British Army and Bill Millin

The British Army is the land armed forces branch of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England and Scotland and was administered by the War Office from London. It has been managed by the Ministry of Defence since 1963.

As of April 2010 the British Army employs 113,970 regular soldiers (which includes 3,840 Gurkhas) and 33,130 Territorial Army soldiers, giving it a total of around 147,100 soldiers. In addition there are 134,190 Regular Reserves of the British Army. The British Army is the largest army in the European Union and the third largest in NATO only behind the US Army and the Turkish Army. The full-time element of the British Army has also been referred to as the Regular Army since the creation of the reservist Territorial Force in 1908. The British Army is deployed in many of the world’s war zones as part of both Expeditionary Forces and in United Nations Peacekeeping forces. The British Army is currently deployed in Kosovo, Cyprus, Germany, Afghanistan and many other places.

In contrast to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, the British Army does not include Royal in its title. This is because, historically, many regiments of the British Army were raised by individual Colonels, frequently on an ad hoc basis, rather than directly by the Crown. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights of 1689 established the requirement of Parliamentary consent for the maintenance of a standing army in peacetime. Nevertheless, many of its constituent Regiments and Corps have been granted the “Royal” prefix and have members of the Royal Family occupying senior positions within some regiments.

Bill Millin, the Scottish bagpiper who defied enemy fire as he led comrades into battle at the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy, northern France, has died at the age of 86, his family said Wednesday.

Piper Bill, as he became known, saw his courageous action immortalized in the Hollywood film, “The Longest Day.” Despite being unarmed, and with friends falling around him, Millin led British troops ashore on Sword Beach, continuing to play his “Highland Laddie” tune.

His commanding officer, Lord Lovat, had asked him to ignore rules banning the playing of bagpipes in battle and requested that he should play to rally his comrades. Millin was 21 at the time.

“When you’re young, you do things you wouldn’t dream of doing when you’re older. I enjoyed playing the pipes, but I didn’t notice I was being shot at,” he said in a BBC interview in 2006.

Millin, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, died in hospital in Torbay, south-west England, after a short illness, his family said in a statement.

Piper Bill would always be remembered as an “iconic part of all those who gave so much to free Europe from tyranny,” they said.

On 6 June, 1944 Millin, along with his fellow commandoes approached Sword Beach, Normandy as part of the D-Day landings which would see the largest amphibious invasion of all time as 160,000 troops entered France to fight the Nazis.


{denvideo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4WZwz2C72M&feature=player_embedded}


1st Special Service Brigade was commanded by Brigadier Simon Fraser, the 15th Lord Lovat. Lovat was a passionate and patriotic Scot, and Millin was his personal piper. Lovat was also a fan of the Scottish tradition whereby a piper played his comrades into battle, a tradition banned by the military hierarchy. However, as Lovat not quite factually pointed out: “That was the English Army.”

Millin climbed aboard his landing craft with 21 men, including Lovat, and sat as the vessel followed the course of the Hamble River out toward the Solent. He was in the leading boat and Lovat had asked him to play the troops out in to open sea. As they sailed up the Hamble Millin piped The Road to the Isles. He stood proud on the bowsprit as the music was pumped through the loudhailer. As the thousands of transport craft gathered for the mass assault on the French beaches, Millin’s pipes could be heard above all else. As the sea became rougher and the craft less stable Millin stopped piping and the Channel crossing began.

Following a fitful night’s sleep, the men made their way to the deck and prepared for what, for some, would be the last charge of their short lives. Millin recalled an air of calm aboard their small craft: “Everyone was behaving normally, I mean checking their kit, putting their kit on… We all got up on deck and we stood in the freezing wind watching the shoreline.

Then the order came to get ashore, and no one was shouting that they were afraid or shouting that they were going to kill all these Germans. All people wanted really was to get off.”

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