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BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh reports
"Bill Millin hopes his part in history will help future generations understand more about the Second World War"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 15:05 GMT
Piping his way into history
Bill Millin at Edinburgh Castle
Mr Millin handed over his pipes in Edinburgh
Bill Millin's image went down in history when he piped the British troops onto the beaches of Normandy.

The commando brought the skirl of the pipes to the D-Day landings, despite heavy fire - and the wishes of military top brass.

The picture of the 21-year-old commando became one of the enduring images of the landings which paved the way to Hitler's defeat in the Second World War.

Now his place in history will be assured as his famous pipes - which were silenced four days later by a piece of shrapnel - are handed over to the National War Museum of Scotland.

His playing led the 1st Commando Brigade as it stormed Sword Beach on the first day of the Normandy landings on 6 June, 1944.

D Day landings
The pipes were silenced by shrapnel
The commandos had to fight their way onto the shore under heavy German fire to establish a beachhead for the invasion force.

The military high command had ordered pipers not to play because of fears over the level of casualties.

However, that decision was ignored by the brigade's commander Lord Lovat, who ordered Mr Millin to lead his troops ashore to the skirl of the pipes.

The hereditary chief of the Clan Fraser told the private, originally from Glasgow, to play Highland Laddie, Blue Bonnets over the Border and Road to the Isles.

The 78-year-old now lives in Devon, but travelled to Edinburgh to present his kilt, pipes, commando beret and knife to the National War Museum of Scotland.

'Safe for all time'

He said: "My wife died recently and I am on my own now.

"I travel about a bit and I thought if anything happened to me I would be afraid whoever came to clear my house might not appreciate the value of these things.

D Day landing
Mr Millin played in the face of heavy fire
"If they are in the museum, especially here in Scotland they will be looked after.

"So that's why I can go home now and say they are safe for all time."

However, Mr Millin admitted he was saddened at handing them over: "I look at the pipes on the wall in my hallway every day as I go up and down the stairs.

"Now they have been taken down my eyes are attracted to the bare wall and I suppose I'll have to get a picture for it. I am a bit sad."

He said the pipes would always remind him of Lord Lovat and the landings.

"After the landings I got to know Lord Lovat even better and we became very good friends after the war, as I would often go up to see him at his home in Beauly near Inverness," he said.

'Only one with a kilt'

"He was seriously wounded at Normandy, a week after we landed he was hit by a lump of shrapnel and when he died a few years ago I played at his funeral."

The kilt was also worn by his father in the trenches during the First World War.

Allan Carswell
Allan Carswell: "It's an important acquisition"
He said: "I was the only one with a kilt on, a set of bagpipes and a knife and I wasn't armed.

"My most traumatic experience was jumping into the icy waters with a kilt on.

"I had been sick all the way across and that really brought me round.

"As I hit the water I began playing Highland Laddie and just then Lord Lovat turned and gave me a smile."

Allan Carswell, curator of the National War Museum, said: "This is one of the most important acquisitions the museum has made in recent years.

"The story of Bill Millin and the powerful effect of his piping in battle is one which has spread across the world.

"We are delighted that these artefacts have found such an appropriate resting place here at the National War Museum of Scotland."

Mr Millin played himself in the film The Longest Day which portrayed the famous events of the Normandy landings.

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27 Dec 00 | Scotland
Piping course hits right note
06 May 99 | UK
D-Day hero dies
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