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Photo of Frank Douglas Miles

Frank Douglas Miles

Birthplace Midlothian Edinburgh Scotland Date of Birth: June 18, 1885 Date of Death: April 13, 1968


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Frank Douglas Miles
Gender : Male
Date and place of birth: 18th June 1885, 34 Myrtle Terrace , Edinburgh
Date and Place of Death: 13th April 1968, West Kilbride, Ayrshire
Nationality: British, father English, mother Scottish
Parents : William Henry Miles and Augusta Louisa Collinson
Parents occupations : Inland revenue Excise officer
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance:  1906 gained scholarship whilst at Tullie House , Carlisle, Royal College of Science, University of London  Graduated in 1908
Occupation : Research Chemist
Place of residence at Gretna: 8 George Street , Carlisle
Marital status: Married in 1920
Children: 3 sons and 1 daughter
Travels : None evident

Positions held

Trivia / any other information:


Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):

The Manufacture Of Sulfuric Acid 1923 by Frank Douglas Miles ISBN 4444006752567, reprinted in facsimile 2018

A History Of Research In The Nobel Division Of I.C.I. by Frank Douglas Miles 1955

Cellulose nitrate: The physical chemistry of nitrocellulose, its formation and use by Miles, Frank Douglas

Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual:

Further links, notes, and comments:


Frank Douglas Miles A.R.C.S.. MSc ( Lond) 


It is not certain but based on the evidence found exceedingly likely that Frank Douglas Miles, research chemist, was engaged at H.M.Factory Gretna during WW1. His name is included in the Institute of Chemistry Journal 1917 part 4 when he was living at  8 George Street, Carlisle. 

Frank was born on 18th June 1885 at 34 Myrtle Terrace, Gorgie, Edinburgh to William Henry Miles . an excise officer born in Walworth London in 1857  and Augusta Louisa nee Collinson, the daughter of an artist , born in Oxford in 1861.  

Frank was their first child. They married in Flookburgh, Westmorland in September 1884. 

The 1891 census places Frank and his family at 62 Liverpool Road, Longton, Penwortham, Lancashire. William, now 32 an inland revenue officer ( 2nd class), Augusta 30, Frank 5, Harry 1 born in Longton, Helen 6 mths also born in Longton. They also afforded a general domestic servant, Beatrice Hill of Preston. Since 1885 the family had moved from Edinburgh to Lancashire. 

By 1901 when the census return was completed , William had moved his family north to Carlisle where they were living at Eden Street, Stanwix to the north of the city. William now 42 is a “1st class  officer inland revenue, outdoor dyer excise.” Augusta is 40, Frank at 15 is an “ unpaid telegraph learner “ This is also evidenced in the 1901 Post Office Appointments directory where he is listed as a learner in the telegraph department. Harry is now 11, Helen 10 and Margaret 5 being born in Ashton in Ribble.  

In 1906 the Keswick Guardian reports small scholarships including one for Frank D Miles, Tullie House School, Carlisle . Frank would have been 21 so this was perhaps an evening or technical type institute.  

We find him having graduated with a first class degree in Chemistry from the University of London, Royal College of Science in 1908. (Register for University of London ). 

By the time of the 1911 census, Frank is a lecturer at Herriot Watt in Edinburgh living at 72 Marchmont Road , Morningside, Edinburgh.  

Wilhelmina, his future wife is at this time staying with her 60 year old  widowed uncle in Tillicoultry.  The other residents are a visitor, a housekeeper and two housemaids.  

We know that Frank was living in Carlisle at 8 George Street, close to the Citadel Railway station, in  1917 as this is where the Institute of Chemistry places him. We can assume that this is the family home because it is where he and his parents are listed on the electoral register of 1920, post war. 

It is therefore  reasonable to assume  given his background and future publications that Frank moved back to Carlisle during  the war years to take up a post as a research chemist at H M Factory Gretna , staying in Carlisle at least until early 1920.( electoral register). He obviously developed expertise and knowledge in the use of nitrates and acids.  

He returned to Edinburgh on 14th July 1920 to marry Wilhelmina Willison at St Giles ( Cathedral) . He gives his address as Liskyeard Gardens, London, is 35 and a Research Chemist. Further information gleaned from the marriage registration is that Wilhelmina is 30, was born in Alloa , Clackmannanshire but her recent address was Tillicoultry. Her father Robert Willison is a Copper and Brass manufacturer.  

Wilhelmina was the second of 6 children, her maternal grandmother being Swiss.  

1920 was a busy year for Frank, he jointly published “The Solubility of Sulphur Dioxide in Sulphuric Acid.” with Joseph Fenton.  

We know that the young couple were living in Lewisham in 1922 where their first son John William Miles was born on 26th July. A note on a public members tree indicates that John suffered from mental illness and died in 1974. 

In 1923, Frank published “ The Manufacture of Sulphuric acid”  

We know from the ‘Amersham News and Advertising’ of April 1997 reporting the tragic death of second son of Robert Harvey Douglas Miles , that they had lived in Ardrossan when Robert was born in 1924. This article tells us a lot about the family. Robert spent his younger years at West Kilbride, Ayrshire and linking this information to publications by Frank in the fifties is  reasonable to assume that Frank worked at ICI. 

ICI was founded in 1926 ( Wikipedia) . They had a site at Ardeer , Ayrshire. 

.” ICI Nobel used the site to manufacture dynamite and other explosives and nitrocelluliose-based products. For a time the site also produced nitric acid.”  

A daughter Joan Louise Miles was born in 1926  in West Kilbride according to Scotland’s people. Anecdotally from a public member tree it appears that Joan committed suicide in 1970.  

A final child, Frank Robert was born in 1928, also in West Kilbride. Anecdotally from the same public member tree , Frank also committed suicide in September 1968.  

The report in the Amersham paper of Robert’s fatal cycling accident also gives us an insight into the children’s early life. It tells us that he went to Abbotsholme School, Ashbourne , Derbyshire,  and this is where he is listed as being in the 1939 register.  

The school website , tells the history and philosophy of the school which Wilhelmina lived a further ten years , dying in October 1978 aged 88 at Kingsbridge, Devon. There are indications through electoral registers that one of her children lived there at the time.  

gives us an insight into the attitude of Frank and Wilhelmina to education and parenting at the time.  

“Abbotsholme School was established in 1889 by Cecil Reddie as an experiment for his progressive educational philosophies and theories. From the very beginning, the School favoured a less rigid environment and more liberal education. The original curriculum was designed to prepare boys for the public service. Abbotsholme School became coeducational in 1969. The values, education and broad curriculum offered were focussed on a Christian ethos…” 

 It is unclear whether or not the other children attended boarding schools. It is highly possible that the eldest son, John William will have served in WW2. 

In 1955, aged 70, Frank had two books published “ A History of Research in the Nobel Division of I.C.I” published by ICI and “ Cellulose Nitrate: the Physical Chemistry of Nitrocellulose, its Formation and Use”. The former title was republished in facsimile format in 2018. 

By 1957, second son Robert had at least one child, a grandson for Frank and Wilhelmina.  

They must have continued to live in West Kilbride. Probate for Frank indicates this is the case . He died on 13th April 1968 followed 5 months later by youngest son Robert, also in West Kilbride ( Probate) and less than two year later his only daughter, Joan.  

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