Bill Millin, whose actions on the Normandy beach on June 6, 1944, were immortalised in the film The Longest Day, passed away peacefully yesterday at Torbay Hospital in Devon, aged 88. His family said he died after a short illness.
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Mr Millin, who was originally from Glasgow, earned the nickname the Mad Piper after captured German troops claimed they did not shoot the unarmed man because they thought he must be mad.
He was the personal piper for Lord Lovat when the 1st Commando Brigade landed on Sword Beach.
As Lord Lovat led the troops ashore, he ordered Mr Millin to play the pipes to rally morale, defying official instructions that pipers should not play because they were vulnerable targets.
Mr Millin, who was only 21 at the time, played Highland Laddie as his comrades fell round about him. Lord Lovat’s men went on to fight their way to Pegasus Bridge where they met the 6th Airborne Division.
In an interview in 2006, Mr Millin said: “I didn’t notice I was being shot at. When you’re young you do things you wouldn’t dream of doing when you’re older.”
His bagpipes, which were silenced four days later by a piece of shrapnel, are now in the Dawlish Museum in south Devon and a second set are in the Pegasus Bridge Museum.
Mr Millin, who is survived by his brother and a son, suffered a stroke several years ago and lived at a care home in Dawlish. He regularly returned to France and was well enough to travel in June for the 66th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
A fundraising drive is now under way to erect a statue of the piper in Colleville-Montgomery, in Normandy, and in November, French officials travelled to his care home to show him a wooden model of the memorial. A bronze statue is due to be unveiled next June.
Serge Athenour de Gourdon, who knew Mr Millin, said: “We were very proud to know him. He was very dedicated all his life. Each year he came to pay tribute to his fallen comrades.
“He said he was not a hero, that the heroes were those who followed him.
“He set an example as a soldier, a piper and as a Scot. We want to make sure that we have a monument to him because of what he represented -- gallantry and courage.”
Mr de Gourdon added: “He was very happy that we were remembering him but didn’t want it for himself. He said he was a very lucky man, but the heroes are the ones who are buried here.”
Around €70,000 (£57,700) needs to be raised for the statue and although some contributions have been made, organisers are still looking for a substantial amount. An event will be held in Edinburgh in October to raise donations.
James Macdonald, who is supporting the fundraising efforts in the UK, said: “The key thing was for the statue to be cast and for Bill to be there when it was unveiled. Now that won’t happen, but the least we can do is make sure that it is completed.”
A private family funeral is expected to take place before a service of remembrance is held at a later date.
Details of the statue fund can be found at www.ddaypiperbill millin.over-blog.com