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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 15:01 GMT
Veterans get lotto cash to travel
D-Day landings
Interest in World War II has rarely been greater
A new scheme funded by National Lottery money will help veterans travel abroad to mark the end of World War II.

The veterans will revisit the battlefields where they fought as part of the 10m Heroes Return scheme.

This summer's 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy will be one of the most poignant gatherings.

Paid for by the Lottery's New Opportunities Fund, the scheme will be launched by veterans in the bunker of the Cabinet War Rooms on Monday.

This is the same bunker where 60 years ago, Churchill oversaw the deployment of Allied forces which finally led to victory and peace.

'Unique event'

All veterans who are UK residents and saw active service with, or alongside, British and Allied armed forces will be eligible for the funding.

The scheme will also provide Lottery funding for veterans' spouses and carers to accompany them. War widows and widowers will also be eligible for remembrance visits funding.

Captain Alun Ryle, vice chairman of Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations, said the war was "a very special and unique event" for many service personnel.

"They want to go back to remember and commemorate their comrades," he added.

Many of them will be in their late 70s or 80s and most will not have returned before - probably because they could not afford it.

Sgt John Jones
The trouble is we are at the age now when everybody is over 80 and some can't afford to go
Sergeant John Jones, 81

"It's a tremendous chance for these people and their last chance in many cases."

Sergeant John Jones, 81, from Blaenau Ffestiniog, north Wales, was 18 when he enlisted in the Parachute Regiment in October 1942.

He said: "I'm lucky, I worked all my life. I can go to Arnhem every year but a lot of old soldiers can't afford it. It costs quite a lot if you travel to Italy or Japan, or Burma or even through Europe.

"I'm sure a lot of them would love to go back. The trouble is we are at the age now when everybody is over 80 and some can't afford to go."

Sgt Jones was shot in the left shoulder and captured in Arnhem, The Netherlands, in September, 1944, where he spent nine months in a PoW camp.

Major Michael Gibson Horrocks, who fought in Italy and North Africa, has led a party to Italy for the past 15 consecutive years.

He said he had strong support from his regiment, including a small financial contribution.

German ambulance

"But there are many others in other units and associations who I am sure will be very glad to have the opportunity of some financial assistance to enable them to go back."

He was taken prisoner by Germans in Tunis with about 150 of his fellow soldiers.

He contracted dysentery in the appalling conditions, but when the Germans decided to take the prisoners back to Italy, the sick ones remained with only a sergeant to guard them.

Maj Gibson Horrocks persuaded the guard that his family in Italy was missing him, prompting the guard to leave his post.

The major then found a deserted German ambulance and drove it back through the German line to British troops.

Veterans can contact the fund for free on 0800 169 2277




WATCH AND LISTEN
Veteran Peter Boyle
"It was a perfect landing, apart from the glider not getting down in one piece"



SEE ALSO:
Veterans may need D-Day passes
03 Feb 04  |  England
Germany invited to D-Day events
01 Jan 04  |  Europe
D-day veterans return to beaches
04 Nov 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset


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