b. 12/06/1899 London. d. 27/05/1989 Chatham, Kent.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 01/12/1940 Fife, Scotland.
Alfred Miles (1899-1988) was born on 12th June 1899 in Marylebone, London, the son of Annie Louisa Miles, who was in service at the time of his birth. His father’s identity is not known. He lived in Paddington, and following a basic education, he joined the Royal Navy and served for 22 years until June 1939, when he was transferred to the Reserve. His time on the Reserve was short-lived, as just three months later, following the outbreak of World War II, he was recalled to service.
In May 1920, he had married Margaret Mary Merrigan, and they had two sons (Alfred and Vincent) and two daughters (Ann and Daphne). After their marriage they moved to Kent, firstly to Old Brompton, then to Gillingham.
Alfred’s war service saw him take part in the Dunkirk evacuation in May and June 1940, just prior to his transfer to home service in Scotland. On 1st December 1940 in Fife, Scotland, HMS Saltash was passing from one dock basin to another, and a wire had been run out from the starboard bow to the weather corner of a gate so as to hold the bow up to the wind. The wire was taken to the windlass, but this was too slow, and so men were picking up the slack by hand, leaving some loose turns of wire on the deck. As the ship drew level the order was passed to turn up. The wire was taken from the windlass to the bollards. Able Seaman Thompson was standing in a bight of wire; Miles called out to him to get clear, but Thompson failed to do so and the wire drew taut around his ankles. Miles knew that Thompson could be hauled through the bull-ring, and that if he himself were caught in the wire he would be in the same position, yet he tried to force the bight open with his hands. His right hand was jammed between the wire and Thompson's ankle. He said nothing and still tried to free his shipmate as Thompson was dragged along the deck towards the bull-ring. They were saved, and Thompson was taken off the ship in time to save his life.
Alfred suffered terrible injuries in the accident, and ultimately lost his hand. On the 25th April 1941, the London Gazette announced that he had been awarded the Albert Medal in Bronze for saving life at sea. Due to his loss of a hand, he was not able to return to active service, and was given a position working in the Admiral’s garden. He remained in this position until the end of the war. He then gained employment at the Chatham Dockyard, where he remained until his retirement in 1966.
In 1971 following the change in the Royal Warrant, Alfred chose to exchange his Albert Medal for the George Cross. He donated his Albert Medal to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Sadly, Alfred’s wife passed away, and he twice overcame cancer in later life. Following a fall, he moved into the Naval Association Home in Gillingham, where he died on 27th May 1989. He was buried with his wife in Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. His medals including his GC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal and Royal Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal were donated to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH.
BURIAL PLACE: WOODLANDS CEMETERY, GILLINGHAM, KENT.
Picture - Kevin Brazier
Alfred Miles' medals displayed at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier