Stoker 1st Class Henry John Gardner Miller

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in New York.

The grave of Stoker Henry John Gardner Miller
The grave of Stoker Henry John Gardner Miller

Henry John Gardner ‘Harry’ Miller was born on 27 May 1891 at Southsea in Hampshire, the son of George and Louisa Miller—he was one of 14 children.[1] His father worked as a shipwright and Harry worked as a milkman in Portsmouth. In 1912, he married Harriet Freeman.[2]

He enlisted into the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on 10 May 1916 and was allocated the number PO/K/33007. His training lasted until 30 August and he joined the crew of HMS Leviathan, then alongside at Greenock in Scotland. He was promoted to Stoker 1st Class on 19 April 1917.

HMS Leviathan
HMS Leviathan

HMS Leviathan was an armoured cruiser, launched in 1901, placed in reserve in 1913 and recommissioned in 1914 just before war began. She was the flagship of Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies Station and, when Stoker Miller joined, had just raised the flag of Vice Admiral M E Browning CB, MVO.[3] The first voyage for the new Commander-in-Chief and the newly joined stoker, was to Halifax, Nova Scotia with a consignment of gold bullion.[4]

HMS Leviathan remained in Halifax, other than for a short trip to St John’s Newfoundland, until November 1916 when she sailed for Bermuda, the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief. For the next year HMS Leviathan remained at Bermuda with brief trips to Halifax and ports on the eastern seaboard of the United States. On 16 February 1918 the flag of the Commander-in-Chief was transferred to HMS Warrior. With the responsibilities of flagship transferred, HMS Leviathan spent the rest of the war on trans-Atlantic escort duties.

On 20 August 1918 she sailed from Liverpool, arriving in New York on 31 August. A number of men were sick and the most serious were sent to hospital. It is not known when Stoker Miller fell ill but he died from ‘heat apoplexy’ on 5 September 1918, aged 27. On 7 September his body was landed for burial and he was interred in the Seaman’s Church Institute plot at The Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn in Grave 37. The funeral party was provided by the crew of HMS Leviathan. There are 12 other CWGC burials in this cemetery, including that of Stoker Alfred Weeden, who served on HMS Leviathan with Miller.[5]

He is also commemorated at the Guildhall Square Cenotaph in Portsmouth.

The Cenotaph, Portsmouth
The Cenotaph, Portsmouth

His medals group comprises the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal.

His brother, Arthur Moody Miller, was killed during the Second World War when the Block Mills Shelter at His Majesty’s Dockyard Portsmouth was hit during a German air raid on 24 August 1940.

William P. Gonzalez for the photograph of Stoker Miller’s grave.

1. (Back) George Miller (1845-c1918) married Louisa (née Young) (1850-1913) on 27 October 1867: George James W. (1869-1925); Ernest Frederick (1871-NK); Bessie Pharoah (1873-1902); Louisa Mary (later Maidment) (1874-1919); Frederick Percival (1875-1928); Florence Ellen (1878-NK); Alice Beatrice (later Chapple) (1880-1935); Wesley Sapp (1881-1940); Robert Griffin (1882-1961); Arthur Moody (1884-1940); Ellen Mabel (1885-NK); William Edgar (1888-NK); Albert Sydney M. (1889-NK); Stanley V T (1896-1925). Another child died in infancy.
2. (Back) It is not known if the couple had children.
3. (Back) Later Admiral Sir Montague Edward Browning GCB, GCMG, GCVO.
4. (Back) The gold was later transferred to J P Morgan & Company to service the British account.
5. (Back) See also: Serjeant George Birkenhead, Trimmer John Walter Bowles, Able Seaman Thomas Drinkwater, Private William Richard Eveleigh, Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves, Trimmer Percy Hyett, Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh, Leading Seaman Sydney Stephen Milliner, Fireman Low On, Scullion William B. Parr, Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden, and Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills.

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