Fleet-based charity for World War II veterans gets help 'from above' with businessman's £1,000 donation
World War II veterans from South Holland hoping to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France next year can do so with some help "from above".
Harold Payne, owner of Fleet's Anglia Motel, accepted a £1,000 donation towards the Anglia Pilgrimage Fund he set up 30 years ago to pay for veterans' visit to Normandy where they can pay their respects to fallen colleagues.
The donation, from Hong Kong-based businessman Simon Murray, was brought to Fleet by private helicopter for the tenth year running after Mr Murray's wife learned how to fly a helicopter on fields owned by Mr Payne.
He said: "It all started approximately 30 years ago when a veteran came into my cafe and said: 'I'd like to go back to the battlefields of Normandy and Dunkirk, but I can't afford it.
"A week later, I set up a charity called the Anglia Pilgrimage Fund which takes veterans back to France.
"Over the years, we've taken over 2,000 veterans back to Normandy and Dunkirk to show them the fallen who they left behind."
To mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings next year, Mr Payne plans to take 50 children from Lincolnshire and Norfolk (counties whose veterans the fund covers) to lay a red rose on each of the graves for British soldiers in Normandy.
He said: "Mr Murray's wife learned how to fly a helicopter on my grass field and he came in afterwards to thank me for what I'd done.
"But as an extra thank you, he promised to send £1,000 every year which has made a big difference to the fund.
"We raise money right the way through the year and this year, we've collected about £14,000 so far.
"For the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, we want to take 8,500 red roses to Normandy and Dunkirk.
"I thought it would be nice to take 50 children to see the sacrifice made for their freedom because there are only six Dunkirk and D-Day veterans left in our area, compared to 60 when we set up the fund."
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