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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Chirac gives lift to D-Day vet
Jacques Chirac
Chirac instructed his staff to give Mr Coleman a lift to his Paris hotel
A D-Day veteran who got lost on his way back from Sunday's commemorations received a surprise lift back to Paris - from French President Jacques Chirac.

New Zealander Keith Coleman, 86, found himself stranded at a remote airfield after boarding a bus with other veterans after ceremonies in Normandy.

He told a newspaper he was befriended by an "important looking guy wearing gold braid" who said he could help.

Mr Coleman found himself invited to fly back on Mr Chirac's official jet.

He said a cavalcade pulled up in front of two jets and Mr Chirac got out.

"He came over... I snapped to attention and gave him a little salute... he put his arm around me," he told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"He said he would be happy for me to travel in one of the aeroplanes and gave instructions that I was to be driven to the door of my hotel."

'Best red wine'

The former gunner with Britain's Royal Air Force had been at the main international ceremony in Arromanches to mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy.

After the event, Mr Coleman - who speaks no French - boarded a coach with other veterans hoping to get back to Paris.

Instead, the bus took him to a military airfield where the other veterans got a plane.

Inside the terminal, he found the man wearing gold braid.

"I guess he must have felt sorry for me, because he made a few phone calls and told me he thought he could get me back to Paris," he told The Guardian.

Mr Coleman was whisked to another airfield, where he was served "the best red wine I've ever tasted" while waiting for the presidential cavalcade to arrive.



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