Bob Millard 1923 – 2014
It is with a very heavy heart that we have to report the death of Bob Millard, who died peacefully on Saturday.
Bob was a member of the Bathampton Patrol in Bath and had a huge influence on the campaign to get Auxiliary Unit veterans the public recognition they so richly deserved. He helped to shape and inspire the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) and all it’s researchers.
Bob’s route into the Auxiliary Units started at the outbreak of war, when he reported to the local fire station in September as a messenger before, in the summer of 1940 joining what was then called the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), which soon became the Home Guard. It was during his time in the Home Guard that Bob had his first experience of the Auxiliary Units, but on this occasion he was on the receiving end, when a member of an existing unit ‘blew up’ a sentry hut Bob was guarding!
It was through a friend, Anthony Bentley-Hunt, that Bob became part of the Auxiliary Units, when Anthony asked him whether he wanted “…to join something which is a bit more exciting than the Home Guard”. Following a meeting in a house in Bathwick Street, Bath, in which he was asked all about his family, knowledge of the local neighbourhood, his expertise of weapons (which included putting together striped Baretta), he was invited to join.
It was explained exactly what his role would be, the associated dangers and was made to sign the Official Secrets Act.
Bob then began the intensive training to become a highly effective and deadly guerrilla soldier, which included trips to Coleshill House in Wiltshire, the headquarters and main training facility of the Auxiliary Units. There he was taught everything from explosives, sabotage and assassination techniques to map reading and night exercises.
Back in Bath, Bob’s patrol would regularly practice what they had been taught at Coleshill as well as identifying possible targets to attack in the event of a German invasion (including the main London-Bristol railway line and Claverton Manor – a local manor house that was a likely candidate for a local German HQ).
One particular exercise saw Bob and the rest of the Bathampton Patrol attempt to undertake an ‘attack’ against the airfield at Colerne. This night attack was designed to test the skills of the Auxiliary Unit as well as the defences of the RAF Regiment that guarded the airfield. During the exercise the patrol’s Sergeant was taken captive, only to be later ‘rescued’ by Bob and the remaining members of the patrol. They also captured a captain and flight sergeant and placed dummy explosives on the target planes before getting away. The exercise proved the potential value the units would have had had the German army invaded and started to utilise the existing airfields and facilities.
The unit’s underground operational base (OB) from which they would operate in the event of an invasion was located in some old stone mines on Hampton Rocks, whilst their arms and explosives dump was somewhat appropriately located in an old explosives store in a disused quarry. These were later moved to a as the bombing from the Baedeker Raids got too near the dump
By 1942 the immediate threat of invasion had diminished and so members of the Bob’s unit were allowed to volunteer out and Bob joined the Fleet Air Arm as aircrew, later to be involved in anti-submarine patrols, attacks on The Tirpitz off Norway, and then eventually with the British Pacific Fleet working the Pacific with the Americans in their campaign against the Japanese mainland.
It wasn’t until the reunion on the fiftieth anniversary of the stand-down of the Auxiliary Units in 1994, that Bob begun to realise just how wide an organisation the Auxiliary Units were. At that reunion Bob met someone that he used to play rugby with in 1941, and didn’t know that he was an Auxiliary Unit member himself despite knowing him all those years.
Bob summed up the typical Auxiliary Unit member. A normal young man, who when his country was in mortal danger answered the call, prepared to face almost certain death to protect all that he loved. Like most of the veterans he lived most of his life keeping his secret, and only when called upon in his later years did the full remarkable tale of his time in the Auxiliary Units come out.
Bob Millard with a keen re-enactor 2012
He would later be a main spokesperson for CART helping to educate the public about this unknown group of volunteers. He opened the replica operational base at Coleshill House in 2012 (appropriately cutting the ribbon with the Fairburn Sykes knife – the main killing weapon of the Auxiliary Units).
He represented everything that was great about his generation and will be sadly missed by all associated with the Auxiliary Units.
Some comments from those who knew him.
Bob was my primary inspiration for forming CART. He regularly contributed information, had a passion for spreading the word and informing the young and most importantly of all, was my friend. Bob was warm, funny, kind and a true hero. He will be sorely missed by my family and the whole Aux researching community. His last words to me were ‘KBO mate’, (Churchill’s phrase, Keep Buggering On) I am sure he knew when he said it that it would be our last conversation. I will miss you so much mate. RIP. – Tom Sykes (CART Founder and Webmaster)
I spoke to Bob many times and helped to update his short history of the Bath City and Admiralty Auxiliary Units. He was always happy to help even when his wife became ill and he had to spend most of his time looking after her. A very nice and friendly man, he will be missed by CART and no doubt the “Goldfish Club” that he was a member of having been shot down in the Indian Ocean. Rest in Peace Bob. – Stephen Lewins (CART CIO For Northumberland)
I last met Bob at Parham Airfield, the site of the BRO Museum, in July 2004 with the late Geoffrey Bradford, his fellow Auxilier. Nearly a decade later, during the preparation for my book, Churchill’s Secret Defence Army, across numerous telephone conversations, Bob and I renewed our acquaintanceship . His memory was as sharp as a pin and his vitality an inspiration. During the brief period I knew him Bob made a great and positive impression upon me. It was an honour and a privilege to have known this fine gentleman. – Arthur Ward.
He was a great guy and will be missed by many people. Please pass my condolences on to the family. – Roger Green (National Trust Volunteer, Coleshill)
Although I never met him in person I felt I knew him through the tremendous contribution he made to CART. Clearly, he inspired many and carried forward through the years, the extraordinary clandestine story of Auxiliary Units. Not only that, but also he expressed the sense of duty and the bravery of the men who unstintedly served to safeguard our Country. He was one of them. We missed him marching with us at the Cenotaph last November due to his ill health but knew he was with us then on that memorable and very proud occasion. A tribute to all Auxiliary Units. Bob will be sorely missed by everyone. – Richard Field (Son of Lt Col Norman Field OBE)
I am very sorry to hear the news that Bob has left us. Meeting him was always something I looked forward to as I held him in high regard for both his BRO service but also his later service in World War II. But this was only part of the story as Bob was also a wonderful guy and a pleasure to be around, even when he was using me to demonstrate silent killing (a role that was repeated in South Wales I seem to remember). I will miss him greatly and wish all his friends and family my sincere condolences. RIP / KBO, Bob – Peter Antill (CART Sealion CIO)
Though I did not know Bob very well he was always very patient with my questions and requests for help. A kind man who always seemed to manage an encouraging word with good humour. I have the greatest of repect for all his work in ensuring his fellow Auxiliers were not just forgotten but recorded, respected and remembered for generations to come. I hope we can continue that work in his honour. He was very much missed at the Cenotaph last November but he was in all our thoughts. My thoughts go to all in the family. – Nina Hannaford (CART CIO for Devon)
I never met him personally, and only spoke to him once on the telephone, but his e-mails were invaluable. I shall miss his patience and his humour. Rest In Peace, Bob, and thanks for all your help. – Jim Warren (Bathblitz.org)
Sad to hear of Bob’s passing. Like Jim, I traded emails with Bob and appreciated his selfless contribution. He’ll definitely be missed. – David Waller (Auxunit.org.uk)
So sad to hear that Bob has passed away. I feel privileged to have known him and having enjoyed his friendship and company. He attended two of the “Secret War” events that I host and on the opening evening of one of them he managed to drink me under the table with Talisker Whisky! He will be missed by many, but his memory will long live on. Rest in peace Bob. – Clive Bassett
It was a pleasure and an honour to meet Bob. He was encouraging and inspiring while full of comradeship and bonhomie. Thank you Bob. – Gerry Sutcliff
Thank you for passing on the sad news about Bob. He represented all that was good about the Old Brigade and what’s more, he recorded it for posterity. It’s up to the family, but I hope the Penrith RBL is suitably briefed to turn out at the funeral. Thank you for representing those of us who are too decrepit to get there. – Don Brown (Author of Somerset V Hitler)
Bob was truly one of the good guys. Not only did he step forward to do his bit with the Home Guard and Bath(City) Auxiliary Units in 1940 and later with the Fleet Air Arm, but as you say he continued to play a huge role in both unravelling the history and publicising Auxiliary Units, with his many fine TV appearances much later in life. Certainly in Somerset, without Bob’s fine memory and willingness to help out, we would be much the poorer I feel. I think it was such a disappointment that he did not make it to the start-line for the Remembrance Day Parade in London… – Tim Wray
It has been a pleasure to have known Bob over the past few years. He was such a character and I loved how he embraced technology, especially Skype!! I am really going to miss hearing his voice in our house. He has been a huge support to Tom and the CART team and his passion for Aux has been such an inspiration to everybody. We miss you Bob xxx – Paula Sykes
I too am deeply saddened to hear that Bob has been lost to us but has rejoined his ‘comrades in arms’. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Bob but I know from my conversations with others that have like Clive Bassett & Richard Ashley that he was an enormous resource for those researching The Auxiliary Unit’s history. Likewise I know that he will be sorely missed. “We will remember them”. – Brian Moyse. (The Essex boy in Texas)
I’m so very sad to hear this about Bob. My dad Harry and I never met Bob in person but he became a good friend due to his kindness and generosity he showed my father through his e-mails and letter correspondence regarding the auxiliaries. My father passed away a year ago and I’m so thankful to Bob and CART for everything they did for him in his last few years. Whenever dad received one of those letters or e-mails from Bob it would make his day and we would spend hours discussing it together. Please give Bobs family our heartfelt condolences. – Steve Banham and family. (Son of Auxilier Harry Banham)
I first met him at one of the special Parham Open Days back in the 2000’s, but he was a patient and helpful man, no doubt explaining the same things to many people over the years always with courtesy and interest. May I add my condolences to his family at this time. I well remember that lovely afternoon chatting with him in the sunny garden at the back of the pub in Coleshill Village at the NT event. A great treat, and one no doubt repeated at other times with other people, he enriched those history buffs amongst us with his real life tales. It is Sad news indeed. A real gentleman, as he himself said, he was ready when called, he wasn’t called and thank goodness. – Matt Gibbs
I was most sorry to learn of the sad demise of Bob whom I’d known for some 20 years having first met him during the ’Reunion’ at Coleshill back in 1994. I had the pleasure and great honour to meet him on a number of occasions. We had many associations in common as my grandparents had lived in Bath and I knew the areas of Bobs Aux activities well. Bob was one of life’s gentlemen always cheery with a highly developed sense of humour and a fount of knowledge about the Auxiliary Units. Bob was always willing to share his knowledge of the weaponry, practices and activities but one knew there were certain areas he would not talk about. Bob represented a direct line to a body of people who would undoubtedly have sold their lives very dearly if the enemy had come. RIP Bob you will be sorely missed. – Bill King
Find out more about Bob’s amazing wartime life here
OBITUARIES IN THE PRESS
‘Dockyard Dandy’ (Navy News) Read it here
The Times – Read it here
Telegraph – Read it here
Bath Chronicle – Read it here
Western Daily Press – Read it here
Telegraph Obit Podcast – Featured on ‘The Deadline’. Listen here
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KBO Bob. x