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News Archive > General > War hero Harry to have train named after him

War hero Harry to have train named after him

By 14th February 2020

War hero Harry to have train named after him
War hero Harry Billinge is to have a train named after him

A “MARVELLOUS privilege” is how Second World War hero and D-Day veteran Harry Billinge MBE has described having a train named after him.

Great Western Railway (GWR) is marking 75 years since the end of the 1939-45 war saw peace declared in Europe by naming six trains after remarkable individuals involved in the conflict.

GWR said those being honoured represented the armed forces, the intelligence services and the world of politics, and this remembered the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that helped defeat Nazism.

Harry will be having an Intercity Express Train named after him along with Wing Commander Ken Rees from Wales, who was a Wellington bomber pilot imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, and Alan Turing, who led Hut 8 at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, and was responsible for the breaking of German ciphers.

Harry told the Voice: “I’m amazed. I am shocked to have a train named after me amongst the likes of those other people like Alan Turing. I tried to do my best during the war. I didn’t want any glory, but everybody seems to have gone a bit mad about what I’ve done. Now I just want to raise money for those boys, my friends, who didn’t come back. It’s a marvellous privilege to have even been considered for something like this.

"My life has changed since last year. It’s all a bit of a surprise.”

Harry admits he has had a “whirlwind” year after the 94-year-old gripped the heart of the nation on the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019 when he appeared on national TV with his harrowing story.

The dad-of-three was just 18 when he arrived on Gold Beach at 6.30am on June 6, 1944 as part of the first wave of soldiers to land. Many of his friends were killed in the conflict and humble Harry has been committed to serving charities to honour those in the decades since.

He was chair of the Cornwall branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association, President of the Royal Engineers Association and he collected for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for 64 years. Most notable as a D-Day veteran is his exceptional contribution and passionate commitment to raise funds for the British Normandy Memorial, which commemorates the fallen under British Command during the Battle of Normandy.

Harry has made it his mission to support the Normandy Memorial Trust, visiting the site of the memorial above Gold Beach where he landed in 1944. In June a campaign was launched to get Harry a knighthood after he left viewers in tears during an interview with BBC Breakfast about the D-Day landings.

The former Sapper told the BBC he was no hero, but one of the lucky ones who had survived.

He spoke about his friend who died during the landings, saying: “All the heroes are dead and I'll never forget them as long as I live.”

Harry has raised more than £20,000 for the Normandy Memorial Trust by collecting donations in the town. BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker called Harry an “amazing man”. Earlier this year he was awarded an MBE in the 2020 New Year honours list after being recognised for his services to Charitable Fundraising.

GWR Head of Communications Dan Panes said: “Naming trains and locomotives is a long tradition of the railway and one which GWR continues, supporting and promoting the people and communities we serve.

"I am really pleased we are able to honour some of the heroes of the war effort, continuing to help tell their incredible stories, and especially during this year where we remember all those who gave so much.”  

The six trains will be named in the run-up to VE Day at the beginning of May. 

By 14th February 2020

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