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D-Day 'Great Escaper' dies aged 90

A war veteran who left his care home to attend last year's 70th anniversary D-Day events in France has died - months before he hoped to return to Normandy's beaches.

Bernard Jordan - dubbed the Great Escaper after his cross-Channel adventure last June - died peacefully in hospital at the age of 90.

He was taken to the hearts of many when he disappeared from his care home to embark on a trip to the D-Day anniversary commemorations in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search last June 5 and his whereabouts only emerged when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Mr Jordan, an ex-Royal Navy veteran and mayor of Hove in East Sussex, told reporters on his return that his aim was to remember his fallen "mates".

He had decided to join British veterans, most making their final pilgrimage to revisit the scene of their momentous invasion, to remember the heroes of the liberation of Europe.

Some 156,000 Allied troops landed on the five invasion beaches on June 6, 1944, sparking an 80-day campaign to liberate Normandy involving three million troops and costing 250,000 lives.

Mr Jordan had hoped to make a return visit to Normandy this June.

Brittany Ferries, which carried him on his adventure across the Channel, had offered him free crossings to D-Day events for the rest of his life after learning of his escapade.

But his death, announced in a statement by Gracewell Healthcare, which runs The Pines care home in Hove, where Mr Jordan, known as Bernie, lived, has put paid to that.

The Royal British Legion said Mr Jordan's decision to go to France highlighted "the spirit that epitomises the Second World War generation".

On his 90th birthday, days after he returned from his exploits, he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world.

Asked why he travelled over, Mr Jordan, a former borough councillor, said recently: "My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

"I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there."

Officials at his care home said Mr Jordan would be "much missed" by his wife and all his friends at The Pines.

Amanda Scott, managing director of Gracewell Healthcare, said: "Bernie caught the world's imagination last year when he made his 'surprise' trip to France and bought a huge amount of joy to a lot of people.

"He will be much missed by everyone here and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife.

"Bernie was always insistent that what he did during the war was nothing unusual, and only what many thousands of others did for their country.

"That may well be true, but the little bit of excitement he gave everyone last June was typical of his no-nonsense attitude to life and is how he will be remembered by thousands of people."

A spokesman for Brittany Ferries, which adopted Mr Jordan as its honorary veteran, said: "It was a real honour to carry Bernie back to the beaches of Normandy in June, and during his time on board our ships he made many friends amongst our crew.

"We had been looking forward to welcoming him back on board again this coming June when we were planning to roll out the red carpet for him."

A month after his escapade, Mr Jordan was made an honorary alderman of Brighton and Hove during a reception at Brighton Town Hall.

The honour was to mark his "exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community".

He joined a select band of more than 30 men and women who have been made honorary aldermen or women of the city since 1997.

Others include Burmese democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, former Olympic champion Steve Ovett and First World War hero Henry Allingham, who became the world's oldest man before his death aged 113 in 2009.

Brian Fitch, the mayor of Brighton and Hove, paid tribute to Mr Jordan, saying: "Whilst he was elderly, he seemed in good health and had a lot going for him.

"I will remember Bernie as a hard-working politician, as a great mayor of the city, and as someone who helped people.

"Last year, when he made that escape from his care home to go to Normandy because he wanted to be part of the D-Day anniversary celebrations, it gained him worldwide coverage.

"What I think he did that day was show a determination to achieve one of the things he believed in. He was a very lovely guy who cared about people."

A Royal British Legion spokeswoman said: "Mr Jordan's determination to attend last year's D-Day commemorations captured the imagination of the public and highlighted the spirit that epitomises the Second World War generation.

"Our thoughts go out to Mr Jordan's family and friends."

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