Harry immediately returned to street fundraising upon his return from France
Harry Billinge, 96, did what he described as his “last duty” to pay tribute to his fallen friends who died on Gold Beach during the 1944 landings.
He crossed the Channel to support a tribute recording the names of the 22,442 soldiers who died under British command on D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.
After raising at least £ 50,000 for the construction of the memorial, he said he was incredibly moved to see the names of his deceased friends set in stone at the unveiling last month.
Harry raised at least £ 50,000 for the British Normandy Memorial
But instead of returning home to St Austell, Cornwall to get up, Harry has already gone to collect again to help maintain it and build an education center on the site.
He’s now spent an incredible 68 years raising money for military charities – and said his new ‘celebrity status’ meant people were lining up this week to put money in his box.
Harry, was a former chairman of the Cornish branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, chairman of the Royal Engineers Association and a 64-year fundraiser for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
In 2018, he gave his support to the Normandy Memorial Trust, where he has since raised over £ 50,000 by collecting in his local market.
Back from France, Harry described himself as “tired” but happy. “
He added, “I don’t think I could give you words about how I was feeling.
“It was very, very emotional for me, and it still moves me now. I had a wonderful time because everyone now knows me in Normandy. “
Harry was only 18 in 1944 and was serving in the 59th Independent Royal Engineers Squadron when he was part of the First Wave on Gold Beach.
He added, “I was overwhelmed by the kindness and love of the people.
“It was a very sad visit for me, and I could never forget D-Day, it’s a really sad day – it’s been my whole life.”
But Harry said he wasn’t finished yet. In an effort to inspire others and continue to fundraise for the memorial which plans to build an educational facility at the site, Harry is still there three days a week raising funds to support the monument.
He said: “Other people were so inspired, the commando, 24 Commando, gave me a check for the monument for £ 4,000. I am very happy that the memorial is almost finished.
“I’m still collecting, because they’re going to build an education center there now, so it’s not quite finished yet.
“I can not put words on all this, everyone was in line yesterday to put money in my box”
Harry recounted how upset he was to see the name of his friend, whom he knows in military fashion, using surnames like “Leeds”, a brother-in-arms who died at Gold Beach that day. .
“I found there some graves of my companion, namely a man called Leeds, he had a three week old baby at the time of his death.
“My generation saved the world”.
Yet Harry says he hasn’t finished yet. Speaking of how he lived until such an astonishing age of 96, Harry says anyone can do it with the right motivation.
“If you have something that is extremely important to you, then you will. I’m not ready to die yet, I still have things to do, and that’s why I’m going to take it slow now.
“Everything I did was for the memorial, and people all over the world know me now.
“I am not a proud man, pride is a mortal sin, but I am very happy that I was able to raise the money and do my part.”
The British Normandy Memorial, designed by British architect Liam O’Connor, cost nearly £ 30million and was funded by the UK government and private benefactors. It stands on a hill overlooking ‘Gold Beach.’