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British veteran back at care home after D-Day ‘Great Escape’

Former Royal Navy officer, 89, says he has no regrets after giving his carers the slip to travel to Normandy for 70th anniversary of Allied forces landing in Europe.

Bernard Jordan waves in Portsmouth, England, as he is driven home on his return from attending D-Day ceremonies in Normandy. Chris Ison / AP Photo / PA / June 7, 2014
Bernard Jordan waves in Portsmouth, England, as he is driven home on his return from attending D-Day ceremonies in Normandy. Chris Ison / AP Photo / PA / June 7, 2014

LONDON // An 89-year-old veteran who ran away from his care home to join the D-Day commemorations in France returned to Britain on Saturday, hailed as the embodiment of the Second World War fighting spirit.

Bernard Jordan said he had no regrets after slipping out of The Pines nursing home in Hove on the southern English coast on Thursday wearing his medals under his raincoat.

The former Royal Navy officer joined a coach party heading for events marking the 70th anniversary of the landings at Ouistreham in Normandy, northern France.

Mr Jordan was missing for about 12 hours before a younger veteran contacted the home to say he was fine but in France with former comrades.

“I had a great time, I’m really pleased I did it,” said Mr Jordan after arriving back on a ferry into Portsmouth.

He accepted that his stunt might get him in trouble.

“Yeah, I’m going to have to face that but it’s just one of those things.”

The ferry official Sonia Pittam, who met Mr Jordan on his journey out to France, described him as “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 [the veterans] and all the people waving on the route to the harbour entrance.

“He kept saying: ‘All this for us.’”

Debbie McDonald, manager of Jordan’s care home, said he was now back with them and resting.

“He’s really tired so at the moment he’s just getting himself together and having a bit of a rest.”

The company which runs the home has insisted he was not banned from joining the commemorations, as was originally reported.

They had tried to get him on an accredited tour but it was too late to do so because of the “last minute” request, Gracewell Healthcare said.

Police say they have spoken to Mr Jordan and will talk to him after his return “to check he is OK”.

Many British newspapers ran the story on their front pages on Saturday, with several dubbing it “The Great Escape” after the 1963 film about Allied prisoners of war escaping from a German camp during the Second World War.

Mr Jordan embodied “the spirit and determination of June 6, 1944”, the Daily Mail said, while the Daily Telegraph wrote that his actions showed “all the determination that got him through the Normandy invasion”.

* Agence France-Presse