Lottery's £1m Heroes Return scheme helps 4,000 travel to Normandy for ceremonies

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The Independent Online

More than £1m of lottery money has been distributed to allow 4,000 veterans and their families to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy, it was announced yesterday.

More than £1m of lottery money has been distributed to allow 4,000 veterans and their families to attend the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy, it was announced yesterday.

The Big Lottery fund, which distributes more than half of all the money raised by the National Lottery, said it had been "pleasantly surprised" by the demand from former soldiers to return to France for next weekend's commemorations.

The Heroes Return scheme was announced this year amid criticism that the Government was not doing enough to help British veterans take part in the 60th anniversary of the landings to liberate Europe.

Up to 10,000 former British soldiers are expected to be in Normandy for the two days of events to mark the invasion. When spouses, widows and carers are added, a total of 25,000 Britons will make the journey across the Channel.

Managers of the fund said demand for the £300 grants to travel to France had been strong. A spokeswoman said: "We have been pleasantly surprised. It was very difficult to know how many veterans would apply for the money but we're very happy that it has been a success."

A total of £2m has so far been distributed under the Heroes Return scheme, which allows veterans to travel to former battlefields around the globe to commemorate their fallen comrades. The scheme, which currently runs until the end of next year, allows former soldiers to apply for up to £1,000 with additional sums available for relatives and carers.

* A convoy of 250 vintage military vehicles owned by enthusiasts were loaded onto a ferry yesterday to take part in the commemorations. Ranging from bicycles to 10-ton trucks, the vehicles from the era of the landings will be used in reconstructions and parades.

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