Well, Bernard Jordan, 89, is back, safe and sound, at The Pines residential home in Hove, after going Awol to attend the D-Day commemorations in Normandy. He was entitled to, as one of the boys who took part in the original great event. He was given a hero's welcome on his return, notwithstanding him nipping over to France without warning the care home staff. He had neglected to get his application in on time for one of the official group events, so he decided he'd take the ferry anyway. Having, as staff fondly supposed, gone out for a walk – with his raincoat over his medals – he boarded the boat to Normandy and had a lovely time at the commemorations. "All this for us," he said emotionally, as he observed the welcoming crowds. Everyone made an enormous fuss of him.
If there's one thing the country loves better than a World War Two veteran it's a veteran who shows, in his ninetieth year, the same bolshie spirit as he did in 1945. Mind you, Peter Curtis, chief executive of Gracewell Healthcare, had to put the best face he could on things, after his errant oldie made his way home. Slightly tight-lipped, he observed that, "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." His wife Irene, who lives at the same home, seemed to think it was all par for the course.
Actually, Bernard is one of the lucky ones. He may be a bit deficient on the admin side, but at least he's fit enough to make it to Normandy – and has every intention, if he's spared, of returning next year. Most of his surviving contemporaries aren't up to the trip. My friend Jack, who was a bomber through the war, and knew where the landings were going to happen because he had to chart the situation in Normandy in the week up to D-Day, could only watch the commemorations on television, because he's had a fall. But he saluted Bernard Jordan. "I think the world of him," he told me. "But then, we were a different breed. We didn't give in."
But my uncle Frank, 92, who was in the Marines and took part in the invasion on the day after the first landings, doesn't go along with the notion that everyone who participated in the battle was simply wonderful. He couldn't attend either, being in hospital, but he remembers his commanding officer telling the men to walk across a field in Normandy, to check for mines.
Yep, sounds just like Stalin's approach to mine clearance. "I think he must have been drunk," he recalls now. "We did wonder whether we shouldn't just shoot him ourselves."
But that's not really in the script now. Seventy years on, we don't want to hear about the cock-ups and the drunks but about the derring-do that saw the operation through. And of that spirit, Bernard Jordan seems rather a good representative.Reuse content