Stories of UK’s disappearing World War II generation

Sep 15, 2022, 5:11 PM | Updated: Sep 16, 2022, 6:47 am
A World War bunker stands in the middle of a field near the border of Belgium in Bourghelles, Franc...

A World War bunker stands in the middle of a field near the border of Belgium in Bourghelles, France, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. Hanotte, a Belgian resistance member during World War II and from the age of nineteen aided the escape of nearly 140 airmen from occupied Belgium into France as part of the Comet Line. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

LONDON (AP) — The death of Queen Elizabeth II is a reminder that the World War II generation is aging. Like the queen, even the youngest veterans of the war are now nearing their 100th birthdays, and a steady stream of obituaries tells the story of a disappearing generation.

Here are the stories of a few veterans who died this year.

HENRIETTE HANOTTE:

Aug. 10, 1920- Feb. 19, 2022

Henriette Hanotte began her wartime career ferrying Allied airmen to safety almost by accident.

On May 23, 1940, as British forces retreated toward Dunkirk, two soldiers asked her parents for help crossing the Belgian frontier as they tried to make their way back to England. Hanotte, then 20, volunteered to take them to the French city of Lille, some 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) away.

That chance encounter brought her to the attention of British operatives who later asked her to join a network of resistance fighters guiding downed Allied airmen across Belgium, France and Spain to safety in Gibraltar.

Hanotte was especially valuable to the operation, known as the Comet Line, because she grew up traveling between her home in Rumes, on the Belgian side of the border, and the nearby French town of Bachy, where she took music lessons. This gave her an intimate knowledge of the border and helped her guide her “packages” to safety.

“She knew the border like the back of her hand, the patrol schedule, customs officers, the little roads, the barking of dogs, the habits of the neighborhood,” according to a brochure about her exploits published by Rumes and Bachy.

Known by the code name Monique, she is believed to have helped 135 airmen to safety before she was forced to flee to England to avoid capture by the Gestapo. There she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and trained as a secret operative but was prevented from returning to Europe when she broke her leg in parachute training.

“I was trying to protect my family, and they were trying to protect me,” Hanotte told the Times of London last year on her 100th birthday. “It was our natural instinct to help.”

____

FLIGHT LT. DOUGLAS NEWHAM:

Nov. 13, 1921-March 14, 2022

Douglas Newham survived 60 bombing raids as a Royal Air Force navigator from 1942 to 1945, but he was haunted for the rest of his long life by those who didn’t return.

Some 55,573 of the men who flew with Bomber Command during World War II — 44% of its air crews — were killed in action, the highest attrition rate of any Allied unit.

For Newham that meant losing his friends in groups of seven, the standard crew complement of the Halifax bombers he flew during the later stages of the war.

“In my darker moments now, I still remember coming back dead tired from perhaps a 10-hour trip … and maybe one or two aircraft were still missing and you’d hope that maybe they’d landed somewhere for fuel, or they’d got battle damage and they’d be along later,” he told the BBC in 2020. “And, of course, then they wouldn’t come.”

When the war began, Newham was a teenage post office engineering trainee who helped install early-warning radar and repair radar stations damaged by German bombers.

In 1941, he joined the RAF. During his first combat tour, Newham dropped mines into U-boat lanes and flew bombing raids over occupied Europe before he was sent to North Africa. Returning to England, he received advance training then returned to combat duty, serving as navigation leader for multiple squadrons on some large-scale raids over Germany.

One night over the English Channel, he realized the responsibility he’d been given.

“My skipper said, `Doug, come back here … put your head up in the astro dome and have a look behind,'” Newham told the International Bomber Command Centre in 2017. “And, of course, there were 350 bloody aircraft following me. I don’t want to know!”

___

SAPPER HARRY BILLINGE:

Sept. 15, 1925-April 5, 2022

Harry Billinge and his comrades had a single task when they landed on Gold Beach at 6:30 a.m. on D-Day: capture the German radar station at Arromanches.

They succeeded, but only four of the 10 men in the unit survived the day.

“It was hell,” Billinge said in an interview recorded by the British Normandy Memorial Trust. “I never seen anything like it in me life. You had the ships firing over your head and you had the Germans firing from inland — 88 millimeter guns they used, which will blow you off the face of the Earth.”

Billinge was an 18-year-old army commando that day. After surviving the war, the boy from London moved to Cornwall, where he became a barber.

He rejected the idea that he was a hero, always shifting the focus to those who died on June 6, 1944.

In his later years, Billinge dedicated himself to raising funds for the British Normandy Memorial in France, even when age forced him to do so from a comfortable chair at the local market. In 2020, Queen Elizabeth II pinned a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or MBE, to Billinge’s lapel after he raised 50,000 pounds ($57,500) for the project.

“It means more to me than life itself, knowing I’m doing all I can for the memorial and my mates — 22,442 men died on that beach,” he said.

___

SIGNALLER FRANK BAUGH:

Nov. 26, 1923-June 20, 2022

Frank Baugh was an 18-year-old coal worker when he joined the Royal Navy in 1942. Two years later he was a crewman onboard a landing craft carrying 200 soldiers into battle on D-Day.

As the craft approached Sword beach in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, it suffered a direct hit. The soldiers were able to scramble ashore, but the landing craft was stranded for thee hours as the crew made emergency repairs under enemy fire.

“We couldn’t get off the beach,” Baugh said in a 2018 interview. “We were flooded, we weren’t seaworthy, so we were sat there in a very awkward situation. It wasn’t a place you wanted to be.”

Baugh said he and his crew mates owed their survival to two bits of luck. Advance troops had already killed the German soldiers manning a fort that guarded the beach directly in front of the landing site, and a navy destroyer laid down a smokescreen to shield Baugh’s boat from guns at the other end of the beach.

Repairs made, Baugh and his shipmates turned their boat around and headed back out to sea to pick up another load of soldiers.

He was believed to have been the last surviving British marine to see the Royal Navy’s white ensign raised over Sword Beach as allied forces advanced.

“The men and women of today’s Royal Navy treasure the bonds they have with those who served in World War II, and Frank’s remarkable longevity was testament to a life well-lived serving his country,” First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said in a eulogy read at Baugh’s funeral.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy answers questions after his legal...
Luis Andres Henao, The Associated Press

After Supreme Court backs Bremerton praying coach, no sweeping changes

Three months after the decision, there’s no sign that large numbers of coaches have been newly inspired to follow Joseph Kennedy’s high-profile example.
12 hours ago
(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

GOP candidate apologizes after antisemitic post surfaces

A GOP candidate for the Washington Legislature has acknowledged that a post he put on social media in 2020 is antisemitic.
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Sheriff probed after comments surface condemning Black staff

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina sheriff was recorded calling Black employees by derogatory names and saying they should be fired, a television station reported. Several Black officers in leadership positions were later demoted or fired. Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene issued a statement arguing that the recording of the February 2019 phone call […]
1 day ago
This combination of images provided by NASA shows three different views of the DART spacecraft impa...
Associated Press

Space telescopes capture asteroid slam with striking clarity

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The world now has stunning new photos of this week’s asteroid strike, the first planetary defense test of its kind. NASA on Thursday released pictures of the dramatic event taken by the Hubble and Webb space telescopes. Telescopes on all seven continents also watched as NASA’s Dart spacecraft slammed Monday […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden talks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa outside the West Wing of the...
Associated Press

South Africa’s Ramaphosa denies money-laundering allegations

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa denied allegations of money laundering while being questioned by lawmakers Thursday over a scandal that threatens his position and the direction of Africa’s most developed economy. Ramaphosa already faces an investigation by police and a Parliament-appointed panel over the theft of a large amount of money in […]
1 day ago
FILE - A fence stands at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala., June 18, 2015. Alabama inmat...
Associated Press

Alabama prisons reduce meals, nix visits amid inmate strike

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Thousands of inmates in Alabama’s overcrowded prison system are receiving only two meals a day during a prisoner work stoppage that was in its fourth day Thursday, and the agency said weekend visitation also was being canceled. While inmates and activists have accused the Department of Corrections of using pressure tactics […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Stories of UK’s disappearing World War II generation