Awards for ‘Harold’s army’

Honours for champion fundraisers: General Sir John McColl, deputy supreme allied commander Europe (front, fifth left) with fundraisers, including, from left, front - Ken Clampin, Jim Camping, Phil Milton, Eric Toynton, Harold Payne, John Summerson and Jerry Blackett. Photo: SG110211-446TW
Honours for champion fundraisers: General Sir John McColl, deputy supreme allied commander Europe (front, fifth left) with fundraisers, including, from left, front - Ken Clampin, Jim Camping, Phil Milton, Eric Toynton, Harold Payne, John Summerson and Jerry Blackett. Photo: SG110211-446TW

SERVICES benefactor Harold Payne and his army of war veteran helpers had a surprise thank you from the army’s top brass.

General Sir John McColl, deputy supreme allied commander Europe, visited Harold’s Anglia Motel at Fleet to present him with a framed picture of British troops fighting in the front line in Afghanistan - and a framed certificate to thank him for vast sums raised to help our local injured soldier heroes.

Mr Payne (70) has been fundraising for veterans and war heroes for the last 20 years and reckons he’s donated getting on for half-a-million pounds.

His fundraising work started for ex-forces personnel so he could take them back to Normandy to visit war graves.

In the last few years, Harold and local veterans have focused more and more on helping injured troops from the Royal Anglian Regiment because it’s the one for Lincolnshire’s young men.

Last year they donated £24,000 to injured troops and it turned out to be the biggest single gift.

Harold knew nothing of the general’s visit on Friday night until a week before it happened.

But he insists the recognition isn’t for him alone - it’s shared with veterans like Eric Toynton (85) and Phil Milton (91) who collect money week in, week out.

Harold said: “Sir John was very taken aback. He could not believe how much we had raised locally.

“Without ex-servicemen like Eric and the rest of the gang we couldn’t do it.”

Last year some of the young injured servicemen from the Royal Anglian Regiment visited the motel to say their own thank you to Harold and the veterans.

When the Normandy trips first began, Harold helped a woman find the grave of her twin brother - and now a woman is seeking his help to find her uncle’s grave after last seeing him in 1944.