TELEVISION viewers watching coverage of the D-Day anniversary were left in tears as a veteran reflected on the Normandy landings 75 years ago.
Harry Billinge was just 18 when he came ashore on Gold Beach with the first wave of troops — one of whom later died in his arms.
‘Don’t thank me and don’t say I’m a hero,’ he told BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty. ‘All the heroes are dead and I’ll never forget them as long as I live.’
Mr Billinge, 93, of St Austell, Cornwall, has raised more than £10,000 towards the British Normandy Memorial. ‘When I heard about the monument, I thought this is what I’ve been kept for — to collect for that,’ he said. ‘This is my swansong.’
A Royal Engineer with the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers, Mr Billinge spent two years in hospital after the war recovering from the trauma.
‘I’ve got such a vivid memory they couldn’t help me at all,’ he said. ‘You had the ships firing over your head and the Germans firing at you from inland — 88mm guns which would blow you off the face of the earth.
‘A mate of mine died in my arms, he had a three-week-old baby.’
During the emotional interview from Ver-sur-Mer, Mr Billinge had to break off at one point, telling Ms Munchetty: ‘I’m very sorry, I’m getting a bit choked.’
Many viewers tweeted their thanks. ‘What a star!’ said Jane Chambers. ‘Sat with tears rolling down my cheeks. I am in awe of all of those heroes.’ Jonny Geller added: ‘This is my favourite thing on Twitter. Ever. Thank you, Harry Billinge.’
Thousands gathered in Arromanches to shake the hands of veterans.
Sid Barnes, 93, from Norfolk, said: ‘We just did what we knew we must do. It is nice to know we are valued though.’