Major newspapers are publishing the obituary of Bill Millen, who piped the 15th Lord Lovat‘s First Special Service Brigade ashore on Sword Beach on D Day and onward to the relief of the 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who had landed in the early hours of the morning by glider and captured Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal.
Bill Millin, who died on August 17 aged 88, was personal piper to Lord Lovat on D-Day and piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France; unarmed apart from the ceremonial dagger in his stocking, he played unflinchingly as men fell all around him.
Millin began his apparently suicidal serenade immediately upon jumping from the ramp of the landing craft into the icy water. As the Cameron tartan of his kilt floated to the surface he struck up with Hieland Laddie. He continued even as the man behind him was hit, dropped into the sea and sank.
Once ashore Millin did not run, but walked up and down the beach, blasting out a series of tunes. After Hieland Laddie, Lovat, the commander of 1st Special Service Brigade (1 SSB), raised his voice above the crackle of gunfire and the crump of mortar, and asked for another. Millin strode up and down the waterâ€™s edge playing The Road to the Isles.
Bodies of the fallen were drifting to and fro in the surf. Soldiers were trying to dig in and, when they heard the pipes, many of them waved and cheered â€” although one came up to Millin and called him a â€œmad bastardâ€.
His bagpipes, which were badly damaged by shrapnel a few days after D-Day were given a permanent home in the National War Museum of Scotland in 2001.
Hielan Laddie, played stepping off the landing craft: 1:11 video
Road to the Isles, played on Sword Beach: 1:05 video
All the Blue Bonnets Over the Border, played at Pegasus Bridge: 1:41 video