Saturday, August 21, 2010

Piper Bill Millin, 51st Highand Division, RIP

Piper Bill Millin at Sword Beach June 6, 1944

Piper Bill Millin, 2008

As even the youngest of World War II veterans are leaving us in numbers approaching the butcher's bill of D-Day itself, we pause to recognize one whom inspired a country and a culture. Piper Bill Millin known as "Piper Bill" went to join his comrades and play Hielan Laddie for eternity, when he passed the bounds of earth last Wednesday August 17, at Devon, England.

For those who don't know, Bill Millin was the personal piper of Brigadier Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat who led the 1st Special Service Brigade ashore at Sword Beach on D-Day. Lovat ordered Millin to pipe the troops as they stormed the beaches in defiance of an order banning the playing of the pipes. Millin continued to play and marched back and forth along the beach piping as his comrades fell around him. His bravery stunned the Germans, who later claimed that they spared him because they thought him mad. It is worth a moment to pause and read about Piper Millin and reflect on his bravery and perhaps momentary madness as his comrades broke the tide of German invincibility on the sea walls of Normandy so long ago.

Read more:
Piper Bill Millin (14 July 1922 – 17 August 2010)


mark said...

"I think I know what you may be thinking right now - thinking “we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.” Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren’t. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him - Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, “Sorry, I’m a few minutes late,” as if he’d been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he’d just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken."

- Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984

Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

Reading your moving account of Piper Mullin -- and especially your comment that "His bravery stunned the Germans, who later claimed that they spared him because they thought him mad" -- I'm reminded of stories I was told some years back by Lakota friends.

As I understand it, a Lakota warrior might stake himself to the ground with a sash in the heat of battle, and hurl taunts at the enemy -- and at times an entire enemy band would turn and flee rather than approach such a man, presuming that his having staked himself in that way indicated that he must be possessed by some invincible spirit...

HISTORYGUY99 said...

Thanks Mark and Charles for the nice comments.