Pictured here in 1941, on wartime service is Blantyre man James Millar. James originated from High Blantyre at 31 Broompark Road and was a stoker on HMS Cossack. In 1941 the ship was torpedoed and on 16th November he was granted a few days leave back home in Blantyre to recover. James, in the picture was 27, married and before the war was a grocer for Blantyre Co-operative society.
Most famously, Cossack took part in the pursuit of the German Bismark, although none of their own torpedo hits scored. Like many wartime ships launched just prior to the war, HMS Cossack was lost. She was damaged heavily by U Boat U563 on 27th October 1941 and taken in tow by a tug from Gibraltar on 25 October, but the weather worsened and the tow was slipped on 26 October. Cossack sank in the Atlantic west of Gibraltar on 27 October 1941. 159 of her crew were lost.
The story serves as a reminder was an impact war had on individuals, who could find themselves going from safe professions like shopkeeping overnight to being torpedoed by Nazi U boats.
Blantyre Project reader, Arch Park added, “Hello Paul, With reference to the post on James Millar, HMS Cossack. As well as participating in the search and sinking of the German Pocket Battleship Bismark, James Millar ( by the way, he appears to be in the uniform of a Petty Officer) would also have been on board Cossack during one of the most daring naval actions of WW2, known as the Altmark Incident. The German Heavy Cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, operating as a raider had sunk nine merchant ships around the Atlantic and transferred crews from these ships to the German supply ship Altmark as prisoners to be returned to Germany. On the 16 Feb 1941, the Cossack caught up with the Altmark in neutral Norwegian waters at Jossingfjord. On the instructions of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, Cossack intercepted and in the last major boarding action of the Royal Navy using cutlasses, rescued 299 British sailors. Cossack returned to Leith with the freed prisoners the next day. James Millar certainly had an adventurous war. Regards, Arch”.
Margaret Griffen contacted me in January 2015 saying James’s brother was the well known speedway rider Tommy Miller.