“Joy comes in the morning” would you agree? Do you think Joy comes because you simply can’t cry all night long and wake up and immediately cry again? Does Joy come because a sunrise is a promise of a new day and yesterdays problems are just that….yesterday? I think it is all of that. I was scrolling through my Facebook this morning to find an interesting article about the 75 anniversary of D Day. The article was about a young bagpiper serving with the Scottish forces. Bill Millin was instructed to get out his pipes and pipe long and loud up and down the beach as the allied forces stormed the beach under German gun fire. It states that initially Millin resisted the order to play as it was not legal according to the English law forbidding music during war attacks after WWI because so many musicians were killed. Immediately his commanding officer said, “that is English law, we are Scotsman!” Of course this account brought tears to my eyes. I can only picture what the author, Ken Tout, must have felt as he interviewed Ren Rossey years and years after the event. At the time, Rossey was just 16 years old as he waded through the corpses floating in the ocean.
“As D-Day approached, Brigadier Lord Lovat, chief of Clan Fraser, made a highly symbolic gesture and allowed the Free French to lead the advance into Normandy and be the first of the unit to step onto French soil.
Around 7:30am on 6 June, 1944 and carrying a .303 machine gun and an 80 pound backpack, Rossey jumped off the brigade’s landing craft and waded through the water to Sword Beach surrounded by floating corpses.
READ MORE: 6 June 1944: ‘The grand assault on Hitler’s European fortress has begun’
As they advanced, German gunfire rained down with the 16-year-old amongst those halted in their tracks by a raised promenade and a barbed wire fence.
Trapped and under attack, it now appears that it was the sound of Bill Millin – who strode up and down the beach playing Heiland Laddie as 4 Commando made it out of the water – that saved him.
Rossey’s account said: “We were pinned down on the beach, many of our comrades killed or missing.
“But when Lovat’s piper walked up and down the beach, piping his lungs out, the Germans seemed stunned, as if they had seen a ghost.
“They briefly stopped firing, perhaps even to laugh, and in that brief moment we made it through the barbed wire at the top of the beach.”….
“But actually there was something much more vital going on,” he added.
“Rossey was utterly stuck but that brief pause in firing once Millin started up his bagpipes allowed the Free French lads to dash across the promenade unscathed,” Tout said.
Rossey, who died in 2016, was one of 25,000 allied Commandos from around the world to be stationed at Achnacarry Castle in Lochaber for training in the unrelenting mountainous terrain. He “answered every call” of the tough training regime and was awarded the coveted green beret and Commando dagger. Still underage at the end of the course, he was known as Benjamin – or youngest brother – to his comrades.
Meanwhile, a statue of Bill Millin, who was born in Canada and whose father was from Glasgow, can today be seen on Sword Beach to mark the actions of this remarkable, brave musician. He died in 2010.
– How Modest are the Bravest! by Ken Tout is published by Helion and available now