12th Indian Infantry Brigade, Royal Corps of Signals (British Army)
05/01/1945 (Prisoner of War)
Signalman David Millar was the son of Robert and Margaret Millar, Stewartstown, County Tyrone. David had been in service for a number of years prior to the war. He was posted to India in June 1939 and then to Malaya in January 1940 with the Royal Corps of Signals. David became a prisoner of war in 1942 in Singapore. Richard David Millar was executed along with other prisoners on 5th January 1945, aged 27.
Signalman David Millar was the son of Robert and Margaret Millar, Stewartstown, County Tyrone. He was born on 28th February 1917.
David had been in service for a number of years prior to the war. He joined up as a boy soldier at about 15 years old, and was later posted to Palestine, in May 1937 – February 1938. He was posted to India in June 1939 and then to Malaya in January 1940 with the Royal Corps of Signals.
In July 1940 he wrote the following letter to his mother dated 21st July 1940:-
"Dear Mother, Just a few lines to let you know, that I am still getting along quite well. I hope that everyone is keeping well at home now. I have been rather worried just lately as it is ages since I last had a letter from you. It takes the mail a terrible while getting here now since the regular airmail was stopped. To send a letter to England by airmail now, it costs over two dollars which is about five shillings and I am afraid that that is rather expensive for me. There has been quite a lot of changes in the war since the last time I wrote what with France signing an armistice with Germany and Italy declaring war. Still, there is no use getting down hearted as they shall never beat Britain. I have been rather worried lately about Bobby and Willie as I still have not had a letter from either of them. I don’t know their address otherwise I would write to them. How did you get the 12th of July over you, I suppose it was a lot quieter this year due to the war. I expect that most of my chums around Stewartstown have joined the army now since war was declared. How did Johnny Ferguson get on, did he join up at all, he was always very keen to join the Signals. Have you still got Iris and Pat living with you, I bet they are just about fed up with Stewartstown by now. Still, they will be a lot safer there than they would be in Scarborough. By the time that I get home Margaret and Pat will have grown so big that I won’t know either of them. I suppose they will have both forgotten all about me. Do you realise it is scarcely two years since I was home on leave but it does not seem half that time. Before I know where I am I will have finished my 8th and I hope that the war will be over by then. Still, I shall probably sign on in the army anyway as I don’t think I could settle down to civilian life now. Well, this is all I have to say just now, don’t forget to write by notion. With all my love, Davy."
The following letter was written by F.G. Lee, Okehampton, Devon after the war, F.G. Lee was a comrade in the Royal Corps of Signals and served with David in Malaya prior to them becoming Prisoners of war:-
"Dear Mrs. Millar, Forgive me for opening which may be old wounds but I am fulfilling a sacred promise made to your son Signalman R.D. Millar – Royal Signals. We have been buddies for years and were taken prisoners at Singapore in 1942. Up until approximately May 1944 we were together – but we were parted and he was sent to Labuan. Nothing was heard until we were relieved by the Australians in August 1945 when I was sent to their hospital at Labuan. After very extensive inquiries from every possible source it can be considered definitely that none was left as those who did not die were shot by the Japanese when the Australians arrived. Your son was very brave – took everything with a smile, and may God help you in your sorrow."
David’s brother William found the above letter while searching through papers in 1976. Wanting to find out more about his brother’s experiences he replied back to Mr. Lee. The following letter is Mr. Lee’s reply, dated Monday 16th February 1976:-
"Dear Sir, Ref: a letter written to me on 6th January 1976. What a surprise! – What memories revived! A lot of water has gone under the bridge my friend but I will try and do what you ask of me. I first met David who was known to all his friends as ‘Paddy’ at a place called Trimoqevy, Southern India in 1938 when the war clouds in England were gathering. A number of us were told do parade and being good soldiers David and I fell in the rear rank. The last rank they called Force Heron! And sent them too North Africa. The rear rank, called Force Emu! And were sent to Singapore and made up the signal unit for the 11th Indian Division which were sent to Penang on the outbreak of the Japanese war. Our life at Singapore until the Far Eastern war, was one of plenty, not a lot of work and plenty of time for sport, etc. Prices in the canteens were very cheap. Players No. 3 were 40 cents, (one Singapore dollar was 2/4d). Whisky 6 dollars, beer 20 cents. Fresh food was very cheap, we all paid one dollar a week and lived like fighting cocks. Then came the day of reckoning and off to Penang, and as you know we came down through Malaya like a dose of salts. Our 11th Division was cut off at a place in the jungle called ‘Slim River’ and after wandering around for weeks we eventually went in the bag and sent to Singapore. Things were not too bad to start with, it was a novelty and we did not until late realise what we were in for. Geneva Convention, and Red Cross, etc. We thought we would see that we were looked after, how wrong we were and it wasn’t long before we were sent out on working parties pinching food from anywhere we could and being beaten up for doing so! But doing the same the next chance because we were hungry. They then came around for volunteers – army style, “you, you, you, you, you !!!!” etc., to make an air strip in the jungle of Sarawak (part of Borneo). So off we went in the tank of a dirty little old oil tanker. Thank God that trip wasn’t too long, about a week and so to Kutching. From this base we were sent as a party of 150 men and 12 ‘Nips’. The work was hard but the Jap Officer in charge was really different. He had been forced back from America to fight under duress because of his family and relations in Japan, you know the sort of set up? Beatings were not allowed and a slapping party organised, etc, and life wasn’t too bad. Then of course trouble - malaria, tropical ulcers, and sceptic scabies, the lot and no medication. The Jap O.C. could not give us what he didn’t have. When we were down to about 20 men we went back to Kutching. Everything there was in a sorry state, skeletons walking around and then out of the blue we were sent to Labuan, a little island of the coast of Borneo. The Australians were advancing a bit and unknown to us Labuan was going to be their objective for a base camp. As they landed we were hounded down to the sea on the other side of the island and then the guards opened up with their machine guns. I was not in the near vicinity of David at this period. We were scattering everywhere trying to hide, etc. When they had finished with us they turned to go into the little jungle that there was but they could not hide either and were killed by the Aussies. David was among the ones I saw buried by the Australian Burial Party. A brave and fine man, a pal to me, we shared even our snails when we were fast enough to catch them and I am proud to have known him. Under the conditions we lived under everything was different but believe me, it did sort the men from the boys. Thank you for writing – God what memories you have stirred up. Sincerely Yours, F .G. Lee."
Richard David Millar was executed along with other prisoners on 5th January 1945, aged 27.
He is commemorated on Singapore Memorial, column 44.
He is also commemorated on Stewartstown Presbyterian Church Memorial Window, and Stewartstown Cenotaph.