A D-Day Vet Escapes to Normandy Beach in Heartwarming Michael Caine Movie

90-year-old actor Michael Caine stars as 89-year-old D-Day veteran Bernard Jordan in "The Great Escaper." (Pathé)

On the evening of June 5, 2014, the nursing staff of The Pines nursing care home in Hove, England, was in a frenzy. One of its residents, 89-year-old World War II veteran Bernard Jordan had walked out of the facility that morning and hadn't been seen since. The police were called, and the area was searched. Jordan, the town's former mayor, was nowhere to be found.

Not in England, anyway.

Jordan was in France, near the city of Caen. It turns out that Jordan had requested to join a Royal British Legion trip to Normandy so he could take part in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. He'd boarded a train to Brighton that morning and caught the ferry to France.

"The Great Escaper," a new movie from Pathé Films, stars Michael Caine as Jordan, retelling the story of his "great escape" from a nursing home and across the English Channel. Along the way, he meets young well-wishers as well as former comrades and enemies.

Hundreds of the last surviving veterans of the landings gathered with19 world leaders and dignitaries to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014. Jordan was among the 650 British veterans who made the trip for the last time.

He had walked out of his nursing home at 10:30 the previous morning, wearing his war medals underneath his gray mac raincoat. He was not suffering from any mental incapacitation, so by the time the nursing home staff realized he was gone -- long gone -- Jordan was already in France, at a hotel in Ouistreham.

​​"I knew he was a game old boy; he certainly has his wits about him," a spokeswoman for Brittany Ferries, the company that ferried him across the English Channel, said at the time.

His wife Irene, played in the film by actress Glenda Jackson in her final role before her death in June 2023, was "not in the least bit surprised," according to an ABC News report at the time of his escape. A group of veterans he met in Brighton later called The Pines from Jordan's hotel, letting them know where was and that he was fine.

Jordan's original plan was to attend the D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth, on the English side of the channel. He changed his plan along the way. He was allowed to attend the ceremonies in France with only his medals as accreditation. He was even allowed within 100 yards of Queen Elizabeth II herself.

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

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

Upon his return, he told reporters that if he could make it to the 71st anniversary, he would. When he turned 90, a grateful nation sent him thousands of birthday cards, but he didn't make it. Jordan died at The Pines on Dec. 30, 2014. Irene Jordan died seven days later.

"This is a smashing country, and I'm proud to have served it," he said.

"The Great Escaper" hits theaters in the United Kingdom on Oct. 6, 2023

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

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