Ian Milner - Biography


Born in London and educated at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. Went to sea aged 17 to serve with the British India Steam Navigation Company as a Deck Officer Cadet.

After loss of first ship through enemy action off the Southern Italian coast, served under the Blue Ensign  clearing  wartime wrecks in the Middle East until the Admiralty Salvage Organisation, East Indies, was wound up in 1947.                

Returned to UK to qualify as a Second Mate, and after a period of  passenger service to South Africa, left the sea and began a second career in Building Surveying. Qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in 1952 and practised in the City of London as Surveying Partner of an Architectural and Surveying Practice for over 30 years.

Freeman and Liveryman of the City of London and sometime Lord of the Manor of Elham and Wingmore in the County of Kent.

Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

On retirement from surveying,  studied the practice of sculpture under Nigel Konstam at the Verrochio Art Centre in Tuscany.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, past Chairman of the Canvas Club, Art Group of the Friends (now Founder Member )of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Member of the Surrey Society of Sculptors;  Member of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Art Society.



Other interests, sailing with the Offshore Cruising Club, Photography and Foreign Travel.




Published Memoirs of his life at sea reviewed below.

Once A Malim Sahib: The Memoirs of a Deck Officer

by Ian Milner, published by Librario, 103 pages, paperback.

ISBN 978 1 906775 10 0 price £6.99

Compared with my own rather dull apprenticeship, Ian Milner’s was rich in experience and although his book is sub-titled The Memoirs of a Deck Officer it is easy in reading it to forget that Milner was extraordinarily fortunate in being seconded from the British India Steam Navigation Company while still ‘doing his time’ and before he was, at least in the eyes of the Board of Trade, an officer proper.

Milner went to sea early in 1945 in the last months of the Second World War by which time the Allies had the upper hand at sea. As a salutary reminder that the war at sea went the full distance, he was torpedoed on his first voyage in the S.S. Neuralia. I had a personal interest in the fate of this ship because my own father, when a sixth-form school-boy, had undertaken an educational cruise to the Baltic and recalled her for the spotlessness of her decks from which he observed the antics of the Nazi brown-shirts on the banks of the Kiel Canal.

Repatriated, Milner was appointed to the Gurna. He must have impressed his lords and masters sufficiently, for on arrival at Bombay he was ‘loaned’ to the Admiralty Salvage Service. Aboard the salvage tug Salviola as an uncertificated officer he learned of the attraction and satisfaction of working in a small vessel. The Salviola was engaged in the Persian Gulf, clearing up the refuse of war. Many ports were as yet untouched by the boom in oil exports and retained some of the characteristics of an earlier age, features which Milner recognises in this well wrought account of a young man’s life at sea doing an unusual job in an unusual vessel.

His accounts of salvage work at a time when it remained relatively unsophisticated are fascinating. Devoid of the technology available today, the sheer time, skill and effort that had to be put into the Salviola’s various tasks are impressive.

I must not steal his thunder, for this is a rattling yarn and ought to be on the shelves of all those interested in the exploits of seafarers. The author’s sketches, if unsophisticated, are fresh and evocative, though the quality of the photographs – presumably taken on a box camera – leave something to be desired.

Milner returned to British India but, in the end, decided not to stay at sea; for a young man of obvious ability that was a pity. Nevertheless, his recollections of his youth are a timely reminder of what we once were as a seafaring nation.