Friday, August 20, 2010

RIP Piper Bill

Most would agree the men who landed at Normandy on D-Day were brave beyond all expectation.

What would you call Bill Millin, a man who landed at Normandy on D-Day armed only with a set of bagpipes?

As the landing craft grounded off the Normandy beaches, Mr. Millin jumped into the water from his ramp, noting that the shock of the freezing cold water had made him completely forget his seasickness. He strode ashore through the surf continuing to play right up the beach. Not everyone in the unit approved of the musical accompaniment. Some cheered. Others yelled "mad bastard" at him — a sobriquet normally reserved for the commanding officer.

As Mr. Millin recalled, the speed of the brigade's advance tended to make him forget his fear. As he ran through the bagpipe repertoire the process seemed to gain an unearthly momentum of its own. When another officer told him to run, he heard himself saying calmly: "No, I won't be running sir. I will just play them as usual."
The greatest generation continues to impress.



Linoge said...

Wow. "Great big brass ones" does not seem to cut it in this case.

Firehand said...

He met Lord Lovat while he doing his commando training at Achnacarry, north of Fort William. Lovat, the hereditary chief of the Clan Fraser, offered him a job as his batman, but Millin turned this down and Lovat agreed instead to take him on as his personal piper.

The War Office had banned pipers from leading soldiers into battle after losses in the Great War had proved too great. “Ah, but that’s the English War Office,” Lovat told Millin. “You and I are both Scottish and that doesn’t apply.” On D-Day, Millin was the only piper.