Socialist MP who won the Distinguished Flying Cross
Ernest Millington, who died aged 93 on 9 May, was the last surviving Member of the 1935-45 House of Commons, which originally had a Conservative majority of 247. Probably its most untypical member, he was elected at a by-election in the previously safe Conservative constituency of Chelmsford on 26 April, 1945. A candidate of the left-wing Commonwealth Party, formed by Sir Richard Acland, he ignored the wartime electoral truce between the main political parties and, at 29 years of age, became the youngest MP at the time.
One of the sons of Edward Millington, a professional soldier and subsequently a printing worker, and his wife, Emily, Ernest Millington attended Chigwell Grammar school in Essex, a minor public school. Here he learnt Latin, Greek and French and read Plato and Voltaire which, together with his religious studies, gave him a left- wing outlook. This led him to join the Labour League of Youth, where he learnt to speak in public alongside another left-wing activist, Ted Willis, later the author of Dixon of Dock Green, etc. However, his political views offended his father and, at 16 years of age, he was thrown out of the family home. This forced him to leave school and seek employment to support himself. After re-establishing himself, despite losing a job because of his politics, he married Gwen Pickard and joined the Territorial Army to be ready to combat Fascism.
He was called up in 1939, sent for officer training and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. However, he volunteered to transfer to the RAF, trained as a pilot and joined Bomber Command, being assigned to fly Lancaster bombers. Of 125,000 members of Bomber Command aircrews during the Second World War, 60 per cent became casualties - most fatal - and only skill and good luck enabled him to survive. On one occasion, when his plane was hit and an engine caught fire, he put it into a steep dive which blew out the flames. On another occasion, two engines and the compass were knocked out in combat and he limped back, following another plane, miraculously managing to land his crippled aircraft with a punctured tyre.
At a conference of senior officers, he dared to speak out in criticism of proposals that attacking planes should fly in formation. Instead of being downgraded as an upstart, he was promoted within a month to the rank of Wing Commander.
When he was unexpectedly elected to the House of Commons, he was soon speaking out again. However, he was not universally popular and neighbours in his constituency, who accepted him as a …