Sidmouth veteran gets funding to revisit war location

Veteran George Harris

Veteran George Harris - Credit: Archant

A veteran from Sidmouth has had funding to return to the Mediterranean site where he served and is urging others to do likewise.

George Harris got a slice of more than £25million from the Big Lottery Fund for his trip to the Bay of Genoa, where he was a minesweeper during the Second World War.

The organisation’s Heroes Return project has so far sent 52,000 veterans of the war – as well as their widows, spouses and carers – around the world, and is now offering them second trips.

George, 87, said: “I wasn’t in any real danger during the war and it was actually a wonderful part of my life.

“We went all around the West Mediterranean – Corsica, Sardinia, Santa Margarita and off the south of France.”

The fund gave him and his wife Betty £2,200 to relive those memories and explore the area in peacetime.

George joined the Royal Navy Coastal Services aged 17 in April 1943, and then moved to ML134, a motor launch adapted to be a minesweeper.

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“The most vivid war memories that I have are those of the chaps on board,” said George.

“We were together for a whole year – they were such lovely blokes.”

“Their faces came back to me while I was on my Heroes Return visit.”

The Le Locle Close resident added: “I’ve often thought of them over the years – I could never have afforded the holiday on my own.”

He was keen to revisit the site, but it wasn’t without incident – he slipped on the second day and broke his arm.

“I tried going for a swim and just went round in circles,” he joked.

The fund has now said that veterans will be able to out for the second time.

Mark Cotton, head of the Big Lottery Fund in the South West, said: “The experiences [the veterans] revisit remind us that we must never take for granted the peace this generation secured for all of us and the debt we owe for the freedoms we enjoy and value today.”

For more information on getting funding, call 0845 0000 121.