Filed under: Army, Heroes Return | Tags: BIG, Big Lottery Fund, funding, Heroes Return 2, veterans
The Big Lottery Fund is committing over £1 million in extra good cause funding in the year ahead for the country’s WWII veterans so they can make battlefront commemorative journeys to the places they saw action.
The additional funding comes on the day BIG named the 50,000th individual to benefit from the Heroes Return grant scheme – 91-year old Gordon Mellor, a former RAF bomber command navigator.
Gordon Mellor is awarded a grant to fund the visit he made to pay his respects to those of the fabled Comete resistance group who helped him escape across Nazi-occupied Belgium and France and over the Pyrenees into Spain.
Serving with Bomber Command 103 Squadron, Gordon aged 22 was shot down in November 1942 while his Halifax bomber was returning from a raid over Germany.
He recalls: “Returning from a short night raid over Aachen we were chased by a Messerschmitt 109. I managed to bail out and crashed into a tree. The Flight engineer came out behind me but his parachute failed and he hit a roof on the side of a house and was killed. I saw the plane burning in a field about 2km away. I managed to get out of the tree, stuffing my parachute between the branches. As I stood in the darkness looking at the flames I had the loneliest feeling of all my life. I decided I had to get away as quick as I could so started heading South West across the blackness toward Spain.”
Gordon’s long journey took him through Belgium, France, over the Pyrenees and then took him to Bilbao, Madrid and finally Gibraltar where he was flown back to Britain in a Dakota.
Recently returning to France to pay his respects to those who helped him escape to freedom, Gordon now 91 said; “It was like going back to meet old friends. The efforts of those people were amazing. They were just ordinary people yet so extraordinary. We can never pay back the debt we owe them.”
Here is a short film from the day…
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