Harry Billinge was a fresh-faced 18-year-old when he served with the 59th Independent Squadron of the Royal Engineers in 1944. His life was punctuated by his experience serving during World War II, but there is one experience in particular that resonates deeply with Billinge: being one of the first wave soldiers at Gold Beach who fought on D-Day.
Once Billinge left the service, he kept serving. For the past 68 years, Billinge has collected money for a number of military charities, including the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. He is former chair of the Cornwall branch of the Normandy Veterans Association and former President of the Royal Engineers Association. At the ripe age of 96, the veteran has completed what he describes as his “last duty” to pay tribute to his fallen friends.
Young Harry Billinge. Credit: SWNS.
“I don’t think I could give you words to it, about how I felt,” he says.
He traveled back across the British Channel one last time to support a tribute recording the names of the 22,442 service members who lost their lives on D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Named the British Normandy Memorial, it was funded by the British government and other private benefactors. It stands on a hillside overlooking Gold Beach. Harry Billinge collected £50K ($67k) towards its construction
While being honored certainly has its perks, for Billinge, attending the event wasn’t about titles and accolades. It was about seeing the names of his fallen friends– a sort of bittersweet experience. He was happy to see them honored in the way they deserve to be, but pained by the loss of them.
Credit: Yorkshire Post
“It was very, very moving for me, and it still moves me now,” Billinge says. “I had a wonderful time because everyone there knows me now in Normandy.”
Even upon returning to Cornwall, Harry Billinge isn’t done yet. He has already continued collecting donations to maintain the memorial, as well as to build an education center on the site.
“Everything I’ve done has been for the memorial…” he says. “I’m not a proud man, pride is a deadly sin, but I am very happy that I was able to collect money and do my bit.”
MORE INSPIRING STORIES
Thanksgiving is about more than gathering around a feast of excellent food that you only get to enjoy a handful of times a year. The purpose of the holiday is in the name: giving thanks for the things you have, and maybe giving something to people who need it. A group...
Abraham Olagbegi is not your typical boy in more ways than one. In 2020, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder at the age of 12. Over the course of an already difficult year, Olagbegi was forced to undergo a bone marrow transplant and an intense chemotherapy...
The iconic phrase “trick or treat” once upon a time implied some sort of exchange. Children arrived at houses in search of candy, and if no treats were found, harmless tricks would be played (or, on the occasion that there was an especially naughty kid, a family...
GET INSPIRATION & BEAUTY RIGHT IN YOUR IN BOX!