Proud family reunited with WWII history.
THE other week, I wrote about a fantastic young lady called Mish (Michelle Simpson) and her amazing journey to Burma, where she discovered beautifully-coloured recycled baskets made in two villages. She sells them to the fashion industry worldwide.
Her story was really interesting, hearing of the pitfalls and lengths she went to, to purchase the beautiful fashion accessories.
I got some fantastic feedback about the column that week - people loved her determination to succeed in business, knowing she started with nothing.
I also mentioned she had found some fantastic shoes in Marrakech - and I will tell you that story at a later date.
While I am still saving that one, I must tell you what happened to her recently. It's fascinating and very appropriate at this time, with all the war anniversaries that we have been marking lately.
The story starts with her grandfather, Robert Billington, who died, aged 81. He was award the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross), twice, once for the Normandy landings and the second time for action in the South of France. He was Lieutenant RNVR in command of the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Unit. There are many heroic stories, but I shall tell you this one.
He and his 10-man unit landed on Juno Beach at 7am on D-Day, June 6, 1944, to clear the beaches for the Third Canadian Division. Juno was formidably defended by stout steel pickets with thick supporting rods driven into the sand, each weighing 11/2 tonnes and placed to rip out the bottom of the landing craft plus landmines buried in the sand.
Billington and his men had to clear these obstacles, sometimes up to their necks in water and targeted by enemy snipers.
So this was Mish's grandfather. Now this is where the story's going. One evening, a couple of weeks before the 71st Anniversary of the D-Day landings, Mish was listening to a radio programme on the Normandy invasion, which prompted her to think about her grandfather and how many wonderful memories she had of him. She loved him very much, but had a lapse in memory trying to remember when he died, so she turned to Google.
She was struggling for a while to get anywhere, so she put her grandmother's name in as well. From this, she was directed to an eBay page and Facebook.
A gentlemen who collects military memorabilia was selling a naval coat online. She looked at the picture in front of her and was in a state of shock. It was her grandfather's.
She went on to read about the seller. He said it was one of his favourite items of clothing from World War II. It was owned by a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Lt Billington, who was involved with clearing the beaches of landmines in the south of France.
Michelle was tearful, surprised and delighted. There were two photos with the picture of the coat. One was of a tag which read Thos Dowell & Son, RE Billington, Esq. (1985) March, 1939.
The tag which proves to Lt Billington The article went on to say it was rare to find a coat in such condition. It had been used as a costume in war films.
Mish immediately bought it, and contacted the guy to see how quickly it could be delivered.
She asked where he lived? He said Birkenhead, to which she replied: "I live on the Wirral - can I pop down and pick it up tomorrow?" She then hit him with the big surprise: "You have just sold the coat to Robert's granddaughter".
the coat belonged The seller didn't sleep that night, as he was overwhelmed it was going back to the family of the owner. Mish is now the proud owner of her grandfather's coat.
I hope you think the story was worth telling.
Robert Billington - saw action on the beaches of Normandy
The tag which proves the coat belonged to Lt Billington