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Bill Millin, bagpiper who accompanied British troops on D-Day, dies at 88

Bill Millin, right, plays his bagpipes as British troops land at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Mr. Millin, the only bagpiper to take part in the D-Day operation, was immortalized in the movie
Bill Millin, right, plays his bagpipes as British troops land at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Mr. Millin, the only bagpiper to take part in the D-Day operation, was immortalized in the movie "The Longest Day." (Courtesy Of Imperial War Museum)
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Mr. Millin was born in 1922 in Regina, Saskatchewan, to Scottish parents. His family moved to Glasgow when he was an infant. He learned to play the bagpipes at 12 from a member of the local police band and joined the Highland Light Infantry as a piper at 18 to gain a mastery of the instrument. Not long into his army service, Mr. Millin met Lovat, who recruited him to his unit.

After the landing at Normandy, Mr. Millin's unit went on to relieve a group of paratroopers who had secured an essential gateway further inland -- the Pegasus bridge. It was the focus of relentless, and accurate, enemy fire.

Nonetheless, Mr. Millin volunteered to pipe "Blue Bonnets Over the Border" during the short crossing, noting afterward that under the circumstances "it seemed like a very long bridge."

After the war, Mr. Millin worked for a short time on Lovat's estate before joining a traveling theater troupe as a bagpiper. He later became a nurse for mental patients in Glasgow.

He lived for many years in Dawlish, England. He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. He is survived by a son.

In the decades after the war, Mr. Millin participated in many veterans events in his honor, including a ceremonial crossing of the Pegasus on the 65th anniversary of D-Day in 2009.

In 2001, he donated his pipes, kilt, sporran, dagger and beret to Edinburgh's National War Museum. But barely a year later, Mr. Millin took his belongings home after the museum questioned their authenticity. A few years later, Mr. Millin donated the same items to a small museum near his home in Devon.

Piping on the beaches in 1944 had been his honor, Mr. Millin said, even when wounded comrades called for help and it was his duty to continue playing.

"They were lying, blood pouring from them," Mr. Millin said. "I will see their faces till the day I die."


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