My grandmother's brother was in the Royal Navy during WW2 and was killed. I know very little about him other than his name and I think I have the year he was born.

By searching his name - William John Miller - online I have come up with one that I think could be him but want to find a way to verify it.

According to this page I found via google, a William John Miller went down with the HMS Blean in Dec 1942 (I was always told the HMS Hood, but there is no record of him in the roll of honour). It lists his number there as well - C/KX.137399 - so what would be the best way to find out conclusively if this is him. I know his parents names and the general area he lived in pre-war.

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    My father was named after him, so I know that it was William John, and I am using the same surname that I know was my grandmothers maiden name. I know he was in the royal navy (or some form of navy) during the war as this is what I was told as a child.
    – AvieRose
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 17:43
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    Thought I would let you know how I got on. I have now determined that this is the William John Miller I was looking for. He was a stoker 1st class on board the HMS Blean when it was sunk in 1942 aged just 20 years old.
    – AvieRose
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 21:07
  • Any day you solve a "Miller" is a good day. Congratulations, AvieRose.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 21:16
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    I even now have a photograph of him which I found at the back of my grandfathers cupboard at xmas. In the process of trying to get his service records from the MOD.
    – AvieRose
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 21:18
  • Wow. A photograph and a great story to go with it. It's a winning combination.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 15:25

3 Answers 3


Any search for a UK casualty in WW1 and WW2 should always start with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website as it should cover all such deaths. This may, of course, be the site you found! There is only one William John Miller in the Naval casualties during WW2 - the one you found. However - a word of caution - bureaucracy is never as careful as we'd like it to be and it's possible that the Royal Navy might have known him as just William Miller. In which case there are 3 William Millers to worry about, a couple of whom have ages and parents, so hopefully you can knock them out of the reckoning.

So now I reckon you need to decide which of the Williams or William John is yours... The unfortunate thing is that the WW2 service records are still held by the Royal Navy and it will take some time (and money) to get copies. Try and get your head round the different aspects by looking at the guides for Royal Navy personnel from The National Archives. I'd take a guess that you'll need to read up on ratings from the Royal Navy and the RNVR for the post-1920s era.

I suspect that once you've got your head round these simple guides (yes - sorry - these are the simple ones - it's real life that's complicated!) then it might be useful to get yourself to a decent library and read bits out of 1 or 2 books - "Tracing Your Naval Ancestors" by Simon Fowler is the latest, I think.

It just occurs to me that there are death certificates for WW2 casualties in what's called the "GRO War Death Naval Ratings Indices (1939 to 1948)". The index for these is a/v on FindMyPast, so you could use this to find the reference for the HMS Blean death, send for the certificate and it should tell you the age. Well, it should if it's like a normal certificate, but I've never sent for one so I can't confirm.

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    Was just about to edit my answer to mention the findmypast indices but you beat me to it.
    – user104
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 20:11
  • Thank you for your help. I will investigate this further. The more I look at it the more I think it is the listing for William John. Either my grandmother was confused (she was only young at the time) or I misheard her and thought she said he was on the Hood.
    – AvieRose
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 21:43

It's possible to order personnel records for deceased servicemen from the MOD, although this is a very expensive option and the records can take a long time to arrive.

You don't mention if you've searched at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which shows only one William John Miller who is the one you've already located and who is listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial. It's worth searching here for any more candidates; if you don't find any, I'd be reasonably confident you're found a match.


In fact the GRO War Death Naval Ratings Indices (1939 to 1948) rather muddies the waters on how many possible William Millers you may need to eliminate.

There were 10 men of that name lost between 1940 and 1943. At least 6 of them could be your man (3 identified as William J and three with no middle initial recorded).

Miller, William .... A.B. Fleur de Lys 1942
Miller, William .... A.B. Vimiera 1941
Miller, William .... A.B. Neptune 1941
Miller, William A... a/PO (Ty) Drake 1941
Miller, William B... Seaman Jervis Bay 1940
Miller, William C.E. a/Ldg Tel Odin 1940
Miller, William J... Ord Sea. Stanley 1941
Miller, William J... a/Ldg Sea. (Ty) President III 1943
Miller, William J... Stoker 1 Blean 1942
Miller, William M... P.O. Steward Bramham 1942

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