A World War II Veteran Escaped from a Nursing Home for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

Bernard Jordan served with the Royal Navy during the D-Day landings. He wasn't about to miss the 70th anniversary.

You can't keep a good man down, especially when that man participated in Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. British World War II veteran Bernard Jordan was a former Royal Navy officer who used to tell people "what he did during the war was nothing unusual, and only what many thousands of others did for their country," according to his nursing home staff.

What he did at age 89 was nothing short of extraordinary. After being denied a trip to return to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the event with the Royal British Legion, the elderly veteran took it upon himself to go anyway. He walked out of the home one morning and never looked back.

On June 5, 2014, Jordan walked out of The Pines care home in Hove, England, at 10:30 a.m. wearing a jacket and his war medals underneath a gray mac raincoat. By evening, the home's staff were worried about Jordan, who had neither returned nor checked in. Police searched the local area for the man.

After checking with taxi and bus operators, neither of whom had seen Jordan that day, police officers were flummoxed. They should have checked with ferry and train operators, because Jordan had hopped on a train to Brighton where he then enjoyed a "first-class" trip across the English Channel to France.

The staff of The Pines had tried to get Jordan on the Royal British Legion trip, but failed. Jordan was a former mayor of Hove. It was not the home's staff that prevented the former naval officer from going on the trip. The Pines told the Guardian that Jordan had his full mental capacities and was free to come and go from the building as he pleased.

"I knew he was a game old boy; he certainly has his wits about him," Brittany Ferries employee Sonia Pittam told ITV.

By 10:30 p.m. that night, a younger veteran called his nursing home to tell them Jordan was all right and staying at a hotel in Ouistreham, near the port city of Caen, France. Although his wife was aware of his travel plans, his unannounced trip caught the world's attention and earned Jordan the nickname the "Great Escapee."

"My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed," Jordan later said. "I was going to pay my respects. I was a bit off course, but I got there."

Along with Jordan and hundreds of other surviving D-Day veterans, France hosted 19 world leaders to the remembrance event, including President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Normandy Veterans Association also held its last-ever parade at Arromanches, before disbanding later that year.

156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy that day. An estimated 2,500 to 4,000 died there. Another 9,000 German defenders also died in the landings.

"There were a lot of other people on the beaches of Normandy that day. This lovely attention is for them, really, not me," Jordan said of the media spectacle his escape caused.

D-DAY BERNARD from ITV News Meridian on Vimeo.

The day after the 70th anniversary event, he was aboard another ferry, headed home to "face the music." In reality, there wasn't any music to face. Jordan returned to The Pines care home and walked in to a hero's welcome and a cup of tea after his journey.

"It was a first class show," Jordan told ITV correspondent Paul Davies. "I had a good time, every minute of it. I'm pleased I did it. I'd do it again tomorrow."

Jordan announced his intention to make a similar escape in 2015 to attend the next anniversary. He died peacefully at home in The Pines on Jan. 6, 2015.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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