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Bill Millin & Lord Lovat


On the morning of June 6, 1944, Brigadier Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, leapt into the chilly waters off Sword Beach in Normandy, followed by his personal bagpiper, Bill Millin (photo bottom-right shows Millin about to disembark from the landing craft).

Millin was a Canadian-born Scot, who was serving in the Territorial Army in Scotland before volunteering to train as a commando in 1941.

Upon hearing Millin's prowess on the bagpipes, Lord Lovat made him his personal piper.

Although the British Army forbade pipers to serve in the front lines due to high casualties in the Great War, Lord Lovat brought Millin with him on D-Day, ostensibly because Millin was Canadian and not, legally speaking, British.

Millin played rousing tunes as the landing craft neared the shore. He was the only piper present, and the only one wearing a kilt.

Armed only with a traditional Scottish sgian dubh (a small dagger) tucked into his stocking, Millin stepped off into the water and waded ashore.

Under heavy machine gun fire, Millin marched back and forth on the beach until the Germans stopped shooting at him, believing he was crazy.

As the commandos pushed forward off Sword Beach, Millin went with them as they moved to rendezvous with a British airborne unit inland who were engaged with German troops near a strategic bridge.

At one point the commandos were targeted by a German sniper. While the rest of Millin's group immediately took cover, Millin remained standing, focused so hard on playing that he failed to appreciate what was going on.

The commandos reached the airborne troops, and together, with the strains of the pipes rising over the battlefield, Millin led them across the bridge in the face of withering fire.

Millin survived D-Day and the war, although his bagpipes were damaged by shrapnel.

He died in 2010 at the age of 88.

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