Heroes Return Blog – Stories from Second World War veterans’ trips


BIG extends veteran’s funding by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 9, 2010, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Army, Heroes Return | Tags: , , , ,

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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Stanley McColl and his family revist France where he saw action during WW2 by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 9, 2010, 4:52 pm
Filed under: D-Day | Tags: , , , , ,

Stanley McColl was a young soldier in 615 Guards, Armoured Division, when his tank landed on Sword Beach on D Day +2 with the objective – to liberate Caen.

With help from the Big Lottery Fund, my sister and I took our dad who is now 85 years old, back to France in October 2010, with a view to revisiting Sword Beach. We flew to Paris and after a couple of days sightseeing, we then took the train to Caen. My dad said “the last time I was here – the place was flattened.”

The next day we had to get a taxi to Bayeux because the trains were off due to the General Strike. Once in Bayeux we spent the morning at the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy. After lunch we met our guide for our afternoon tour of Sword Beach. We were taken first to Pegasus Bridge where we saw one of the gliders, then we went to the German bunker which had a simulation of the noise experienced during the invasion attack on the beach. When we arrived at Sword Beach, the guide took us to the part of the beach where my dad had landed and he asked my dad to tell his story – which everyone on the tour found very moving. After the beach we went to visit the British cemetery and we signed the visitors book.

The following day should have been a nice trip back to Paris by train, but once again we were caught up in strike action. We were very lucky to get the last three seats on a shuttle bus back to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

We had a wonderful visit and we would like to thank the Big Lottery Fund, the staff at Normandy Sightseeing Tours and especially our guide Mathias.



Robert Day by The National Lottery Community Fund
April 30, 2010, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Africa, Heroes Return | Tags: , , ,

Robert Day who featured in our Heroes Return 2 film, where he returned to Egypt, sadly passed away 16th April 2010. Our thoughts are with his family.



Last hurrah for WW2 veterans by The National Lottery Community Fund

Second World War Royal Navy veterans from across the UK are flying out to Singapore and Malaysia next week (28thJanuary) to pay their respects for the final time to the comrades that lost their lives in the Pacific. The veterans are part of a 127 strong party from the British Pacific and East Indies Fleets Association

It is the final time the veterans, most now in their 80s and 90s, are travelling as a group to pay their respects in Singapore and on the Malaysian island of Penang.

One member of the association making the trip is Mr Victor Gray who lives in Plymouth and first joined the Royal Navy in September 1943 just after his 18th birthday.  Victor, who is now 85, was chosen to be trained as a specialist radio operator, intercepting the enemy radio transmissions and in 1944 travelled to the Far East on the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious via the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Victor explains: “We went to India and became part of the East Indies Fleet.  We then set sail for Palembang and in a battle with the Japanese over two or three days we managed to destroy a third of the Japanese oil supplies. After that we travelled down to Sydney where we joined what then became the British Pacific Fleet. It was so hot, you could fry an egg on the flight deck and I actually saw that done more than once.

To find out more about Victor’s story and the Heroes Return 2 programme visit our programme page

http://www2.biglotteryfund.org.uk/pr_220110_uk_hr_last_hurrah_for_wwii_veterans



Accomodation available for Veterans travelling to Thailand by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 14, 2009, 12:09 pm
Filed under: Far East | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mr John Riggs’s organisation has a building/apartments in Thailand that he would like to offer to any veterans visiting Thailand under the Heroes Return programme. The accommodation will be free. John’s contact details:

John Rigg

Northern School of Asia & Oriental Cooking CIC

Unit 19

Meeting Industrial Estate

Burrow-in-Furness

Cumbria

LA14 4TL

Tel: 01229 829299



Memories of Adrano by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 9, 2009, 11:43 am
Filed under: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , ,


One of the towns we passed through was called Adrano and the impression it made on me was sufficient to inspire the only poem I have ever written or am likely to write. Apart from a slight alteration to the last few lines it remains as I wrote it some sixty years ago and I print it here without comment.”

Darkness was falling as we entered the town, but t’was light enough still to see
The shattered ruins of what had been, a town, in Sicily.
It wasn’t much to call a town, compared with those of greater size.
It wasn’t built for modern war and now a stinking heap it lies,
Rotting beneath the azure skies, of Sicily.

It seemed as if an angry God had run amok with gory hands,
Then dropped a veil, a canopy, of dirty, blinding, choking sands
And as to wreak his vengeance more
Had propped a body in each door

We drove on by with sober thought,
Of those poor b******s who’d been caught,
We grimaced at the sick, sweet, smell, of this small piece of man made hell
This could be you, the bodies said, this could be you, soon gone, soon dead
We hurried by, enough to be, alive that day, in Sicily”



Ron Toasting to Winston Churchill by The National Lottery Community Fund

Last week Ron found himself at the Cabinet War Rooms in London as a special guest at the National Lottery’s 15th Anniversary celebrations. As Ron toured the venue, he came across a familiar face.

“What few people, if any, at the reception would have known is that I have a particular affinity with Winston Churchill as he was the Hon. Colonel of my old regiment, the 4th QOH and that I had attended a dinner at which he was present in late 1945.”

I would not have missed the whole experience for anything. A big thank-you to the Big Lottery Fund for making the trip possible.”