ôô

D-Day: Bagpipes and Snipers

Upon landing at Sword Beach the morning of June 6, 1944, one group of eite British commandos were accompanied by a Highland bagpiper, who emphasized the greatness of their victory. 

By
Giles Milton,
Episode #85
WWII soldiers and a bagpiper

Millin could not believe his ears. He had just seen a comrade crumple dead into the water. They were all in grave danger of getting hit.

"You must be joking, surely?"

"What was that?" said Lovat.


Millin knew better than to protest. If he was going to die, he might as well do so playing the bagpipes. "Well, what tune would you have in mind, sir?"

"How about 'Road to the Isles'?"

"Now would you want me to walk up and down, sir?"


If he was going to die, he might as well do so playing the bagpipes.

"Yes. That would be nice. Yes, walk up and down."

Shellfire was exploding and mortars were thumping into the dunes. Yet Bill Millin strolled up and down the beach blasting his pipes for all he was worth. At one point, he felt a hand slap his shoulder. It was his sergeant.

"What are you f---ing playing at, you mad bastard? You’re attracting all the German attention." Millin might have retorted, as he did in years to come, that Lord Lovat was the mad bastard, not him. He would later learn from two captured Germans that they didn’t shoot him because they couldn’t believe their eyes. They thought he was dumkopf—simple-minded.

His lordship had drilled an urgent dictum into his men: He who hesitates is lost. It was one they followed to the letter. Few hesitated on the beach that morning, least of all the men of 6 Commando who "moved like a knife through enemy butter."

They blasted a passage off the beach, achieving in seconds what the lads of the East Yorks had failed to do over the course of 40 minutes.

Lovat chuckled with delight as he glimpsed his old friend Derek Mills-Roberts bounding through exploding shells and mortars as if he were invincible.

The German defenders didn’t stand a chance as two of Lovat’s most efficient officers, Alan Pyman and Donald Colquhoun, blew their way through this stretch of the Atlantic Wall, "mopping up pill-boxes and the immediate strong-points with hand grenades and portable flame-throwers."

Bren machine guns were used to devastating effect, spraying lead into every beachside redoubt. Lovat chuckled with delight as he glimpsed his old friend Derek Mills-Roberts bounding through exploding shells and mortars as if he were invincible.

Pages

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.