D-Day veterans have been offered the chance to visit Normandy for free 'to lay old ghosts to rest'
The Royal British Legion has been given nearly £4million by the Government to pay for every surviving Normandy veteran to go to the beaches they stormed to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny 73 years ago.
The cash comes from the Libor fines imposed on banks involved in the interest rate fixing scandal.
There are thought to be a few thousand veterans left but there is no record of where each one lives.
In a bid to offer each survivor a chance to return to France, the Legion’s travel arm, Remembrance Travel, is urging the public to help it find them.
Nichola Rowlands of Remembrance Travel, said: “We’re really looking for the general public to help us find every single living D-Day veteran.
The Royal British Legion has been given nearly £4m by the Government to pay for veterans trips
“There’s no database of Normandy veterans, so we’re relying on the public, whether that be a grandchild, neighbour or carer to spread the word, so that we can offer these free tours to all D-Day survivors.”
I always think about all those who did not return
Former RAF corporal Peter Price
She added: “It is so vital for all D-Day veterans to return at least one last time to Normandy.
"Many veterans are now in their nineties and they find the tour a cathartic experience, and it helps them lay many ‘old ghosts’ to rest.
“The tours also enable the veteran to be accompanied by a carer and a family member.
"It’s wonderful to see family members appreciate what dad, granddad, great granddad did in Normandy, and for many, it really helps them to understand their family member so much more.”
The offer is open to all Normandy veterans who will be taken to France on Eurotunnel to Calais and then on to iconic sites in the campaign such as Pegasus Bridge, Juno, Sword and Gold beaches and Arromanches where the floating Mulberry harbour can still be seen.
At various war memorials the veterans will be able to pay their respects to comrades who did not come home.
The cash comes from the Libor fines imposed on banks involved in the interest rate fixing scandal
One veteran who has already been on a Libor-funded trip is former RAF corporal Peter Price, 91, from Weymouth, Dorset, who last year returned to Normandy with his niece and 16 other veterans.
Peter, who ferried supplies across the Channel on D-Day, said: “It was time the banks gave something back.
”If you were part of D-Day this is a wonderful opportunity to go back to where we fought for our nation’s freedom.
"I would recommend the tour to all D-day veterans – a thoroughly moving experience.”
The Last of the Tide D-Day portraits Sat, June 6, 2015
'The Last of the Tide,' a collection of 12 D-Day portraits commissioned by The Prince of Wales is on display at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.
Play slideshow Eileen Hogan 1 of 16
Portrait of Robert Antony ÔTonyÕ Leake, Corporal with the 8th Battalion The Parachute Regiment by Eileen Hogan
His unit followed the advance across Europe and he witnessed the newly liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where thousands of bodies were left on the ground.
He said: “I always think about all those who did not return. I have led a wonderful life with a wonderful wife who I was married to for 62 years.
“I have three children, seven grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. So many of those who served our country never had the chance to experience life beyond the war – they made the ultimate sacrifice.
“It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to travel with other Normandy veterans, to be able to share our stories and memories.
The RBL are urging the public to help find every surviving veteran
“It doesn’t matter how descriptive you are, it just isn’t possible for people to understand just how terrible the war was if they weren’t there themselves.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond, who made the Libor fund available, said: “It’s a token of our Nation’s immense debt of gratitude to those who gave so much both for our freedom and the freedom of Europe in the Second World War.”
The weeklong trip is free, including accommodation, though the cost of lunch is extra. Veterans are offered £50 in travel expenses.
• Veterans or their families should call Remembrance Travel’s tour operator, Arena Travel on 01473 660800, or visit arenatravel.com/journeysofremembrance.