The story that knocked the speeches of world leaders and royalty off the front pages during last month’s 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy during World War II was Bernard Jordan. Bernard, 89, served as an officer in the Royal Navy at the D-Day landings. He was part of Operation Overlord.
He captured the hearts of millions and became Britain’s favourite runaway, sneaking out of the Pines Nursing Home in Hove to join compatriots at the commemoration on Normandy Beach, sparking a frantic missing persons search. The staff had tried to get Jordan a place on the tour with the Royal British Legion, but it was fully booked.
He summarised the spirit and determination of June 6, 1944 and hatched a cunning plan. On the Thursday morning, wearing a grey mac to hide the medals pinned on his best suit, Bernard slipped out of the houme, headed to Brighton station and caught a train to Portsmouth. He found a party of veterans on the dockside and hitched a ride on a ferry to Normandy.
He lacked accreditation, but managed to evade security to be within 100 yards of the Queen and other world leaders.
He returned home, not to the telling off he feared, but a hero’s welcome and a cup of tea. “I had a good time, every minute of it. I’m pleased I did it. I’d do it again tomorrow,” he said.
The former Mayor of Hove was honoured with the Freedom of the City for “capturing the imagination of a generation.” On his 90th birhtday a week later he was overhelmed with 2,500 cards from around the world, including one from me and this sketch, which he kindly signed and returned.