Big Lottery Fund
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World War II veterans urged to act now for Heroes Return funding

The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is today making a last call to urge veterans of WWII who have not yet taken advantage of the Heroes Return 2 scheme to apply for funding as the programme draws to its close.

Today sees 103 awards made to 245 Second World War veterans, widows, spouses and carers across the UK worth over £160,000.  The grants fund trips to revisit the places they or their loved ones served in WWII and to commemorate their comrades who did not return.

The Big Lottery Fund is looking for any veterans who still have not taken advantage of the opportunity to apply now so that they can make their trips before the end of the year (31st December 2010) travel deadline. Grants can be awarded retrospectively until the scheme closes on 31st January 2011.

One veteran making the most of the scheme is Reg White from Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire. Joining up in the RAF aged 19, Reg underwent training in Stafford and Crewe before embarking on operational training on Wellington bombers, and then on to Lancasters as a Flight Sergeant Rear Gunner in Australian Squadron, 460 based at Binbrook, Lincolnshire.

Flying hazardous night operations over Germany, Italy and German-occupied Europe, Reg, recalls the fateful evening of Jan 27th 1944, on a mission over the heavily defended Berlin.

He recalls: “We were approaching the target when we were suddenly attacked and very badly hit.  At first I didn’t realise what was happening as I was in the rear turret and had no phone communication. Then as we started to jump I remember hearing someone shout ‘For god’s sake Skipper, bail out!’ I don’t remember what happened after that till I hit the ground and looked up at the black parachute above me. Everything was so quiet. I found out after that only three of us had survived, the other four were killed and later buried in Posen.”

Escaping the jump with no more than a burst eardrum Reg quickly hid his parachute and decided to try and head for home.  He recalls: “I wanted to set off for Switzerland. I travelled at night and during the day hid in trees. But one day I decided to chance it and as I was coming out of a clearing I suddenly saw a German soldier. He saw me, raised his gun and shouted ‘Englander? Americano?’ I told him I was English and then he seemed quite friendly. I remember wondering what he would have done if I had said Americano.”

He continued: “He took me to a nearby farm and handed me over to a German sergeant who told me he had fought in the First World War and had been taken prisoner by the English. I asked him how he was treated and he said, ‘very well’, and then offered me something to eat.”

He was then taken to an air base in Guben, where he met up with the other two survivors of his aircrew, and from there to Berlin where he was put on a flight to Frankfurt to undergo interrogation. He recalls: “The interrogation wasn’t so bad, being a rear gunner I wasn’t expected to know too much. It was the navigators who knew all about the flight routes and plotting.”

Reg was then transported to Stalag Luft 6 a Luftwaffe controlled camp at Hydekrug, on the Baltic Coast. He recalls with irony: “It wasn’t a holiday camp and we were not ill-treated, but all we had to live on was watery swede and potato soup and a bit of black bread. At the beginning of the war the POW rations were quite good but of course it was our own boys shooting everything up that caused the shortage.”

Later when the Russians started to advance into Germany Reg and his compatriots were loaded into cattle trucks and transported to an army camp in Torun, Poland and then onto  Fallingbostel in Central Germany where they were liberated.  Reg was eventually flown home in a Lancaster arriving in England on VE Day. He recalls: “I know I was very lucky. Things that happened to me always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.”

Now 87, Reg will travel on a Heroes Return 2 grant to Germany where he will visit aircrew war graves in Berlin, travel to the Ruhr Valley, Mohne Dam, Colditz, Dresden, and visit the museum at the famous Stalag Luft III, site of the great escape.   

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “If there is anyone in your family who hasn’t yet applied to the scheme and you think is eligible – I would urge you to help them take up this opportunity now. They can plan their Heroes Return 2 trip right away and the Big Lottery Fund can turn their request around quickly. So if you are a veteran, a widow, or would like further information please contact us on 0845 00 00 121 or visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn.

“We want as many veterans and widows as possible to take advantage of the scheme, giving them the opportunity to pay their respects at the places they served, or at memorial events within the UK. I am delighted we are able to offer this Lottery funding as a way for the nation to show its gratitude and recognition of the wartime efforts of these men and women.”

BIG is continuing its support for UK Forces veterans through its new £35 million Forces in Mind initiative to establish an independent trust to provide long term support and advocacy for former service personnel. The funding will help veterans who served in conflicts including Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf War struggling with the transition to civilian life, especially those whose psychological well-being subsequently impacts on the quality of their life and others around them.

The Heroes Return 2 scheme launched in April 2009 to enable veterans to take part in events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Since then over £7.5 million has been awarded, enabling more than 5,500 veterans and widows to make trips to places across the world including France, Holland, The Far East, USA, Italy and Greece, as well as to places within the UK. Grants of up to £5,500 are available for travel and accommodation costs for veterans or their widows, along with spouses and a carer.

More Information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours contact: 07867 500 572
HEROES RETURN 2 HELPLINE: 0845 00 00 121
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030
Textphone:  0845 6021 659
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

 

Notes to editors

  • The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out half the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since June 2004. The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £24 billion has now been raised and more than 330,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
  • Launched to mark the historic 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004 the first Heroes Return grant scheme awarded £17 million to Second World War veterans, their wives or husbands, widows and widowers and, where required, their present-day carers to visit the overseas areas where the veterans saw active service.  By linking with activities funded through the Their Past Your Future scheme, Heroes Return is also helping to give young people a better understanding of the efforts and sacrifices made by veterans.
  • Heroes Return was the centre-piece of the Veterans Reunited programme including Home Front Recall which awarded £19.2 million to support UK-based group events and activities to commemorate those who contributed to the war-effort on the home front, and Their Past Your Future with an ongoing £9.6 million scheme funding a UK-wide schools and education programme to give young people the opportunity to learn first-hand from veterans about their experience of war.
  • Home Front Recall provided grants of between £500 and £20,000 for regional and local projects across the UK in 2004-2005 that commemorated the events of the Second World War and the contributions of different groups in society.  The scheme funded a very wide range of projects including special community days; reunions and exhibitions; recordings of the experiences of those who lived through the War; plays and pieces of creative artwork. In addition, the scheme funded a number of national grants to organisations such as the TUC to fund a range of commemorative activities.
  • Their Past Your Future is an ongoing UK-wide schools and education scheme to give young people the opportunity to learn first-hand from veterans about their experience of war. The Big Lottery Fund is working closely with the Imperial War Museum and the museums, libraries and archives sector UK-wide to help young people to research and learn about the personal experiences and roles played by forces personnel and civilians. Competitions have enabled schools to take part in World War Two related visits with veterans. The Imperial War Museum has a website (www.theirpast-yourfuture.org.uk) with a wide range of resources for schools to use and details of projects delivered by museums across the UK

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