On the morning of June 6, 1944, an armada of landing ships chopped through the icy, stinging waters of the English Channel, ferrying thousands of troops toward the German-held beaches in a surprise attack that changed the course of the war and of human history. On the far eastern edge of the invasion fleet, one landing craft held a special commodity which no other could boast: deployed along with the 1st Special Services Brigade, many of whom were Scottish, 21-year-old Bill Millin, a Royal Marine Commando in direct service to the brigade commander prepared for the landing. Millin, unlike his fellow soldiers, did not prepare a helmet, rifle, or bayonet; instead, he hoisted and readied the traditional and iconic instrument of Scottish warriors: bagpipes.
Before he attacked and seized the crown of England in 1066, William the Conqueror held the title of Duke of Normandy, a region of northern France. Throughout the rest of his reign, and of the six English kings that followed, Normandy, while technically still owing its allegiance to France, operated under English control. More than a century later, King Richard I, known as the 'Lion-Heart', built a series of castles, including the imposing Château Gaillard, in order to retain his control of Normandy.