Farewell To a Highland Laddie: Billy Millin, One of The Greatest of the Greatest Generation

For military buffs, he is one of our favorite characters from Normandy: Billy Millin, the Scottish bagpiper who bravely walked the beaches on D-Day playing the “Highland Laddie” while men were shot around him. MIllin died this week — one of the truly greatest of the greatest generation.

Millin was on the personal staff of the legendary commando leader Lord Lovat. Under English regulations (after World War I), pipers were not allowed to lead battles but Lovat assured Millin “that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

The 1st Special Service Brigade landed on the first day at Normandy and Millin became a legendary figure standing amid the fighting and playing his pipes to strengthen the resolve of the other men. He later achieved similar acclaim in leading the men across the Pegasus Bridge under fire in the push toward Germany. German prisoners later said that they did not shoot him because they thought he had gone insane.

He was the recipient of the French Croix de guerre and of course was featured in the movie “The Longest Day.”

He was 87.

Here is a rendition of The Highland Laddie to accompany you along your way . . .

Well done, Billy, well done.

Source: MSNBC

Jonathan Turley

14 thoughts on “Farewell To a Highland Laddie: Billy Millin, One of The Greatest of the Greatest Generation”

  1. Koshka,

    I may help you with the picture.
    We spent the last two years with Bill, invited him to Normandy to take part with us at D Day ceremonies. We have created the “D Day Piper Bill Millin Association” whose purpose is to build a memorial, figuring Bill as he was june 6th 1944, in tribute to all the men who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy. Bill, very modest, said “if they remember the bagpiper, they will not forget those who served and fell on the beaches”
    During these two years, we asked him to show and explain all what he could about that period, as he said to me “I remember every second” .

    Have a look on the blog http://ddaypiperbillmillin.over-blog.com/ , take part to the fundraising and spread the word.

    I’ll show your picture to Bill son who could help too.


    president of the association

  2. “that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

    Gone but not forgotten – the legend of Piper Bill will live on and every year the two will still be played in your honour

    Always nice when they take the time to get the nationality right and don’t out of ignorance stick the British label on another proud Scot


    try contacting the Scottish Regimental HQ at Edinburgh castle a lot of the archives were relocated there years back and it is the home to all of the reformed regiments


  3. My father was a merchant seaman on the Hannible Hamlin during the invasion of Normandy.

    His ship carried troops to Sword Beach. He told the story of the Ladies from Hell – the Scottish troops – being piped down the warf to the ships during the night.

    He took photographs during that period and I have one that is of Lord Lovath and members of his staff as best as I can determine by coparing to other photographs of the period.

    Perhpas the photograph includs Billy Millin I don’t know.

    Can anyone suggest a person who might be able to confirm who is in the photographs?

  4. I am soon to adopt a Shetland Sheepdog from a shelter. In his own way, he is a brave Scotsman. Since he was picked up as a stray, whatever name he may have had is unknown. I shall call him ‘Highland Laddie’.
    God speed, Billy Millin. You were a great man.

  5. I am sure some piper will write an appropriate dirge for him. I wish I had a UTube of a piper playing “McCrimmin’s Gone Forever.”

    JT-Thanks for sharing.

    Buddha-I hope you were drinking scotch.

  6. There are heroes, and there are heroes. Bill Millin belongs in a special class that has few members. Marching back and forth on the beach in a hail of bullets, his pipes skirling “Road to the Isles.” Later, captured German soldiers told him they did not shoot him because they thought he was just a crazy man.

    I wrote a diary a couple of days ago on Daily Kos about this remarkable man and his passing. I am in awe of his bravery.

  7. He and the rest of his generation saved us from a scourge that makes the Taliban look like amateurs. He is already missed.

  8. Thank you, Mr. Millin.

    Pardon me. But it’s only appropriate that I honor a Scotsman with a hangover induced typo.

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