Joe Miller was born in November 1914 the younger son of Albert and Amelia Miller who lived at 58 Orchard Street. Albert worked at the brewery and Amelia had been an Assistant Elementary School Teacher. Joe had an older brother Ted (Albert Edward) who was also at Blandford Secondary School and was a good ¼ miler according to a personal reminiscence on the Dorset OPC site:
Colin Kaile remembers him playing cricket at Shroton, ‘He was a joker with a dry sense of humour, when going up the hill up to Stourpaine he told Johnny New [father of Keith New] who was driving an old Riley, that the car was on fire. “He’s on fire John” – “No he isn’t Joe” – “He b… is”. Just a lot of smoke and a laugh of course.‘
Joe appears to have been quite a sportsman winning ‘Victor Ludorum’ at the June 1930 School Sports Day:
Joe, according to the 1939 Register was an Auctioneer’s Surveyor’s Clerk and joined the RAF before June 1940 as an F Class reservist. He trained as a Wireless Operator and was posted eventually to 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron so called as in December 1941, 129 of 490 ground crew were Rhodesian.
Flying in Lancasters Joe was part of an experienced crew having flown more than 30 missions over Europe. 44 Squadron had received its first Avro Lancaster, BT308, in late 1941 and became the first squadron to convert completely to Lancasters. Flying their first operational missions in the aircraft on 3 March 1942. Eventually 44 squadron suffered the third highest overall casualties of RAF Bomber Command.
Wing Commander P.W. Lynch-Blosse took command of 44 Squadron on the 8th May 1942. That night he led seven 44 Squadron Lancasters, part of a total force of 198 aircraft, on a raid on the Heinkel factory at Warnemunde. They found the target heavily defended with search lights and flak. Nineteen aircraft were lost on the raid, four from 44 Squadron, including the new CO.
8/9 May 1942 WARNEMUNDE
193 aircraft attacked the town and the nearby Heinkel aircraft factory.
- 98 Wellingtons,
- 27 Stirlings,
- 21 Lancasters,
- 19 Halifaxes,
- 19 Hampdens,
- 9 Manchesters
19 aircraft were lost:
- 8 Wellingtons,
- 4 Lancasters,
- 3 Hampdens,
- 2 Halifaxes,
- 1 Manchester,
- 1 Stirling
No details are available from Warnemunde but Bomber Command’s own records say ‘the attack was only moderately successful’.
The others in Joe’s crew of R5557 KM-G that night were:
741380 WO Peter Owen Jones (Pilot)
929941 Sgt Leonard Edward Evans (Co-Pilot) flying his first mission
924143 Sgt John Charles Drennan (Flight engineer)
J/7523 Plt Off Mado Henry Donald MacDonald RCAF (Navigator) who came from California
905398 Flt Sgt Patrick Herbert Harold Thirkell DFM (Air Bomber)
646924 Flt Sgt Charles Harry Ship (Air Gunner)
628559 Flt Sgt Arthur Herbert Bolus (Air Gunner)
As well as being commemorated on the Blandford School Memorial, Joe’s name appears on the Corn Market memorial as well as the Runnymede memorial for missing Aircrew.