Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Lottery funds for D-Day veterans

 D-Day landing in Normandy, France
The D-Day landings in 1944 heralded the end of World War II

The Big Lottery Fund has announced that it will pay for veterans to attend the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy in June.

The Ministry of Defence said it would also provide support for those wishing to travel, but has not clarified exactly what help will be available.

Gordon Brown said he wanted "to be very much part" of the event.

The Normandy Veterans Association says it is looking forward to hearing from the government about the help on offer.

Minister for Veterans Kevan Jones will be meeting the association's leaders next week to discuss the issue.

'Important occasion'

For many of its members, the 65th anniversary will be their last chance to remember the sacrifices made on 6 June 1944.

It is estimated 500 UK veterans are still fit enough to make the journey to Normandy.

The veterans association said it had been in talks with the MoD for several months about funding a trip but officials had refused financial help.

Its chairman Ed Slater said: "For 25 years, we have been going across to Normandy. As a national organisation, we have always funded ourselves.

I hope it will give us the chance to thank and remind ourselves of the sacrifice that was made by so many people
Gordon Brown on a possible service at Westminster Abbey

"We were grateful on the 60th anniversary to get help from the government for veterans and their carers as well.

"We are five years older and most of us have walking sticks, so we need help."

The Big Lottery Fund said it would offer financial support to any veterans who wanted to attend 65th anniversary events overseas.

"Our offer includes Normandy veterans wanting to attend events in June of this year," it said in a statement. "But we want to extend our offer to all servicemen who saw action in other theatres during the Second World War.

"Full details will be announced next week."

The MoD said earlier it would provide support so that veterans could travel to Normandy and to ensure there would be "appropriate British attendance".

Asked about his likely personal involvement, the prime minister said he wanted to mark the "huge contribution that British soldiers made in travelling to France and risking their lives for the freedom of Europe".

Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Brown said he hoped there would be a commemoration service at Westminster Abbey.

"I hope it will give us the chance to thank and remind ourselves of the sacrifice that was made by so many people who are part of a great generation of heroes for our country," he said.

He added: "President Sarkozy and I have been talking about what we can do together to commemorate this important occasion not just for Britain but for the whole of Europe."

The Conservatives said there were fewer surviving veterans with each passing anniversary and it was "very important" to give them all the assistance possible.

Lives lost

The MoD had previously said it was policy to provide funding only to commemorate 25th, 50th, 60th and 100th anniversaries of nationally important events.

Five years ago, every veteran received a grant of 330 from the Lottery Fund to pay for their trip to commemorate the 60th anniversary.

The Allied Forces' landings on France's Channel coast in 1944 spearheaded the campaign to liberate western Europe from the Nazis.

It proved successful, although thousands of lives were lost, and within less than a year World War II in Europe was over.

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