Millett, John Robert 'Jack' (Lieutenant, b.1912 - d.1999)

Accession Number PR03929
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 3 wallet: 5 cm.
Object type Document, Card, Letter
Maker Millett, John Robert 'Jack'
Place made Australia, Germany, North Africa: Libya, Syria, United Kingdom, United States of America
Date made 1940-1945
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection relating to the Second World War service of WX3383 Lieutenant John 'Jack' Robert Millett, 2/11th Battalion, POW.

Lieutenant Jack Millett enlisted in the Army in July 1940. After arriving in the Middle East and training in Palestine and Egypt, he first saw action with the 2/11th Battalion at Bardia in January 1941 and shortly after at Toburk, Derna and Benghazi. In early April, the battalion was deployed to assist in the defence of Greece. Originally positioned at Kalabaka, it retreated southward to Megara where it was evacuated by sea on 25 April. Arriving on Crete the battalion was deployed to defend Retimo airfield, but following German successes on the island and its subsequent surrender, Lt Millett was taken prisoner in May.

With other British and Commonwealth officers from Crete, Lt Millett was sent to Oflag X-C near Lubeck in northern Germany, then around October moved to Oflag VI-B near Dossel (now part of Warburg). Lt Millett was assigned prisoner of war number 3558. Following a mass escape at Warburg in September 1942 known as the “Warburg Wire Job”, many of the officers including Lt Millett were moved to Oflag VII-B at Eichstaff in the south west of Germany. Following an escape in early June 1943, during which Lt Millett was at large for five days before being recaptured, he was moved to Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle in June/July.

At Colditz, Lt Millett gained particular fame as a producer of high quality maps, essential to any successful escape from occupied Europe. He became known as the ‘map maker of Colditz’. Millett produced escape maps using a method called jelly mimeograph. A ‘master map’ would be drawn on waxed paper using crushed indelible pencils as an ink. The master would be pressed into gelatine, transferring the ink to the gelatine. Plain paper pressed over the top of the gelatine would produce a replica map. Several maps could be made this way, although each successive pressing would be fainter.

Colditz was repatriated by the US Army in April 1945 and Lt Millett eventually returned to his wife Irene (known as Rene) and young son in Australia in August.

Lt Millett was an avid collector and many German and Italian military badges and insignia he collected are in the Memorial’s collection, along with his medals, a compass, a duplicate food store key, a large number of photographs, and several of his escape maps including two ‘master’ maps.

This collection of his personal papers consists of:

Wallet 1 - Folder 1 (3 items)
3 x copies of 2/11 Battalion Reinforcement nominal rolls – typed, carbon and handwritten, but all different.

Wallet 1 - Folder 2 (8 items)
2 x 2/11 Battalion Christmas cards. The 1940 card is from Jack to his wife; and the 1941 card is from WX32 Capt David Arion Collingwood Jackson to Les and Mrs Cary (Millett’s brother in law and mother in law) written from Syria.
6 x empty envelopes.

Wallet 1 - Folder 3 (13 items)
12 x letters written by Millett, mainly to his wife Rene, during the period October 1940 to April 1941. The letters cover his training in Palestine through to actions at Bardia, Tobruk, Derna, Benghazi and onto Greece and Crete. These letters are very detailed and descriptive. Also included is a typescript of one of the letters dated 22 April 1941 describing the battalion’s arrival in Greece; taking up a defensive position near Kalabaka; duties in Larissa; bombings around Lamia Pass and further bombings on their way to the coast. He also comments on casualties; sleeping in the open; and the lack of food, clothes and news. Some of these letters have been numbered as they were written, or numbered as responses to his wife’s letters. The numbering indicates that this set is of letters is not complete.

Wallet 1 - Folder 4 (3 items)
A carbon typed account of ‘Lessons from Crete’, dated March 1942, to which Millett has made annotations.
2 x news clippings mentioning Jack Millet.

Wallet 2 contains Millett’s prisoner of war correspondence, written between August 1941 and November 1944. Most of the prisoner of war post cards and letter cards are written to Millett’s wife Rene (Irene). As all prisoner of war correspondence was checked by the German censor’s, topics needed to be innocuous to avoid raising suspicions. The most common theme running across all years is the receipt of letters from home, the weather, his continued love for his wife and hope that she feels the same for him. In the letters from later years, he comments on the lack of things to tell her and many of the later letters are very similar in content to earlier ones, although he far more frequently mentions his growing son, and his feelings that the end of the war is approaching.

Wallet 2 - Folder 1 (17 items)
1 x telegram from Millett’s wife to other family members, dated June 1941, reporting that Jack is missing.
7 x post cards and 9 x letter cards, written by Millett to his wife Rene, dated between August and December 1941 and sent from camps Oflag X-C (Lubeck) and later Oflag VI-B (Warburg).
Topics include: the cold; being in hospital; food; letters and parcels from home; lectures; requests for books on farming; sports; entertainment including concerts; and moving to Oflag VI-B (Warburg) around October which he thought better than the previous camp.

Wallet 2 - Folder 2 (31 items)
13 x post cards and 17 x letter cards, written by Millett mostly to his wife Rene, dated between January and December 1942 and sent from Oflag VI-B (Warburg) and from about September onwards from Oflag VII-B (Eichstaff).
Topics include: news from home; delay in receiving letters; lectures and classes; entertainment including shows; clothing parcels; his requests for items to be sent, especially photographs of her; the June heat; the July cold and rain; the new camp; being hand cuffed since coming to the new camp; and the snow in November.
1 x postcard to Millett from a friend Dorothy H Edwards, dated 18 October 1942, from America.

Wallet 2 - Folder 3 (35 items)
13 x post cards and 22 x letter cards, written by Millett mostly to his wife Rene, dated between January and December 1943 and sent from Oflag VII-B (Eichstaff) and from around June/July from Oflag IV-C (Colditz).
Topics include: requests for items to be sent; the mild winter; has plenty of clothes; still requesting personal grooming items; letters from home; cooking own meals; hopes wife doesn’t find him too changed; son must think him a ‘fairy tale’; her move to a new home; his growing son; working in the theatre; several stints in the ‘cooler’. By 1943 he is running out of things to write about, and many of the letters closely resemble earlier ones. There is one letter around June that appears to have been censored – it can be assumed he talks about the move to Colditz.

Wallet 2 - Folder 4 (29 items)
8 x cards and 21 x letter cards, written by Millett mostly to his wife Rene, dated between January and November 1944 and sent from Oflag IV-C (Colditz).
Topics include: more time spent in jail (letter censored); rate of mail being received; his love for her; his growing son; news from home; her move to WA; move to a new camp with better washing facilities (or perhaps just a different part of Colditz); an Englishman shot trying to escape; not knowing what to write about; feeling the war is drawing to a close; still cooking for his group; and pet cats.

Wallet 3 - Folder 1 (2 items)
1 x letter dated 16 March 1945 to Mrs Millett from QX6014 Captain Douglas Crawford - having recently been repatriated from IV-C where he was with Jack.
1 x letter dated 2 Sept 1945 to Jack from John Lace.

Wallet 3 - Folder 2 (4 items)
1 x Demobilisation book, 1945.
1 x Membership card to ‘The Victory Services Club’, for the 1987-1988 year.
1 x Copy of the ‘Constitution of Cary’s AIF Chicken’s Club’ (c.1957).
1 x Ex-prisoners of War Association of WA letter, dated 17 April 1989, with an application form for membership.