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Subject: Any rules for Piper Bill? rss

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Barry Harvey
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With the build up to the D-Day memorials we get to hear about the iconic image of 'Piper Bill' Millin, wading ashore on Sword Beach playing the bagpipes.

So tell me, does he appear in any WW2 rules?

Surely something like ASL must have rules for the use of musicians in combat?
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Robb Minneman
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Flames of War: The World War II Miniatures Game includes rules for pipers for Scottish units.
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James Lowry
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ASL Annual '89 has the first in a line of 'joke rules', "Piper's Lament".
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Michael Dorosh
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caracfergus wrote:
With the build up to the D-Day memorials we get to hear about the iconic image of 'Piper Bill' Millin, wading ashore on Sword Beach playing the bagpipes.

So tell me, does he appear in any WW2 rules?

Surely something like ASL must have rules for the use of musicians in combat?


I was a piper in a Highland regiment for 9 years. Having said that, I've always wondered what practical effect bagpipes might actually have had in battle, and suspect the answer is minimal. I remember writing a paper on same in University and finding little of substance with which to source it.

There is a lot of lip service in unit histories about supposed morale effects. My own regiment went into battle at Hill 67, their first action in Normandy, with company pipers permitted to play. The first and only time in the war they were permitted to do so in action. Cooler heads prevailed.

Incidentally, the only photo I've seen of Millin on Sword Beach was taken over his shoulder as he debarked - I've not seen one of him actually playing? Are there photos of him actually playing on the beach?

Millin landed with a Commando unit - fellows already hand-picked for their attributes, then given hard training. Their morale probably went hand in hand with the self-confidence they already possessed. Likewise my own regiment's battle experience at Hill 67 was probably coincidental to the appearance of bagpipes on the field of battle. Put another way, you could have taken the musicians out of the equation, and the units would have likely performed exactly as they did without them.

I am not saying the pipes (and drums) were not of value, far from it. But I am not sure it was something you could quantify as a combat multiplier, myths to the contrary. During route marches in the rear, they were invaluable, or to lift spirits in static positions. I believe my own regiment, again, notes in the battalion war diary that at Christmas (or possibly New Years), while holding the line in the Nijmegen Salient, a piper sallied forth to serenade the Germans. He received mortar fire in return for his efforts.

As far as chrome goes, there is probably worse, but even a minimal morale boost would probably be trying too hard to make a point. I'm reminded of the characters in The Longest Day stuffing their ears with cotton to avoid the fictional Millin's playing - "did you ever hear such a racket in all your life?" The pipes are certainly an acquired taste to many.

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K G
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There's always...

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Mike Szarka
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
I'm reminded of the characters in The Longest Day stuffing their ears with cotton to avoid the fictional Millin's playing - "did you ever hear such a racket in all your life?" The pipes are certainly an acquired taste to many.



And a combat zone is not exactly the place for optimal tuning of the instrument, I'm pretty certain. (Speaking as someone who tunes a competition pipe band, but fortunately never in a combat zone).
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K G
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I hesitate to quote Wikipedia, but maybe it's true!

"A final use of the pipes in combat was in 1967 during the Aden Emergency, when 1st Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were led into the rebel-held Crater district by their pipe major playing the regimental marches."
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Confusion Under Fire
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
you could have taken the musicians out of the equation, and the units would have likely performed exactly as they did without them.



There maybe circumstances where enemy units who are nervous on hearing the pipes, or any sort of noise that proves that the enemy are closer than you want them to be, be put under increasing pressure. Maybe this pressure is not enough to rout the enemy but being under stress can cause anyone to under perform both physically and mentally. I do agree that unless playing a man to man game that the effect would be too small to quantify.
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Michael Dorosh
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mcszarka wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
I'm reminded of the characters in The Longest Day stuffing their ears with cotton to avoid the fictional Millin's playing - "did you ever hear such a racket in all your life?" The pipes are certainly an acquired taste to many.



And a combat zone is not exactly the place for optimal tuning of the instrument, I'm pretty certain. (Speaking as someone who tunes a competition pipe band, but fortunately never in a combat zone).


Just playing in the field can be challenging; I took them out on my basic training course in order to play reveillie on the final exercise. As you mentioned - tuning was a bit of a weird thing, because with everyone asleep, and the point of playing being to wake everyone up, you are faced with the strange situation of either walking three miles down the road to tune beforehand, or just trying to do a rough tune with the drones going and then just bashing through it in the realization probably no one is going to be admiring your skills or how wonderful you are sounding anyway.

It could be downright hazardous in the wrong company. During a band concentration one summer, I was tasked as duty piper. We had the bright idea to have the duty piper play reveillie in barracks, where we were guests. It didn't really phase anyone that we were staying in Edmonton, where our hosts were the paratroopers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. I did my duty the first morning, walking through the billets on our floor to the tune of Johnny Cope, cut off smartly, turned around, and found a well-turned out French-Canadian paratrooper (clad only in his army boxers and maroon Airborne t-shirt) advising me as politely as he could - since it was a weekend when they were not scheduled to work - that "eef I 'ad wanted an aLARM clock - I'd 'ave bought wan!" Discretion being the better part of valour, I jumped back into my bed wearing all my clothes and hid out until after breakfast.
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Andy Beaton
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
mcszarka wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
I'm reminded of the characters in The Longest Day stuffing their ears with cotton to avoid the fictional Millin's playing - "did you ever hear such a racket in all your life?" The pipes are certainly an acquired taste to many.



And a combat zone is not exactly the place for optimal tuning of the instrument, I'm pretty certain. (Speaking as someone who tunes a competition pipe band, but fortunately never in a combat zone).


Just playing in the field can be challenging; I took them out on my basic training course in order to play reveillie on the final exercise. As you mentioned - tuning was a bit of a weird thing, because with everyone asleep, and the point of playing being to wake everyone up, you are faced with the strange situation of either walking three miles down the road to tune beforehand, or just trying to do a rough tune with the drones going and then just bashing through it in the realization probably no one is going to be admiring your skills or how wonderful you are sounding anyway.

It could be downright hazardous in the wrong company. During a band concentration one summer, I was tasked as duty piper. We had the bright idea to have the duty piper play reveillie in barracks, where we were guests. It didn't really phase anyone that we were staying in Edmonton, where our hosts were the paratroopers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. I did my duty the first morning, walking through the billets on our floor to the tune of Johnny Cope, cut off smartly, turned around, and found a well-turned out French-Canadian paratrooper (clad only in his army boxers and maroon Airborne t-shirt) advising me as politely as he could - since it was a weekend when they were not scheduled to work - that "eef I 'ad wanted an aLARM clock - I'd 'ave bought wan!" Discretion being the better part of valour, I jumped back into my bed wearing all my clothes and hid out until after breakfast.


If you haven't read George McDonald Fraser's 'McAuslan' stories, about his days as a young subaltern in a Highland regiment after the war, you should rush right out and do so. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Your story could have been an unpublished GMF original.
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Leonardo Martino
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Chris R.
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(I remember that Eagles of the Empire: Napoleon in the Desert had rules for the band.)
 
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