BBC Breakfasts Dan Walker pays sweet tribute to hero following tragic death

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Dan Walker has paid a touching tribute to D-Day veteran Horace "Harry" Billinge following his tragic death aged 96.

He passed away on Tuesday (April 5) after battling a short illness, his family confirmed.

Mr Billinge was one of only four of his unit to survive the storming of Gold Beach on 6 June 1944.

The veteran spent more than 60 years collecting for the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal.

He was appointed an MBE in 2020 after raising funds to build a national memorial honouring his fallen comrades.

Mr Billinge dedicated it to the 22,442 service personnel killed on D-Day and during the Battle for Normandy.

BBC Breakfast paid a tribute to the veteran during Wednesday's (April 6) episode.

A montage celebrating Mr Billinge's life played out and hosts Dan Walker and Sally Nugent remembered the star, who regularly appeared on the show.

After watching the clips of Mr Billlinge, Sally said: "What an amazing, amazing man."

Her co-star Dan added: "What a beautiful piece bringing all what he did together. So many interviews and he achieved so much in his 96 years.

"Following the news yesterday people have reacted with great sadness. He lived an amazing life and did some incredible things along with way.

"Through this programme, and other programmes, you learn so many things about somebody and then you find out they're gone and it's still sad.

"Everyone called him a hero but he never saw himself as a hero."

A tribute to Mr Billinge from The British Normandy Trust, posted on social media, said: "The trust sends its deepest condolences to Harry's wife Sheila, and to all his family and friends. Harry raised more than £50,000 for the memorial."

In 2019 Mr Billinge said on BBC Breakfast: "I'm no hero, I was lucky, I'm here. All the heroes are dead and I'll never forget them."

Prior to his death, he made annual pilgrimages to the cemeteries of Normandy.

A spokesperson for the Royal British Legion said: "Everyone at the Royal British Legion is incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Harry Billinge.

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"He epitomised the spirit of our wartime generation and his dedication supporting veterans causes, including the Poppy Appeal, was nothing short of remarkable."

Mr Billinge is survived by his wife Shelia, two daughters Sally and Margot, his son Christopher and granddaughters Amy and Claire.

Mr and Mrs Billinge were married for 67 years and were due to celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary in August.

BBC Breakfast airs daily on BBC One at 6am

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