Author Topic: Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars  (Read 550 times)

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Niall McLaren

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Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars
« on: January 07, 2018, 02:40:52 AM »
These immediate post war, coated Ross 7x50 binoculars show signs of salt water erosion on the outside buy still give great images. There owner, John Humphrey Millar, was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and had a tremendous impact on Coastal Command aircraft procurement as well as an interesting life;

John Humphrey Millar (1903 - 2006) was an engineer and businessman who's several different careers resulted in his playing a persuasive role in wartime aircraft procurement and, after the war, in his founding a highly successful aerospace components company, Avica.

As an agent for Lockheed and Consolidated, he was largely responsible for RAF Coastal Command acquiring two of its most important aircraft, the Hudson patrol bomber and the Catalina flying boat. 

In 1920 he became  a sales manager in a radiator company, spent his spare time racing at Brooklands and learnt to sail. During the General Strike he drove a locomotive for the Great Western Railway.

He became fascinated by the technical advances being made in aviation in his 20's and, with a private pilot’s certificate,  resigned his job and started to research aviation developments. His curiosity took him to America, where he flew many of the prototypes then being built with all-metal, sparless wings, variable pitch propellors and other innovations.

He was taken on as an agent for Lockheed in 1936, and flew airliners commercially between Kansas City and Newark, New Jersey, becoming the European agent for a wide variety of aircraft parts and equipment.

He formed his own company, Millar Aviation, returning  to Britain in 1938.  Commissioned to sell the Lockheed Model 14 twin engined all-metal bomber/transport in Britain, he was also appointed by the president of the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation to market its PBY4 "Catalina" long-range flying boat.

These were two very significant aircraft types. Rejected in 1937 by the British Air Ministry, against Millar’s strenuous advocacy, the Hudson was eventually ordered for Coastal Command - in August 1941 a Hudson became the first aircraft to “capture” a U-boat, U 570, depth-charging it from the air and then, when it had surrendered, calling up surface escort ships to secure its crew.

Many Atlantic convoys had reason to bless the presence of the Consolidated Catalina flying boat, with its phenomenal range. On May 26, 1941, it was a Catalina from Iceland that located the battleship Bismarck, after she had given her pursuers the slip, and ensured her subsequent destruction.

After the British Government had ordered nearly 300 very long range Liberator bombers from Consolidated, Millar resigned his post with the firm, took leave from his own company and joined the Royal Navy as a lieutenant (A) RNVR. In June 1941 the Fifth Sea Lord (who was in charge of all naval aviation) sent Millar to the British Air Commission in Washington, where his expertise was put to good use in such projects as adapting US carrier-borne aircraft to carry British torpedoes.

In 1944 he was ordered to create an air freight organisation throughout India and Ceylon to support the Eastern Fleet. He surveyed all the routes, flew proving flights over them and wrote the manuals.

After the war Millar resumed as managing director of his company in Britain. Later in 1945 he went to America, where he settled and established Avica Equipment in Rhode Island, winning orders for advanced fuel systems for American aircraft. But legal questions about his nationality affected his status. In 1960 his American wife sold her shareholding. Selling the American company, Millar returned home, and rebuilt the business, employing more than 500 engineers and mechanics in three factories.

In 1965 Avica Equipment lost 85 per cent of its order book because of defence cuts by the new Labour Government. Moving to Geneva, Millar was unable to obtain work permits for his engineers, so he liquidated his Swiss company. He became a resident of Monaco, built a new factory there, landed contracts in France, Germany and Italy, and doubled the company’s sales of aircraft, rocket and satellite components. By 1979 each French Ariane rocket carried £250,000 worth of Avica components.

The oil crisis had prompted him to invent and produce a high-efficiency, solar-powered distilling plant, and this venture became his chief interest when Avica was bought by an English public company — which soon lost the European markets. In 1983 he designed and had built in America the 110ft brigantine Centurion as a research vessel to promote solar-powered devices.

In April 1985, on the way to the Pacific without Millar on board, Centurion was stranded off Lisbon and badly damaged. Lloyds admitted liability but years of legal wrangling followed. In old age, at his home in the Alpes Maritimes, Millar continued to be busy with projects of all sorts, particularly those concerned with solar power. In 1993 he was appointed an adviser to Prince Rainier’s committee for solar energy. He was a member of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron, and was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and of the Royal Society of Arts.
"A little bit of something beats a whole lot of nothing." - Little Richard

Winfried Tuerk

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Re: Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2018, 08:47:52 AM »
Good morning Niall. Great man, awesome story! How you came across the old Steplux?
« Last Edit: January 07, 2018, 08:49:36 AM by Winfried Tuerk »
live without binoculars is possible but senseless - paraphrasing Loriot "live without puc is possible ..."

Niall McLaren

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Re: Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2018, 11:35:00 AM »
An especially amazing tale for anyone (like myself) interested in aviation history. I found it on Ebay and (if I remember right) was the only one interested in it Winfried. ;)
"A little bit of something beats a whole lot of nothing." - Little Richard

Winfried Tuerk

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Re: Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2018, 01:49:25 PM »
Niall, I'm hoping, you don't spark a hype regarding old binoculars having private engravings on it ;)
live without binoculars is possible but senseless - paraphrasing Loriot "live without puc is possible ..."

Niall McLaren

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Re: Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2018, 01:58:40 PM »
Many have engravings on Winfried but it's only the partuclarly interesting ones that thrill me. ;)
"A little bit of something beats a whole lot of nothing." - Little Richard

Winfried Tuerk

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Re: Lieut Comm. John Humphrey Millar's Ross 7x50 Binoculars
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2018, 02:10:15 PM »
...and you have to be keen-eyed to spot all the badly recognizable marks on commonly bad Ebay pictures.. 8)
« Last Edit: January 30, 2018, 06:40:44 PM by Winfried Tuerk »
live without binoculars is possible but senseless - paraphrasing Loriot "live without puc is possible ..."