British Navy veteran in D-Day 'Great Escape' returns to his care home

LONDON (AFP) - 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 World War II fighting spirit.

Mr 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 around 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 at the care home when he got back.

"Yeah, I'm going to have to face that but it's just one of those things," he added.

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," she said.

"He kept saying, 'All this for us'."

Ms Debbie McDonald, manager of Jordan's care home, told AFP 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," she said.

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 due to the "last minute" request, Gracewell Healthcare said.

Local 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 World War II.

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."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.