HE BECAME famous for his bagpiping skills in the Italian town which he helped liberate from Nazi forces during the Second World War.

Following his death in January, fans of David “The Mad Piper” Kirkpatrick – who wore a kilt as he parachuted behind enemy lines into Albinea in the Emilia-Romagna region – are making pilgrimages to his grave in Girvan, South Ayrshire.

Mr Kirkpatrick began the war in the Highland Light Infantry, but was summoned to the newly formed SAS for a top secret mission in March 1945.

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He parachuted behind enemy lines into the town, north of Bologna, as part of Operation Tombola and provided the stirring bagpiping soundtrack to a raid on Nazi forces there.

Vitally, his music also gave the impression that the attackers were a solely British force when in reality dozens of Italian freedom fighters were participating.

The tactic saved hundreds of lives in Albinea as Nazi policy at the time was to kill ten local civilians for each of their own soldiers killed in a partisan attack.

Mr Kirkpatrick died at Girvan Community Hospital aged 91, to little fanfare in his own country. But now his life and times are being celebrated by a cult following in Albinea.

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Italian fans are making international pilgrimages to his grave, publishing books in his honour and penning folk songs dedicated to the man they call “un poeta guerriero” – a poet warrior.

Albinea’s mayor sent a telegram to his funeral, there are even talks of a museum being built in his honour.

Details of his fans’ exploits are being shared on social media.

One image shows David’s grave, in a photograph taken by pilgrim Matteo Incerti, who has also written a book on Mr Kirkpatrick. Prior to his death Italian Celtic folk band the Modena City Ramblers have also released a song dedicated to him, titled “The Brave Scottish Piper”, with the line “he’s the brave Scottish piper coming from the skies”.

The Italian-run Facebook page is littered with other tributes with some calling him a “real hero”.

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David’s son, Lee Kirkpatrick, 50, said: “He’s a local hero. With all the Germans they killed that night – I think it was 80 – they would have gone out and wiped out the whole village.

“They see it as they’re all alive because of my father.”

Council worker Mr Kirkpatrick said: “He didn’t talk about the war at all so nobody back here knew about it.”

Mr Kirkpatrick’s son has hosted Italian fans of his father, and has also visited Albinea twice for reenactments of the raid, playing the part of his father. Mr Kirkpatrick, of Elgin, who previously served in the Air Force, said the experience was a “very emotional” one. The story of David “The Mad Piper” Kirkpatrick is hidden away in the records of SAS history.

As part of Operation Tombola on March 1945 he was parachuted into Italy to meet with an SAS force led by Major Roy Farran, which was harrying German troops across the Italian countryside.

Mr Farran said he ordered the musical accompaniment “to stir up the romantic Italian mind and to gratify my own vanity”.

Mr Kirkpatrick famously parachuted wearing a kilt, leading observers to believe that a woman was falling from the skies. On March 26, Mr Kirkpatrick and the SAS force met with some 40 Italian partisans, 60 Russians and various escaped prisoners of war before launching an attack.

Mr Kirkpatrick played “Highland Laddie” throughout the attack and one of his pipes was even hit by enemy bullets.