Posts Tagged ‘Normandy’

War veteran who fled care home to Normandy D Day celebrations honoured

July 17th, 2014

Asked why he travelled across to Normandy, Mr Jordan, a former local borough councillor and mayor of Hove, said: ”My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

”I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there.”

He added: ”Britain is a smashing country and the people are smashing, and if you have to do something a bit special then they are worth every effort.”

Brighton and Hove City Council officials said the honorary alderman title is a mark of respect for the work and commitment given by a former councillor.

Mr Jordan’s honour was to mark his ”exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community”.

Mr Fitch described Mr Jordan – affectionately known as Bernie – as ”a hero and an inspiration to all ages”.

He said: ”It’s grey power. What it shows is that where you have commitment and where you are determined, you can find a way, and that’s what Bernie has done.”

Mr Jordan hit headlines globally when he disappeared from his care home to embark on his cross-Channel trip to the D-Day anniversary events in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search on June 5 and his whereabouts was only uncovered when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Last month he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world following his adventure to Normandy.

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D-Day anniversary: The Normandy Veterans Association ‘hanging up our colours’

June 5th, 2014

The ranks of the Normandy veterans are thinning slowly. Seven decades after D-Day‘s Operation Overlord, the youngest are in their late eighties.

The Normandy Veterans’ Association (NVA) has announced it will disband in November. “This is a very special time because we know it’s our last big occasion here,” said Brigadier David Baines, 89, the NVA president and a gunner in the Royal Artillery who landed on Gold Beach.

“We know that many of us won’t be alive in five years’ time, and probably not even in a year or two,” he said at a ceremony at the Royal Artillery memorial service at La Brèche, on Sword Beach.

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D-Day veterans gather for 70th anniversary of Normandy landings

June 2nd, 2014

Veterans from the D-Day landings have had a chance to see the boat used by Churchill and Eisenhower to review the armada ahead of the Normandy landings which changed the course of the Second World War.

More than 30 former servicemen, all in their 80s and 90s, have travelled from the US to join 50 British and European veterans to visit the D-Day boats at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire, before they travel over to France for the 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy.

Among the veterans were members of the The Millin Pipe Team who have travelled with their families and carers from the Scottish Highlands en route to Sword Beach.

They are commemorating Piper Bill Millin who played his pipes while the D-Day landings went on around him to inspire the troops.

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D-Day anniversary: Spitfires take to the Normandy skies again

May 27th, 2014

Next month, on what for many veterans will be the last time they visit Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the landings, Spitfires in D-Day livery will once more zoom overhead as they did that day.

The aircraft will fly from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar in Kent, which was founded three years ago by volunteers and has a fleet of Second World War planes, including six flying Spitfires and one Hurricane. At least one Mark 9 Spitfire, called The Spirit of Kent and recovered from South Africa in 1996 by former commercial airline pilot Peter Monk, will be flown over to Normandy. It is hoped, if the heritage hangar can raise the required funds in time, more will follow.

“This is very important as it’s the 70th year and probably the last significant anniversary for a great number of Normandy veterans,” Monk says. “When we have carried out fly-pasts before, these veterans always say they are so happy to see the Spitfire airborne again. Every time I fly one I get the same feeling. It doesn’t go away. It makes you proud to be British.”

At Biggin Hill, the final preparations are being made, with a group of RAF Second World War veterans, including Maurice Macey, overseeing the painting of the black and white stripes. I clamber into a wartime Harvard trainer to accompany Monk’s Spitfire on a trial run.

The Harvard, a two-seater in which many pilots were trained before getting into a Spitfire, was notorious for being unpredictable and tricky to fly. Macey, resplendent in a cream suit covered in medals and a golden Caterpillar Club badge – given to airmen who survived bailing out of a stricken plane – wishes me luck before I climb into the cockpit.

Fortunately, my pilot, Clive Denney, is a seasoned professional who has flown Second World War planes for 30 years. But even so, his safety briefing when he hands me a parachute to wear is disconcerting. If anything goes wrong, I’m told, slide back the glass roof and jump out. “It really is each man for himself,” he says, pulling on a leather headpiece circa 1943.

The engine roars slowly into life, we trundle along the runway and wobble up 2,000ft into Kent skies. The conditions are perfect for flying; fat clouds drift over the Thames estuary, London’s skyscrapers glint in the distance. None the less, I’m terrified. The Spitfire – powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin engines – is far faster, and after Monk takes off it instantly catches up. The plane stalks us just off our right wing, before banking sharply and swooping down above a valley. In the air it is unbelievably quick, and graceful.

“That is why they were such wonderful planes to fly,” Macey says back on land. “It’s because you felt part of it.” He knows the Spitfire more than most. In total he flew 62 operations before being shot down on August 14 1944 in north-eastern France, bailing out into a field of German troops. “The funny thing was as I floated down amidst all this carnage, all I could hear was a skylark singing,” he says.

Macey was captured and sent to several stalags – prison camps – before ending up on the notorious Long March of Allied prisoners, away from the Eastern Front where the Russians were advancing. Hundreds died en route but the RAF prisoners, in particular, were subjected to a horrendous ordeal. “Some of the other prisoners used to surround me so the Germans couldn’t see my wings,” Macey says. “We tried to always stay near the front, whatever happened, that was the best chance of staying alive.”

In the RAF, Macey earned the nickname “Hawkeye”, for his uncanny ability to spot Luftwaffe planes through the clouds, but it was not just the feared Spitfire pilots who contributed to the D-Day effort. Warrant Officer Neville Croucher, 91, from near Canterbury, is another RAF veteran involved at Biggin Hill who was in the skies on June 6 1944. Croucher signed up for the RAF aged 16 but had to wait two years before he could fly planes. “My parents thought I was nuts,” he says. A Hurricane ace for much of the war, when D-Day approached Croucher was shifted on to Wellington bombers to drop leaflets over Germany and northwestern France shortly before the first landings, assuring French civilians that liberation was at hand.

Warrant Officer Ron Dearman, too, was a crucial part of the air effort. The 90-year-old piloted an Avro Anson back and forth over the Channel throughout D-Day, risking enemy anti-aircraft fire to take aerial photographs so the advancing forces would know what lay ahead. “We were buzzed by Spitfires every time we came back,” he says. “It was a marvellous sight – not that I had all that much time to look.”

Some of these Biggin Hill veterans do not yet know if they will be able to make it to Normandy for the 70th anniversary. Indeed the Normandy Veterans Association, made up now of around 600 men (down from 16,000 in the Nineties), warned in January that this year’s trip will be its last before disbanding.

But those who do make it will share a few precious moments next month. When the Spitfires roar over as they did in 1944, the watching veterans will be instantly cast back: to the pride and sorrow and suffering of the men who stormed a beach – and won a war.

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Monty’s D-Day party girl knew all the secrets of Normandy landings

May 1st, 2014

The informal party was held on the night of June 3, 1944, and helped take the minds of the senior officers off the momentous event that lay ahead. More than 60 commanding officers were at the gathering, where many of them met one another for the first time.

She was told in advance when the D–Day landings would happen and learnt the codenames of the Normandy beaches at the party, which was held in a sunken Nissen hut at Hursley Park, near Winchester, Hants.

She was ordered not to mention the party for the next 60 years when all the commanders involved had died. Now aged 91, the widow, from Emsworth, Hants, has written an autobiography about her career based on the meticulous notes and diaries she kept.

Mrs Rutter said: “Montgomery wanted a woman to host it and not an official in order to cut the protocol.

“I could feel some of them were jittery when I shook their hands. I made a point of calling them mister rather than by their title or rank. I spoke to them about travelling abroad, visiting art galleries and museums – I spoke about anything apart from the war. One US officer broke down on the dance floor and he was shuffled out of the room straight away so that the others didn’t see.

“There were buffet tables stacked full of food. On another table there was all the drink you could imagine, apart from champagne. People said what a jolly good do it was.”

Tomorrow is D–Day is published by Amberley and costs 16.99.

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D-Day 70th anniversary travel guide: events and tours in Normandy

April 17th, 2014

Only a privileged few can attend the governmental ceremonies, but the anniversary week will also see several large-scale public events. The most spectacular is likely to be a huge firework display on the evening of June 5, which will be visible from 24 beachfront towns. There will also be a massive picnic on Omaha Beach on the evening of Saturday June 7, featuring a Glenn Miller tribute band, while that same evening Bayeux, which became the first town in France to be liberated on June 7, 1944, will mark the anniversary with a Liberation Ball and an open-air jazz and gospel concert. Other events will include an outdoor film screening and concert at Arromanches on June 6; a children’s international football tournament in various coastal towns on June 7 and June 8; and 1940s flash mobs dancing in the streets of Carentan on June 7, and Ste-Mère-Église on June 8.

The crucial role of parachutists in the Allied invasion will be honoured by mass parachute jumps over Carentan at 1pm on June 4; Ste-Marie-du-Mont at 7.30pm on June 5; near Ranville, close to Pegasus Bridge, later that evening; and over Ste-Mère-Eglise at 11am at June 8. Members of the public can even join tandem parachute jumps at Ste-Mère-Eglise on June 6 and June 7 (€365 per person; 0033 233 21 00 33), while the Patrouille de France, the French equivalent of the RAF’s Red Arrows, will perform above Arromanches at 4pm on June 7.

Vintage military vehicles will parade along Omaha Beach from Vierville-sur-Mer on June 5; in Ste-Mère-Église on June 6; between Grandcamp-Maisy and Isigny-sur-Mer on June 7; through the streets of Bayeux and Carentan on Sunday June 8; and in Arromanches on June 9.

During the anniversary week, several communities will host reconstructions of Allied camps. The Arizona camp in Carentan is expected to welcome 420 participants and 150 military vehicles, and similar encampments will open in Colleville-sur-Mer, St-Laurent-sur-Mer, Vierville-sur-Mer and Ste-Mère-Église.

Accommodation is already over-subscribed for the anniversary week itself, though places are still available on some of the tours listed below. Visit at any other time during the summer, however, and it shouldn’t be hard to find a place to stay in the low-key resorts that line the invasion beaches, or the towns of Bayeux and Caen just inland.

Pegasus Bridge

Telegraph Travel’s D-Day drive

You don’t need a special itinerary through Normandy to see the impact of the 1944 Allied invasion. The effects are everywhere, from the reconstructed hearts of bombed-out cities like Cherbourg, Caen and Le Havre to countless damaged village churches. That said, for anyone interested in tracing the course of the Battle of Normandy, honouring the soldiers who took part, and learning more about how and why the D-Day landings took place, driving westwards along the Invasion beaches is an immensely rewarding experience and our Normandy guide includes an ideal itinerary to follow.

Before you start your tour, it’s well worth visiting either or both of the museums, a few miles back from the coast, that best explain the overall story. The Caen Memorial, just off the ring road that circles Caen, documents the build-up to war and life in occupied France as well as the invasion itself, and also covers postwar attempts to bring about world peace. The Musée Mémorial, on the edge of Bayeux, describes the battle itself, using easy-to-follow graphics as well as genuine artifacts.

Organised Tours

A selection of UK-based tour operators offering D-Day themed tours and cruises this year can be found here. They include: Holts Tours (01293 865000;, Leger (0844 504 6251;, Travelsphere (0800 112 3313;, Trafalgar (0800 533 5616;, Titan (0800 988 5823;, Shearings (0844 824 6351;, Martin Randall (020 8742 3355;, Remembrance Travel (01473 660800; and The Cultural Experience (01935 813700; Other operators offering bus or van tours of D-Day sites include the Caen Memorial museum (, Normandy Sightseeing Tours (, Victory Tours (, and Normandy Tours ( The D-Day Academy ( explores the Landing Beaches in vintage military trucks, with some trips including adventurous drives over rough battlefield terrain and tastings of 1944 foods, while Les Vedettes de Normandie run boat excursions from Port en Bessin to the Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches, and along Omaha Beach (

A great resource for active travellers, details self-guided walking routes along the Landing Beaches as well as guided hikes to battlefields and monuments on weekends throughout May and into June. The programme continues all summer, featuring organized hikes to different destinations each Wednesday during July and August.

That same website also itemizes seven self-guided D-Day cycling itineraries of varying lengths, with links to cycle-friendly accommodation, plus four organized one-day cycling excursions between May and August. On six dates in July and August, anyone aged ten or over can also join an offshore kayaking trip from Grandcamp-Maisy to see the fearsome heights of the Pointe du Hoc, as stormed by American commandos at dawn on D-Day. The site also details a three-day horse-riding trip from Utah Beach to Mont-Ormel, starting on August 20, and Nordic walking expeditions along Sword and Omaha beaches on September 20 and 21.

No single website lists the full programme of events, but useful options include;;;;

Getting to Normandy

The following ferry operators offer crossings to Normandy ports. For full details see Newhaven-Dieppe

DFDS Seaways (0800 917 1201;, operated with LD Lines); Brittany Ferries (0871 244 1400; and Condor (0845 609 1024;

More on France

Normandy travel guide
A complete travel guide to Normandy, including the best hotels, attractions, restaurants, beaches and scenic drives, from our expert Greg Ward.

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