D-Day Vet Dedicates His MBE to the Men That Died Storming the Beaches of Normandy

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge with his MBE for charitable fundraising. Photo by Victoria Jones-WPA Pool/Getty Images.
D-Day veteran Harry Billinge with his MBE for charitable fundraising. Photo by Victoria Jones-WPA Pool/Getty Images.

D-Day Vet  Horace “Harry” Billinge, 94, held his hand over his heart as he was given his MBE by Queen Elizabeth.

The MBE was granted as Harry has raised over £50,000 for various veterans’ charities.

Harry Billinge was 18 when he was a Sapper with the Royal Engineers and was one of the first men to step onto Gold Beach at ‘H Hour,’ 6.30am during the D-Day Landings that took place on the 6th June 1944.

The D-Day landings marked the start of the concerted push by Allied Forces to free Europe that was struggling under the stranglehold of the occupation by the Nazis.

It is not surprising that the horrors of that landing have remained with Harry all his life.  These memories inspired him to begin raising money so that there would be some means of commemorating those that died in World War II.

On the 3rd March 020, Harry, a resident of St Austell in Cornwall, was driven in a Bentley to Buckingham Palace where the stately old gentleman, walking with a stick, collected his honor from Queen Elizabeth.

After the ceremony, Harry said that the honor that he had been given was dedicated to the 22,442 men that died during the Battle for Normandy.

He was asked about his recollection of the landings at Gold Beach.  He succinctly described the day as hell on earth.  He clearly remembers the sea being stained red with the blood of the dead and injured.

With tears in his eyes, he said he saw men baptized in their own blood on D-Day and beyond.  He reiterated that it was a terrible time and that he had never been able to forget the scenes that unfolded in front of his eyes.

Harry has already been granted the Legion d’Honneur by the French government.

Since the end of the war, Harry has made it his life’s mission to help raise funds to ensure the scenes at Normandy can be commemorated each year.

He has been the chairman of the Cornwall Branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association and has raised £25,000 towards funding for the British Normandy Memorial, which will be raised to overlook Gold Beach.

Harry has also taken part in the annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for the past 64 years.

Harry traveled to Normandy in June 2019, to take part in the 75th Anniversary for D-Day.

While in France, he also attended the unveiling of a foundation stone for the memorial to British forces that served and lost their lives during the war.

Harry was impressed by his short chat with the Queen.  He said she asked if he was at D-Day, and he told her that he was.

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Harry noted that she was very kind and that he had no words to describe the honor that it was to talk to her.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE