One of Britain’s last surviving D-Day veterans will today have a train named in his honour by Great Western Railway.
The train operator is marking 75 years since the end of World War Two by naming seven of its Intercity Express Trains after remarkable people involved in the conflict.
St Austell’s Harry Billinge MBE was one of the first soldiers to land on ‘Gold’ beach at 0630 on 6 June 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 went on to fight in Caen and the Falaise Pocket in Normandy.
He was awarded an MBE in the 2020 New Year Honours List for his fundraising efforts in St Austell for the Normandy Memorial Trust.
His name will feature on Intercity Express Train number 802006 and form the 1015 service from Penzance to London Paddington following the ceremony.
Inspirational: Harry collecting for the Normandy Veterans’ Association in 2016
“I am thrilled that this train is being named after me, but this is about remembering 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.”
Johnny Mercer MP, 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.”
GWR Engineering Director Simon Green said:
“We are honoured to be naming one of our Intercity Express Trains after Harry Billinge MBE, who undoubtedly took part in one of the most important battles of World War Two.
“We at Great Western have a long history of naming trains after Great Westerners, the past and present heroes from across our network.
“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.”
Safe haven: Harry, centre, in a cafe in Brussels on 4/12/1944 with the Deville family he befriended. He went back to see them when he was on leave in December 1944.