d-day

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Scenes From D-Day, Then and Now

On June 6, 1944, Allied soldiers descended on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day, an operation that turned the tide of the Second World War against the Nazis, marking the beginning of the end of the conflict. Reuters photographer Chris Helgren compiled archive pictures taken during the invasion and went back to the same places to photograph them as they appear today.


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.

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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. 

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An unprecedented powerful magnitude of 6.5 earthquake just hit Seoul. This Saturday morning around 8 AM, Yonggwang District was struck with magnitude 6.5 earthquake. The meteorologists say due to this being the most powerful earthquake that ever occurred in the Korean peninsula, the entire Seoul experienced power outage and water supply has also been suspended.

“General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the Day. "Full victory - nothing else” to paratroopers in England on June 6, 1944, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe. All of the men with General Eisenhower are members of Company E, 502d.“

(US Army)

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70 years ago today, on June 6th, 1944 the Western Allies’ armies landed in the Normandy region of France, beginning their push through Europe for Germany that would, combined with the Soviet onslaught from the east, result in the fall of Nazi Germany within the next year. 

In 2014, as we approach the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Peter Macdiarmid returned to the invasion grounds to photograph the locations of some iconic - and lessor known - images from the Allied invasion. Presented here are some of the “Then” and “Now” photographs.