Obituary: Maj-Gen David Miller

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The Independent Online
In the stress of battle one incident will sometimes reveal the character of the soldier. In Aden in 1967 just such an incident occurred, revealing much about the then Major David Miller.

On the morning of 20 June a rumour spread that four colonels of the South Arabian army had been arrested and dismissed. The South Arabian army rioted and fired off shots which were heard in a nearby Arab police barracks in Champion Lines, directly opposite Radsan Camp, which was occupied by British forces. The Arab police assumed that the British had opened fire on the South Arab army and started to fire indiscriminately across the road. A three-ton vehicle with 19 British soldiers on board, unaware of the shooting, passed between the two camps. The Arab police opened fire and nine soldiers were killed.

C Company of 1 King's Own Border Regiment, under Miller's command, was ordered by Lt-Col Mike Walsh (commanding officer of the 1st Parachute Battalion) to get into Champion Lines, restore order and protect the lives of the few British personnel serving with the Arab police. This was a tough task, for C Company had to cross 300 yards of open desert from the camp, in the face of fire, which they were unable to return. Casualties were a certainty.

At 10.45am C Company moved off and almost immediately the machine-gunner on the leading vehicle was shot dead and a further eight men wounded. Miller, regardless of the danger, pressed home the assault. Once in Champion Lines, his men quickly restored order without having to inflict casualties. Later Walsh was to write: "The restraint and discipline of that company was outstanding, and I believe also that both the police and army were deeply impressed by that action, for it did much to restore their respect for British troops." Miller was awarded a Military Cross.

David Miller was born in 1931 in Essex. After schooling in Loughton he went on to Sandhurst, from where he was commissioned into the Border Regiments in 1951 and served with them in Egypt. From 1953 to 1955 he trained National Servicemen at Carlisle Castle. In 1957 he was appointed to Special Intelligence duties in Berlin and in 1960 seconded to the Nigerian military forces. While there, he passed the examination for Staff College, Camberley, and after graduating became a Staff Officer (Training) at GHQ Far East Land Forces.

After attending the Joint Services Staff College in 1970, Miller took command of 1 King's Own Border Regiment for their resident tour of Northern Ireland. During Operation Motorman, the "No Go" areas of the Creggan in Londonderry meant little to 600 Cumbrian soldiers ably led by Miller. However, he did have a near miss when an IRA bomb exploded under his Land Rover.

Following this, he joined the directing staff of the National Defence College, then went on to the Ministry of Defence where he was responsible for monitoring Warsaw Pact activities by Nato and the British Army of the Rhine. In 1978 he returned to Northern Ireland to command the ever- expanding Ulster Defence Regiment. He led them well and was particularly supportive of the female members of the regiment, the "Green Finches".

From 1980 to 1983 Miller was Chief of Staff BAOR, and in 1984 was promoted Major-General and posted to the specialised and semi-diplomatic role of Chief of Staff and head of the UK delegation at Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe. He was Colonel of his beloved King's Own Border Regiment from 1981 to 1986, when he retired from the Army.

He lived thereafter in north Devon. At 55 with his background and understanding of men and women he was ideally suited to his new task of magistrate and was also on the board of prison visitors. He took an active role in two family businesses and held a part-time post in the French firm Gracemoor.

David Miller was a charismatic man and a fine and compassionate leader of men respected by all ranks. That short, fiercely contested 300-yard dash in Aden typified his qualities: inspired leadership, courage and commitment.

Max Arthur

David Edwin Miller, soldier: born 17 August 1931; OBE 1973, CBE 1980; CB 1986: married 1958 Mary Fisher (two sons); died 6 October 1996.