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Author appeals for details of hero Dereham soldier

PUBLISHED: 15:00 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 07 July 2010

Emma Knights

He made the ultimate sacrifice during the second world war so that others could have their freedom.

He made the ultimate sacrifice during the second world war so that others could have their freedom.

And now a Dutch author wants to make sure that Dereham soldier 2nd Lieutenant John Bruce Millar is never forgotten.

Second Lt Millar is among the heroes who will feature in a new book about what happened to the villages of Geldrop and Mierlo in the south of the Netherlands during the war.

Author Ad Hermens has already gathered part of 2nd Lt Millar's poignant story, but he is asking EDP readers whether they can give him any more information about the soldier who died on September 22, 1944, when he was just 20 years old. He is buried in Mierlo War Cemetery.

He said: “Now I am busy with a book about world war two for this area (Geldrop and Mierlo). One chapter is about the British Cemetery of Mierlo. I am trying now to give every soldier a page with the story of him and a photo.

“I'm also living in Geldrop-Mierlo and 2nd Lt Millar is special there because he was a liberator of our village. I hope to get in touch with his family and receive information and photos.

“We are proud of him. He gave his life for our freedom.”

Mr Hermens explained that 2nd Lt Millar, of the 24th Lancers and the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, died while fighting to liberate the Netherlands from the Germans in 1944.

“Second Lt Millar was with a tank of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment,” he said.

“Very near the railway crossing in Mierlo-Hout, now a part of Helmond, suddenly there was a shot from the enemy.

“His tank received a hit of a German Panzerfaust (anti-tank weapon).

“Second Lt Millar jumped out of the tank, but a German sniper shot him in the middle of the road.”

Mr Hermens said a Dutch girl called Francien Coolen, who was a member of the Red Cross, saw what happened and ran to help 2nd Lt Millar, but he was too heavily wounded and died in her lap.

The girl, now in her 80s, thought his comrades called him Adam and so in the years that followed she regularly laid flowers at the grave of a soldier called Adam thinking that he was the soldier who died in front of her.

But research years later revealed that she was actually laying flowers at the grave of a different man - for when she heard 2nd Lt Millar's comrades say “Adam” in 1944 they were actually referring to the tank rather than 2nd Lt Millar.

Having now found 2nd Lt Millar's actual grave at Mierlo, she now tends to both graves.

Records show that 2nd Lt Millar was the son of Edgar John Millar and Maggie Millar of Dereham.

As well as giving details of when 2nd Lt Millar died, a page dedicated to him in a book of remembrance at St Nicholas Church, in Dereham, lists his local interests as cricket and golf.

Anybody with information or pictures they would like to share about 2nd Lt Millar should email agchermens@onsbrabantnet.nl or write to Mr Hermens at Eindhovenseweg 113, 5663 nc Geldrop, The Netherlands.

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