Quick menu:

This site is showing only England and UK content. Change this using the country filters below or select Ok to accept. This site uses cookies.

  • Help and support

Heroes Return continues as Scottish WW2 vets head back to war zones

  • Print
Heroes Return
Release date:
18 1 2011

The BIG Lottery Fund (BIG) has today announced the latest grants from its Heroes Return 2 programme. Last month BIG committed over £1 million extra funding to the scheme over the next year to ensure that veterans can apply and are able to journey to revisit the scenes of WW2 events such as the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the Battle of Crete in May.

Announcing today’s awards, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Alison Magee, said: “We have been extremely proud to support these men and women who served their country with such distinction during the course of the Second World War. The heroism of that time should never be forgotten and the stories we hear from those we fund to return to former war zones are testament to that. Extending the scheme for another year will be a big help to those who have felt so far unable to make their personal journeys back to the battlefronts of WW2.”

Among those being funded is Ben Yates, 88, from Dalmellington in Ayrshire. He was based in Alexandria, Egypt, from 1941 to 1943 and served aboard the Royal Navy Destroyer, HRS Aldenham. During this period the ship made 13 convoys to Malta to provide relief to the island. Malta was strategically important to both sides at the start of the war. German and Italian Forces resolved to bomb or starve the island into submission by attacking its ports, cities and towns during what became known as “The Siege of Malta.” HMS Aldenham struck a floating mine in December 1944, with the loss of 126 lives and was the last British manned destroyer to be lost in the Second World War.

Ben said, “Every year, for the last 12 years or so I have travelled to Aldenham, near Watford, to attend a memorial service. During the war people in the village used to knit the crew gloves and hats. Even though we couldn’t use them in the Mediterranean we really appreciated that they wanted to do something to help us. As far as we know there are only now three of us left who served on board the ship.”

Ben returned to Egypt thanks to a grant, his first trip back to the country since the end of the war. “Unfortunately because of the recent severe weather conditions we missed three days of the trip but I got the chance to sail up the Suez Canal again after 68 years. The trip meant a lot to me as I have always wanted to go back but could never afford it before.”

When 85 year-old George Murray from Glasgow travelled back to Holland with a carer the visit had extra special significance for him. George said, “I’d moved around so much during the war and only stayed in one place towards the end of 1944. We were preparing for the Rhine crossing and were stationed for about eight weeks in Holland near Eindhoven - it was the first time that I can remember that happening. We stayed in a town called Oisterwijk, it was a harsh winter and none of us wanted to sleep in the back of a truck. A local family put two of us up, they had eight or nine children, one was about 18, the same age as me, and I became very close to the family.”

“After the war we lost touch and I’ve always wanted to go back and trace any members of the family who might still be alive. When I went back late last year, nothing in the town was the same. It was transformed and they had bulldozed the garage. I recognised the general countryside though but everything else was different. During my trip I wasn’t able to trace anyone but I’m not giving up. I’m planning to write to the Burgermeister of the town to see if he can help me. I just know that I will go back to meet up with my friends again.”

The current Heroes Return 2 programme was scheduled to close in January 2010 but now remains open until 31st January 2012.

Through the scheme, Second World War veterans from the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland can apply for travel and accommodation costs to visit the places across the world where they saw active service or to take part in an official commemoration in the UK. War widows and widowers of veterans are also eligible, and carers and spouses can also receive funding to travel with veterans.

More information and details of how to apply for a Heroes Return 2 grant are available by calling 0845 00 00 121 or visiting www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn  

Further Information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office
Contact: Lorna McNiven: 0141 242 1451    
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 £25 billion has now been raised and more than 330,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
  • Heroes Return Launched in 2004 this £17 million scheme provided funding 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.
  • 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.