Tag Archives: Holmes Miller

Dispatch Rider

My great uncle, Holmes Miller, was a dispatch rider in World War 2. He rode an Indian Motorcycle delivering messages back and forth from the front lines. This was a lonely, dangerous job. They ” travelled unmarked roads, sometimes under fire or strafing, often in the dark without headlights…” Holmes would ride a motorcycle through shelling. He was once shelled by friendly fire. After he was wounded on the motorcycle, he was transferred to warehousing, ordering supplies. 

The upper left picture is part of the 37th Battery in Petawawa 1940. Uncle Holmes is the 3rd from the left front row. Bottom left picture I’m not sure if this is an Indian motorcycle but similar. Picture on right is Holmes and Edna on their wedding day.

Uncle Holmes enlisted with the 37th Field Battery in Fort Frances, Ontario. He trained at and Fort Frances and Petawawa with the other Rainy River District boys. In Petewawa he met his future wife, Edna Richardson. They married July 2, 1941 in Pembroke, Ontario.

He served in England, U.K., Central Mediterranean area, Continental Europe, Italy and France. Uncle Holmes was discharged on October 17, 1945.

Adams, Sharon, War on two wheels, online Legion Magazine, September 26, 2017, https://legionmagazine.com/en/2017/09/war-on-two-wheels/

Remembrance Day



My grandfather, even though he had a wife and 3 very young children, enlisted in World War 2. He joined the war effort on August 20, 1940,”because every body else was.” Clifford Francis Miller enlisted with the Canadian Forestry Corps, Company 17 and did his basic training in Valcartier, Quebec. Then on April 4, 1941 was shipped out to Scotland where the Canadian soldiers were asked to be lumbermen.

The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe in both the First World War and the Second World War. Forestry units also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields and runway, prepared railway ties, as well as lumber for the creation of barracks, road surfaces, ammunition crates, trench construction, etc.

There’s a British promo video about what they did that’s kind of fun to watch.
Canadian Forestry Corps

In 1943, Cliff was transferred to the 30th company and was sent to France. He was employed mainly as a driver mechanic throughout his service. A daughter said one of his jobs was hauling the bodies of dead soldiers; a job he didn’t like much.

Cliff served in the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany for a total of 52 1/3 months of overseas service. He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany Star, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp.

In one of the army forms he is described as “an alert, cheerful young man”. At the Canadian Repatriation Depot, 16 August 1945 Lieutenant E.R.Bruce says “Miller appears to be a good steady sort of man”.



Another relative, Cliff’s brother, my Great-uncle Holmes Andrew Miller also enlisted. Growing up I knew him, but was never told he was a soldier in the war. He met and married his wife, Edna Richardson, while at Petawawa so he enlisted before July 1940.

While going to university, my summer job was working at an historical site and one day he and my aunt showed up on a reunion tour with his regiment. That’s how I learned Uncle Holmes fought in the war. Later, when I was a bicycle courier he commented to me that he was a bicycle courier in the war. I imagine that it was lonely and scary  bicycling through the countryside delivering messages.  If only I’d asked more questions.

The leader of the reunion tour was so excited I was related to someone in his regiment that he gave me a pin-on copy of the regimental insignia that I still have. That’s how I know Uncle Holmes was in the 17 Canadian Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.

After much training in Canada and Britain, the regiment fought first in Italy and then France, Belgium, Holland and fi­nally in Germany  If you are interested in reading more about the regiment’s history there is an on-line history.   Uncle Holme’s regiment fought in several famous battles, including Monte Cassino in Italy.



My Great-Uncle Bud also fought in World War 2. I don’t know anything about his war experience but his sister, Aunt Jo says,

Bud went to Kiska (island between Alaska and Japan).  He was the second best shot in his army.  He said it always rained out west.  He was glad to get off the island because it was forever rumbling with earthquakes.

According to Aunt Jo, Uncle Bud didn’t enlist until he was 21, because their mother, who got upset easily, was nervous about his going to war. She also mentions that no one would hire Uncle Bud because he hadn’t gone to war. Uncle Bud wouldn’t have joined the army until about 1943.

Kiska Island Video
The pictures of him are from relatives in Essex County, Ontario who he kept contact with,



Not all the war effort was outside the country. My Great-Aunt Jo and her cousin left the small community of Crozier in Northwestern Ontario to work in the War Plant in Toronto making Bren guns. Aunt Jo was on the row that made triggers. She did this job for a year before starting at the Toronto Bible College.

She was in Toronto the day the war ended. She says,

One day as I walked downtown, everything had stopped.  All the army vehicles were left right on Spadina Road.  The soldiers were gone, the war was over.



On Remembrance Day, we think of family members who fought and the huge impact it had on their lives. Alcoholism and chain-smoking were the manifestations my relatives. One relative eventually died from shell shock. I can’t imagine it was easy for the women left behind to care for children alone and look after everything else.


War Records; Clifford Francis Miller, my aunt requested the war records for her dad. The records are quite detailed and give some details about my grand-dad that I didn’t know.



Newest – I didn’t know any better

The topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “youngest” but I decided to change it to “newest” and tell you about the newest records I viewed. It was all because I didn’t know any better.

As a newcomer to genealogy, I convinced my mom, who hates the idea of family history but loves me, to drive me to Devlin, Ontario, about 10 miles away from Fort Frances. Devlin was where my dad’s aunts and uncles were born from 1906 to 1921 and that is where I was sure the registration of their births would be. I didn’t know any better.

Devlin is a farming community in the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario.  The Rainy River divides Canada and United States along the 49th parallel. The other side of the river is Minnesota. This part of Northwestern Ontario is about 4 hours from Winnipeg, Manitoba and is quite isolated. The community now has almost 1000 people living in it’s boundaries.

At the Devlin Municipal Office, I went to the counter and asked to look at the birth, marriage and death registrations. You’ll never guess what happened! The woman went into a closet, pulled out a cardboard box that contained the registration books and I got to look at the original documents.

I did a lot of things wrong that day. I didn’t have a camera to take pictures. It would be awesome to have pictures now. I didn’t make a note on which records I found so am really not sure what information came from those books.  The one thing right I did was to go there.

Miller, Holmes & Edna_close up

My Great-Uncle Holmes Miller with his new wife Edna Richardson.

I found an interesting detail that day. According to the records, my great-uncle Holmes was born on April 29. It struck me because that’s my birthday. But he told me his birthday was May 6. When I asked about it he told me that  his parents knew he was born on April 29 but the government issued a birth certificate with May 6 as his birthday. The family decided it wasn’t worth fighting about and just started celebrating his birthday on May 6. Even government documents contain errors.

Sometimes, seasoned genealogists don’t even think to look in the obvious places because we assume it can’t be there.  Thinking about this experience, I realize that often I’m so plugged into finding it on-line that I don’t think to look at the originating source, those small or big entities where the documents came from and may still be there.

After writing this post I’ve decided to go back to the Devlin Municipal Office to see if the records are still there or maybe one of my sisters or brother will go there for me (hint, hint). No pressure though, guys.