Commonly known as Piper Bill, Millin was the personal piper to Brig. Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, commander of a UK Special Services Brigade (and a Scottish aristocrat) during World War II.
In times of war bagpipers had traditionally been used by Scottish and Irish soldiers. But by World War II, the British Army restricted the use of bagpipes to rear areas where it was safer – and more symbolic.
Lovat, 32, however, ignored these orders and ordered Millin, just a kid at 21, front and center to play sounds of the homeland to boost the morale of his comrades, for they were storming the shores of Sword Beach in France and it was D-Day. The Germans were waiting and it was tense.
Millin balked, citing the rule. Lovat said: “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”
Millin played as ordered as his comrades fell around him on the sand, plucked off one after another by Nazi gunfire.
After the war, he worked on Lord Lovat’s estate near Inverness, but found the life too quiet. So he ‘went showbiz,’ taking a job as a piper with a traveling theater company. In the late 1950s, he trained in Glasgow as a psychiatric nurse and eventually settled in Devon, finally retiring in 1988. He often travelled the world, giving speeches on his D-Day experiences.
And many people are interested in that war, still till this day. In the 1962 film about D-Day, entitled The Longest Day, Millin was played by Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother in 1961. And French fundraisers have been trying to raise $125,000 to erect a statue of Millin at Colleville-Montgomery, a town on Sword Beach. Sadly, only six of the eighty seven donations have come from the Brits. Sadder still, they still haven’t raised enough money.