Rank: See “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION / RESEARCH NOTES: “
Regiment or Ship: See “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION / RESEARCH NOTES: “
Service Number(s): See “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION / RESEARCH NOTES: “
Occupation: Carter Boy on Farm
Date of Birth: 1885
Place of Birth: Chertsey, Surrey
Date of Death: See “FIRST WORLD WAR EXPERIENCE: “
Place of Death: See “FIRST WORLD WAR EXPERIENCE: “ Place of Burial / Memorials:
See “FIRST WORLD WAR EXPERIENCE: “
Address: “Horton’s Farm”, Northchapel, Sussex (1901 Census)
Photos and newspaper articles
Click on any image to see a larger version
Parents: John Herbert Miller, born 1862, Surrey, Chertsey & Alice Cosson, born 1860, in Chertsey, in 1881. It seems Alice died in 1896 and John Herbert then married a Louisa Ann Miller (née Morris – born 1871, in Wales) in 1898, in Chertsey.
Mary Ann Miller, daughter, born 1883, in Chertsey, Surrey.
Isaac John Miller, son, born 1886, in Chertsey, Surrey.
Jane Elizabeth Miller, daughter, born 1888, in Chertsey, Surrey.
Ethel Miller, daughter, born 1890, in Chertsey, Surrey.
Herbert F. Miller, son, born 1892, in Chertsey, Surrey.
Alice K. Miller, daughter, born 1896, in Chertsey, Surrey.
No record of any marriage has been found for William Miller.
First World War Experience
William Miller’s war experience is sketchy apart from the action at sea, in 1914, because of the lack of service documents. Please read the section on “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION / RESEARCH NOTES:”. The identity of William Miller is not actually certain, because he doesn’t appear on the casualty list for the “Good Hope” – it has been assumed that he is the son of John and Alice Miller because they did live in the village and had a son, William, of the right age.
THE ACTION AT SEA – THE BATTLE OF CORONEL
Sometime in August, 1914, news was received, by the British, that a fleet of German ships known as the “China Squadron” (a fleet that had originally patrolled the far Eastern Pacific, off China, until Japan entered the war on the Allies side) was now patrolling off the west coast of South America and the South Atlantic. This fleet now threatened all Allied shipping – cargo and troop ships, sailing from the East, from Australia, and New Zealand.
The German fleet, more modern and more powerful than anything the British had in the South Atlantic and the South Pacific, was commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee who also benefited from having more experienced and battle-hardened crews. The enemy fleet comprised five vessels – two armoured cruisers (the “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau”, both of which, for the past two years, had been winners of the German Navy’s top gunnery award) and three light cruisers.
The only British presence was “The West Indies Squadron”. which consisted of two old armoured cruisers (the “Good Hope” and the ”Monmouth”), a light cruiser (the “Glasgow”), and a converted passenger liner (the “Otranto”) commanded by Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock, who had made the “Good Hope” his flagship because she was faster than any of the others. But both the “Good Hope” and the “Monmouth” were manned almost totally by reservists, with ninety-per-cent of the crew of the “Good Hope” having had no real gunnery practice as they were reservists who had only just been called up. The “Good Hope”, because she was considered to be too outdated for frontline duty with the Grand Fleet, had been paid off in 1912 and put into reserve but had to be brought out when the war started.
The Squadron was to be based off the Falkland Islands but when Cradock was ordered to go out and find Grad Spee, he, being well aware that the fleet under his command was no match for the enemy ships, sent a message to the Admiralty asking for re-enforcements; the reply came that none was available (this was due to the need to keep German High Seas Fleet bottled up in its North Sea bases). However, the Admiralty decided to send two more old vessels to strengthen the fleet – “HMS Canopus” (an old battleship that had only recently been taken out of reserve and was crewed mainly by reservists and cadets who had virtually no war experience and never even fired the guns) and “HMS. Defence” (an armoured cruiser).
Cradock waited for these two ships but the “Defence” never turned up and the “Canopus” had had engine trouble and could sail at no more than 12 knots. Cradock decided that he could wait no longer and sailed around the Horn and up the coast toward the Chilean port of Coronel. His intention was to rendezvous with another ship, the “Glasgow” which had been sent there to gather intelligence.
On 31st October, Cradock received a signal that the “Leipzig” (the slowest cruiser in the enemy fleet) was in the area and he ordered his ships to cut it off. Unfortunately, instead of finding the “Leipzig” he found himself facing the full enemy fleet.
The British ships were disadvantaged because they were facing away from the setting sun as they attacked, and provided clear silhouettes for the German gunners, while the enemy ships, partly hidden in the gloom, were more difficult to see.
Both the “Good Hope” and the “Monmouth” were sunk with the loss of all hands (about 1,500) including Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock. It seems that no one saw the “Good Hope” sink, in the late evening of 1st November, but the Leipzig reported that when she sailed toward the burning glow of what it was thought had been the “Good Hope” only floating debris could be seen.
There is plenty of opportunity for further research as there are far more than just a few curiosities in this biography.
- The wording on the memorial is “William Miller, 1915 H.M.S. Good Hope”, yet the ship was, actually, sunk on 1st November 1914 and the local newspapers knew this by the second week in November. All newspapers, local and national, reported the disaster and published a long list of the dead, which they up-dated each of the next, several weeks.
The villagers can’t have helped but know this and know the names of the local men. Could it really be that no one in the village remembered them when, only nine years after the disaster, the names for the memorial were put forward?
- The list of the names of those seamen killed when the “Good Hope” sank include only two can be an error. Walter was born on 28th June 1888, at West Bridgeford, Nottinghamshire so there is no error in the name – it is the wrong person.
- William had a brother, Isaac John Miller, who doesn’t appear on the memorial but was drowned at sea when his ship ”H. M. S. Viknor” was sunk at the “Battle of Coronel”, off the coast of Peru, in January 1915. The sinking was reported in the “Bexhill Chronicle” on the 20th February 1915. The report mentions that Mr & Mrs Miller had two sons – “one son at the Front, and another son has enlisted since the war began, in the Australian contingent”. Strangely, there is no mention of any son having been killed in a sea battle just a few weeks earlier or in the Navy.
- There is one, strange coincidence, but, probably, nothing more than that; there was a William Miller, so far unidentified, on board HMS “Viknor” when it sank, in 1915, and the “Viknor” was the very same ship on which Isaac John Miller, the brother of the Hooe William Miller, was serving and died.
At the time the ship was sunk, however, this William was forty-five years of age and the husband of an Elizabeth Miller, from South Shields so doesn’t appear to have any connection with Hooe – and he’s far too old to be Isaac Miller’s older brother, who would have been 30.
- The strong suspicion is, therefore, that the wrong man and the wrong ship are commemorated on the memorial and though a great deal of research has already been done, further research would be interesting. Which Miller went to Australia? Which Miller served at the Front? So far, attempts to determine this have failed.