Henry Miller was the son of Walter McNair Miller and Caroline Manners Miller, of Hastings, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
Biography by Barrie McCormick, 2016: Henry was one of six children and only 25 when he died. It is therefore ironic that each of his five siblings lived until their 90s. Indeed one sister, Constance Mary McNair Miller, a well-known educationalist and school principal, was 101 when she died of pneumonia in Duart Hospital, Havelock North.
Henry was born in 1914 when his parents were living at Maori Hill, Dunedin North. His father was a civil servant who in the course of his career with the Department of Agriculture was moved to positions in North and South Island towns.
Henry first went to school in Dunedin, but later attended high school in the North Island when his family was living in Masterton and he may have attended the Wairarapa High School. However it is more likely, as he was of a practical nature and interested in engines, he attended Masterton Technical School. In 1937 both schools were merged to become Wairarapa College. Later, when the family returned to live in Hastings, Henry qualified as a motor mechanic while, possibly, working at Thompson Brothers garage.
No doubt he met my parents, Natalie (Partridge) and Mason McCormick, sometime in the early 1930s or, possibly, as late as 1937 while they were living in Hastings with Mason’s widowed mother in Lyndon Road East. However it is more likely he met Natalie first when her family was living at 616 Nelson Street, not far from the Miller family home in Nelson Street. Natalie’s father, Fredrick Partridge, was Hawke’s Bay Manager for the Vacuum Oil Company from 1931 to mid 1933 when he retired early due to ill health and retired back to the family home is Sumner, Christchurch.
Living in Hastings working as a motor mechanic, Henry showed a keen interest not only in car and truck motors, but also in flying as a hobby. He soon joined the Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Aero Club. The club was co-founded in 1928 by Mr P Van Asch (who subsequently pioneered aerial photography in New Zealand) and Captain W T White at Longlands, but is now at Bridge Pa, Hastings.
Henry first flew solo in March 1937 and later worked at the airfield as aerodrome clerk. Then, in October 1938, he was placed on the RNZAF Civil Reserve list as a pilot. He was granted his “A” Licence, private pilot’s licence on 28 November 1938.
My specific memory of Henry relates to the occasion in 1939 when he took my father and me for a flight over Napier in an Aero Club Tiger Moth. Introduced into service in 1931, the open cockpit De Haviland Tiger Moth is a single-engine biplane and continues to be popular with flying enthusiasts.
Many of these sturdy biplanes are still flying from private airfields throughout the country. They were a favoured aircraft for many student pilots as well as ‘old time’ airmen and present–day airline pilots who enjoy flying ‘real’ planes as a hobby. Thrill seekers throughout New Zealand and Australia continue to enjoy the unique experience of flight as passengers in these sturdy open-cockpit aircraft.
From childhood, I remember Henry as a smiling, friendly visitor who enjoyed company. He had the unique party trick of crafting small goblet cups from the silver paper that lined cigarette packets in those days. These he would flick up to stick to the ceiling. He was a frequent visitor to my parents’ house when they lived at ‘Mount View’ on Windsor Hill overlooking the town of Waipawa.
Following the declaration of war against Germany by New Zealand on 3 September 1939, Henry, along with other pilots on the Civil Reserve list, was immediately mobilised and posted to the RNZAF Levin/ Ground Training School as a Pilot under Training from 26 October 1939. At the time war was declared the RNZAF had a complement of 91 pilots and a few mostly obsolete planes.
Henry Miller (No. 39929) gained his Pilot’s Badge and passed out from Levin on 7 March 1940 and on 4 May was promoted to Sergeant-Pilot. On 24 May 1940 he, with other airmen, embarked on the RMS Mataroa for England. The Mataroa arrived at the port of Bristol on 9 July 1940 after an uneventful voyage. Henry never returned to New Zealand. AWMM