12th Indian Infantry Brigade, Royal Corps of Signals (British Army)
Date Of Birth:
05/01/1945 (Prisoner of War)
David Millar was the third son of Robert and Margaret J Millar. He was born on 28th February 1917. He was one of at least three children, all born in the Stewartstown area. David joined up as a boy soldier at about 15 years old. He was posted to India in June 1939 and then to Malaya in January 1940 with the Royal Corps of Signals. He was captured by the Japanese and was shot by the Japanese while a POW on 5th January 1945. He was 27 years old.
David Millar was the third son of Robert and Margaret J Millar. Robert Millar and Margaret Morgan were married on 27th October 1909 in the district of Cookstown.
The 1911 census shows a possible listing of the family living in Fermanagh. His father’s occupation is given as land steward.
David was born on 28th February 1917. He was one of at least three children, all born in the Stewartstown area.
Known family: Robert Millar, Margaret J Millar, Robert Millar (born 25th August 1910), William Millar (born 22nd July 1914), Richard David Millar (born 28th February 1917).
He was a well-known athlete, was famous as a boxer, high diver, and in long distance swimming.
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.
In November 1939, his mother laid a wreath at Stewartstown War Memorial. Three of her sons were serving in the army.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 25th November 1939: Remembrance Day – Stewartstown Presbyterian Church
Remembrance Day was observed in First Stewartstown Presbyterian Church on Sunday. Rev S Huston, who conducted the service, read the Roll of Honour, which was followed by the Two Minute’s Silence. The praise service and sermon were appropriate to the occasion. The wreath given bt the congregation was on view during the service, and subsequently laid at the Cenotaph by Mrs Miller, of Church Street, whose three sons are serving in the army. The offering was on behalf of the Earl Haig Fund.
Signalman Millar was then posted 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.'
He was 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.
In early 1942 (tbc) his unit set off to Penang, and came down through the Malayan jungle swiftly. His 11th Division was cut off at a place in the jungle called ‘Slim River’ and after some weeks he was captured by the Japanese and sent to Singapore.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 21st March 1942:
Mrs M Miller, of North Street, Stewartstown, has received notification that her son, Richard David Miller, serving in the Royal Corps of Signals at Singapore, is posted as missing. He was a well-known athlete, was famous as a boxer, high diver, and in long distance swimming. He had considerable service in Palestine and the Far East. He has two brothers serving in the Army and a cousin with the Royal Navy.
It wasn’t long before the prisoners were sent out on working parties and subjected to extremely poor treatment.
When the prisoner numbers were down to about 20 men, they were moved to Kutching. ‘Everything there was in a sorry state, skeletons walking around.
The prisoners were sent to Labuan, a little island of the coast of Borneo. The Australians advanced quickly.
When they landed the surviving prisoners were hounded down to the sea on the other side of the island and then the guards opened up with their machine guns.
Signalman Richard David Millar was serving with the Royal Corps of Signals, attached to the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade when he was killed as a prisoner of war on 5th January 1945. He was 27 years old.
When the Japanese had finished shooting, they fled into the small area of jungle on the island but they could not hide and were killed by the Australians.
After the war, the following letter was written by F G Lee, Okehampton, Devon. 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.’
In 1976, David’s brother William found the above letter. 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.’
Signalman Richard David Millar has no known grave and is commemorated on Singapore Memorial, column 44.
Signalman David Millar is also commemorated locally on Stewartstown Presbyterian Church Memorial Window and on Stewartstown Cenotaph.
The CWGC record Signalman Richard David Millar as the son of Robert and Margaret J Millar of Stewartstown, County Tyrone.