Veterans thank MoD for help in Normandy return

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Twenty-five thousand Britons are to travel to Normandy to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Ivor Caplin, the minister for Veterans, said yesterday.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 veterans are expected to be involved in the 40 events planned over the 5-6 June weekend and their numbers will be swelled by families and well-wishers.

The Normandy Veterans' Association (NVA) heaped praise on the Government; earlier, senior members had criticised the way the commemoration had been organised.

In February, Sidney Goldberg, a member of the national executive of the NVA, criticised the "lamentable" organisation. He said the Government had failed to consult the group properly and there was little information on what permits veterans needed.

But yesterday the national chairman of the association, Lesley Frost, insisted he was "very happy" with the support given by the Ministry of Defence. "It will make an enormous contribution to the success of the Normandy commemoration," he said.

"Veterans have been able to express and set out their needs and difficulties and the MoD has responded positively."

Mr Caplin outlined events that will honour the Allied invasion in June 1944, the beginning of the end of the Second World War. The MoD is helping provide free one-year passports for veterans on anniversary events and secured a 50 per cent cut in fares to Normandy with P&O Ferries.

The Queen, Tony Blair, President George Bush, President Jacques Chirac and President Vladimir Putin are to attend a ceremony at Arromanches to commemorate Operation Overlord. The German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will also be there.

President Chirac will present representatives of 16 nations with the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour. But it will not be given to the German representative.