Fleet Hargate businessman’s museum to preserve veterans’ stories

Some of Harold Payne's 'old boys' with wreaths ready to take to Normandy: Tony Blackman, Bernard Hale and John Summerson. Photo: SG310514-121TW
Some of Harold Payne's 'old boys' with wreaths ready to take to Normandy: Tony Blackman, Bernard Hale and John Summerson. Photo: SG310514-121TW
0
Have your say

In the dead of the night Harold Payne often lays in bed and thinks about the old boys he has lost over the years.

When Harold began fundraising to take World War 2 veterans back to Normandy there were about 60 of them.

Harold Payne aboard a tank. Photo: SG270614-112TW

Harold Payne aboard a tank. Photo: SG270614-112TW

Now, there are just four left.

They may be gone, but Harold is determined that their stories will not go with them to be forgotten by future generations.

He is creating a mobile museum to take to schools and other venues so that some of their experiences will be shared with others.

For instance, Philip Milton of Holbeach died recently aged 94, and is one of the veterans that Harold has been working with for years.

Harold Payne (second from right on the back row) with (from left) Pastor Ross Dean, Rita Blackman, Normandy veterans John Summerson, Bernard Hale, and Rex Allen; front - Normandy veterans Tony Blackman, Eric Toynton, Reg Ketteringham. 'Photo: SG220613-130TW

Harold Payne (second from right on the back row) with (from left) Pastor Ross Dean, Rita Blackman, Normandy veterans John Summerson, Bernard Hale, and Rex Allen; front - Normandy veterans Tony Blackman, Eric Toynton, Reg Ketteringham. 'Photo: SG220613-130TW

But it was only a couple of years ago that Harold learned Philip had been through the notorious Valley of Death, the site of Nazi German mass murder.

“All them years he never told me until one day I said, ‘How bad was it really?’,” says Harold.

Harold (74), proprietor of the Anglia Motel at Fleet Hargate, spoke to another veteran, Mr Pooley from Wisbech, who recalled his experience of landing on Juno beach and jumping into the water with a rope around his waist to pull the boat in, all the while under heavy fire.

Naturally, memories were stirred for the veterans particularly when they made their annual pilgrimage to Normandy with Harold.

During one of those visits, the late Reg Kettering of Long Sutton spoke about taking and losing the same French village 16 times.

Harold says: “All his old mates are in the cemetery out there that we visit each year.

“Roughly 14,500 of our lads are laying in cemeteries out there. It amazes me when I go and look at the headstones – they were 15, 16, 17 or 18. I always say to children when I go into schools that when these young lads went to war they were young men because they left school when they were 12 or 13 and then went to work on the farms.

“The stories I have heard from the veterans should be remembered and passed on.

“I often lay in bed at night and think about those old boys I have lost. It’s memories, isn’t it? I have learned a lot in the last 21 years.”

Videos of veterans talking about their experiences will be shown in the mobile museum, which will be filled with memorabilia from both world wars.

Now Harold is appealing for donations of 1914-18 and 1939-45 memorabilia to go in the museum.

Items such as medals or photographs are all of interest. Ring Harold on 07530 006867 or go to the motel to hear about his plans. Alternatively, talk to him at Morrisons supermarket at Pinchbeck on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.