Obituary: Allan Miller, Leith marine engineer became a painter in order to fight in the Second World War

Born: 21 August, 1923, in Edinburgh. Died: 21 December, 2011, in Edinburgh, aged 88

ALLAN Miller was born on 21 August, 1923. One of five children, he grew up in a three-room tenement in Lindsay Road, overlooking Leith harbour. Following his ambition to be a marine engineer he started his apprenticeship with Henry Robb Shipbuilders in Leith at the age of 14, continuing his studies at night school.

At the onset of the Second World War, like many young men Allan was keen to see action but despite two appeals to the draft board he was prevented from enlisting. As a marine engineer he was in a reserved occupation.

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In 1943, Allan had an accident with a lathe that badly tore the muscles in his right arm. During his treatment he told the doctor of his predicament, and the latter suggested that he say he was, as a result of his accident, now afraid of machinery. On this pretence he was given a job as a ship painter, knowing it was not a reserved occupation.

That same year, Allan travelled to Fort George and was recruited into the Seaforth Highlanders, the unit in which his father had served in the first war.

He volunteered for a special military unit called the Lovat Scouts. Named after Lord Lovat, their role included going behind enemy lines as raiding parties and reconnaissance patrols. Allan trained at the Commando School of Mountain Warfare and, in January 1944, crossed the Atlantic to Canada to train in Arctic warfare.

At that stage of the war, preparation was still under way for a possible invasion through Norway. After months of training in glacier work, snow craft and winter rock climbing, Allan was sent to Italy.

In July 1944 they arrived in the blazing heat in Naples. Attached to the British 8th Army, the Lovat Scouts’ stores still included white camouflage and other ski equipment. They soon saw action, fighting up the mountainous backbone of Italy.

Allan was wounded during the campaign but remained with his unit until reaching Austria in 1945.

After the war, Allan then served in Greece in support of the Greek civil power during the communist insurgency. Allan recalled the fighting in Greece as being different; you never knew who was friend or foe.

Allan was demobbed in late 1946 and returned to Leith to finish his apprenticeship as a painter. He was later to start his own painting and decorating business which he ran until his retirement.

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He met his future wife Lily in 1949, at the Palais dance hall in Edinburgh.

After arranging to meet there the following week things almost went wrong when Lily saw him dancing with another girl. The girl saw Lily’s reaction and quickly explained she was his sister Nan. Lily and Allan were married in 1952 and had two children, Christine and Allan.

Allan was an active member of Number 5 Leith and Canongate Lodge. His efforts were recognised in 1981 when he received the medal for distinguished service.

After her stroke Allan cared for his wife Lily for many years until being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Allan passed away on 21 December at the Western General Hospital.

He is survived by his wife and two children.