Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

'Normandy veterans love one another deeply': D-Day veteran dedicates MBE to fallen comrades

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie

One of the first British soldiers to land on D-Day dedicated his MBE to his fallen comrades who he "knew and loved", as he collected it from the Queen.

Former Royal Engineer Horace “Harry” Billinge was just 18 when he stormed Gold Beach in German-occupied Normandy during the landings on June 6, 1944.

The horrifying scenes he witnessed stayed with him after the Second World War and "inspired him" to raise funds to commemorate those who died in the conflict.

Now aged 94, the sapper from St Austell, Cornwall, received his MBE medal for his services to charitable fundraising and he dedicated it to the 22,442 service personnel killed on D-Day and during the Battle for Normandy.

He joked to ITV News that he will wear his award on his pyjamas on Tuesday night.

He said: "It's for all them fellas.

"I accepted this and I told them I accepted this for all the boys I knew and loved.

"Normandy veterans now love one another deeply, more than the love of a woman.

"It's different.

"If you're in a hole in the ground being bombed at, shot at, when you're with a bloke he becomes part of you."

Horace 'Harry' Billinge honoured for his fundraising efforts by the Queen. Credit: PA

On Tuesday, he was transported to Buckingham Palace in a Bentley to collect the honour at an investiture ceremony.

Describing the scenes he faced at the Gold Beach landing area in northern France, Mr Billinge told said: “It was Hell on Earth.

"Murder.

"The sea was red with blood, human blood.

“Some men were baptised in their own blood.

"It was a terrible, terrible time.

"And what for?

2Not much,” he said while fighting back tears.

“I have been unable to forget D-Day.

"I could never forget.”

Mr Billinge proudly holding his honour. Credit: PA

Mr Billinge, who holds France’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur, said he had raised more than £50,000 for veterans.

As well as collecting for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for 64 years, he has also raised funds for the British Normandy Memorial and was chairman of the Cornwall branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association.

Mr Billinge has been back to Gold Beach more than once. Credit: PA

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Billinge, who has been married to Sheila for 65 years, said it was “wonderful” to meet the Queen.

“She said ‘I hear you was on D-Day’, and I said ‘I was’,” he said.

“She was very, very kind.

"There are no words to describe it.”

Unlike in previous ceremonies, the Queen wore long white gloves as she handed out the honours but Buckingham Palace declined to confirm whether the 93-year-old monarch was taking the precaution because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A royal source said the Queen would be following any advice from the government.