Milmine was educated at St Peter's Hall, Oxford and ordained in 1947, he began his ordained ministry with curacies at St Peter and St James, Ilfracombe and St Paul’s Slough. In 1954 he emigrated to South America where he served in Chile, Bolivia and Peru and finally (until his ordination to the episcopate) as Archdeacon of North Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Shot down over Germany during the war, and on the run for six days before being captured. Consecrated Bishop of Paraguay during 30 years missionary work in South America. These are just two chapters in the remarkable life of 94-year-old Douglas Milmine.
The Rt Rev Bishop Douglas Milmine (1934-39 W) and his wife Rosalind now live in retirement in a seafront flat in Eastbourne, where he recalls his days at Sutton Valence, life as a prisoner-of-war in Stalag Luft 3, and riding out on horse-back to visit indigenous Indians in his vast South American parish. Leafing through a photo album of pre-war photographs taken at his school, Douglas recalls his days as a 1st XV wing forward, company sergeant major of the Officer Training Corps (forerunner of the CCF), and leader of the School’s Christian Union, an early indicator of the life he would subsequently lead.
He was also captain of swimming at school, but not before he and other pupils dug the hole which became the outdoor pool and remains the foundation for today’s somewhat more luxurious in-door complex. After leaving Sutton Valance, Douglas went up to St Peter’s Hall, Oxford to study theology. But with World War Two raging, he joined the RAF, and underwent basic flight training at Babbacombe, Devon, where he first met his wife-to-be Rosalind. A gifted flyer, Douglas became an instructor himself, before applying to join Bomber Command.
Aged just 22, Douglas was given command of a Halifax bomber, flying raids over Germany and France. But on his eighth mission his luck ran out, and he and his crew were forced to bale out after the plane’s engines were hit by anti-aircraft fire and burst into flames. Landing in a small copse, Douglas tried frantically to disentangle his parachute from a tree and scrabbled around to collect up propaganda leaflets, which his plane was to drop along with the bombs. All the while he could hear the sound of German voices nearby. “I knew roughly where I was”, he says, “so I decided I would try to get to Amsterdam”. Moving only by night and surviving on stolen apples and milk, Douglas was finally captured after six days. He had made it to Holland, but was sent to the Stalag Luft 3 camp in Germany, and remained a prisoner for the rest of the war. In a comment reflecting his phlegmatic and humorous view on life, Douglas recalls: “Actually, it wasn’t that bad – if you could survive boarding at an English public school then you could survive prison camp!”
After the war, Douglas went to see Donald Coggan, later Archbishop of Canterbury, to ask his advice about continuing his studies, and attended Clifton theology college before being or- dained an Anglican priest in 1947. For the next seven years, Douglas was a curate at churches in Ilfracombe and Slough, where a colleague told him there was a need for missionaries in South America. Douglas joined the South American Missionary Society, and in 1954 boarded a ship with Rosalind and their four small children for the 31-day voyage to Chile. They settled at the Araucanian Mission, an outpost almost 700 miles from the Chilean capital Santiago, where Douglas preached at a little wooden church that had been built half a cen- tury earlier by Canadian missionaries. Said Douglas: “Most of the Indians spoke the Mapudungu dialect and Spanish, so I decided pretty quickly I needed to learn Spanish”. The sheer size of Chile, coupled with relatively few Protestant Christian missionaries and just one Anglican bishop in the southern region of South America, meant that Douglas was kept busy, travelling around to Indian villages on a broken-down bike, sometimes riding 25 miles there and back.
In 1962, Douglas found that his ‘patch’ was even bigger, when he was appointed an archdeacon of North Chile, Bolivia and Peru. After a brief spell back in England, Douglas and his wife returned to South America, this time to Paraguay – a challenging posting, because at that time the country was a dictatorship, and the subject of suspicion and criticism in the American and European media. Based in the capital, Asuncion, Douglas at least had an improved method of transport to visit Paraguayan Indians on their ranches and villages – he was provided with a horse, sometimes taking up to eight days to ride to various ranches visiting different communities! His work was not only spreading the Christian message, but also helping to develop St Andrew’s College, which flourishes in Asuncion to this day. In 1973, Douglas was consecrated Bishop of Paraguay at a service attended by nine other bishops from across South America, and his work throughout the continent was recog- nised in 1983 by the British government with his appointment as CBE. In 1988, Douglas and his wife moved back to England, and he retired the fol- lowing year, although remained actively involved in the church as assistant Bishop of Chichester, as well as helping at his local Eastbourne church. During the ‘90s, Doug wrote two books, his autobiography ‘Stiff Upper Smile’, and a history of Anglicanism in South America. Today he takes life at a gentler pace, but particularly enjoys the time he spends with Rosalind and the family of one daughter, three sons, 13 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
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John Williams Hawkins Flagg
|Bishop of Paraguay
John Alexander Ellison
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