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Piper of D Day
by F. Benjamin Reid III


Last year I happened to catch an episode of Britain at War in Colour whereupon a brave old soul retold his personal account of the D-Day landings. As he spoke, the television picture before me gave way to my own mental images conjured up by the solemn voice of the veteran. By the end of the soldier's horrific, yet triumphant tale my face was streaming with emotion. A chord had been struck though I can assure you it was not one of memory. My only recollection of WWII lay in the model aeroplanes I used to build as a kid and a school report I once wrote on the battle of Midway which was no more than regurgitated generalisations from the encyclopaedia. No, I was not there and nothing from any book, play, video or film can replace the authority of those that were; but in a few short moments, from the breath of one who lived through the experience, the enormity of what was lost and what was gained hit home. The Piper of D-Day was the subsequent result of what I had heard on the program. For me, it is a thank you to all who gave their lives, in particular to the people of Scotland and her courageous sons who landed on the beach that day in June; but then who am I? At the time of the landing, an unborn benefactor of their heroic deeds. Verstehst Du?

It is a shame that remembrance and attention can only be drawn around the anniversary of such events, but then that's just the way feelings are invoked on such a grand scale in the media. After surfing your fabulous site I thought it might be an appropriate place to honour both the fallen and the veterans for more than just that one day.

Best regards,

F. Benjamin Reid III

Drifting thoughts of a pleasant past
Brothers in arms, the bayonet
Lay waiting, how long would it last
Before the clash of armies met

I watched the silver light reflect
Dark water world and Navy deck
Like floating phantoms we all seemed
Beneath the stars and lunar beam

Swollen ships with Mothers' children
Were driven hard by Fathers' sons
Each moment lasted longer then
Before said Overlord begun

'For some you've seen your final moon
On this sixth day in early June
Whatever cost be forsaken
Now must Norman beach be taken

Stop not for your wounded fellow
Stand not beside his dying bed'
These words sank solemnly below
March on and fight was what they said

Then in the early morning light
Battleship shells whistled in flight
Onto the banks of Normandy
I squeezed my rifle bitterly

The guns, the bombs, the mortar fire
Fell from the sky like heavy rain
The light and sound of mad desire
Forever in my mind remain

An acrid smoke embalmed the air
As Death dragged bodies to his lair
We stood half buried, without hope
In coffins of sand and wire rope

Fight! Damn you, fight! Myself I told
Though hues of doubt were gathering
I dreamt of ancient heroes bold
When on the wind came whispering

Beyond the lowland Scottish hills
Past Loch Leven and Glencoe mill
The sound of Highland hearts are clear
When hill and piper lad are near

Somehow, I swore, I heard that sound
Above the din of our assault
As waves of destiny did pound
Another craft ground to a halt

Out leapt a mighty piper lad
In bonnie dress and kilted plaid
His heart rang out with ev'ry note
To quell the fear and Axis smote

He blew a sound so glorious
Without a nod or look behind
As if the lyre of Orpheus
Had gathered spirits back in time

The whole beach rose as if to dance
A Highland fling of hope and chance
So marching through the hell of war
A Scottish son on shoulders bore

Straight through the smoking battlefield
Strode piper and his soldier clan
Armed not, but with his tartan shield
He sang for ev'ry child of man

And on the hill the piper played
Beyond his soul, beyond his grave
They fell around him, on his own
He played for us, he played for home

Until a sniper shot they say
Tore flesh from not a bolder bone
Now windless pipes at Sword Beach lay
Beneath the earth and quiet stone

For what it was he gave his due
I wish I knew, I wish I knew
But still, at times, the piper plays
For all the lost, for all D-days
A shining mortal come and gone
The piper at the gates of dawn


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