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
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
when you are alone and you look in a mirror you never put on a pleasing smile. Well, you don’t, do you?”
David Hockney was way ahead of today’s ubiquitous selfies. In the 1980s—already famous for his painted landscapes of California pools and suburban houses—he threw himself into drawn, painted and photographed self-portraits…
At first the Hockney self-portraits showed vulnerability and self-consciousness, according to Dr. Brooks. But over the years, he adds, they showed intense self-examination.
The results, as well as Mr. Hockney’s wider interest in photographic collage, are the main focus of “Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney,” a celebration of his turning 80 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, opening in two stages, June 27 and July 18. Most of the versions of Mr. Hockney on view, though, don’t make for a cheery celebration. “I usually only draw myself in down periods,” Mr. Hockney told London’s Telegraph newspaper in 2001. “I suppose that’s why I often draw myself looking grim. I just think, ‘Let’s have a look in the mirror.’ When you are alone and you look in a mirror you never put on a pleasing smile. Well, you don’t, do you?”
Pictured - As a wrecked barricade blazes behind them, British troops fire and advance down a Dublin street.
Dubliners woke to the sound of gunfire on Easter Monday as 1,500 insurgents rose up against British rule. The rebels, members of the pro-independence, anti-British Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army, seized key buildings in the city center, making their headquarters at the General Post Office, which soon had two green flags fluttering above it, emblazoned with the words “Irish Republic”. It was the beginning of the Easter Rising, an attempt by Ireland’s radical nationalists to establish an independent Irish state that lead to six days of bloody street battles in Dublin and a few other areas throughout the country.
The Rising was spearheaded by members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a revolutionary organization which rejected the position of milder independence groups, which wanted to help Britain in the First World War, after which they hoped the British would implement a Home Rule bill, granting Ireland self-government. The leaders of the IRB, however, believed that only a violent revolution could win Irish independence. Lead by Irish teacher and poet
Pádraig Pearse, and James Connolly, the commander of a nationalist paramilitary called the Irish Volunteers, the revolutionaries planned an uprising to take place on Easter week, aimed at ending British control in Ireland while Britain was distracted by the war.
Planning for the rebellion, however, had not been well organized. The Royal Navy had captured a German ship bringing modern rifles to the rebels, and the British had captured Sir Roger Casement, one of the rebel leaders. London knew that a rebellion was planned for Easter based on these captures and radio signals intercepted from Germany, which supported the rebels. London telegraphed orders to officers in Ireland to arrest leaders of the independence movement on Monday, April 24.
Many members of the Irish revolutionary movement argued against launching the Rising, since it was known that the British were aware, and because of the capture of the German ship carrying modern Mosin-Nagant rifles with which the rebels had planned to arm their troops. Most of the Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army troops only had handguns or old Mauser rifles smuggled in from Germany before the war, that had to be reloaded with every shot and sent up great plumes of smoke, plus a smattering of more up-to-date arms and hand-grenades.
Eoin MacNeill, the Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Volunteers, believed that the uprising was hopeless and published orders in all Sunday newspapers warning Irish Volunteers not to take part in any armed rebellion. Because of MacNeill’s order, far fewer rebels took to the streets on April 24 than planned.
The seven-man Military Council of the IRB met to discuss whether to call off the operation, but news of the incoming arrests by the British government persuaded them to give the go-ahead. On Monday, April 24, 1,500 rebels, divided into several brigades and including 90 women, captured the GPO and other strategic buildings in Dublin city-center. Pearse stood outside the GPO and read out a proclomation announcing the creation of the Irish Republic, which began:
“Irishmen and Irishwomen, in the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”
Somewhat unwisely, a further paragraph praised Germany, the Republic’s “gallant Allies”, a choice of words which must have upset many Dubliners whose fathers, brothers, and sons, in the words of one historian, “had been fighting those allies in Europe for the past twenty months.”
Though there were far fewer than hoped, the rebels planned to hold the center of Dublin against British counterattacks, defending from positions such as the GPO, the Four Courts law building, the seat of the government at Dublin Castle, the armory at Phoenix Park, and a wireless station, which sent out a Morse code message announcing the birth of the Irish Republic. Squads from the Irish Citizen Army, no doubt influenced by news from the front, dug trenches in St. Stephen’s Green. It was not long before their defenses were put to the test.
British guards in Dublin had been overwhelmed by the initial outburst of violence, and the Dublin Metropolitan Police had been pulled off the street after the rebels killed several unarmed policemen.
Although the rebels had hoped to spark a popular uprising, they had very limited public support.
The first detachments of British reinforcements to arrive were Irish soldiers of the two most-recently raised Irish regiments, the 3rd Royal Irish Rifles and the 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers (including your author’s great-grand uncle, then a lance-corporal with the Royal Irish Rifles). Taken aback and surprised at the rebellion, most Dubliners welcomed the British troops openly, cheering them on in the streets, while a handful of armed students successfully defended Trinity College from capture. One Irish soldier spotted his wife and children in the crowd and gave them a happy wave. A few minutes later, he lay dead in the street, killed by a rebel sharpshooter.
A rebel squad of Irish Volunteers on-top the roof of the College of Surgeons. Armed with forty-year old single-shot Mauser rifles, they were outgunned from the start.
The British counter-attack was uncoordinated on the first day, but the British troops had weight of numbers, superior weaponry, and more training and experience on their side. Nevertheless, they made little impact on the rebel positions on day one. A troop of British cavalry, sent to investigate the position at the GPO, took casualties from rebel fire, as well as a platoon of elderly reservists. A British gunboat in the River Liffey retaliated by wrecking the rebel position at Liberty Hall.
Besides constant sniping from rooftops and barricades, the first day of the Easter Rising ended with little other significant combat. Outside of Dublin, a few minor firefights flared up in other cities and in the countryside. Meanwhile, thousands of British troops continued to pour into Dublin, preparing to fight the next day. Civilians suffered worse in the claustrophobic city battle, from both sides: besides policemen, the rebels shot dead a number of civilians attempting to dismantle their barricades, while the British troops gunned down a nurse,
Margaret Keogh, as she tried to tend to wounded people in the street.
Historian Lee Jackson spoke to Fresh Air producer Sam Briger about what it was like to walk around Victorian London:
The first thing you’d notice if you stepped out onto the streets would be the mud that lined the carriageways, but of course it wasn’t really mud.
The air itself was generally filled with soot and smoke. It was famously said of the sheep in Regent’s Park — there were still grazing sheep in Regent’s Park in the mid-Victorian period — that you could tell how long they’d been in the capital by how dirty their coats were. They [went] increasingly from white to black over a period of days.
If you were a respectable person, you had to wash your face and hands several times during the day to make sure that you looked half decent. … You had the stench from blocked drains and cesspools below houses. It wasn’t really a pleasant experience.
Picture: 'Dickens’s Victorian London’ by Alex Werner and Tony Williams via Telegraph U.K.