Tributes paid to Cornish D-Day veteran Harry Billinge, who died aged 96

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Tributes have been made to Cornish D-Day veteran Harry Billinge MBE who has died aged 96 after a short illness.

The former Royal Engineer was just 18 when he was one of the first British soldiers to land on Gold Beach on June 5 in 1944.

His daughter Sally Billinge-Shandley said: “He was a man that always gave his word, his word was solid. He always fought in what he believed in.

“The passion he had for all the veterans that lost their lives was unwavering.”

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge was made an MBE for his fundraising efforts. Credit: PA

General Lord Richard Dannatt, Chair of the Normandy Memorial Trust has recalled his memories of Harry.

He said: "Harry Billinge was one of those remarkable Normandy Veterans who was insistent that there be a proper memorial to all his comrades that landed, fought and sadly fell in Normandy campaign of 1944.

"He has been tireless in prompting the trustees to get on and get the memorial in place, raising money and raising the profile of this wonderful memorial.

"He has a real stake in our hearts, a real stake in the memorial and this is very much Harry's memorial.

"This memorial is a tribute to Harry and the 22,000 who lost their lives in this campaign.

"We thank him and we salute his memory and it's a very sad day that this wonderful soldier has now died."

Harry Billinge dedicated his life to remembering his friends who never made it home, raising more than £30,000 for charity.

In March 2019, he was made an MBE and was often seen collecting at Par Market in his home town of St Austell.

In 2020, he had a GWR train named after him which he described as a "great honour".

Speaking in 2018 at the site of the British Normandy Memorial before its construction he said: "Everyone around my area had an uncle, a father, a brother, a nephew on that day who never went back home.

"So many never even got out of the sea. I am unable to forget about this day.

"I get so emotional, but believe me the Battle of Normandy was not easy. Not easy at all.

"The sacrifice made was overwhelming."