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Jed pipers stir memories to bridge 70-year D-Day gap

A poignant return to Normandy was made by Jedburgh Royal British Legion Scotland Pipe Band to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

A poignant return to Normandy was made by Jedburgh Royal British Legion Scotland Pipe Band to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

A poignant return to Normandy was made by Jedburgh Royal British Legion Scotland Pipe Band to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The start of proceedings saw the band parade through the town of Benouville and into the Pegasus Bridge Museum to participate in the remembrance ceremony. A number of Second World War planes also paid tribute with a fly-past over the museum.

Later in the day, the Borderers travelled to Colleville-Montgomery to play along the front at Sword Beach. Here they encountered an awe-inspiring display of synchronised fireworks that ran for 40km along the coastline, incorporating 24 towns which were related to the main sites of the D-Day landings beaches.

D-Day itself – June 6 – took the band back to Pegasus Bridge for some impromptu performances across the structure and at Café Gondrée (the first house to be liberated). Band pipe major Tosh MacDonald played Flowers Of The Forest in remembrance of the fallen.

In the evening the musicians travelled back to Colleville-Montgomery and Sword Beach to the site of the Bill Millin statue – the D-Day Piper. Here a ceremony incorporating many pipers and drummers from all nationalities took place to remember Piper Bill, led by Serge Athénour (pipe major of Mary Queen of Scots Pipe Band and initiator and visionary of the Bill Millin statue) and Pipe Major Tosh MacDonald.

In front of a large crowd, including several D-Day veterans and the town mayor, homage was paid to those that fought, with a wreath being laid at the foot of the statue. A rapturous rendition of Auld Lang Syne was given by the veterans.

A reception followed in the local sports hall to which the band were invited guests at the commemorative dinner and to witness the completion of the Millin-Montgomery Voyage which started back in Fort William on May 5.

A set of replica bagpipes of those used by Piper Millin when he landed on Sword Beach on D-Day were made by R. G. Hardie & Company Ltd of Glasgow, and to aid authenticity, the Millin family donated a chanter from an original set of pipes owned and played by Bill Millin.

The purpose of the relay voyage was to commemorate the contributions made by many UK communities towards the D-Day landings campaign.

A great honour was bestowed upon Pipe Major MacDonald as he was asked to play the Millin-Montgomery bagpipes to mark the end of the voyage, with the bagpipes being presented to Colleville-Montgomery.

The Borders musicians headed to the town of Ouistreham on June 8 where once again they assembled with pipe bands from other nations to form the cumulative D-Day Pipers United Pipe Band.

A parade led by Jedburgh RBLS Pipe Band through the streets of Ouistreham was met by a multitude of applauding onlookers.

The parade led to The Grand Bunker, the former HQ of the German Army that controlled and guarded the batteries along the Orne Estuary which was taken by Lieutenant Bob Orrell, of 91st Field Company Royal Engineers, three days after D-Day.

Later in the day saw a return to Pegasus Bridge for more impromptu parades over the bridge and time to reflect on the previous few days’ events.

 

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