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Bagpipes or Bulldust


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#1 Snowy

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 08:52 AM

On reading an interesting account from an American WW2 Vet, I came across the following quote which involved my Dad’s Battalion.

My question is: how common a practice was it for British Divisions to use bagpipes when on manoeuvres.??

This seems particularly interesting in view of the following claim that heavy German fire was in the vicinity.

I never recall my Dad ever mentioning bagpipes and pipers ?? Thought that was hollywood hype ?

"March 3 at Geldern marked the first physical contact between the Canadian First Army and the Ninth U.S. Army since the Ninth Army had crossed the Roer River. Lt. Burnaby-Atkins of the 8th British Armored Brigade came into our lines. In the distance "Soky" and I could hear the wailing bagpipes of the Scottish infantry accompanying the British armor. These men were of the 52nd Lowland Scots Division. The British lieutenant boasted that they had dashed eight miles today and our platoon sergeant, Scotty McCrae, answered that we had dashed thirteen and got there before them.

[I was wrong. It was 1st East Lancashire Regt. Of the 53rd Welsh Div.]

All the time we were under heavy German fire, but this house we were in was built like a fort with four foot walls. The Germans had built houses on their borders to render assistance as forts in case of war. 0ur engineers were busy at repairing the bridge so vehicles could use it."

Comments welcomed.

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#2 Kai-Petri

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 01:04 PM

While waiting for the answer here´s a nice joke or maybe it is a fact...

A Canadian officer, pinned down with his unit in Italy in 1944, urgently signalled his CO - "Need reinforcements to rescue us. Please send six tanks or one piper".

:eek:

http://www.rampantsc.../blhumpipes.htm
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#3 BratwurstDimSum

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 01:58 PM

Careful snowy! Our D-Day vet "Sapper" Brian might take exception to your comment smile.gif His account in his "Sword Beach to Bremmen" Thread on the "Battle for Europe" forum repeatedly states pipers marching down heavily contested areas back straight & Pipe's bellowing:

viz: (from Sapper's accounts)

The Pipes the Pipes.
Stir the blood a little.

It is not only pictures that remain with old soldiers through the years, but also sounds, sounds can be very important, and at times, very emotional. For sounds and music can remind one of times long past, and possess the power to take you back when you were young. And, make the hair on the back of your neck stand up

We had now reached the high ground on the left hand rout into the City of Caen, this dusty road that looked down on the Colombelles industrial area on the outskirts of Caen, with the high building of the ironworks far below, all rusty and gaunt. From our vantage point it was possible to see for miles down below and the ground spread out all round in a wide panoramic view.

Blissfully unaware that the area was still in German hands and that he was watching our every move, (we had been told that the 51st Highland div had taken it) After having a long look at the ground down below we the carried on sweeping and clearing our way forward, to ensure that the way was free from the Enemy and from mines.

The Enemy soon put a stop to this, we had just entered and cleared a farm house when all hell was let loose, from the tall rusty looking steel works down below came a tremendous barrage of shell fire.

Point blank shell fire, where one does not hear the shells coming until the last split second, when the incoming fire sounds like an express train with the scream of shells, with violent explosions and tearing shrapnel, the farm house blew into the air in minute fragments, then came down about my shoulders, the flying debris, the continuing whistle and flashing fire and explosion of the shells, the cries of those ripped and torn apart by the shell fragments, the pitiful calls of the mortally wounded, an intense barrage, the swirling smoke and pandemonium and ones whole being gripped with fear, my mouth dry and choked with dust.

After the fire died down I started to extricate myself, covered in dirt and dust and splintered wood, the bitter taste and stench of cordite. When in the distance, I heard the sound of the bagpipes, above all that noise, I could hear the skirl of the Scots pipes, when I got out of the rubble, I looked down the dusty track and there he was, nonchalantly marching slowly towards us, this piper, khaki kilt swaying from side to side, as he made his way forward concentrating on his playing.

Sounds of war! Whenever I hear the pipes I must admit to having a great big lump in my throat, I have been into battle with the sound of the pipes and I cannot hear them without being deeply moved.
Comment?
Sapper.


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#4 Timothy

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 02:45 PM

That is very intresting.

I remember that in the movie The Longest Day one of the divisions had bagpipes. I didn't think that they actually used them though.
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#5 The_Historian

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 03:11 PM

Timothy,
That was the Lovat Scouts (Commandos)relieving the airborne troops at Pegasus Bridge, I think.

Regards,
gordon
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#6 Friedrich

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 03:48 PM

I was indeed a piper from Lord Lovat's commandos, who landed at Sword Beach and releived British 6th Airborne division at the bridge. smile.gif
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

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#7 The_Historian

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 03:50 PM

Cheers Herr General
Regards,

Gordon

#8 sapper

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 05:47 PM

Oh Dear Yes!
For sure the pipers played thier troop into action. And I can tell you, it is very stirring indeed.
Brian

#9 sapper

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 05:53 PM

One other thing that may surprise you,
When the commandoa arrived at the Pegasus bridge with their piper, they had an audience of some British Sappers and a Sapper Sgt. They had already arrived before the commandos,

That has dispelled a few myths!
Brian Who was at Pegasus Bridge and later dug in on the western side on the bank

#10 BratwurstDimSum

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 08:23 PM

Originally posted by General der Infanterie Friedrich H:
I was indeed a piper from Lord Lovat's commandos

You must be quite talented Herr Generale, and young for your all your years.

tongue.gif

[ 10. December 2003, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: BratwurstDimSum ]
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#11 Stefan

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 08:49 PM

On a side note, the Piper who was with Lovat's Commandos (his name was Bill Mullins IIRC) turned up at a re-enactment a while back, people had a couple of photos taken with him, a very interesting chap by all accounts.
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#12 sommecourt

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 10:36 PM

Piper's seemingly regularly accompanied units into action in Normandy; during the course of my current research on British Regiments there I have a number of examples of battalions from 15th (Scottish) and 51st (HD) being piped into battle. I have even found examples of pipers being killed in Normandy.
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#13 No.9

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 12:02 AM

No.9 and No.11 were the Scottish Commandos (though that did not mean you had to be Scots to be a member), and had a piper for each Troop, not just for the Commando. Other than for parade, marching and morale purposes, the pipes were used to signal position (especially at night), objective achieved and terrorising the enemy. The bagpipes are the only instrument to have been classified as a weapon of war! ;)

Some other Commandos elected to have a piper and Lt. Col. ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill of No.3 and No.2, often carried and played them himself. But then ‘Mad’ Jack might wear a kilt, carry a Claymore and/or a bow and arrow, and was responsible for probably the only actual incident of a sentry being shot with one! :eek:

No.9

[ 13. December 2003, 02:19 PM: Message edited by: No.9 ]

#14 Snowy

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Posted 12 December 2003 - 10:47 AM

Very interesting responses on this issue –

A moments reflection on what was happening here seems incongruous.-

Just imagine - soldiers pushing forward, shells flying over head, explosions all around, “look for shelter”, “find cover”, “keep your head down”, “now run like hell’.

Meanwhile, the piper marches along, out in the open making as much noise as he can to inspire the troops and lift morale.

It is a brave lad indeed that would nominate for this task ?

Little wonder Paul writes - “I have even found examples of pipers being killed in Normandy.”

Gutsy stuff going into battle with a bag of hot air. ;)

Does anyone know if the Germans had anything equivalent (A war cry, Bugle call ???)or what their response to this may have been?

Sapper, I’ve got to agree with you with regard the deep emotions that bagpipes can stir in one’s soul. Every time I hear the solo piper play at the Edinborough Tattoo it is extremely moving. Then the mass pipe bands and I’m blown away (figuratively).

Given your experience it is not surprising that you write – “... I cannot hear them without being deeply moved.”

Interesting overview and photos on the Caen Canal Bridge (renamed Pegasus Bridge) located at:- http://www.nwha.org/...news_page5.html

Thank you all for the comments – and a little more myth debunking.


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#15 sapper

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Posted 12 December 2003 - 04:14 PM

YEP.
I know all about Pegasus Bridge I spent enougn time on the place and being strafed.

Smowy asked about if the Germans had any equivelant of the "Pipes" No, not to my knowledge,

But they did try taunting us at times with cries of "Tommy" Tommy" and some choice other expressions, often to be returned with some very delicate British Army phrases. especialy from the Jocks. "Bless them" "Och ye bleeding Kraut" and other pleasent asides like "I'll pull you head off and stuff it up your backside" "square headed bastard" it did not happen very often but the enemy tried all sorts of tricks to locate us.

Sometimes paying the price as at Overloon where they tried it once too often, and we collected the bodies later. (More tea VIcar?)
Brian

#16 Paul_9686

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Posted 12 December 2003 - 05:22 PM

It's somewhat off topic, but my favorite scene from The Devil's Brigade is when the Canadians march in led by drums and bagpipes playing "Scotland the Brave."

Yours,
Paul

#17 Owen

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 08:51 PM

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Led by a piper, men of 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Division, move forward during Operation 'Epsom', 26 June 1944.

#18 Owen

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 08:51 PM

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Led by their piper, men of 7th Seaforth Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Division advance during Operation 'Epsom', 26 June 1944.

#19 bigfun

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 09:01 PM

I'll bet that stirred up the emotions eh!
Scott :flag_USA_ww2: :flag_netherlands:

#20 PzJgr

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 09:02 PM

On a side note, the Piper who was with Lovat's Commandos (his name was Bill Mullins IIRC) turned up at a re-enactment a while back, people had a couple of photos taken with him, a very interesting chap by all accounts.


Didn't he also played himself in the movie 'The Longest Day'. I could swear that in the DVD's special features, it does say that he played himself even though I see in the movie's credits that it shows Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee.????
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#21 Owen

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 09:02 PM

This young Canadian Piper won the Victoria Cross in WW1.
PIPER JAMES RICHARDSON, VC
James Cleland Richardson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

#22 canadiancitizen

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 04:13 PM

When I was a member of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, in the mid 60's, our Pipe Major was a WW2 veteran, a "Day One " guy who had served in the "pre war " period of the 1930's, and who went "active " in September, 1939, along with the rest of the entire Militia Battalion.

I can tell you, from his lips , that the 48th allways had a piper with each company, and HQ/Support Company, from that point onwards. In Britain, they played on the route marches, and at any inspection, the Pipes and Drums were there. Individual pipers were a strong morale booster, and they could play many of thr popular "songs of the day " not just traditional military tunes.

As a part of the 1st Briagde, of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, the 48th Highlanders fought from Sicily, thru Italy, over to Belgium, Holland and finally into Germany at the end of the war. A total of over 21 months of combat time from August 1943, to May 1945. The 1st CANINFDIV were know as the "D Day Dodgers " because after June 6th, 1944, the media completely ignored the Italian front, in their reporting. Even today, when asked about their war time service, they say " we were playing in the spaghetti league ".

One final point. Canadian pipers STILL provide musical power and ceremonial dignity to the Canadian Forces serving today in Khandahar Province, in Afghanistan. All of our Infantry battalions have pipers with them, as do the arty and engineers and armour. No kilts, but still playing the troops forward.

One of the things that each CF man or woman ( yes we have females in ALL of our combat arms ) over there is asked to do, is to choose their "funeral tune " in case they don't come home, with their friends. To be played at the " ramp ceremony " as their casket is carried onto the Hercules ,for that long flight home. Sobering stuff but also traditional.

Mine would have been " flowers of the forest " followed by " Black Bear ". That wasn't needed, thankfully. I retired in 1996, so I have been to many military funerals, in Canada, and overseas. Slow march to the church, quick march going away.

Jim Bunting. Toronto.
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#23 macrusk

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:16 AM

...One final point. Canadian pipers STILL provide musical power and ceremonial dignity to the Canadian Forces serving today in Khandahar Province, in Afghanistan. All of our Infantry battalions have pipers with them, as do the arty and engineers and armour. No kilts, but still playing the troops forward.

One of the things that each CF man or woman ( yes we have females in ALL of our combat arms ) over there is asked to do, is to choose their "funeral tune " in case they don't come home, with their friends. To be played at the " ramp ceremony " as their casket is carried onto the Hercules ,for that long flight home. Sobering stuff but also traditional.

Mine would have been " flowers of the forest " followed by " Black Bear ". That wasn't needed, thankfully. I retired in 1996, so I have been to many military funerals, in Canada, and overseas. Slow march to the church, quick march going away.

Jim Bunting. Toronto.


My Dad was a WWII RCA Veteran, and then RCAF up to 1961. With my mother being English, as well, the pipes were always something we heard. Dad was always affected by the sound. I was brought up on stories of the pipers at war.

The Sgt. Major for the Saskatoon Pipes and Drums was Hugh Fraser, also a WWII Veteran.

When Dad died, I arranged for a piper to play "Amazing Grace" at his graveside. I still can't hear the pipes playing it without it clenching my heart.
Regards, Michelle

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