D-Day veteran leading commemoration
37. George Batts
A D-Day veteran who for decades has given up his free time to ensure that others remember the sacrifice that his generation made.
Despite being 88, George Batts from Kent gives up a considerable amount of his own time volunteering for the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA). He is the current Honorary Secretary and plays a key role in organising the annual trips to the beaches of northern France.
Over 70 years ago, George joined the army aged seventeen and trained as a Royal Engineer. After weeks of rumoured action in Europe his unit were taken to a base on the South Coast. When they were each given a handful of Francs, they knew where they were heading. In the early hours of June 6th 1944, George landed on Gold Beach and became part of the liberation of France. George remembers incredible noise, the navy bombarding the coast, planes overhead and paratroopers dropping from the sky. Recognising that he was a part of a historical moment, George has dedicated much of his life to ensure memories of the day continue to be shared and that the fallen are not forgotten.
George refers to the Normandy visits as a ‘pilgrimage’ to honour those who lost their lives. Through the NVA, each year George helps veterans to make a pilgrimage to Normandy. Whilst in France, George arranges visits to the cemeteries for veterans to pay respect to their fallen comrades. He has even advised the MOD on this year’s 70th anniversary commemorative events, in particular the Bayeux Cemetery Service and the ceremony at Arromanches that the Queen along with other members of the Royal Family are due to attend.
Away from Normandy, George has delivered countless conferences, talks and presentations to school groups, recounting his experiences of D-Day. In order to create a lasting account of World War Two, George is helping to create a DVD with interviews of 200 veterans which will form part of the exhibitions at the D-Day museum in Portsmouth. Being the 70th anniversary of D-Day, this year’s ceremony is all the more important, especially as the NVA are finally set to disband at the end of this year. Thanks to their and George’s efforts the soldiers, sailors and airmen who paid the ultimate sacrifice in WW2 will be remembered by future generations.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Seventy years on we look back on D-Day and the heroes, like George, who risked their lives for this country. George’s continued efforts over the years to educate others and remind us all of what happened on that important day in history are remarkable and I’m delighted to recognise him as a Point of Light.”
“I am honoured and thrilled to receive this award especially as it is the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy Campaign and our Association is disbanding at the end of this year”