In Memory of Harry Billinge

During the lockdowns of 2020, the world became aware of the inspiring feats of Sir Captain Tom Moore as he did laps of his garden to raise money for charity. Whilst what Tom did was totally commendable and I, along with everyone else, fell in love with him and his story, let’s not forget that their whole generation made, and many have continued to make, amazing sacrifices in the name of others. I have immense respect for that generation as they have seen things that many of us cannot imagine, and yet many are so humble and do so much for others. One of those was Harry Billinge, who sadly died at the age of 96 at the beginning of April. His funeral was held in Charleston, Cornwall, this week. For those of you who don’t know Harry, particularly my foreign readers, Harry had played a large part in fundraising for military charities for the last sixty years, particularly the British Legion.

Harry was perhaps most well-known for helping to raise over £50,000 for a British memorial to commemorate the 22,442 people killed on during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, the military actions that helped pave the way towards an Allied victory at the end of the Second World War. Harry was only 18 when he landed on Gold Beach, one of the five beaches used by British, American, Canadian, Australian and other Allied nations. He was only one of four men from his unit to survive.[1] Before the memorial was officially opened by Charles, the Prince of Wales, via video link on the 6th June 2021, the anniversary of D-Day, the British were the only allied force not to have a Normandy memorial.[2] Harry, alongside other veterans and the BBC broadcaster, Nicholas Witchell, campaigned for one to be built.

D-DAY – BRITISH FORCES DURING THE INVASION OF NORMANDY 6 JUNE 1944 (B 5071) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205205817

Harry was a common sight raising money for the memorial in St Austell, his hometown, where he had moved seventy years ago on advice for a better quality of life. Many have commented on how they befriended him during his fundraising campaigned. Throughout it all, Harry has never taken the praise for himself, even when he collected his MBE from the Queen in 2020. Instead, he always dedicated his achievements to those men and boys who lost their lives in Normandy. When a train was named after him in October 2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, he again said the same thing. A short snippet from that particular interview can be viewed here: https://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/2020-10-07/cornwall-d-day-hero-harry-billinge-has-train-named-in-his-honour.

This short post is in memory of Harry Billinge and I hope now that he can rest in peace with those men who he has fought so long for. May we never forget the ultimate sacrifice that Harry, along with all those others who fought and died, gave for us. In the words of Margot Billinge, Harry’s daughter, let us go forward with values Harry taught: “honesty, kindness, generosity and not to judge.”

More information on the British Normandy Memorial can be found at the following website: https://www.britishnormandymemorial.org/


[1] BBC, ‘Harry Billinge: Hundreds at funeral of D-Day veteran’, 26 April 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-61221978

[2] British Normandy Memorial, https://www.britishnormandymemorial.org/

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