Bill Millin was one of many heroes on that terrible morning of the 6th of June 1944 that is known to history as D-Day. But Bill’s courage, heroism and selfless devotion to duty is the stuff of song and legend. It has been immortalised in such films as ‘The Longest Day’, although Bill was a bit miffed that the man that played him in the film was in his late forties when Bill was only nineteen at the time of the landings. Any account of the landings on ‘Sword’ beach would not be complete without mention of ‘Bill Millin’s part in the operation.
But the story behind our service does not relate directly to the D-Day landings themselves, but rather to what happened immediately before them. Just prior to embarkation the assembled commandos were being entertained by Bill on his bagpipes in the ‘Strawberry Fields’ beside the ‘Rising Sun’ pub as they waited to board their landing craft. Lord Lovat is reputed to have told the men that there was just time for them to enjoy a last pint of ale on English soil before embarkation. But when Bill made to join his comrades, Lord Lovat told him that he needed him elsewhere, so Bill never did get that last pint with his mates.
At the service we were honoured with the presence of Bill’s son John Millin and it was with great pleasure after the service that John was taken into the Rising Sun and was presented with the pint that his father never had!
We were also honoured with the presence of a contingent of pipes and drums from France, the ‘Mary Queen of Scots Pipe Band‘. The band have been largely instrumental in raising funds to erect a statue of Bill Millin at the site of the landings and our heartfelt thanks goes out to them. Our service was only a small part of a weekend fund raising events that had included a march of massed pipe bands, including the St. Andrew’s Pipe Band from Hamble, to the quay in Hamble followed in the evening by a concert of pipes and drums in the village hall, all proceeds going to the Bill Millin statue fund. If you would care to make a donation please contact me and I will give you details of where to send your donation.
To watch a personal tribute to the legendary World War Two piper taken from Duncan Grosser’s film ‘Commando Years’ click here.
To read the the Daily Telegraph obituary of Bill Millin please click here.