Government's D-Day retreat as Vera Lynn joins attack

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT'S plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the D- Day landings degenerated into a public relations disaster last night when it signalled a retreat in the face of a protest by Dame Vera Lynn.

Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, said he would meet veterans today to discuss their concerns about a Hyde Park 'jamboree' which they fear would trivialise D-Day. 'The Normandy veterans and the Royal British Legion are coming in again to discuss very specifically what the plans for Hyde Park should be,' Mr Brooke said. Dame Vera said yesterday that she would pull out of the Hyde Park event if the veterans were opposed to it.

Earlier, Downing Street had attempted to distance John Major from the row by emphasising that he was not involved in the detailed planning of the Hyde Park event. Ministers were under growing pressure to drop the event or drastically tone down the celebrations. The affair contributed to the impression of a government incapable of organising a national event without it backfiring.

The embarrassment heaped on Mr Major's government by Dame Vera was compounded by Lord Bramall, a former chief of the defence staff, who challenged the impression given by Mr Major in the Commons on Tuesday that he had been fully consulted on the plans as a leading member of a committee representing veterans.

Just a week ago, the Prime Minister was shaking Dame Vera's hand at the launch of a three-month D-Day programme in London, suggesting there could be no show without the nation's wartime sweetheart.

Dame Vera's threat came hours after the Royal British Legion and the Normandy Veterans Association demanded the Government postpone its plans for a huge 'family day' extravaganza in Hyde Park on 3 July to commemorate the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. The offensive cost 37,000 servicemen's lives.

Lt-Col Phillip Creasy, the Legion's secretary-general, said that Hyde Park and other events such as Spam- fritter cooking competitions were too 'frivolous'. He added: 'They really have their years muddled. D-Day is not VE Day, and I really cannot see any relationship between events in Hyde Park in July and the 50th anniversary of D-Day.'

Letters, page 19