b. 22/05/1903 Stechford, Birmingham. d. 15/12/1994 Somerset West, South Africa.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 23/09/1940 Loughton, Essex.
John Bryan Peter Duppa-Miller (1903-1994) was born on 22nd May 1903 in Stechford, Birmingham, the eldest son of Brian Stothert and Mary Frances Miller (nee Sadler), where his father was a lawyer with Birmingham City Council. Eventually the family settled in Devon following Brian’s retirement. John was educated at Rugby School from 1916-1922, before he was matriculated at Hertford College, Oxford. He became a member of the College rowing team. He achieved his BA in 1926 and eventually his MA in 1934.
Whilst he was at Oxford, he was initiated into Apollo University Lodge, Number 357, becoming a Freemason. Whether he remained a freemason following his university days is unclear. In 1926, he married Barbara, the daughter of Viscount Buckmaster, who had been Liberal Lord Chancellor. Shortly after their marriage they moved to Lagos, Nigeria, but this didn’t last long, as John contracted malaria and they were forced to return to the UK.
On their return, John decided to train for ordination into the priesthood at Cambridge and he and Barbara moved to Thaxted. He then converted to Roman Catholicism. John and Barbara went on to have three sons: Hilary (Hal), who later became a Conservative MP, Michael and David. Sadly, John’s marriage to Barbara, began to fail and they divorced in 1944.
In August 1940, on the cusp of World War II, he volunteered for the Royal Navy and with his experience in sailing it was a surprise when he chose bomb disposal as his specialism. On 23rd September 1940 in Loughton, Essex, Miller and Able Seaman Stephen Tuckwell had to deal with a mine that was buried in the mud. They got a canoe and went looking for the mine and found it nose down in the mud. Tuckwell was ordered to stay at a safe distance but he refused, arguing that as Miller would be working under at least a foot of water he would need Tuckwell to hand down the tools. They managed to get one fuse out, but could not reach the other; if the clock had started, there would have been no chance of escape. Then they appealed to some crane-drivers who had come to see what was happening, and they at once volunteered to help. Ropes were placed around the mine and, with the assistance of the crane-drivers, it was dragged slowly out of the creek and on to the wharf. The removal of the final fuse was carried out in comparative comfort.
On 14th January 1941 it was announced that both men had been awarded the George Cross. Later in the war, he as recommended for a Bar to his GC by the First Lord of the Admiralty, which would have made him the first and indeed only GC and Bar, but it was not approved. In 1941 he was appointed Secretary to the Admiralty’s Interdepartmental Committee on Anti-Submarine Weapons, and continued in this capacity until the end of the war. He was then appointed Temporary Brigadier to the Allied Control Commission for Germany to liquidate the German stocks of underwater weapons. In 1944, he re-married to Clare Harding, and he returned to Africa, this time to the East.
He was made Inspector General of Education in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by Emperor Haile Selassie, establishing the University in the city. They then moved to Kenya where he served for ten years in the Government education service, and chaired the European Civil Servant’s Association. In 1972, Clare passed away and he returned to the UK, where for a time he lived with his son, Hal, before moving into a rest home in Devon.
Through a mutual friend, he was introduced to Greta Lanby, a South African who had travelled to meet John in Devon. After just six weeks they were married, and they returned to her native South Africa to settle in Somerset West. On 15th December 1994, John passed away peacefully, and he was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the sea. His medals including his GC, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with King’s Commendation oakleaf, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were auction in January 2022 by the Duppa-Miller family. They were sold for a hammer price of £110,000 to a private collector.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: OFF THE COAST OF SOUTH AFRICA.
Dix Noonan Webb – Images of the Duppa-Miller GC Medal Group.