Bernard Jordan, an 89-year-old D-Day landings’ veteran, holds a picture of himself as the mayor of Hove, England, from 1995 to 1996. (AP)
June 7: The D-Day veteran who slipped out of his care home and made his own way to France to honour comrades who fell on the Normandy beaches received a hero’s welcome when he returned home today.
Bernard Jordan, 89, was greeted by cheering staff at the care home in Hove after making the journey back from northern France overnight.
Jordan disappeared on Thursday, prompting staff at The Pines to alert police, after he was told they has been unable to get him a seat on an official coach trip to the 70th anniversary commemorative events. Undeterred he made his own way to Portsmouth and managed to get a lift across the Channel.
Accompanied by other veterans Jordan, who served in the Royal Navy during Operation Overlord in June 1944, was able to fulfil his promise to pay his respects to the men who never came back.
But his great escape left him visibly exhausted.
Emerging from the taxi returning him to the care home this morning, Jordan walked slowly inside, barely able to raise an arm to wave to waiting photographers.
Staff sang “for he’s a jolly good fellow” as he made his way into the building, where Union Flags had been draped from walls and ceilings in honour of Jordan and his comrades.
Debbie McDonald, a manager at The Pines, said: “He’s exhausted and quite emotional. I think he needs a good rest.” Earlier, he had landed in Portsmouth on the Brittany Ferries ship Normandie, following a seven-hour overnight crossing. When asked if he had enjoyed his trip he said: “I had a great time. I’m really pleased I did it. It was good, it gets even better as it goes on.”
Jordan said that his wife Irene, also a resident at the home, knew about his trip. When asked if he would go back next year, he said: “Yes, I expect so, if I am still here definitely.”
Steve Tuckwell, director of communications for Brittany Ferries, said Jordan had bacon, two fried eggs, sausage, orange juice and coffee for breakfast during the crossing.
He said: “For a 90-year-old man he had a healthy appetite. He’s a tremendous fellow, we loved having him on board.”
Tuckwell said that Jordan had been adopted as the company’s honorary veteran and would be given free crossings to the D-Day commemorations for the rest of his life. He said that Jordan was found by a member of the crew as he travelled across to France on Thursday.
He said: “He was picked up by one of our staff, the ship’s liaison officer, she found him wandering around, she took him under her wing, took him up to the bridge and treated him royally and he won the hearts of the crew. “We adopted him as an honorary veteran and we will give him free travel to the Normandy beaches for the rest of his life.
“We owe him a huge debt and it was our way of paying him back, he’s a marvellous guy.” During his outbound trip, Jordan met Candy Girls, a 1940s-themed singing group, and posed for pictures with them.
Tuckwell said: “He’s got a lot of charm with the ladies.”
Sonia Pittam, the ship’s liaison officer who met Jordan on his outward journey to France, said: “I knew he was a game old boy. “He certainly has his wits about him, he didn’t say much about the landings, just how pleased he was to be on board and couldn’t believe how everyone was looking after them (veterans).”