A veteran of World War II who slipped away from a nursing home in England last year to attend the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France has died at the age of 90.
Bernard Jordan, who became known as the Great Escaper after his escapade last June, died peacefully at The Pines, a care home in Hove, East Sussex, the hospital said in a statement.
His secret departure from the home to take a cross-Channel ferry to France, wearing his war medals under a gray raincoat, prompted a police search when the staff at the home reported him missing.
Mr. Jordan, who served in the Royal Navy, made his own way to Normandy, and his whereabouts was discovered only when a younger veteran telephoned during the night of June 5 to say that he had met Mr. Jordan, who was safe and would return when he was good and ready.
Mr. Jordan later said that he had gone to Normandy because “my thoughts were with my mates who had been killed. I was going to pay my respects. I was a bit off course, but I got there.”
He told the nursing home staff he was going out to take a walk, and headed toward Portsmouth to attend D-Day celebrations there. But on the way, he decided instead to take the overnight ferry to Caen. Although he had no accreditation, he was allowed into the ceremonies and ended up about 100 yards from Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr. Jordan returned home a sort of hero. A former mayor of Hove after the war, he was made an honorary alderman of Brighton and Hove and was said to have received more than 2,500 birthday cards when he turned 90.
The current mayor, Brian Fitch, said, “I will remember Bernie as a hard-working politician, as a great mayor of the city.” His escapade showed “a determination to achieve one of the things he believed in,” he added.
Amanda Scott, managing director of Gracewell Healthcare, which runs the home, said in a statement: “Bernie caught the world’s imagination last year when he made his surprise trip to France and brought 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,” she added.
Mr. Jordan, upon his return from his adventure, said: “There were a lot of other people on the beaches of Normandy that day. This lovely attention is for them, really, not me.”