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An Eagle an Dearmaid - translated from Gaelic to English Lest We Forget

Updated on March 19, 2018

The map of the Dieppe Raid Landing.

An eagla an dearmaid, translated from Gaelic means, “Lest we forget.” November is a special month; Remembrance Day is always on the 11th of November. The motto “Lest We Forget” comes to mind on that day as well. How lucky we are to live the way we do because of all the men and women who sacrificed so much in the wars, and we are celebrating by living in freedom today. Another important celebration is writing about two of our very brave Scottish soldiers. One was born in Canada but was taken away at the age of three by his father who brought him up in his native Scotland. His name was Bill Millin and he became Lord Lovat’s personal piper, piping British Commandos ashore on D-Day. Who else is featured in my story? We begin with Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser. He was the 15th Lord Lovat and 4th Baron Lovat, and was born on July 9, 1911 in Beaufort Castle, Inverness, Scotland. He was the 25th Chief of the Clan Fraser of Lovat, and a prominent British commando during the Second World War. His friends always referred to him as Shimi Lovat, an Anglicized version of his name in the Scottish Gaelic language. His clan referred to him as MacShimidh, his Gaelicpatronymic meaning “Son of Simon.” He was in the Lovat Scouts, which was a British army commando unit. As the name suggests, the Lovat Scouts, a territorial army unit, were founded in Inverness, and the Frasers of Lovat have been their commander-in-chief throughout the years. The unit was formed during the Second Boer War as a Scottish Highland Yeomanry regiment of the British army and is the first known military unit to wear a “Ghillie Suit.” In 1916, the Scouts formally became the British army’s first sniper unit, then known as sharpshooters. Sharpshooter units were formed from gamekeepers or gillies of the highland estates and were used in an observation and sniping role on the western front until the end of the war. The word gillie is a Scots term that refers to a man or a boy who acts as an attendant on a fishing or hunting expedition, primarily in the Highlands. The Scouts sometimes wore the Ghillie Suit, which is also known as a yowie suit or cameo tent, and which is a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy foliage. It consisted of loose strips of burlap, cloth or twine made to look like leaves and twigs, and optionally augmented with scraps of foliage from the area.

Brigadier Simon Fraser was from a clan that had dominated local politics and that has been active in every major military conflict involving Scotland. Clan Fraser can be traced back to the early 1100s with the reign of William the Lion. Their motto is “Je suis prest” or “I am ready.” That motto holds so true for Brigadier Simon Fraser. During the Second World War he was given command of the No.4 Commando unit. He was also a temporary major, as he commanded 100 men of that unit and a 50-man detachment from the Canadian Carleton and York Regiment in a raid on the French coastal village of Hardelot in April 1942. For this action he was awarded the Military Cross. He also led a successful raid at Dieppe, at Sword Beach, on the northern coast of France, August 19, 1942, and for this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He, along with some of his troops from his brigade at Sword Beach, advanced onward to Pegasus Bridge, which had been defiantly defended by men from the 6th Airborne Division who had landed in the early hours by glider. His brigade arrived a little past 1:00 P.M. at Pegasus Bridge. The rendezvous time, as per the plan, was noon. Upon reaching this rendezvous, he apologized to Lt. Col. Geoffrey Pine-Coffin of 7th Parachute Battalion for being late. Yes, it seems he was a stickler for details and promises. Now for Private Piper Bill Millin. He was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on July 14, 1922 to a father of Scottish origin who returned the family to Glasgow, There, the father became a policeman when Bill was three years old. Piper Bill joined the territorial army in Fort William, which is in the Inverness area where his family had moved to and where he learned to play the bagpipes. He played in the pipe bands of the Highland Light Infantry and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders before joining the commando unit to begin training with Brigadier Simon Fraser at Achnacarry. This was where the commando training depot was located for the Allied Forces from 1942 to 1945, and included French, Dutch, Belgian, Polish, Norwegian and Czechoslovakian troops. (Millen became Brigadier Simon Fraser’s personal piper.) Private Bill, as he was commonly known, is best remembered for playing the bagpipes whilst under fire during the D-Day landing in Normandy, at Sword Beach. Scottish and Irish soldiers had long used pipers in battles, but the use of bagpipes was restricted to rear areas by the time of the Second Word War by the British Army. Piper Bill, who was only 21 when he landed during the D-Day landing in Normandy, along with his fellow commandos, came ashore wearing a kilt, and it was the same kilt his father had worn in Flanders during Word War I – it was the Cameron tartan. He was armedonly with his pipes and the sgian-dubh, or dirk, sheathed inside his kilt-hose on the right side. The reason for the kilt and not trousers was that he was playing the bagpipes. His commander Simon Fraser had ordered Piper Bill to play, and no rifle was in his possession. When Piper Bill cited the regulations concerning rifles, he recalled that Brigadier Simon Fraser replied, “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

Bill Millin

ielan Laddie and The Road to the Isles, as his comrades fell around him on Sword Beach. Later he stated that he talked to captured German snipers who claimed they did not shoot him, because they thought he was crazy. The raid in Dieppe was horrendous in the loss of lives – over 4,000 casualties mostly Canadian troops. No.4 Commando executed its assault with most of the men returning safely back to Britain. Private Millin saw further action before being demobbed (demobilized) in 1946. He then went to work on Lord Lovat’s highland estate, and later became a registered psychiatric nurse. Both Brigadier Simon Fraser and Piper Bill Millin were featured in the movie The Longest Day. The Brigadier was played by Peter Lawford and Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother in 1961, played the role of Piper Bill. Brigadier Simon Fraser died, March 16, 1995 at the age of 83, and Piper Bill Millin played the bagpipes at his funeral. Piper Bill died August 17, 2010, at the age of 88. Two set of Piper Bill’s bagpipes are on display. One set is at the Memorial Museum of Pegasus Bridge in Ranville, France and the other set, along with his kilt, bonnet and dirk, is on displayed at Dawlish Museum, which is in Devon, England. A bronze, life-sized statue of Piper Bill Millin was unveiled on June 8, 2013 at CollevilleMontgomery, near Sword Beach in France. More than 500 pipers from 21 countries took part in the unveiling of the statue, created by French sculptor Gaetan Ader, which took more than four years to complete, with fund raising done by the D-Day Piper Bill Millin Association. This story only features two Scottish soldiers that helped in the Second World War. There were so many more who fought so gallantly to bring us freedom, and for this I, for one, will forever be grateful that we can live in and celebrate life in a free country.

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