1st brigade

2

The 1st Special Service Brigade goes ashore at Sword Beach, 1944. The Lord Lovat Simon Fraser is visible to the right of the column wading ashore in the first photo, and is the one standing and addressing the brigade. After losing several men to sniper fire the unit switched from their distinctive berets to helmets shortly after coming ashore. Also visible in the first photo, closest to the camera, is the “Mad Piper” Bill Millin, who famously piped the unit across Pegasus Bridge. 

2

Bill Millin “Piper Bill” was born on July 14 1922.

“I was very lucky”, were the words spoken by Bill Millin during an interview from 1984. Lucky for what, you might be asking yourself?  Lucky that he was not shot dead by German snipers, for they had assumed he was mad! 

Tuesday June 6, 1944 ‘Piper’ Bill Milllin landed on Sword Beach on the Coast of Normandy as part of the 1st Special Service Brigade in the second wave of the operation. A day most commonly known as D-Day.

As Bill Millin embarked from the landing craft and waded through chest high water making his way toward dry land, high above his head he carried his pipes, the only weapon he would need that day. Around him bullets flew, mortar shells exploded Bill_Millin1and his friends, comrades and countrymen died, but Bill carried onward.

t was what came next that made Bill Millin a legend! Lord Lovat, the Chief of Clan Fraser and Brigadier of the 2,500 commandos, instructed the 21 year old Bill Millin to fire up his pipes and play a tune to inspire the men. And with the five words ‘Give us “Highland Laddie” man!’, the Legend of ‘Piper’ Bill was born.
Amid the carnage and destruction Bill Millin played as he had never played before. While marching up and down the beach of Normandy, Millin played the tunes ‘Hielan’ Laddie’, ‘The Road to the Isles’ and ‘Blue Bonnets over the Border’, and at one point added ‘The Nut Brown Maiden’ for a redheaded French girl who had strayed out of her home.

The day would see Millin and his unit march four miles inland to a point known as Pegasus Bridge, which was a strategically vital point for the German 21st Panzer Division. D-Day was the turning point in the Allies’ battle against Hitler and ‘Piper’ Bill Millin stands a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice made by ordinary people in extraordinary times.

In another interview Bill was asked if he was scared as everyone else had guns as they went across Pegasus Bridge, and all he had was his pipes. Millin replied, “Well not really I was too busy concentrating on playing the bagpipes and Lovatt was a bit of a critic of bagpipes, so I had to watch what I was playing and I didn’t have time to think about anything else.”  What a remarkable man he was. 

The pics show Bill on Sword Beach in more peaceful times and his statue at Colleville-Montgomery, near Sword Beach, in France.

July 1

In 1863, at a sleepy little town called Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, soldiers of the United States Army began a battle against the soldiers of the treasonous Confederacy.  Over the next three days, it would turn into the largest single battle ever fought in North America.  Over 170,000 soldiers would struggle there, and the rebel armies would be turned back from their last invasion of Union territory.  It was the beginning of the end for the treachery of the slave states, and thank the god of battles for that. 

The Union general in charge, George Meade, was on his fourth day commanding the Army of the Potomac.  So you could say there was a pretty steep learning curve for him. 

When the last shot had been fired, over 50,000 men from both armies were dead, wounded, or missing.  The entire time, there was one civilian casualty.  One!  A poor woman named Ginnie Wade was hit by a stray bullet while she was baking bread.  I defy you to find any other battle in modern times where so many soldiers clashed with so little collateral damage. 

You can and should read all about what happened around that little town; how the heroes of the Iron Brigade, the 1st Minnesota, and the 20th Maine accomplished superhuman feats of arms and saved the Union.  Even that fuckhead George Armstrong Custer acquitted himself very well. 

There would be almost two more years of bloody struggle, but the slavers’ insurrection would finally be put down.  After Gettysburg, it was simply a matter of time.

8

ExHamel16 - “Battle for Iron Knob”

Photos by: CPL Dan Pinhorn and ABIS Chris Beerens, Iron Knob, SA.

The Australian Army soldiers from 1st Brigade put their skills to the test practising combined-arms operations within a complex and multi-national environment as part of Exercise Hamel 2016, being conducted in South Australia from 26 June to 14 July.

As the penultimate training activity, 1st Brigade conducted an urban clearance of a defensive position based at Iron Knob, a small steel community based on the outskirts of the Cultana training area.

M1A1 Abrams tanks provided support by fire to allow a ground assault and clearance of the town by dismounted infantry and mechanised vehicles. Extensive planning and coordination went into the activity to ensure the cooperation and safety of the local civilian population.

Conventional and asymmetric tactics were adopted by 7th Brigade soldiers playing the role of the enemy in order to test 1st Brigade within a complex setting similar to that encountered in modern warfare.

Army uses the ‘Road to Hamel’ to build up its next ready brigade and Exercise Hamel is the final test. This year, 1st Brigade is being put through its paces to ensure it is ready to support operational contingencies ranging from humanitarian assistance through to major combat operations.

Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. “Hal” Moore, the American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, has died. He was 94.
“There’s something missing on this earth now. We’ve lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend. They don’t make them like him anymore,” Galloway said. Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was “without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action.”
Beginning on November 14, 1965, Lt. Col. Moore led the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in the week-long Battle of Ia Drang. Encircled by enemy soldiers with no clear landing zone that would allow them to leave, Moore managed to persevere despite being significantly outnumbered by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces that would go on to defeat the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry only two-and-a-half miles away the next day. Moore’s dictum that “there is always one more thing you can do to increase your odds of success” and the courage of his entire command are credited with this outcome. Moore was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism at Ia Drang. Moore died on February 10, 2017, three days before his 95th birthday.
RIP Sir… RIP!

Sherman tanks of the 1st Canadian Armored Brigade in Italy, advancing towards the Gothic Line, 26 August, 1944.

The brigade took part in the British Eighth Army’s assault landing on the toe of Italy in Operation Baytown on September 1943. Its regiments participated in the Battles of Potenza, Termoli, Ortona. During the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944, the brigade helped break the Gustav Line, crossing the Gari River in support of the 8th Indian Division. Its regiments helped the 1st Canadian Division and the British 78th Division in breaking the Hitler Line. It cooperated with the British XIII Corps in the Battle of Lake Trasimeno. It was active in the crossing of the Arno River and later fought on the Gothic Line.

Combined with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and 5th Canadian Armoured Division as part of I Canadian Corps, the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade was moved from the Italian Front and joined the First Canadian Army in Northern Europe at the beginning of 1945. (Photo source - © IWM NA 18051)
No. 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit - Sgt. Palmer

February 14-17, 1967 The 1st and 3d Brigades, 1st Infantry Division conduct Operation TUCSON, a deception operation (prior to the launching of JUNCTION CITY) along the south-eastern edge of War Zone “C” and the northern sector of the Long Nguten secret Zone and the Michelin rubber plantation. In addition to capturing 1,700 tons of rice and 27 tons of salt plus bombs and mines, they killed 13 VC.

True bravery

Not directly related to Outlander - but I was reminded recently of a true story of outstanding courage and bravery. It will give you chills.

A few years ago, a man named Bill Millin died. You don’t know his name - there’s no reason for you to - but he played a small role in perhaps *the* most crucial battle in the history of modern warfare.

You see, Bill Millin was a piper. A Scotsman, who - apart from one remarkable day - led a mostly quiet, normal life. But he landed with the British Army at Normandy, on D-Day, wearing his father’s kilt, armed with nothing but his bagpipes and sgian dhu. He played his bagpipes as the soldiers stormed the beach. He walked around on the beach, playing his pipes, as the British Army attacked the Germans. Just like his ancestors had played bagpipes on battlefields. He gave his countrymen strength. Gave them comfort, as they died. Gave them a reminder of home.

Take a second to think about how brave that is. How brave he was. And how amazing it is that he survived.

And what’s even more amazing about this - and this is the tiny tie-in to Outlander - is that he was commanded by Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat. Yes, *that* Fraser of Lovat.

Here is an excerpt from his obituary in the Washington Post. Read the whole thing, Google him even. There are some adorable interviews of older Bill on YouTube.

What a class act Mr. Millin was. An example of such bravery, amid something so terrible. True heroism.

—–

Dressed in the kilt his father wore in World War I and armed with only a ceremonial dagger, Mr. Millin was a 21-year-old soldier attached to the 1st Special Service Brigade led by Simon Fraser, better known by his Scottish clan title, Lord Lovat.

As Lovat’s personal piper, Mr. Millin played rousing renditions of “Highland Laddie” and “Road to the Isles,” energizing the advancing troops and comforting the men whose last moments were spent on foreign soil.

“I shall never forget the skirl of Bill Millin’s pipes,” one Normandy survivor, Tom Duncan, later told the London Daily Telegraph. “It reminded us of home and why we were fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones.”

Despite the racket going on around him, Mr. Millin’s music was heard up and down the coastline. It was so loud, in fact, that one soldier told him to knock it off unless he wanted all the Germans in France to hear of the invasion.

Mr. Millin was the only bagpiper to take part in Overlord, because British high command had banned pipers from the front to reduce casualties.

“Ah, but that’s the English war office,” Lovat told Mr. Millin. “You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

Marching along the crater-pocked sand was oddly a “relief,” Mr. Millin later said, compared with the boat ride to the shore, which had made him seasick.

Despite his brigade’s heavy casualties – nearly half of the 1,400 commandos were killed – Mr. Millin survived without a scratch. (His pipes, however, were wounded by shrapnel after a mortar round landed beside him. Luckily, it was a superficial injury, and Mr. Millin patched his pipes up and carried on.)

Mr. Millin’s unit eventually captured two German snipers whose pinpoint fire had wiped out many in the Allies’ advance. When asked through an interpreter why the snipers hadn’t aimed for Mr. Millin, whose blaring bagpipes would have made him an easy target, the prisoners had a simple answer.

The German snipers didn’t bother, they said, because the man making all that noise seemed to be on a suicide mission and was clearly mad. 

Men of the 1st Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment on Sword Beach, 6 June, 1944.

1st South Lancs were some of the first troops from the British 3rd Infantry Division to land on D-Day. They came ashore on Queen White Beach at 0720hrs and suffered over one hundred casualties . Despite these losses, by 0900hrs they had pressed inland capturing further objectives.

In the foreground are sappers of 84 Field Company Royal Engineers, part of No.5 Beach Group, identified by the white bands around their helmets. Behind them, medical orderlies of 8 Field Ambulance, RAMC, can be seen assisting wounded men. In the background commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade can be seen disembarking from their LCI(S) landing craft.

(Photo source - © IWM B 5114)
Sgt. Jim Mapham, No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit

Crusader tanks of the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers, 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, moving at speed across the desert, 5 November 1942.

10

U.S., British, French, Polish, Dutch and German paratroopers training alongside one another during the large scale exercise Swift Response 16 at the Hohenfels Training Area, a part of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, in Hohenfels, Germany, Jun. 22, 2016. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force – currently the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team – to conduct rapid-response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe.