b. 11/11/1906 Inverness, Scotland. d. 30/06/1985 Inverness, Scotland.
Sir Anthony Cecil Capel Miers (1906-1985) was born in Inverness, Scotland on 11th November 1906. Sadly, at just 7 years old, when his father Douglas, a captain in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, was killed in action in France fewer than six weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. Two of his uncles also died serving as army officers – one was murdered by Boers in 1901 during the war in South Africa and the other was fatally wounded in 1917 before the Third Battle of Ypres. The young Anthony quickly developed a remarkable mental toughness thanks partly to his formidable mother, who lost three children.
At Wellington College he developed a passion for sport, especially rugby. One naval officer would say of him: “He never became a good loser. He was fiercely competitive and determined, from his youngest years, to win – whatever and however.”
Miers joined the navy in 1925 as a special-entry cadet, aged 19. Three years later he entered the submarine service. As he rose in rank, men would dread his volcanic eruptions, which for those on the receiving end might culminate in a black eye, close arrest or the sack. For someone really unlucky it was all three.
But when the fire-eater cooled down he could be charm personified. Miers did not bear grudges; a man put under close arrest at lunchtime would probably find himself free by teatime as if nothing had happened. And no one who came into contact with his fists ever made a formal complaint. When he was in command Miers was fiercely loyal to his crew.
It was in 1933 that he fulfilled one of his tutor’s prophecies (courtmartialled or be awarded a VC). He was court-martialled for attempting to strike a stoker. The incident came to light only because Miers reported himself to his commanding officer. He may have been involved in an argument with the rating over a football match but at the hearing neither man offered an explanation. Miers was dismissed from his ship and a few months later he was sent to Hong Kong as first lieutenant of the submarine HMS Rainbow. Here he acquired the lower-deck nickname Gamp – after the Charles Dickens character Mrs Gamp who carried a bulky umbrella. Gamp became a common expression for umbrella. Miers would often appear in the conning tower of Rainbow with an umbrella to ward off tropical storms.
That famous temper helped him to achieve his tutor’s second prediction -the Victoria Cross in March 1942. He had already carried out nine successful patrols in HMS Torbay in the Mediterranean theatre, earning the plaudit “Nazi Public Enemy Number One”. Two merchant ships were spotted near the Greek island of Paxos and he gave chase, eventually losing them in darkness. Miers set course for the Corfu Channel and soon saw a “magnificent” convoy of four large troopships, along with three destroyers and two aircraft.
But the targets were 11,000 yards away. M iers was angry. If he had not chased the other ships he would have been in an excellent position to attack the convoy. He gambled that the ships would anchor off Corfu harbour to pick up fuel. Torbay entered the enemy-held Corfu Channel, 30 miles long, with the island on one side and parts of the Greek and Albanian mainland on the other. The submarine went to a spot opposite the harbour and remained for a time on the moonlit surface charging her batteries.
One sailor said later: “Small enemy boats passed to and fro, bringing back Nazi troops from the night’s shore leave. We saw people quite clearly silhouetted in the glare of car headlamps and pushbike lights. We watched ships unloading, and heard enemy voices shouting. How the devil they never saw 260 feet of submarine lying around is a miracle.” Torbay was forced to dive to avoid a patrol vessel. At dawn she moved in to attack but was forced to turn away because of another vessel. Then the periscope showed two large supply ships, “perfect targets”, at anchor. Torpedoes struck both of them. Torbay went deep, turned and headed for the southern entrance of the channel. Search boats were joined by a destroyer and a plane and 40 depth charges were dropped. A large schooner acting as a boom defence vessel tried to block the southern entrance but Torbay escaped – after 17 hours in enemy waters. It was hailed as one of the most remarkable submarine patrols carried out during the war.
Anthony Miers was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on the 28th July 1942. After leaving HMS Torbay he was appointed to HMS Saker in the USA and undertook a number of Public Relations duties before joining the staff of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, USN who was CINC USN Pacific Fleet. He was then Commander SM8 in HMS Maidstone. Post war he was the Commanding Officer of HMS Vernon II and then HMS Blackcap – a Fleet Air Arm Station. An appointment as Captain SM1 in HMS FORTH followed. His last Sea Command was the Aircraft Carrier HMS Theseus. After promotion to Rear Admiral Antony Miers was Flag Officer, Middle East. From 1967 to 1981 Sir Anthony Miers was the National President of the Submarine Old Comrades Association.
Sir Anthony Miers died on 30th June 1985 after suffering from liver cancer at the age of 78 in Inverness and was buried in the Tomnahurich Cemetery. His impressive medal group including the VC, KBE, CB, DSO and Bar, and Legion of Merit (USA) were obtained privately by Michael Ashcroft in November 2010. They are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: TOMNAHURICH CEMETERY, INVERNESS, SCOTLAND.
Sir Anthony Miers' medals including VC and DSO with Bar on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London