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Remembering A Piper on the Beach

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  • Remembering A Piper on the Beach

    Bill Millin, at the age of 88, passed away this last week of complications from a stroke. Here is a link to the New York Times article on his passing.

    You may never have heard the name before, but most of you will remember his portrayal in the film The Longest Day. Bill Millin waded ashore on D-Day along side Brigadier Simon Fraser, better known as Lord Lovat, commander of the British 1st Special Service (Commando) Brigade. Millin later recalled that his kilt had floated up around his waist as he waded through the surf.

    Following heavy casualties in World War I, British regulations forbade playing the bagpipes on the battlefield. When Lovat told Millin to play on the beach, Millin reminded him of the regulations.

    “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply,” Lovat explained.

    So Millin marched up and down the fire-swept beach playing “Highland Laddie,” “Road to the Isles,” and other tunes Lovat requested. Later Millin met some of the German soldiers manning the beach defenses and they told him they did not shoot him “because they thought I was crazy.”

    When Lovat’s brigade pushed inland and relieved the hard-pressed airborne defenders of Pegasus Bridge, Millin again led the way playing the pipes, which is the scene recreated in The Longest Day. Rarely have moments so dramatic and inspiring in a film had roots so solidly anchored in reality.

    Regular readers of this column may recall that the actor Richard Todd, who played Major Howard, commander ...


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  • #2
    Being familiar with the book and the film, I find that the film is very faithful, especially for the time period in which it was made. So many heroes that day. The world is losing them so fast. It is our loss.
    "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."
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