Meeting Reflections

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My Grandfather – a secret life – Brian Miller


Our February meeting was all about secrets – both professional and personal – when Brian Miller told us all about his Grandfather.  Well, I say he told us ALL, but that wasn’t strictly true, as will be revealed.


Brian’s Grandfather, Albert Reginald Miller, known by everyone as Bert, was born right at the end of the 19th century and joined the Royal Navy in 1914 at the start of WWI, as a telegraphist/radio operator.  He had a distinguished war career, including being involved in the Battle of Jutland for which he received a special medal.


He served in the Navy from 1914 to 1938 in various ships and with an exemplary service record.  However, in 1938 he was recruited by Richard Gambier-Parry as an honorary Captain in the British Army.  Gambier-Parry, it should be noted, went on to achieve the rank of Brigadier, to be knighted, to become director of the DWS (Diplomatic Wireless Service) and finally head of the forerunner of GCHQ.


Anyway, Bert was recruited to be part of a clandestine intelligence wireless network across Europe.  He was one of six men who took part in ‘Operation Tracer’, observing the patterns of shipping in the Mediterranean from a bunker in Gibraltar, which was meant to last a year.  However, these men had rations for seven years and were not expected to survive, but the operation was aborted.  It is also worth pointing out that despite the secrecy, Bert had regular visits form his wife who worked on a passenger ship that made regular visits to the Mediterranean!


In 1943, Bert went to Whaddon Hall, the home of Gambier-Parry’s network of Special Communication Units, to train wireless operators before they were sent overseas.  At this stage of his career, documents show that despite his army rank, he was ‘NPFAF’ – Not paid For from Army Funds – ie he was paid for by MI6.


The next interesting fact is that on the documents state that he was married in 1917, however his Marriage Certificate shows clearly that he was actually married in July 1946.  It turns out that he had a dalliance with a married woman which started in 1917, of which Brian’s father was the outcome.  Brian’s father grew up thinking that his father was his mother’s first husband and didn’t find out his true parentage until 1945, when he changed his name by Deed Poll.  Another secret!


After WWII, Bert joined Gambier-Parry at Hanslope Park (now GCHQ) where he worked until his retirement.  Although even then, he would spend long periods of time overseas, come home for a couple of months and go overseas again.  He was instrumental in setting up radio networks on Christmas Island and Easter Island amongst others.  In fact, after one trip, a large cream Alvis saloon arrived at his door – a present from an important Egyptian diplomat.


After his retirement, he spent his time playing golf and drinking whisky – funnily enough at establishments where Brigadier Gambier-Parry ran things!  He died in in 1973 and there is no doubt that he led a very interesting life.  Although Brian had to admit that there were large gaps in what he had been able to find out and even his uncle, who also worked for the DWS, refused to divulge any other secrets.


A fascinating evening……

                                                            Sue Harland