Tracing records of Royal Navy personnel who died in World War 2?



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.


Posted 2012-11-22T17:38:37.010

Reputation: 1 372

1My 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 – 2012-11-22T17:43:17.560

1Thought 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 – 2013-02-09T21:07:53.387

Any day you solve a "Miller" is a good day. Congratulations, AvieRose. – GeneJ – 2013-02-09T21:16:08.440

1I 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 – 2013-02-09T21:18:03.267

Wow. A photograph and a great story to go with it. It's a winning combination. – GeneJ – 2013-02-10T15:25:11.987

my grand father was horace pearce he was a stoker petty officer on hms blean – None – 2014-10-04T17:02:05.530

has anyonè got crew photos – None – 2014-10-04T17:02:46.883

I've converted the answer/comment by @stevenpearce to comments since they aren't an answer to the original question. Steven, welcome, and feel free to Ask a new question about how to find photos of the crew of HMS Blean.

– Jan Murphy – 2014-10-04T19:41:30.910

I read this line of correspondence with great interest. My uncle Joe Ovens died on the HMS Blean. An able seaman 23 years old. I have photos of him in uniform and the formal notification of his death. A tragic double hit by u-boat 443 which was then sunk with all hands just 2 months later. Now it gets more interesting. My wife's Grandfather John Baxter died on the submarine HMS Odin. Both vessels seem to be listed in the schedule for William Miller. An interesting coincidence. Strangely I cannot find a published list of the men lost on the Odin anywhere on the internet. Can anyone help on this – None – 2015-01-07T09:20:03.583

This seems more appropriate as a separate question than an answer. Can you delete your answer and change into a question looking for a list of the men on the Odin? – CRSouser – 2015-01-07T19:07:36.587

If you have a new question, please ask it by clicking the Ask Question button. Include a link to this question if it helps provide context.

– CRSouser – 2015-01-07T20:29:27.010

I agree with @CRSouser that this would be better as a new question which asks "Is there published list of men lost on HMS Odin?". I recommend taking our 2 minute [Tour] and reviewing Why is this site so different from other forums?. I'll convert your answer to a comment but you should still be able to see and copy/paste your answer into a new question.

– PolyGeo – 2015-01-07T22:44:26.337



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.


Posted 2012-11-22T17:38:37.010

Reputation: 11 070

1Was just about to edit my answer to mention the findmypast indices but you beat me to it. – None – 2012-11-22T20:11:57.827

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 – 2012-11-22T21:43:54.350


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.


Posted 2012-11-22T17:38:37.010



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


Posted 2012-11-22T17:38:37.010

Reputation: 13 238