Miller William Lister, Flight Lieutenant (DFC)


millerWilliam "Dusty" Miller joined the RNZAF in July 1940, and was posted initially to Levin before a further posting to No. 1 EFTS at Taieri. Here he trained in the Tiger Moth, completing his first solo on the 5th September 1940. Next was a posting to RNZAF Station Wigram and the completion of advanced training on the obsolete Fairey Gordon. Dusty was posted to the United Kingdom on the 8th February 1941.


Joining the Awatea in Auckland he travelled via Suva to Vancouver and then by train to Debert in Nova Scotia. The final leg of his journey was from Halifax to Bristol on a Norwegian fruit boat. His first night was near London, and it was a night he would never forget. Overnight he survived one of the largest raids on London of the war. Over 711 tonnes of HE and 86,173 incendiaries were dropped from 507 aircraft.

Miller was then posted to Heston to join an Operational Training Unit, only to be told upon arrival that it was full, so was subsequently re-assigned to another and commenced flying Hurricanes on the 31st May 1941. Upon completion of this advanced flying course Dusty went to 132 Squadron at Peterhead and commenced his Spitfire conversion on the 20th July.

A further posting to No. 611 squadron at Hornchurch occurred on the 29th August and Miller undertook his first operational mission on the 27th September.

He continued flying operationally until a posting to 126 Squadron and Malta was received on the 24th February 1942. After receiving vaccinations and issued with tropical kit he sailed from Glasgow to Gibraltar where he joined HMS Eagle. On the 21st March, he and 15 other Spitfire pilots flew their aircraft off the carrier to Luqa on the besieged island of Malta. During the next four months Miller flew many sorties and survived frequent bombing raids. He damaged five Messerschmitt 109 and one day he flew the only operational Spitfire off the island to escape an incoming raid. Leaving at sea level, he climbed to 25,000ft once away from the island but then became the subject of enquiry from two Bf 109's who were escorting the raid. After flying around him in a wide circle they obviously felt outnumbered and left. Dusty left Malta on the 23rd July 1942, initially to Gibraltar and then to England. Upon arrival he discovered he had contracted jaundice and spent some time in hospital before returning to 55OTU, this time as an instructor.

In early August 1943 Dusty was posted to Swinderby and was tasked with flying a Spitfire to instruct RAF bomber crews how 'not to get shot down'. Whilst there he discovered, by mere chance, that he should have been posted to No. 486 (NZ) Squadron, but the CO had thrown the posting away so as to keep him there. After some wrangling with red tape, Miller found himself with 486 at Tangmere flying the Hawker Typhoon in early October.

Utilising the Typhoon in the ground attack role he flew many sorties to France. On one he and his CO, flying quite low, were both hit by anti-aircraft fire near Paris. Flames stretched over 100 yards behind the Typhoon but as Miller climbed in preparation to bail out, he found that the flames were extinguished. Nursing the damaged fighter back across the Channel he landed safely at Tangmere. His logbook records "hit by flak - landed at Tangmere".

In early 1944 the squadron shifted to the Hawker Tempest and in June commenced operations against the V-1 Flying Bomb from Newchurch on the Romney Marsh. Again Miller had a narrow escape. He was forced to bail out of his Tempest after being hit by friendly fire whilst chasing a V-1, but found he was trapped, half in / half out of the cockpit. He finally managed to extricate himself and his parachute opened just in time. His logbook records "Engine failed - bailed out near Horsmunden at 22.45 hrs". By the end of the V-1 campaign Dusty had destroyed 7.

In late September the squadron shifted to the continent, based initially at Grimbergen in Belgium and then at Volkel in Holland. Dusty's squadron utilised the Tempest in the ground attack and armed reconnaissance role. Here they suffered high losses to enemy flak.

miller 2

486 Sqn pilots, from left: Cornelius James (Jim) Sheddan, William Alan Liddell (Bill) Trott, Brian John O' Connor, Arthur Ernest (Spike) Umbers, John Edward (Johnny) Wood, Colin James McDonald and William Lister (Dusty) Miller.

 

On the 8th February 1945 Dusty was to find this out personally. Leading an attack on enemy shipping in the Dotmund-Ems Canal in northern Germany, he was hit by flak or material from the barge he'd just blown up. After nursing the plane back over the Dutch border, he was too low to bail out, so had to force-land his Tempest between canals. Taken in by a local family, he was hidden by them until liberated by the Canadians over two months later.

After liberation and his return to England, Dusty immediately went back to see his Dutch family. This time he arrived with a borrowed jeep from a base in Germany and, loaded with provisions, was able to repay them in a small way for their courage and sacrifice.

 

Miller's victories in Tempest

Date Type claimes Aircraft serial no. Claim location Unit
19 June 1944 V-1 SA-Z (JN811) 7m N Bexhill 486
22 June 1944 V-1 SA-T (JN794) 10m N Hastings 486
23 June 1944 V-1 SA-N (JN808) N Hastings 486
23 June 1944 V-1 SA-N (JN808) 7-8m N Pevensey Bay 486
27 June 1944 V-1 SA-Z (JN811) sea, 10m S Rye 486
27 June 1944 V-1 SA-Z (JN811) 4m S Paddock Wood 486
16 Aug 1944 V-1 SA-D (JN803) NW Tonbridge 486

 

Images from:
New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum.
Text sources:
New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum.
Aces High Vol.2 by Chrstopher Shores