War hero who said he never feared for his life

Charles McMillen, Dunkirk Veteran.
Charles McMillen, Dunkirk Veteran.

The funeral of 93-year-old Carrickfergus war hero, Charles McMillen, will take place today.

A Shankill Road native, Mr McMillen joined the army in 1939 when he was 18 years old.

In 2010, in an interview with the News Letter, Mr McMillen, a former sergeant in the Royal Artillery, told of how he experienced battle as part of the Allied Forces on the front line during the Second World War.

He spoke of how, despite facing fierce resistance and an onslaught from the German enemy on the French beaches in May 1940, he went on to bear arms during the London Blitz and the Normandy landings.

He also joked how he gave the wrong age at the time of joining the army, saying he was 19 when he was only 18 years old.

Mr McMillen’s great-nephew Jason Cunningham said he “just loved to hear his war stories”.

“He said he and his friend Jackie, also from the Shankill Road, went to Dunkirk together before serving back in England,” he said.

“Then they were back for D-Day and then into the Ardennes [primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg].

“His mate Jackie was wounded in the Ardennes, in the Battle of the Bulge, and was sent home.

“But Charlie stayed on through to the surrender. But he left before the Korea War, because he said he could not face another one.

“He left the army after 12 years, he told me.

“He was a gunner in the artillery when he left and he came back a sergeant. He joked that was because everybody else was dead.”

Mr Cunningham said he is “going to greatly miss my uncle because he was a character”.

While stationed in Germany, at the culmination of the war, Mr McMillen met and married his wife Inger.

In his interview with the News Letter he said after her pleas he agreed to leave the army in 1952.

He also said that during his time in the army, regardless of the carnage around him, he never feared for his life.

“I was young at the time so the only thing I was worried about was what was going to happen to my mother – that was always on my mind.”

On their return to the UK, the couple settled in Oxford and Mr McMillen enjoyed a long career as a bursar at Oxford University.

The couple – who had one daughter called Maureen – then moved home to Carrickfergus in 1989 to enjoy their retirement. However Inger died suddenly, soon after their move.

Mr McMillen’s funeral will be held today at 11.30am in Roselawn.