Bernard James Miles, Baron Miles, CBE (27 September 1907 – 14 June 1991) was an English character actor, writer and director.[1] He opened the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1959, the first new theatre that opened in the City of London since the 17th century.[2]

Bernard Miles.jpg
Bernard Miles in 1946
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
7 February 1979 – 14 June 1991
Life Peerage
Personal details
Bernard James Miles

(1907-09-27)27 September 1907
Uxbridge, Middlesex, England
Died14 June 1991(1991-06-14) (aged 83)
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England
Spouse(s)Josephine Wilson (?–1990) (her death) 3 children
ChildrenSally Miles (1933–1986), Bridget Miles, John Miles (1943-2018)

Miles was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, and attended Bishopshalt School in Hillingdon. His father and mother were, respectively, a farm labourer and a cook.

Miles completed his education at Pembroke College, Oxford, and then entered the theatre in the 1930s. He also soon began appearing in films and featured prominently in patriotic cinema during the Second World War, including classics such as In Which We Serve and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. He also had an uncredited role in The First of the Few (released in the US as Spitfire).

His typical persona as an actor was as a countryman, with a strong accent typical of the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire counties. He was also, after Robert Newton, the actor most associated with the part of Long John Silver, which he played in a British TV version of Treasure Island, and in an annual performance at the Mermaid commencing in the winter of 1961–62. Actors in the annual theatrical productions included Spike Milligan as Ben Gunn,[3] and, in the 1968 production, Barry Humphries as Long John Silver.[4] It was Miles who, impressed by the talent of John Antrobus, originally commissioned him to write a play of some sort. This led to Antrobus collaborating with Milligan to produce a one-act play called The Bed Sitting Room, which was later adapted to a longer play, and staged by Miles at The Mermaid on 31 January 1963, with both critical and commercial success.[5][6][7]

He had a pleasant rolling bass-baritone voice that worked well in theatre and film, as well as being much in demand for voice-overs. As a performer, he was most well known for a series of comic monologues, often given in a rural dialect.[8] These were recorded and sold as record albums, which were quite popular. Some of his comic monologues are currently viewable on YouTube.

Miles was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1953,[9] was knighted in 1969,[10] and was created a life peer as Baron Miles, of Blackfriars in the City of London on 7 February 1979.[11] He was only the second British actor to be given a peerage (the first was Laurence Olivier).[12]

Bernard Miles in 1974 (with his parrot, Jack Sprat) by Allan Warren

Miles's written works include The British Theatre (1947), God's Brainwave (1972) and Favourite Tales from Shakespeare (1972). Robin Hood - His Life and Legend - illustrated by Victor Ambrus, was published in 1979. In 1981, he co-authored the book Curtain Calls with J. C. Trewin.

He died in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire on 14 June 1991 aged 83. By coincidence, he was born in the same year, and died on the same day, as the actress Peggy Ashcroft.[13]

His daughters are the actress Sally Miles and the artist Bridget Miles. His son John Miles was a Grand Prix driver in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the Lotus team.

Partial filmographyEdit

Television :-

As ' Nathaniel Titlark ', Woodsman .10 Episodes. BBCTV. Lost. Maureen Prior as Jessie Titlark.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Bernard Miles | British actor". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  3. ^ Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. p.198
  4. ^ Ventham, Maxine (2002). "Barry Humphries". In … (ed.). Spike Milligan: His Part in Our Lives. London: Robson. pp. 93–96. ISBN 1-86105-530-7.
  5. ^ Scudamore(1985) pp.200, 203–204
  6. ^ McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. p.157
  7. ^ Antrobus, John (2002). Surviving Spike Milligan: A Voyage Through the Mind & Mirth of the Master Goon. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. pp.69–70
  8. ^ "Bernard Miles | Britmovie | Home of British Films". Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  9. ^ "No. 39732". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1953. p. 11.
  10. ^ "No. 44968". The London Gazette. 20 November 1969. p. 11119.
  11. ^ "No. 47766". The London Gazette. 9 February 1979. p. 1852.
  12. ^ Obituary. The New York Times 15 June 1991
  13. ^ "British theatre loses two titans". The Times. 15 June 1991.
  14. ^ "Release date for The Magic Box". Retrieved 27 April 2016.

External linksEdit