadron, you did had, might happen to find out, so and so went missing, you know, and unless you happened to be on operation, in the operation room sometimes and then you’d find a list of all the people that had been on the ops and some had been ticked off and some might have a line drawn through them, doesn’t always mean they were killed but they were certainly missing and I guess we were lucky.
EG: Oh my goodness! And so, how would you like the Bomber Command in kind of, like the kind of immense sacrifices that people in the Bomber Command made, how would you like that remembered and how would you like future generations to think about?
RBM: Well, aircraft and systems have changed a hundred percent since those times but there is no doubt, that Bomber Command had a major influence on the result of the war in Europe, because we were able to just flatten Germany industry and flatten their aircraft industry and by the time we were half way up to Germany, their number of fighter planes and things were minimal but they started to develop these rocket things that sent a rocket up over to London and landed in the middle of that sort of thing. If you wandered down the streets of London, you weren’t quite sure you whether you’re gonna hear something, [mimics the noise of a V1 rocket] and stop and you hoped it wouldn’t drop on you.
EG: Oh, my goodness!
RBM: Interesting.
EG: It’s, I lived in London for a year and it was just weird to think that it was ever that kind of thing happening.
RBM: But in that, to walk around London during that time, the number of streets that just were panelled off because of all the destruction around the place and then go and walk through the same place today, it’s entirely different.
EG: Yeah. I am, I’ve never done country side in England but I am going, one of my best friends from high school is getting married in Rugby this year, so, I’m going to head to Rugby in September, so.
RBM: In September?
EG: Yeah.
RBM: OH, won’t be too cold. No. [laughs]
EG: No. Thankfully. Yeah, I know I’m very looking forward to it. It’s just, it is kinda crazy like to think that there was a time that you experienced like, like how you experienced it. Yeah, it just, blows your mind [laughs]
RBM: Actually, our pilot wrote a diary or kept a diary while we were on the Squadron, of the operations that we were on and I didn’t find about this for quite a long time after the war and I persuaded him to let me have it and I said, I will write it up. So I put together a book, Fawkie’s Diary, that was his name, that was his name, Fawkner, and that was the emblem of the Squadron. It was a goose and I made that out of a Cyprus pine and cedar. I carved that from one from a swan and used that as the emblem. He got a DFC and I got quite a Croix de Guerre at that time and in that’s the whole story of all the operations we were on. And he, he’d written up a resume of his opinion of the people he’d got together, so he let me have that and I put it in there, his thoughts on all the people he was gonna fly with, you know.
EG: Did he have, any thoughts of you there?
RBM: Sorry?
EG: Was there some, like, you know, his thoughts on you?
RBM: Oh yeah.
EG: [laughs] Is it possible, could I borrow these to photocopy for?
RBM: No.
EG: No?
RBM: No.
EG: Ok. And again.
RBM: It’s still in existence down in Canberra now.
EG: Ok. I’ll get Mum to track it down.
RBM: A copy of this was given to Canberra.
EG: Ok, I’ll track that down. Fawkie’s war diary. Cause that looks amazing.
RBM: That’s all the trips we did and what I did was, there was a book published that listed all the Bomber Command trips and I took that information out about that particular raid and that, that was, might be down in Fawkie’s Diary and that was the results of the trip. I did that on all the trips and then there’s other bits and pieces there, some of the stuff in England about what was going on and all the rest of it. And that’s where they talked about the Halifaxes, these flying bomb sites and then I followed all up with a bit of history stuff, took a lot of putting together.
EG: It looks amazing.
RBM: A bit of work.
EG: Yeah.
RBM: And actually that’s the second edition. The first one I had, I can’t think when I actually published it but it was quite a long time before like, that carving there to get that photograph I had to go down to a camera specialist in Eastwood and organize him to take a photocopy, to take a colour picture of that and to print it in colour. And then, my brother lived at Eastwood and he had a computer and a printer, a very old sort of thing, so, everything I had typed up, we ran through his printer. And I just made seven copies of that and that went to each of the crew and the family stirred me into rewriting it and updating it and then I had copies made for all the families. And [unclear] one down there.
EG: Yeah, I know. We will definitely track that one down. And do you mind if I take a few, uhm, pictures of your logbook as well, just I’ll take a few. I’ll just stop this recording now.



Emily Guterres, “Interview with Robert Miller,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 18, 2024,

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