Ernest Millington: Socialist MP who won the Distinguished Flying Cross

Ernest Millington, who died aged 93 on 9 May, was the last surviving Member of the 1935-45 House of Commons, which originally had a Conservative majority of 247. Probably its most untypical member, he was elected at a by-election in the previously safe Conservative constituency of Chelmsford on 26 April, 1945. A candidate of the left-wing Commonwealth Party, formed by Sir Richard Acland, he ignored the wartime electoral truce between the main political parties and, at 29 years of age, became the youngest MP at the time.

One of the sons of Edward Millington, a professional soldier and subsequently a printing worker, and his wife, Emily, Ernest Millington attended Chigwell Grammar school in Essex, a minor public school. Here he learnt Latin, Greek and French and read Plato and Voltaire which, together with his religious studies, gave him a left-wing outlook. This led him to join the Labour League of Youth, where he learnt to speak in public alongside another left-wing activist, Ted Willis, later the author of Dixon of Dock Green, etc. However, his political views offended his father and, at 16 years of age, he was thrown out of the family home. This forced him to leave school and seek employment to support himself. After re-establishing himself, despite losing a job because of his politics, he married Gwen Pickard and joined the Territorial Army to be ready to combat Fascism.

He was called up in 1939, sent for officer training and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. However, he volunteered to transfer to the RAF, trained as a pilot and joined Bomber Command, being assigned to fly Lancaster bombers. Of 125,000 members of Bomber Command aircrews during the Second World War, 60 per cent became casualties – most fatal – and only skill and good luck enabled him to survive. On one occasion, when his plane was hit and an engine caught fire, he put it into a steep dive which blew out the flames. On another occasion, two engines and the compass were knocked out in combat and he limped back, following another plane, miraculously managing to land his crippled aircraft with a punctured tyre.

At a conference of senior officers, he dared to speak out in criticism of proposals that attacking planes should fly in formation. Instead of being downgraded as an upstart, he was promoted within a month to the rank of Wing Commander.

When he was unexpectedly elected to the House of Commons, he was soon speaking out again. However, he was not universally popular and neighbours in his constituency, who accepted him as a Wing Commander, later cut him as a left-wing MP.

In the House of Commons, having sewn the Distinguished Flying Cross, which he had just been awarded, on to his uniform, he was approached by a Tory MP who had been a military police officer in the RAF with the rank of Squadron Leader, and informed that he was incorrectly dressed as his DFC ribbon was too wide.

"If you are talking to me as an RAF officer," Millington replied, "stand to attention, take your hand out of your trouser pocket and address a senior officer as 'sir'. If you are talking as a fellow Member of Parliament, mind your own business and bugger off." The Tory MP took the second option.

Millington admired John Strachey and Aneurin Bevan and made many friends in the House of Commons, to which he was re-elected in the 1945 General Election. As the sole representative of the Commonwealth Party, however, he was frustrated by the fact that there were no other party members to support him on any initiatives he wished to take. He generally supported the policies of the Labour Government and rejoined the Labour Party in 1948. He did not, however, enjoy being an MP with the many constituency responsibilities, and the task of supporting his wife and four daughters on a meagre Parliamentary salary of never more than £1,000 a year.

After losing his seat in the 1950 General Election, he found it difficult to obtain suitable alternative employment and decided to go back in the RAF as a flight lieutenant. However, he clearly made enemies – for example, by making known his dissident views on the Suez expedition – and, in 1958, he was court-martialled and dismissed from the service on charges of misapplying the proceeds of dances totalling £25. 2s. 3d., which he denied. It looked like victimisation.

After somehow surviving, with his family dependent on him, Millington trained as a teacher and served very successfully in posts at Shoreditch Comprehensive School and the Newham Teachers' Centre. His marriage suffered, however, and he was divorced in 1974. He later married Ivy Robinson, a fellow teacher, with whom he eventually retired to Couze in the Dordogne, France.

In 2006 he published his autobiography, Was that really me? He retained his socialist views to the end, though very critical of New Labour. He is survived by his second wife, Ivy, four daughters, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Stan Newens

Ernest Millington, bomber pilot, MP and teacher; born London 15 February, 1916; married 1937 Gwen Pickard (four daughters, marriage dissolved 1974); married 1983 Ivy Robinson; died Couze, France 9 May 2009.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice