Great escape war veteran Bernard arrives home
War veteran Bernard Jordan has arrived back to a hero’s welcome at his Hove care home after his remarkable trip to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The 90-year-old was reported missing from The Pines nursing home in Furze Hill on Thursday evening, after not returning from a walk that morning.
Twelve hours later, staff learnt via a phone call that Mr Jordan had made a last minute dash to be with his fellow World War II heroes in France.
He was welcomed back warmly by staff at the care home this morning at just before 9am.
Staff waved Union Jacks and cheered as he pulled up on the drive in the back seat of a white Nissan Qashqai shouting “welcome back” and “our hero”.
He was helped from the car and taken inside to the home for a reunion with other care home residents and his wife Irene.
Staff said he was “absolutely shattered and very emotional” from his adventures.
In a statement, Mr Jordan said: “I want to thank everyone for their kind words and best wishes following my trip to Normandy – I never imagined my trip would cause such a stir.
“I’m delighted to be back at home with my wife and the wonderful staff here at The Pines.
“I was never banned from going to the commemorations, I just decided to make my own way there.
“All the men and the women who took part that day 70 years ago are heroes, especially the ones who never came back.”
He arrived back from France on an early morning Brittany Ferries to Portsmouth and told reporters waiting there that he hoped to return to Normandy next year.
When asked if he had enjoyed his trip: “I had a great time. I’m really pleased I did it.
“It was good, it gets even better as it goes on.”
The former Royal Navy officer said that he would have to face the music when he returned to the home.
He said: “Yeah, I’m going to have to face that but it’s just one of those things.”
Mr Jordan said that his wife knew about his trip and 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 that Mr Jordan enjoyed a breakfast of bacon, two fried eggs, sausage, orange juice and coffee during the seven-hour 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.”
Mr Tuckwell said that Mr Jordan had been adopted as the company’s honorary veteran and he would be given free crossings to the D-Day commemorations for the rest of his life.
He said that Mr 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.”
He added: “We took him under our wing, he’s a lovely, lovely guy, when he came off the crew all clapped him.”
Earlier Mr Jordan told ITV that he hoped he would not be in trouble when he returned.
He told the broadcaster: “Because I wanted to go to this show here that was on today, that was the main reason I came over here.
“It’s a first class show because I have been here last year and I have been here obviously this time and I’m going to – touch wood I’m still with us – and I will be 91 then, but if I am still about I shall try next year’s as well.”
Asked if he would be in trouble with the care home he added: “I might be, but I hope not.”
Mr Jordan, a former mayor of Hove, left The Pines on Thursday morning wearing a grey mac and a jacket underneath with his war medals on, Sussex Police said.
Officers began searching the area, including checking hospitals in case something had happened to him, and spoke to bus and taxi companies, but none of them knew where he was.
The nursing home received a phone call from a younger veteran from Brighton at 10.30pm who said he had met Mr Jordan on a coach on the way to France and that they were safe and well in a hotel in Ouistreham.
Brittany Ferries said it had laid on a cabin, meals and a car back to the Pines.
Ship’s liaison officer Sonia Pittam, who met Mr 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) and all the people waving on the route to the harbour entrance.
“He kept saying, ‘All this for us’.”
Sussex Police said they had spoken to Mr Jordan and would have a chat with him when he got home “to check he is OK”.
Susan Knowles, Mr Jordan’s niece, told Sky News that her uncle had a history of visiting events he was not expected at.
She said: “Last time I saw him would be at a family funeral that he made his way down to again, and we were all quite amazed that he’d made his way to Bournemouth to this family funeral, on the train, on his own.
“He sort of just came walking up and we were quite surprised to see him there, because of his age and that, we didn’t expect him to be there.
“If he’s determined to do something he will.”
A spokesman for the home said it was “definitely not the case” that the veteran was banned from attending the D-Day commemorations.
In a statement, Peter Curtis, chief executive of Gracewell Healthcare, which runs The Pines, said: “Mr Jordan has full capacity, which means that he can come and go from the home as he pleases, which he does on most days. At no stage was he banned from going to the commemorations.
“In fact, staff at the home tried to get Mr Jordan on to an accredited tour with the Royal British Legion but, due to the last-minute nature of the request, this was not possible.
“Mr Jordan was reported missing to the police yesterday evening as a matter of caution because he did not return from his normal trip to town and when he left had not told us he was still intent on trying to get to Normandy.
“At Gracewell Healthcare we celebrate the individuality of our residents’ lives and are in awe of the part Mr Jordan played in the D-Day invasion 70 years ago.”
The Gracewell Healthcare blog says Mr Jordan has lived in Hove his “whole life” and has lived at The Pines since January, adding: “He served in the Second World War in the Royal Navy and upon returning married his sweetheart, Irene, and began his professional calling.
“Bernard looks back on his career modestly and believed he was very fortunate to serve his community.”
Mr Jordan told the blog: “I was able to take my chance, serve the people of my town and do a job I loved. I am very proud of what I was able to do.
“For anyone who is interested in becoming mayor, you must be prepared to work hard.”
He was mayor of Hove from 1995 to 1996, the blog said.
The highlight of his working life was meeting Margaret Thatcher, according to the blog post.
He said: “It was definitely one of my favourite memories. She was an amazingly strong lady. When she visited Brighton I got the chance to meet her and it was a very proud moment for me.”
The blog reports that Mr Jordan was presented with a special award in 1999 for his dedication as a local councillor for 34 years.
He still has a keen interest in politics and also loves supporting his favourite football team, Brighton and Hove Albion, the blog post said.
Mr Curtis told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “He is back safely. The first thing he did was tuck in to an English breakfast and he was on excellent form.
“I think he was completely taken aback by the scale the story has taken on but he was on fine form.”
Describing him as “quite a character”, Mr Curtis added: “His wife is also with us at the home and when we told her where he was she just immediately said ‘well I’m not surprised’.”
The home got a call on Thursday night at 10.30pm from one of the new friends he made on the ferry to France, Mr Curtis said.
Mr Jordan had met some veterans from Brighton who were on a official tour party, who took him under their wing, and one of the officials gave the home a call to say where he was.
The Argus (Brighton)
You can see the video update here