Rowley Charles (Charlie ) MILLER OAM

MILLER, Rowley Charles

Service Number: 417756
Enlisted: 9 July 1942, Enlisted Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: 5 Service Flying Training School
Born: Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, 18 May 1924
Home Town: Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Schooling: Mount Gambier High School, South Australia
Occupation: Breadmaker
Died: Natural Causes , Mount Gambier, South Australia, 23 September 2020, aged 96 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

9 Jul 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 417756, Empire Air Training Scheme
9 Jul 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, SN 417756, Aircrew Training Units, Enlisted Adelaide, SA
1 Jan 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 417756, No. 457 Squadron (RAAF), Air War SW Pacific 1941-45
16 Apr 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 417756, 5 Service Flying Training School, Posted to 5 Service Flying Training School Uranquinty NSW

Best Friends and Community Icons

By Bec Whetham

Saturday 15 August 2020

Charlie Miller and Jack Hopgood have spent their 75 years after WWII as best friends and community 'icons'.

In many ways, Charlie Miller and Jack Hopgood could not be more different. Charlie, a strong left-winger from Melbourne, fired on Japanese troops from a Spitfire during the war. Jack, a self-described "non-entity" from the bush, spent three years in Japanese captivity.
Jack Hopgood and Charlie Miller both served in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II.
The two veterans met in Mount Gambier after the war and have remained close friends for 75 years.
Both were recently awarded the Order of Australia for their lifetime of service to different causes.
Despite their differences, the two formed a strong friendship after World War II that would span 75 years and leave a lasting legacy in their community.

Jack Hopgood, now aged 100, returned to his hometown of Mount Gambier in South Australia's south-east in 1945. "When I came back I was still a teenager. I went as a teenager and I came back knowing about the same," Mr Hopgood said.

He had just spent three years in Java, Indonesia and Singapore as a prisoner of war.
In one diary entry he recalls arriving at a prisoner camp in Batavia (Jakarta) where six Australians had just been beheaded in front of 300 Australians.
"They were sadistic and had no degree of predictability," Mr Hopgood said.
By the time freedom came in August 1945, he was not in a hurry to get home.
"I had certain apprehensions. I was very young when I left here, I was 20 and got married. I hadn't seen my wife in a number of years," Mr Hopgood said.

He was offered an air ticket to Australia but opted for the long boat home on the Duntroon.
In comparison, he refers to his friend Charlie Miller's experience of the same war as a "Cook's tour".
Four years his junior, Mr Miller enlisted after Mr Hopgood.
"I was chosen to be a pilot and then I became a flying instructor for six months or so," Mr Miller said.

While Jack and Charlie are most recognised as two of Mount Gambier's remaining WWII veterans, it was not the war that brought them together.
Soon after returning to Mount Gambier, a neighbour of Jack's brought the two veterans together by inviting them to join the Masonry, where they met.
"There was no real allegiance at all until this neighbour across the road brought us together," Mr Hopgood said.
Thanks to a mutual love of red wine and banter, that first meeting developed into a lifelong friendship.

"We tease him [Charlie] unbearably but he just shrugs it off. Fortunately he doesn't take umbrage," Mr Hopgood said. "Our friendship is one that an outsider would consider, 'how can they bloody get on together'?," Mr Miller said.

One thing they had in common was their incredible work ethic.
Mr Miller's father, a business broker, moved the family to Mount Gambier to run a bakery in an effort to survive the depression.
"He'd never touched a piece of dough in his life," Mr Miller said.
Concerned about his father's inexperience, Charlie put university aside to take up the business after the war.
"The town grew and the bakery grew," Mr Miller said.
"At least half of Mount Gambier had the name Miller on their breakfast table."
The Hopgood name was also well-known.
After returning to Mount Gambier, Jack joined his father's automotive business as a mechanic.
An engineering and business brain, he would go on to run the business as well as chair the Mount Gambier Garages Association.

As well as running their own businesses and starting their own families, Jack and Charlie committed any free time they had to endless causes, boards and committees.
"If anything started, it would need to be Jack or myself or one or two others," Mr Miller said.

The two were recently awarded the Order of Australia for their lasting commitment to Mount Gambier.
Over the years, Mr Hopgood has chaired the Boy Scouts Association, Mount Gambier TAFE and been a founding member of Mount Gambier's Chamber of Commerce, which Charlie Miller is also a life member of.
"We both had strong ideas but the wonderful thing about it was that those ideas were similar ideas," Mr Miller said.

Together they wanted to help build and develop Mount Gambier's business and economy after the depression. Which they did.
Both were president of the local RSL at different times.

One cause close to both their hearts was veteran housing.
"Settlement schemes after World War I were an absolute disaster because the poor fellows were allotted blocks of land which wouldn't grow a pebble," Mr Miller said.
"We were very anxious to make sure that the returned fellows were looked after and we were instrumental, Jack and I, in establishing the RSL as a very strong organisation."

Mr Miller has maintained a close relationship with Legacy for many years.
"He took under his wing the widows of this area and looked after them for goodness knows how many years," Mr Hopgood said.
Many have been influenced by Mr Miller through his involvement with school councils (Mount Gambier High School has a building named after him), the local forestry industry, Duke of Edinburgh youth award, finding housing for disadvantaged persons, and establishing a public library — just to name a few.

Jack Hopgood realises his life could have been very different.
"If I hadn't volunteered then I don't know what would have happened. It would have been a different story all together," Mr Hopgood said.

That said, he has accepted his life's course and even returned to Japan, twice.
"Anger and I don't get on too well. I think it's a waste of good time," Mr Hopgood said. War seems all but a distant memory for the pair now.
"We've forgotten. It's a different world, a different world all together," Mr Miller said.

"I have no regrets, I've had an extraordinary life in many, many ways."

Known and loved by many in Mount Gambier, the community knows they cannot have a Jack and Charlie forever.
Mayor of Mount Gambier and friend to Jack and Charlie, Lynette Martin, is not looking forward to that.

"Suddenly that piece of Mount Gambier's history will disappear and that is sad but they really will leave such a great legacy," Ms Martin said.
"They are the two most amazing gentlemen."


WW2 Spitfire Pilot and popular Anzac Day Speaker, has died

By Sandra Morello, Bec Whetham and Selina Green

World War II veteran Charlie Miller OAM, known for his extraordinary bravery as a Spitfire pilot and his significant contribution to the Mount Gambier community, has died.
He was a popular guest speaker at schools, one teacher said, because "he'd never forgotten what it's like to be a teenager".
Mr Miller learned to fly in Tiger Moths and described his first solo flight as a "thrill and the biggest achievement".

Mr Miller died on 23rd September 2020, aged 96.

While Mr Miller never referred to himself as a hero, but he performed dozens of low-level missions strafing Japanese strongholds during risky and dangerous missions.
These missions were considered the most precarious feats by pilots. Many of his fellow pilots never returned.

In a special tribute, Mr Miller was recently presented a Federal Government World War II survivor's medal by Member for Barker Tony Pasin.
Mount Gambier Community RSL president Bob Sandow — a long time friend of Mr Miller — paid tribute to him.
"Charlie was many things to many people," Mr Sandow said.
"When I took Charlie to schools, there was always silence in the room when he said he flew Spitfires."

He said Mr Miller was a pivotal figure in Legacy for 54 years, helping war widows and their children. Mr Sandow also described Mr Miller as a charismatic and a much-loved personality. "If we ever needed a guest speaker, we could say, 'Charlie, what are you doing?' He would say, 'Bob, pick me up'," he said. "We would go to Coonawarra, Penola or one of the other schools on Anzac Day — he would be the first one there."

Mr Miller was also a cornerstone figure at the Mount Gambier Community RSL.
"Back in the RSL days when it was such a powerful body, Charlie and Jack Hopgood and others were part of the group that led the RSL," Mr Sandow said.
Despite struggling with fragility in recent years, he said Mr Miller never lost his sense of humour or quick wit.
"I spoke to Charlie about his funeral a couple of weeks ago, and he promised that he would not listen if we said nice things about him," Mr Sandow said.
"And I remember saying to Charlie, 'Do us a favour and don't turn up'."

Mount Gambier High School history teacher Graeme Roulstone said Mr Miller would leave an "amazing legacy". He said Mr Miller regularly spoke about war history to students. "The kids were always curious to ask questions, and Charlie was always happy to oblige," Mr Roulstone said.
"He had a spark — and he'd never forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. And I think that made him particularly interesting for the kids.
"He was very special and very active, right up until very, very recently.
"And for somebody of his age to be still as active in community affairs, it's been pretty amazing."

Limestone Coast tourism identity James Yates said Mr Miller was well known and loved in Coonawarra.
"What a character — and the Coonawarra wine never did him any harm," Mr Yates said. "Charlie was a pretty dapper guy in his younger years."
Mr Yates said Mr Miller would say: "If you flew low and waggled the wings of the Spitfire, it really got the girls going."

Born in Melbourne and educated at Mount Gambier High School, Mr Miller moved to Mount Gambier in his teenage years and always had a hankering to join the Air Force, enlisting when he turned 18.
Mr Miller learned to fly in a Tiger Moth and described his first solo flight as a "thrill and the biggest achievement". After more training, he was transferred to a Spitfire squadron. While initially he became a flying instructor, Mr Miller was posted to 457 squadron in 1945. Much to the relief of his family, he was discharged in April 1946.

While he had ambitions to study science at university, Mr Miller decided to help his father run a bakery in Mount Gambier. He mastered the art of bread-making and the business flourished under his leadership.

Mr Miller married Lillian Boardman and had three sons — Tony, Martin, and Stephen.
He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his contribution to the community, including his involvement in the establishment of a new public library and his connections with YMCA, Queen Elizabeth Trust and Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce. He also received an award for being the longest serving member of the Beef Steak and Burgundy Club.

Posted 24 Sep September 2020

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