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D-Day veteran Harry Billinge, 94, receives an MBE

A D-Day veteran who has raised more than £10,000 towards the cost of building a national memorial honouring his fallen comrades is to be made an MBE.

Harry Billinge, 94, said he would accept the honour not for himself but for the 22,442 service personnel who were killed on D-Day and during the battle for Normandy.

In June Mr Billinge travelled from his home in St Austell, Cornwall, to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge fundraising in St Austell High Street in Cornwall

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge fundraising in St Austell High Street in Cornwall

He went to see the unveiling of the first foundation stones to remember all those who served in the British forces during the conflict.

As an 18-year-old Royal Engineer, he landed on Gold Beach at 6.30am on June 6 1944 as part of the first wave of troops.

Speaking from his home, Mr Billinge, who also holds France’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur, said: ‘I’m 94 and I only did what I did for the boys. I’m no brave man and I’m just an ordinary sapper, Royal Engineer Commando.

‘I did my job and I didn’t want any glory. There’s no glory in war.

‘Nobody should have got off the beaches at D-Day and I was lucky. I’ll never forget any of the blokes I was with – 22,442 were killed and it’s very difficult for me to talk about that.’

Discussing the MBE, Mr Billinge said: ‘It’s overwhelmed me to be honest. I’m 94 and it’s a bit late in life to be recognised.

‘I am very grateful for any kindness bestowed upon me. I am choked beyond measure to think I have got an MBE. I don’t deserve it.

Veteran Harry Billinge in 2018 returning to Gold Beach where he landed on D-Day in 1944

Veteran Harry Billinge in 2018 returning to Gold Beach where he landed on D-Day in 1944

‘When I get it, it won’t be for me, it will be for the 22,442 blokes killed on D-Day. That’s what its all about. They were marvellous men, some just 16.

‘What a waste of life, terrible.’

As well as his work to remember the fallen on D-Day, Mr Billinge has for many years undertaken charity work in Cornwall.

He was chairman of the Cornwall branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association, president of the Royal Engineers Association and collected for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for 64 years.

According to the Normandy Memorial Trust, on D-Day and the subsequent battle for Normandy, 22,442 servicemen and women died under British command. 

Former prisoner ‘humbled’ by OBE for tackling gang violence 

A former prisoner made an OBE for dedicating his life to tackling gang violence and reoffending has said that ‘everyone has got something to give back’ to society.

The painful lesson of being sentenced to 12 years in prison for the importation of crack cocaine was a wake-up call which eventually led Junior Smart to set up the SOS Project.

The organisation works to transform the lives of troubled young people and ex-offenders, who are at risk of being exploited through gangs and serious violence.

Junior Smart, founder of the SOS County Lines Gangs Project, has been awarded an OBE in the New Year honours list for services to tackling gang violence

Junior Smart, founder of the SOS County Lines Gangs Project, has been awarded an OBE in the New Year honours list for services to tackling gang violence

The 43-year-old south Londoner, whose award is for services to tackling gang violence, said: ‘I am doing what I am supposed to be doing which is giving back to society and have dedicated my time since I left prison in trying to stop this epidemic of violence that we are seeing on the streets.

‘There have been multiple killings and, to me, it is unacceptable for a parent to bury their own child.

Describing his award as ‘a huge honour’, he added: ‘I think it will also mean a lot to anyone who wants to give back to society who feels they will not be believed. I am truly humbled by it.

‘It means the world to me and to my family because for them it is a recognition to see that actually people can change.’

With the help of the St Giles Trust, the SOS Project works with people who are involved in violent lifestyles while preventative work is carried out in schools via its sister project SOS+.

The schools project aims to focus on prevention and diversion for young people and to raise awareness of potential issues among parents and professionals.

The St Giles Trust states: ‘Mr Smart, who was employed by St Giles Trust in 2006 on his release from prison, established the SOS Project to work with young people in Southwark (south London) involved in gangs.

‘Since this time, SOS has grown from one single caseworker to becoming a team of 30 and spreading its reach beyond the capital to help young people across England and Wales.

‘In particular, the team have been at the forefront of helping vulnerable young people exploited as drug runners through county line activity.’

Mr Smart believes the OBE is ‘a big thing’ not just for himself but also for people who are written off, may be hard to reach or feel they have no support.

The softly spoken but passionate campaigner said: ‘It says to everyone – ‘you can do this’. In the beginning (when I was trying to set up the project) people were saying it will all backfire, that people like me with a criminal record should never be trusted.

‘Even without this award, I was out there doing the work anyway and this is telling people that ‘things are possible and what are you waiting for’.’

He suggests a starting point in trying to overcome reoffending rates, which are at an ‘absolutely massive level’, is to look at the policies of countries who have cracked the issue.

He also feels ‘it is more important than it has ever been’ to try to sort out youth violence, adding: ‘I think it is more important now to include young people’s voices in their own solutions.

‘Too much, I think, happens at a prescripted level from the outside and from people who are so-called experts.’

Female plumber honoured for inspiring women to join trades

Hatice Hasan, founder and chief executive officer of Stopcocks, who has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list

Hatice Hasan, founder and chief executive officer of Stopcocks, who has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list

The founder of a network of female plumbers has been made an MBE for her pioneering work to get more women into trades.

In 1990, primary school teacher Hattie Hasan retrained to be a plumber but had to go self-employed while she learned the trade as no-one would take on a woman.

She went on to found the imaginatively named Stopcocks – a network of women plumbers who have been trained to provide excellent customer care.

Ms Hasan, who grew up in London and now lives in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, wants more women to get in to plumbing.

She said customers appreciated plumbers who turned up when they said they would, took care over their work and then cleaned up after themselves.

She felt isolated running her business and reached out to other female plumbers who had the same experience as her, even if they had trained years after she did.

The 58-year-old said: ‘They were telling me they were the only woman training to be a plumber in their college.

‘They were saying they couldn’t get work.

‘I started to talk to women about becoming self-employed and take the same step as me.’

She set up the network as a franchise and has women joining from the South Coast, London, the North West and Yorkshire.

She goes into schools to talk to girls about learning a trade, and sells the idea of them becoming plumbers, saying: ‘Working for yourself is flexible, you work your own hours, it’s a great career and it is a very good earner.’

She said she was delighted to be honoured with an MBE, saying: ‘I feel I am an ordinary person and if ordinary people can get recognised for the work they do, it is fantastic.

‘I was chuffed to bits.’

She was made an MBE for services to women in the heating and plumbing industry.

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