Train named in honour of D-Day hero Harry Billinge

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge with his MBE
D-Day veteran Harry Billinge with his MBE - (Copyright PA Archive)
11:53am, Wed 07 Oct 2020
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A D-Day veteran who was one of the first British soldiers to land on Gold Beach in 1944 has said he is “deeply moved” to have a train named in his honour.

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

The sapper, from St Austell, Cornwall, was made an MBE last year for charitable fundraising after collecting more than £50,000 for veterans.

His name was placed on Great Western Railway Intercity Express train number 802006 and unveiled at a ceremony involving family and friends, onlookers and military representatives on Wednesday morning.

The train went on to form the 10.15am service from Penzance to London Paddington.

“I’ve been deeply moved today. Having a train named after me is a great honour,” the 95-year-old said.

“It will remind people of the fine men who fought that day, lots of whom never went back home again. It’s important that their memory is remembered, and I hope this train will carry that message to thousands of people every day.”

The train operator is marking 75 years since the end of the Second World War by naming seven of its Intercity Express trains after people involved in the conflict.

Others include Sir Winston Churchill and Alan Turing.

General Lord Dannatt, trustee of the Normandy Memorial Trust, said: “Everyone at the trust warmly congratulates Harry on the naming of a train in his honour.

“We are so proud of Harry and grateful for all his remarkable fundraising efforts for the memorial and everything he has done to raise the profile of the trust.”

Harry was one of the first soldiers to land on Gold Beach at 6.30am on June 6 1944 as part of the D-Day landings.

He was a sapper attached to the 44 Royal Engineer Commandos and was one of only four to survive from his unit.

He later fought in Caen and the Falaise Pocket in Normandy.

Johnny Mercer, minister for defence people and veterans, said: “Harry’s an inspiration and a daily reminder of that incredible generation.

“We can never say thank you enough for the privileges and freedom we enjoy today because of your sacrifices 75 years ago.”

Simon Green, engineering director at GWR, said the company was “honoured” to name one of its trains after Harry.

“We at Great Western have a long history of naming trains after Great Westerners, the past and present heroes from across our network,” Mr Green said.

“It is right that we honour some of those heroes of the war effort, remembering the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that later generations owe so much to.”

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